- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 28, 2005

The great thing about home-schooling is that it’s always time to learn, and the learning can occur in nearly any situation — including during family movie night.

If you haven’t already seen it, I want to recommend the very beautiful film “March of the Penguins.” Filmed in Antarctica, this movie chronicles a year in the life of the emperor penguins, the distinctively colored birds that make their home on the most frigid continent on Earth.

The film follows the yearly trek of the adult penguins to their inland breeding ground, 70 miles from their major source of food, the sea. Cluster by cluster, the penguins are drawn to the same spot until hundreds are gathered into an ocean of males and females. The attraction and choosing of a mate follows, and a remarkable bonding keeps these pairs linked through a series of hazards.

As the Antarctic winter approaches, the penguins await the single egg the female will produce. Immediately after the egg is laid, she transfers it to the male, who tucks it into a fold of warm flesh over his feet. The males cluster together to offer each other warmth and shelter from the gales and blizzards of the dark, bitter winter. The females, meanwhile, trek back to the sea to feed, returning the same long way to regurgitate food to the chicks shortly after they hatch.

Then the moms take over the care of the new chicks while the dads make their way to the sea to feed after nearly four months without food. Through the young chicks’ lives, their parents switch off the caretaker role, bringing food back for the young birds until they are old enough to make the journey to the sea and feed themselves.

The movie highlights the extreme interdependence of the family unit; if even one member of the family dies, all are in peril. The model of the parents repeatedly making the arduous journey back and forth to support each other and their hatchling reminds the viewer of the importance of our own family relationships.

This film captures many aspects of the geographical and seasonal facts of life at the South Pole with an astounding story line and extremely beautiful photography. Rated G, it truly fits that rating. It is a fascinating film for any age group and has a story that gives hope and perspective. I think any family, and especially home-schoolers, will find this an excellent resource and a film they will want to have in their home library.

Another inspirational movie is “Coach Carter,” based on a true story about a California coach who fought for his players’ education even at the expense of their athletic opportunities. Ken Carter took the job of coaching the losing high school basketball team of Richmond, Calif., in 1999 and insisted that all his players sign contracts with him to keep their grades up, attend classes, sit up front, and wear a tie and jacket on game days.

Hard and innovative training brought the team to physical excellence, and several months into the season, they were undefeated.

However, as with many college and professional athletes, their success led to excess, poor judgment and academic laziness. To the shock of the school and community, Mr. Carter shut down the basketball program at the height of the athletic calendar and ordered the players to the school library for intensive tutoring and study sessions to bring up their grades.

The message behind this underdog sports story is that study is important and integrity is the pillar of a successful life, not temporary glory and quick money. A few scenes are a bit suggestive, so parents may want to view this film first before sharing it with the family, but overall, this movie is both informational and inspirational.

Films that convey fact and tell an exciting story are golden. They let us peek into an unknown world and experience it personally. I hope your family will develop a list of favorites that combine good stories with educational content. It’s a great way to increase our awareness of our environment and to see new ways of solving challenges.

Kate Tsubata, a home-schooling mother of three, is a freelance writer who lives in Maryland.

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