10 Magical Studio Ghibli Films to Enchant and Educate Your Homeschoolers

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Hello Relaxlangmom readers! It’s April here with your latest recommendations for homeschool movie nights. As many of you know, I’m a huge proponent of using film to spark imagination and teach important life lessons. And let’s admit it, it’s a welcome respite from our homeschooling tasks. Today I’m sharing ten Studio Ghibli classics that are perfect additions to any homeschool curriculum. They are a favorite at our house and my husband is an ultimate fan!

Studio Ghibli is renowned for its beautifully crafted animated films that appeal to audiences of all ages. Under the direction of legends like Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata, Ghibli has produced some of the most successful and beloved animated movies of all time. Their films transport viewers to imaginative worlds through masterful storytelling and stunning animation. Beyond just being visually stunning, Ghibli movies also encourage deeper thinking by exploring powerful themes.

Here are my top ten picks for homeschoolers along with a brief overview of what makes each film so special:

Spirited Away (2001)

Spirited Away is a masterpiece that transports viewers into a mesmerizing world of spirits and magic. It’s a rollercoaster ride of imagination that also teaches valuable lessons about finding one’s courage and embracing personal growth. As a homeschooling mom, I highly recommend this film for its ability to spark imagination and teach valuable life lessons.

The story follows Chihiro, (I almost named my youngest Chihiro!) a young girl who stumbles into a bathhouse for spirits and finds herself trapped in a surreal realm. The visuals are breathtakingly beautiful, with intricate details that bring the fantastical world to life. From the soot sprites to the otherworldly creatures, every frame is a work of art. Spirited Away explores themes like courage, self-discovery, and the importance of hard work. Chihiro’s journey from a whiny, spoiled child to a brave and resilient young woman is truly inspiring. She learns to embrace her inner strength and navigate the challenges of the spirit world with determination and kindness.

Spirited Away is so captivating and kids love its storytelling and the way it immerses viewers in a unique and imaginative world. If you enjoyed Alice in Wonderland, you will enjoy watching Spirited Away. The film’s ability to transport audiences to an unfamiliar world is what made Hayao Miyazaki’s genius so well known.

Lesson plan idea: For Spirited Away, you could have kids journal about a time they faced a challenge and had to find their inner strength. They could also draw fan art of their favorite spirit characters.

My Neighbor Totoro (1988)

My Neighbor Totoro is a heartwarming tale that celebrates the wonders of childhood and the beauty of nature. I adore this film for its gentle, whimsical spirit and the valuable lessons it imparts. The story follows two sisters, Satsuki and Mei, who move to a new home in the countryside and discover the magical creatures known as Totoros.

The film’s pacing is leisurely, allowing viewers to soak in the lush, hand-drawn landscapes and the endearing interactions between the sisters and their newfound friends. My Neighbor Totoro totally captures the innocence and imagination of childhood. The Totoros themselves are delightful creatures that embody the sense of wonder and curiosity that children possess. The film encourages viewers to appreciate the simple joys of life and to embrace their imaginations.

People rave about My Neighbor Totoro’s charm and its ability to transport them back to their own childhoods. Totoro and Spirited Away are actually the first two Studio Ghibli movies that I showed my little girl. She was so enchanted taht up to now, she she still draws these characters on he doodle notebook! The film’s timeless appeal and its ability to captivate audiences of all ages make it a must-watch for homeschoolers.

Lesson Plan Idea: With My Neighbor Totoro, take a nature walk and have children look for signs of forest creatures like the soot sprites. Back home, they could plant seeds and care for their own mini garden like Mei.

Kiki’s Delivery Service (1989)

I absolutely adore Kiki’s Delivery Service. The story follows the endearing journey of self-discovery undertaken by Kiki, a young witch, as she leaves her hometown per tradition at thirteen to spend a year on her own.

Kiki embraces her independence wholeheartedly, using her flying skills and beloved black cat Jiji to start a bakery delivery service in her new city. A girl entrepreneur in 1989! The vibrantly animated and charming characters are a total joy. Witnessing Kiki’s determination in the face of challenges is an inspiration for teaching kids how to gather their own strength,.

Through hard work and self-belief, Kiki proves anything is possible. She reminds all, especially young viewers, that we can achieve our dreams. As a strong female lead, Kiki also serves as an empowering role model. The film perfectly captures childhood curiosity. exploration, and testing your own limits.

The upbeat themes of perseverance, empowerment, and pursuing passions resonate across ages and cultures. It’s no wonder this Ghibli gem appeals universally and remains a favorite of my own homeschooled daughter. I wholeheartedly recommend it for any family seeking laughter, inspiration and adventure!

Lesson Plan Idea: Kiki’s Delivery Service is perfect for teaching basic business and baking skills. Students could try their hand at decorating cupcakes then set up a mini marketplace to sell them.

Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (1984)

“Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind” is a visionary and thought-provoking film that explores the delicate balance between humanity and the natural world. Set in a post-apocalyptic world where the Earth has been ravaged by a toxic jungle, the film follows the journey of Nausicaä, a young princess who seeks to find a way for humans and nature to coexist peacefully. With its stunning visuals, rich world-building, and themes of environmentalism, pacifism, and the consequences of human actions, this film is a powerful and engaging choice for homeschoolers interested in science, ecology, and the exploration of complex societal issues.

Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind is a 9/10: the most ambitious story, and some of the most impressive visuals. This film has a lot to say, and it does so (mostly) very well.

As Nausicaä navigates the complex web of conflicts and alliances between the various factions in her world, she learns valuable lessons about the importance of understanding different perspectives, the consequences of human actions on the environment, and the power of compassion and non-violence. The film’s exploration of these themes, combined with its stunning visuals and imaginative world-building, makes it a captivating and thought-provoking experience for homeschoolers, fostering critical thinking, discussions about environmental stewardship, and an appreciation for the delicate balance between humanity and nature.

Lesson Plan Idea: With Nausicaa, explore human impact through building models comparing lush forest to barren wasteland. Young leaders can design sustainable communities merging people and nature like the Valley.

Grave of the Fireflies (1988)

Grave of the Fireflies is unlike any other Ghibli film I’ve recommended. It’s a grave (Pun intended!) story -one that needs guidance when watching with little kids. It tells the deeply moving true story of siblings Seita and Setsuko struggling to survive in the aftermath of World War 2’s bombing of Kobe. Had to take rolls and rolls and tissue for this one.

Isao Takahata (the Japanese director, screenwriter and producerof the movie) offers a realistic and unflinching depiction of war’s human toll is both haunting and eye-opening. Though disturbing for younger kids, I believe it has great value for older homeschoolers to cultivate compassion and anti-war views. The film left me with a profound wonderment for life’s fragility and commitment to peace.

Rather than glorifying violence, Grave of the Fireflies honors real civilian lives impacted through emotional, unsensationalized storytelling. It can be emotionally draining, but its message of our shared humanity is profoundly important. I cried so much the first time I watched it and now I also get angry about why it has to happen. For a thoughtful discussion of such critical issues, I consider this film essential viewing as kids mature.

While not an “enjoyable” watch, viewers agree it achieves artistic brilliance by evoking deep empathy and appreciation for storytelling’s role in promoting understanding between all people. In my view, that makes it ultimately life-affirming for the right audience.

Lesson Plan Idea: Grave of the Fireflies could spark journaling about the importance of peace, empathy for others, and discussions on how war impacts civilians.

Princess Mononoke (1997)

As an advocate for nature education here in Marinduque, I can’t recommend Princess Mononoke enough for its thought-provoking take on human-environment relations. Like with Nausicaa of the valley of the Wind, Hayao Miyazaki crafted a visually stunning fantasy world where humans and forest spirits clash over dwindling resources.

Through the eyes of Ashitaka, caught between warring factions, we see no side is completely faultless. I appreciate how the film encourages thoughtful analysis of all perspectives involved in these real-world issues. It certainly gets my own kiddos discussing how to find more balanced approaches!

What I realized now, is Princess Mononoke’s refusal to oversimplify the complex relationship between people and the land. We must consider all affected before acting. Google reviewers agree on its ability to foster nuanced thinking so needed for tackling climate changes. Nothing makes me happier than sparking fact-based debate for actionable solutions.

As homeschooling parents, guiding our children towards environmental empathy and stewardship through story is very important. Princess Mononoke does just that while fulfilling any fan of magical anime! I can’t wait to revisit its themes again with my classroom of little planet defenders. Knowledge and care for Mother Nature’s gifts is how we’ll build the bright future.

Lesson Plan Idea: Princess Mononoke lends itself to learning about different environmental issues and coming up with solutions both sides could agree on. Kids may also enjoy figuring out which character perspectives they identify with most.

Howl’s Moving Castle (2004)

Howl’s Moving Castle is admittedly one of our family’s top 5. Talk about magical escapism! This whimsical movie weaves together fantasy, adventure and feels to cast a spell on viewers of all ages. It is a film that blends elements of fantasy, adventure, and romance. I highly recommend this film for its imaginative world-building, its strong female protagonist, and its exploration of themes such as self-acceptance and the power of love.

So the story follows Sophie (I also wanted to name one of my kids Sophie lol), a young woman who is cursed by a jealous witch and transformed into an old woman. She seeks refuge in the titular weird and wonderful Moving Castle, where she encounters the enigmatic wizard Howl and his motley crew of amazing (if weird companions).

What I love most about Howl’s Moving Castle is its ability to transport viewers into a richly detailed and whimsical world filled with magic and wonder. The film’s characters (yes! even the supposed villains!) are endearing and multi-layered, and their interactions are both humorous and heartwarming.

We love Howl’s Moving Castle for its imaginative storytelling and its ability to captivate audiences of all ages. Howl’s Moving Castle is a delightful and visually stunning film that will leave you enchanted and wanting to revisit its magical world. The film’s universal appeal and its positive messages make it a fantastic choice for homeschoolers.

Lesson Plan Idea: Howl’s Moving Castle opens up discussions on self-esteem and the various ways people find happiness. You can also discuss how people are multi layered and we need to think further before jumping to conclusions. Crafting could be a Moving Castle replica or wanted posters for characters like the Witch of the Waste.

The Secret World of Arrietty (2010)

The Secret World of Arrietty is a charming and imaginative film that explores the hidden world of the Borrowers, tiny beings who live undetected among humans. I highly recommend this film for its ability to spark curiosity and wonder, as well as its exploration of themes such as friendship, family, and the importance of kindness.

The story follows Arrietty, a young Borrower who befriends a human boy named Shawn, putting her family’s secret existence at risk. The film’s attention to detail and its stunning animation bring the miniature world of the Borrowers to life in a way that is both captivating and endearing. It has one of the most unique worldbuilding and reminds me of a story my Lola told about a small faery that my grand grandmother caught and was forced to give our family a “power” called “kalamangan”.

The Secret World of Arrietty encourages viewers to appreciate the beauty in the smallest of things and to embrace the magic that surrounds us. The film’s themes of kindness and understanding are also particularly resonant, reminding us of the importance of empathy and respect for all living beings. The film’s positive messages and its ability to foster a sense of wonder make it a fantastic choice for homeschoolers.

Lesson Plan Idea: The Secret World of Arrietty inspires dollhouse or miniaturized world building. Writing tiny borrowing notes or decorating acorns like the ones Arrietty delivers could also be engaging.

Ponyo (2008)

Ponyo is a delightful and whimsical film that follows the adventures of a young goldfish princess who longs to become human. I highly recommend this film for its vibrant animation, its celebration of childhood imagination, and its exploration of themes such as friendship, family, and the importance of protecting the environment.

The story follows Ponyo, a curious and mischievous goldfish who escapes from her underwater home and befriends a young boy named Sosuke. Their friendship blossoms into a magical adventure as Ponyo’s desire to become human sets off a chain of events that threaten to disrupt the balance of nature.

The movie has boundless imagination and sense of wonder that encourages children to look upon themselves and break their shell. As is per usual assignment for Studio Ghibli, the film’s vibrant colors and whimsical characters create a truly enchanting world that is sure to captivate viewers of all ages. But the film’s ability to engage children on multiple levels and its positive messages about friendship and environmental conservation that makes it a fantastic choice for homeschoolers.

Lesson Plan Idea: For Ponyo, students could research different ocean creatures and habitats like tidal pools or coral reefs. They could also try their hand at goldfish or bubble swirling art, or write their own adventures continuing Ponyo and Sosuke’s story.

The Tale of The Princess Kaguya (2013)

The Tale of the Princess Kaguya is a visually stunning and emotionally resonant film that explores the themes of identity, freedom, and the fleeting nature of life. If you love folktales, you will definitely love this movie! I highly recommend this film for its beautiful animation, its thought-provoking storytelling, and its ability to spark discussions about societal expectations and the importance of embracing one’s true self.

The story is based on a Japanese folktale and follows the life of a mysterious young girl who is discovered as a tiny nymph living inside a bamboo shoot. As she grows into a beautiful and intelligent young woman, she struggles to reconcile her true nature with the societal expectations placed upon her by her lovely adoptive family.

It’s like a fable in a sense and its ability to convey profound truths about the human experience through the lens of a fantastical tale is just astounding. The film’s exploration of themes such as identity, freedom, and the fleeting nature of life is both poignant and thought-provoking, encouraging viewers to reflect on their own lives and the choices they make. Probably would resomnate more with teens who are just building on their personality.

Lesson Plan Idea: The Tale of The Princess Kaguya lends itself to learning about Japanese folktales, history and culture during that time period. Discussions on societal expectations could happen too. Crafting kites or painted bamboo blinds like in the story might spark creativity.

Which Studio Ghibli Movie To Watch First?

All of these films tap imagination while imparting positives messages appropriate for developing young minds. Beyond just entertainment, they cultivate important skills like critical thinking, empathy, environmental awareness, and perseverance. Watching together also strengthens family bonds through shared experiences and conversations. You can probably choose one depending on the themes that you’re currentl;y discussing for your homeshool.

A Guide on How to Discuss The Movies

With younger kids, keep questions simple and open-ended. Favorites like “What was your favorite part?” get them talking. Don’t expect long answers at first.

Draw connections between themes in the films and real life experiences the child can relate to. This helps abstract concepts feel meaningful.

Let the discussion be kid-led. Follow their curiosities by asking follow ups rather than sticking to a set agenda yourself. Conversation should be natural.

For older kids, dive deeper by prompted critical thinking. How could the characters have handled conflicts differently? What dilemmas did the story raise?

Validate various perspectives. Remind that complex issues have merits on both/all sides. There may be “good” reasons behind actions the child disagrees with.

Cultivate reflection rather than just facts. Invite sharing feelings evoked like parts that made them laugh, worry or cry and why.

Summarize key takeaways at the end like messages about courage, empathy, environmentalism. Write these where the whole family can see.

Most of all, make it an enjoyable bonding experience through your patience and by finding the lessons that resonate most for your child at their stage of development. The films do half the work – thoughtful guidance does the rest!

Be sure to sign up for my newsletter to receive monthly movie recommendations tailored for homeschool families. You’ll also get a free printable discussion guide to go along with each film. Just head over to relaxlangmom.com to add your name.

In the meantime, feel free to add your own suggestions in the comments! Some great tags for this post would be #homeschoolmovies #ghiblimovies #studioghibli.

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