Zeezok’s Z-Guides to the Movies are in-depth film studies that enhance learning by putting each film into the proper historical and social context. There are nearly 30 titles currently available, and more are planned.
Each unit study is available in ebook form on CD. Some, but not all, titles are also available as instant downloads – eventually, all will be. (See the list at the end of the post for titles available.)
I let the kids choose the movie, and we received The Adventures of Robin Hood study guide. It was easiest for us to obtain the movie via Netflix. (I’m told that all movies used for z-guides are available through Netflix.) Other options might be your local library or video rental store, though Zeezok also sells them if you desire to purchase. The kids were surprised at how enjoyable they found the movie. The discussion that ensued wandered into the realms of changing technology, along with how some movies (or books or music) can be so well-done that they become classics that are enjoyed by many generations.
Each study includes a week-long suggested schedule to use if desired. We actually stretched it out over a time period closer to a month. I’m not much of a TV person – I don’t think I could stand to go through all the activities and re-watching as needed in just one week!
The ebook is 32 pages, with slight color accents, but easy to read when printed in black and white. (I only print in color if I absolutely must – ink lasts much longer that way. Initially, I intended to have Tiger and Chef, my middle and high-schooler, answer the questions on paper, so I printed out copies of the activity pages for each of them. It didn’t work out that way. We found it much more realistic to simply use the questions as discussion questions. That allowed my younger two students to also participate fully, because I could more easily explain questions and terms that they did not understand. It also made for a much better discussion group, as five creates a much more vibrant discussion then just three. (And since in this house, when the TV goes on, they all watch, it makes a lot more sense to include them in the educational part, too.)
Preparation, other then obtaining and previewing the movie (if desired), is minimal – skim the pages and decide if you want to use the print method, the discussion method, or a combination of the two.
It’s easily adaptable to a variety of learning styles, and each study even includes some type of “hands-on” activity for the kinesthetic learner. Other activities include various topical discussion questions, some kind of “fun page” (ours had a word search),
Many of the movies used were creating before the ratings system was put into place. When you look for rating information, you may find it blank or NR. A representative from Zeezok assured me that they have done their best to carefully choose movies that will be acceptable to the widest range of families. Due to individual preferences, I’d recommend that you do your own research if you have questions. IMDB has a parental guide/ content advisory section, or check your favorite movie ratings site. (Wikipedia might also be useful – sometimes controversies are noted there.)
Also – one of the main benefits of these guides is that they give you a way to discuss tough subject matter with your children. These movies are set in a different time and place then the world we live in. It can be difficult to imagine a world so different in many respects from our own, and the movies are a visual, immersive window into that former reality. Explaining what racial prejudice is in dry facts, that’s one thing. Showing, visually, with characters that they can identify with, and emotions and consequences of that prejudice; that leads to a depth of understanding that can only be eclipsed by actually having lived through it.
And that’s one of the things we’re trying so hard to teach our children, isn’t it? To learn from the mistakes of the past so they are not doomed to repeat them.
Thoughts on value:
Z-Guides are $12.99 each. I’d consider this a bit steep for a 32-page ebook, though the questions truly are impressive. When purchasing on CD, shipping and handling adds another $5.95 – bringing the total to just under $19. Definitely not going to happen around here on a weekly basis. I also tend to be annoyed with ebooks that are the same price instant download as shipped on CD – the minimal overhead, should, in my opinion, give at least a slight discount. Especially when the physical product does not allow resell.
However, if you spread the use out over a month, more like we did, it brings the price to a much more budget-friendly range, and sticking to instant downloads, too, will help. As the material is quite good, we’ll likely purchase other titles, though the price will make it occasional use, rather then regular. (Ideally, I’d like to see the instant download in the $5-8 range – and would really prefer it to be available through my favorite homeschool e-curriculum site, just to simplify things, rather then the individual publisher’s page.)
Titles (with topics covered) currently available include:
12 Angry Men - U.S. Government, Judicial Procedures, Power of Observation, Capital Punishment, Social Justice
A Man for All Seasons - Tudor English History, Henry VIII, Sir Thomas More, Separation of Church and State, Character Quality of Keeping Your Word
A Tale of Two Cities - French Revolution, 18th Century European History, Consequences of Revenge, Sacrificial Love
Amazing Grace - 18th Century British History, Abolition of Slavery, William Wilberforce, Civic Responsibility
Ben-Hur - Roman Empire, History of Palestine, Friendships, Consequences of Hatred
Cromwell - English History, English Civil War, Oliver Cromwell, Principles of Government
Driving Miss Daisy - Post-World War II U.S. History, Personal Relationships, Race Relationships, Discrimination
Father Goose - World War II in the Pacific, Interpersonal Relationships, Honesty
Flyboys - World War I, Facing Uncertainty / Death, Racial Prejudice, Aeronautics
Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner - Race Relations, Interracial Marriage, Parent-Child Relationships
Inherit the Wind - The Roaring Twenties 1925, Political Advertising
Jason and the Argonauts - Ancient Greek history, Greek Mythology, Consequences of Lying, Consequences of Disobedience
Johnny Tremain - Events Leading Up To The American Revolution, Dealing with False Accusations, Handling Personal Disappointment, Self-Sacrifice for the Good of the Nation
Kit Kittredge - The Great Depression, Hobo Life, Journalism
Knights of the Round Table - Medieval England, Character Development, Friendship, Consequences of Forbidden Love, Leadership Qualities
Les Miserables - Love, Forgiveness, Mercy, Consequences of a Vengeful Spirit, Random Acts of Kindness, Parenting
Mr. Smith Goes to Washington - U.S. Government, Judicial Procedures, Power of Observation, Capital Punishment, Social Justice
My Side of the Mountain - Natural Science, Henry David Thoreau, Survival Skills
One Night with the King - Ancient Persian History, Ancient Israel History, Loyalty, Results of Excessive Pride and Desire for Revenge, God’s Providence
Scarlet Pimpernel - French Revolution, Preservation of Innocent Life, Civil Disobedience
Sergeant York - Civil War, Conquering Your Fears, Psychology of War, Consequences of Lying
The Adventures of Robin Hood - Medieval English history, Ethnic Conflict, Chivalry, Civil Disobedience
The Boy in the Striped Pajamas - Germany in World War II (1942-1944), Concentration Camps, Consequences of Lying, Friendships and Forgiveness, Impact of Propaganda
The Count of Monte Cristo - 19th Century France, Napoleon Bonaparte, Consequences of Lying and Scheming, Dealing with False Accusations, Anger and Revenge, Handling Wealth, Mentoring
The Hiding Place – World War II, Life in a German Concentration Camp, Forgiveness, Civil Disobedience
The Red Badge of Courage - Civil War, Conquering Your Fears, Psychology of War, Consequences of Lying
The Ten Commandments - Ancient Jewish History, Ancient Egyptian History, Forgiveness, Divine Providence, Egyptian Architecture
To Kill A Mockingbird - U.S. History Great Depression, Race Relations, Courtroom Procedures, Consequences of Lying
To see what other crew members had to say about this product, check out the TOS Homeschool Crew blog post, Zeezok Publishing – Z-Guide to the Movies.
**I received this product for free as a member of the 2010-11 The Old Schoolhouse Homeschool Crew so that I could provide you with an honest review of it by our family.**