Thursday, February 6, 2014

The First Two Weeks of World War II

For the remainder of the school year, we will be studying World War II. This is a very complicated and all encompassing subject. I decided to divide our study of World War II by country and by how the war progressed. There are some main goals I have while teaching World War II to the children. I want them to have a working knowledge of the war, be able to understand the vocabulary (Axis, Nazis, Allies, Holocaust, etc.) and to really get a feel of the times. However, my most important goal to impart to the children is the realization that there were good people in all of these countries who were trying to help the oppressed. Wars start with ruling bodies and the common people get swept up into war.
The first week of our study, we concentrated on an overview of World War II. I taught them that over 50 countries were involved in this war and there were two "theaters", the European and the Pacific. We started learning about the new, modern weapons of war and what a soldier's life was like. Part of this huge war included a terrible genocide which was called the Holocaust and 11 million men, women and
children were killed because they were not the "popular" people.

Our first project was the mortar game. We learned about the use of anti-aircraft guns versus mortars. The kids lay on a blanket and threw a tennis ball (mortar) at a balloon. The were not able to hit it. Then they stood up and threw the tennis ball (anti-aircraft bullets) at the balloon. Standing up, they had a much easier time hitting it.

Our second project was making a ration kit for our "soldier". We used only the non-perishable food we had on hand so this project was probably harder than it needed to be. We had the kids try to get as close as possible to the requisite 1800 calories, 50 grams of fat, 40 grams of protein and less than 2000 mg of sodium. We decided the project was hard enough without paying attention to the weight and size of the package. We went a little over on calories, but the kids were pretty pleased with the food for the day.

The third project we did this week was a camouflage activity in which the kids hid a bike from view. I think they did a great job. Can you see the pink bike in there?

We are trying to watch a movie each week of our study. The first week we watched The Story of Us and Crash Course History WWII. The kids far preferred The Story of Us, which explained the war at a slower speed and in more of a movie form. We also read several books which I will list at the bottom.

Week 2 found us in Germany. I decided to start in the European theater. We learned about the Rise of Hitler and why it was that such a man could gain power in Germany at that time. We reviewed that many Germans wanted nothing to do with all of the fear and hatred that Hitler encouraged. Our main audiobook this week was Bonhoeffer: The Cost of Freedom. If you have not studied Bonhoeffer, he deserves a look. He was a German Lutheran minister who did a great deal of work to protect the Jewish community in Germany. After a long internal struggle, he decided to join an underground group that attempted to stop Hitler by any means possible (including assassination attempts). This audiobook did a wonderful job of explaining the mood in Germany that led up to the war and the struggle many had (including Bonhoeffer) between choosing loyalty to their country or devotion to Jesus' teachings. I won't spoil the end for those who do not know it, but the story is heart breaking.

The movie we watched for the second week was Paper Clips. This is a special movie about a middle school in Tennessee. About 10 years ago, they were teaching their students about the Holocaust and wanted to figure out a way to show what 11 million people looked like. They decided to collect paper clips, because wearing a paper clip during World War II was a way of showing solidarity to the Jewish community. The project spanned 4 years and brought them in contact with survivors and relatives of survivors from all around the world. They even ended up with an authentic box car  to store their paper clips. They now have a museum that we hope to visit one day. It is located about 5 hours from us.
Since we were studying Germany, we had to have some German food. We made chicken schnitzel, potato noodles, and German apple cake. The meal was delicious! The kids loved making noodles from scratch. They were stiffer than wheat noodles, but tasted great.

The first two weeks of books ~
  • World War II for Kids A History with 21 Activities
  • One More Border The True Story of One Family's Escape from War-Torn Europe
  • You Wouldn't Want to Be a Secret Agent During World War II!
  • You Wouldn't Want to Be a World War II Pilot!
  • Bonhoeffer The Cost of Freedom
Next week we are off to Austria (figuratively speaking). We did not get to learning about codes and code breaking this week. I hope to include that next week.

Blessings, Dawn


  1. I love this. What a great idea, to take it country by country. I am pinning this for the next time we get to this.

  2. Wow. Tons of great ideas. I hope I can remember some of me when we are back to the WWII era.

  3. Wow, what a completely different way to study! Great idea! We are starting The Cost of Discipleship this week. Also I'm reading Winston Churchill's books and I am just flabbergasted at the European story in the 1930's. The whole war could have been prevented. Anyway tonight I stumbled on this site and I would never have thought to recommend it, but now that I'm reading about the depth you are going into (like the tennis ball activity), you might like it. I'll link it so you can decide.

  4. I agree with Phyllis, I like the creative country-by-country approach. I have learned from this post - thanks.
    My 8 year old asked to learn about the wars recently so we've been listening to some historical fiction. We especially liked The Silver Sword which does a great job of showing the good people behind the events.

  5. We'll not be doing the world wars for a while, but I love how you have tackled your study. I shall be back!!