Last night’s bedtime story was “JCat and the Time Machine for Cats”. Like all JCat stories, this one featured JCat traveling to Cupertino with Tim Cook in order to invent something. Happily, I was ready for the request to have a story featuring a time machine, since an end-of-day conversation with colleagues had digressed into a discussion of what it would have been like to be friends of the same age (they are all much, much younger).

Thus our story began with Tim Cook and JCat discussing how much they would have like to know one another as boy and kitten. While I got the story underway, Rob ran to his computer to look up where the heck Tim Cook grew up, anyhow. The answer came back: Tim Cook was born in 1960 and grew up in Robertsdale, Alabama. I realized we had a teachable moment.

JCat finished building his time machine, and after traveling back a couple of years to pick up JKitten, headed to Alabama in the mid-1960s. They met up with little Timmy Cook, and offered to buy him an ice cream. The crew headed off to the local lunch counter, but when the got there, all the white people inside the restaurant looked angry, and there was a big crowd of black people protesting outside.

Just when I thought I was going to have my star turn introducing my 6-year-old to a major historical event, he shouted, “I know what it is! It’s civil rights!” Out poured his explanation of how schools and buses and even washrooms were segregated, and how a black woman went to jail because she wouldn’t give up her seat for a white woman, and how the man who led the civil rights movement was then murdered.

Brainpop screen captureHow did he know all this? BrainPop. It’s an fantastic online resource that offers a wide range of educational videos for kids, accompanied by quizzes, and it has an app featuring a different video every day (if you subscribe, you can get web-based access to their very rich archive). Peanut loves watching BrainPop movies, so if he catches us by surprise with an unexpected area of knowledge, it’s usual thanks to BrainPop. (That was how he interrupted our explanation of the Supreme Court’s examination of gay marriage with his explanation of the Supreme Court.)

Unfortunately, even BrainPop has yet to produce a how-to guide for building a time machine for cats. But with all the time Peanut spends on their site, I’m confident it won’t be too long before he’s capable of engineering his own.