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Childhood TV

The Shows I Watched Growing Up

By Janis RossPublished about a month ago 4 min read
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Childhood TV
Photo by Possessed Photography on Unsplash

I'm about to hit you with a dose of nostalgia.

Recently on TikTok, I've seen videos extolling some of the TV shows that millennials like myself grew up with, and it got me thinking.

Many things that I watched growing up had an educational lean to them; even more so, since I was homeschooled and everything was an opportunity for learning.

As a teacher, I've been able to see the stark contrast between the shows that I grew up with compared to things that my students watch now. Sure, there are some great new additions to this category; children's shows that highlight people of color are more prevalent, and people are truly trying to use knowledge about how children's minds develop. But there is a strong sense of nostalgia connected to the TV shows of my childhood that I don't think that modern kids will have when they grow up.

So, spurred on by one of the teachers at work playing old episodes of Arthur during the students' breakfast, I decided to take a trip down memory lane.

One of the earliest shows that I remember was Gullah Gullah Island. It had a beautiful representation of a family that looked like mine, while also sharing things about their culture.

One category of kids' shows that was my favorite was science shows. I've never been much of a scientist, but enjoyed watching these shows and learning. The three favorites were Bill Nye, the Science Guy (obviously), Beakman's World (I remember the episode where they made paper), and The Magic School Bus.

I learned so much from Ms. Frizzle and her class, from pollination to how your digestive system works. Looking back on it as a teacher, I can only laugh at how much trust both the parents and the principal had in Ms. Frizzle to keep her kids safe. Not a permission slip in sight.

One of our homeschool friends had a big, blue van that she would sometimes use to help us get to field trips and things, and we fondly called it "The Magic Blue Bus." We could sing it into the theme song and everything!

My sister was of the age where she watched (and loved) Blue's Clues back when Steve was leading the show. Even typing this, I found myself subconsciously humming "We just figured out Blue's Clues, we just figured out Blue's Clues..."

I'm fairly certain we had VHS tapes for almost all of the episodes.

As homeschooled kids, we also had a ton of shows meant to support our learning. My favorite was Schoolhouse Rock, which taught about various subjects through song. There were songs about different parts of speech (Interjections included a child getting a shot in the behind and yelling OW!), songs about the American Revolution, and songs about the way that your body worked. Some of the most memorable for me were the songs with multiplication facts, helping a child who struggled with math to memorize her times tables. I showed it to the fourth-grade class a few weeks ago, and they were mystified.

But some of the best shows were on PBS Kids.

PBS Kids was truly the height of entertainment for my siblings and me, especially when we didn't have cable.

My interest in the Revolutionary War was piqued when I watched Liberty's Kids every Saturday morning, which told about important events and people during that time through three teenagers apprenticed to work in Benjamin Franklin's print shop. Most of my knowledge about that time period came from that show, and it makes sense that years later I became obsessed with Turn: Washington's Spies.

But the absolute best category was shows related to reading.

My earliest memory of shows that focused on reading was Reading Rainbows. Before I knew the importance of representation, I loved seeing LeVar Burton talk about books and the wonderful worlds that they could open up for you. (I was amazed to later find out that he was also in Star Trek, another favorite show of mine when I got older.)

My all-time favorite was Wishbone.

Wishbone was a Jack Russell Terrier who used his imagination to enter the world of classic books and become one of the characters. Each episode began with Wishbone's owner, Joe, and his friends having typical teenage problems, accompanied by Wishbone's thoughts (that no one else could hear but the audience). Then, Wishbone would pick a book that had characters experiencing similar troubles and experience the story from one of the characters' points of view.

Wishbone introduced me to so many classic novels that I read in full when I got older. In Pride and Prejudice, he played Mr. Darcy. In The Three Musketeers, he was D'Artangian. In The Time Traveller, he was the title character. Mr. Jeklyll and Mr. Hyde, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Tom Sawyer, The Journey to the Center of the Earth, Sherlock Holmes, Gulliver's Travels...the list goes on and on. I know that it sounds odd to people who've never heard of it, but Wishbone was an important part of my childhood.

From what I've seen, my students don't have as many shows like that to inspire them and teach them about the world around them. In truth, most of them don't have the attention span to actually watch most shows. It makes me sad that they won't get to love some of the wonderful shows that I had growing up; I do, however, get to see teachers from my generation trying to pull them back so that our kids can experience them.

Who knows? I do know that, thanks to these shows, my childhood was filled with wonder. Hopefully, today's kids can have similar experiences.

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About the Creator

Janis Ross

Janis is a fiction author and teacher trying to navigate the world around her through writing. She is currently working on her latest novel while trying to get her last one published.

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