Using YouTube for homeschooling

Written by contributor Lora Lynn Fanning of Vitafamiliae

Late one Sunday night while lesson planning, I discovered I’d neglected to obtain the books I needed for the following day’s lesson.

I couldn’t make it to the library and I wanted to keep us on schedule. So I did what any mother in the 21st century would do: I went to YouTube.

First, I gave myself a quick crash course on our topic:

The next day, I opened with this video to introduce Napoleon to the kids:

I followed that with another “Horrible History” feature about life in the French army:

Finally, I closed with some cartoon fun from Histeria (which was actually pretty accurate):

This was a nice change of pace from our normal routine and I’ve since returned to these resources for other videos on whatever our topic of the week. I keep our favorites pinned on my homeschool Pinterest board so I can find them easily on lesson days.

Admittedly, my children are young and these were very simple videos, but the Crash Course video I watched on my own would have been fine for older children to view.

And this same “teacher” has more in-depth videos on the subject here, which would be perfect for older students. (I would consider these PG and definitely suggest previewing them to make sure they suit your children.)

I first began using YouTube when my kids were preschoolers. We loved Cullen’s ABC’s and I was often motivated to actually DO things with my preschoolers just by watching the videos with my kids. I would also dash to the computer to search YouTube when my kids asked me, “Mommy, how do you make glass?” or some other question I didn’t know the answer to.

Despite its reputation for harboring millions of videos about cute kittens or sneezing Pandas, YouTube is an excellent resource for educators. YouTube EDU corrals many of its best educational videos into one portal for easy searching and viewing. You can search by topic or by level of learning, making it much easier to narrow down what you are looking for.

Furthermore, YouTube now offers educators a way to view educational content without being distracted in the sidebar by inappropriate material for little eyes. If you sign in using your school’s email address (create one for your own homeschool on gmail for free), you can use YouTube for Schools, which offers a more controlled environment for learning.

It filters inappropriate and non-education related content for you and turns off comments and related videos. Only YouTube EDU videos are searchable when YouTube for School is in use.

Even better, YouTube Teacher allows you to create your own page and playlists for viewing. You can also search educational playlists created by other teachers related to certain topics. All you need is a gmail account and you and your children can view videos in your customized viewer with your hand-picked playlists.

For other ways to use YouTube for learning, check out this list of 100 Incredibly Useful YouTube Channels for Teachers.

What are your favorite YouTube channels for learning? How do you make use of online videos in your classroom?

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About Lora

Lora Lynn Fanning blogged for 11 years about her family life with seven kids at Vitafamiliae. These days, she homeschools her growing brood, teaches writing both in person for co-ops and online for Brave Writer, and writes at her new site,


  1. I know I enjoy checking out YouTube for topics I’m not too familiar with, so you’re in good company! 🙂
    I thank you for the additional suggestions, though. I didn’t know of all of them. 🙂
    Catherine’s latest post: Will we get Pomegranates this year?

  2. So funny this was the article today. We use YouTube everyday in our homeschool. My 8 yo is obsessed with TedTalks and I was just wondering to myself last night if anyone else uses YouTube to inspire their children. Thanks for the links!

  3. I have used YouTube for a few things while we homeschool also, but I never realized all that you can do with it. I love homeschooling!

  4. I did NOT know about the YouTubeEDU option! I’m creating a new login right now. That will really make using YouTube more pleasant for us with all these little eyes around. Thanks!

  5. We love you tube. Just the other day my 4 year old and I watched tons of videos on the metamorphosis of the butterfly. He was fascinated and that was much better than explaining.
    I didn’t know, however, about using a school email to avoid the side bar videos. Thank you! That’s a great tip!
    Johanna @ My Home Tableau’s latest post: The survival mode I’m okay with

  6. Children’s authors also post book trailers to YouTube and SchoolTube — a great way to get a sense of a book you might use with young readers!
    Caroline Starr Rose’s latest post: Writing Links

  7. I highly recommend the Crash Course channel. The World History series was an excellent jumping off point and now John Green has started a Literature series. His brother, Hank, did a series on Biology and is working on an Ecology series now. Hank is an evolutionist so I don’t agree with everything he says in the videos but most of the information is good.

  8. Thanks for sharing about YouTubeEDU. We’ve started using videos a lot via Amanda Bennet’s Unit Studies. My kids love them and it seems like a great way to really get into something!
    Rachel at Stitched in Color’s latest post: Celebrate Good Stitches ::Winners::

  9. I use YouTube videos to educate myself all the time. But I didn’t realize the educational videos were all grouped together. Thanks for the tip.
    Steph’s latest post: Pregnancy Update: Week 16

  10. I did not know about signing in as a school. That will be very helpful. We love YouTube and use it all the time. I was reluctant to buy the series of books we were thinking of trying with our math curriculum, and I found them being read aloud on YouTube :0)

  11. I have been creating math video for YouTube for over 5 years. It is an excellent way to help my students. What I like about YouTube is that the videos are available to everyone, not just my students!
    It feels good to be able to help people I will never meet.

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