Tuesday, February 7, 2017

WWII Field Trips, and Bomber Activity

When she heard we were learning about World War II, one of our neighbors volunteered to tell us about her father and father-in-law's experiences in the war. We went over to her house one day and listened to stories about her father working as a radar operating aboard a submarine in the Pacific, and some of her husband's dad's memories about life before and during the War. It was fascinating! Hearing about what life was like in Salt Lake City, for regular families a lot like us, was a whole different perspective than the more generic one we got from most books about "War life in the United States." And, our friend also had her dad's old navy uniform and coat, which she showed us! It was pretty sobering to see Abe holding it up and think about how boys only a few years older than him were going off to war.
Warm lining from the Navy-issued coat her Dad wore
Another day, we drove up to the aircraft museum in Layton. We're always happy to have an excuse to visit the Hill Air Force Base, but this time our field trip was made extra awesome because we met friends there—and THEY brought their friend, a World War II Veteran, to talk to us! He was amazing. It was an honor to meet him.
The museum owns one of the very kinds of planes he flew in the war. He told us about being shot full of holes over Germany, and making an emergency landing with all his engines out. He was miraculously unhurt, but some of his crew were killed at their posts on that mission. It was incredible to hear about all this firsthand.
We also got to see one of the Norden bombsights, a cool innovation during the war that we'd read about in several airplane books

We didn't spend as much time on military planes as we might have, having covered them earlier during our Aviation Unit, but we did do an activity where we tried to drop gummy bears into paper cups on the ground while running past them at full speed. This is a very small taste of what pilots had to do when dropping bombs (and which the Norden bombsight helped with!). The children loved it.
Some of them took "at full speed" more literally than others...

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

The atomic bomb

We did a whole unit on Nuclear Energy a few years ago. It was one of our favorite units! You can find all the posts about that unit aggregated here.

The Nuclear Museum in Albuquerque.

Hydrogen bombs vs. atom bombs

Great article on why we dropped the atomic bomb. And some more good resources on the same subject. Definitely worth watching and teaching. I found a real lack of good information on this subject elsewhere, as most children's books and other modern resources have a sort of glib "we all know better now" sensibility on the subject.

Abe and I LOVED this book, Bomb, by one of our favorite authors, Steve Sheinkin. There is SO MUCH intrigue and so many behind-the-scenes details I had never before heard about. It reads like a mystery novel.

I can also recommend this book (for adults and older children), Hiroshima Diary, which is a journal written by a doctor in Hiroshima in the weeks immediately following the Hiroshima bomb. It is fascinating, sad, and surprisingly good-humored as well. The author seems like a pretty amazing man.

Monday, January 30, 2017

WWII D-Day resources

Image from wikipedia
Innovations used on D-Day

Why was it called "D-Day"?

Scenes from D-Day, then and now

More "before and after" D-Day pictures

"Funny" tanks (used on D-Day, and beyond)

The video about the "crocodile" flamethrower tank at that last link is broken, but here's a better one anyway. This tank is terrifying! I can't imagine seeing one of these coming at me.

Monday, January 23, 2017

The Holocaust

We talked about the Holocaust very briefly a long time ago, but as the children are older now, we covered it in a lot more depth this time. One interesting video we watched was this documentary about a paper clip project students did while studying the Holocaust. Surprisingly moving!

Of course the Holocaust is a difficult subject. I read this book called The Liberators that was quite harrowing. I would only recommend it for high schoolers, I think, and it was hard even for me, but it also felt like a valuable perspective to get firsthand.

This book talks about another little-known aspect of the Holocaust: the Lebensborn program.

To counter all the sadness inherent in these Holocaust stories, we found it uplifting to read about people who helped the Jews and others, and kept goodness alive in that dark time. One of the best books we read was a longer one, but well worth the time—it was called Darkness over Denmark and it was FULL of amazing stories of bravery and sacrifice. I couldn't help but feel so proud of Denmark, land of my ancestors—even though most of my ancestors had immigrated here by that point, probably. :)

There are lots of other good books about the Resistance to Hitler, and people who helped his victims. Many of them are shown here in our book list.

Monday, January 16, 2017

War Life in Great Britain, and Incendiary Bomb activity

I read a lot of books which talked about the evacuation of children from England during the war. (The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, for example, but many others too.) So that aspect of the war has always been interesting to me. It was called "Operation Pied Piper," and here is a video showing footage from the effort. And here's an article with some more pictures.

This video told British citizens how to deal with an incendiary bomb. We tried this ourselves, with a smoke bomb. The kids loved it! :)

We also watched parts of a TV show called "The 1940's House." It's a reality show where a family lived for a couple months just as a family in the 1940s would have. The show indulged in the requisite manufactured "dramatic crisis" from time to time, but on the whole it was pretty interesting and informative.

Silly (but enjoyable) video about the British Home Guard.

This map showing all the bombs dropped during "The Blitz" is pretty amazing.

A few pictures from my recent visit to Churchill's Cabinet War Rooms. London feels so full of WWII history!

How I love Sir Winston Churchill. I read a great biography of his wife Clementine, and I'm (very slowly) still working my way through the three-volume "The Last Lion" series.

To understand the ups and downs of Sir Winston's life, you need a basic knowledge of how the British parliament works. Here's a quick video that we liked, and here's another.

Monday, January 9, 2017

World War II Homeschool Unit and Lesson Plan

(click top or bottom section to enlarge)
I feel like World War II consumed so much of our year, although the unit itself took only a couple of months. But I've been living in that time period ever since we studied WWI last year. I got to travel to London and Berlin during that time too, which only increased my fascination. But it also felt daunting to actually start this unit, because there is just SO MUCH. Each aspect could be a whole course of study in itself! Pearl Harbor! Hiroshima! Iwo Jima! The Holocaust! The Battle of the Bulge! I just felt so overwhelmed.

Finally I decided to just plow ahead, knowing we'd fail to do some of it justice, and I think what we ended up with was a pretty good overview. I had been reading about the War quite extensively myself all year, and even though I didn't systematically share all the things I learned with the children, I found things coming back to my memory surprisingly often, and I felt like it gave color and interest to so many subjects. I'll mention some of the books I read on the pages about individual topics, but a couple general favorites were The Gathering Storm (by Churchill himself!), Lines of Battle (a book my WWII-expert friend lent me—it's a collection of actual letters from soldiers, arranged chronologically—surprisingly absorbing and heartbreaking), In the Garden of Beasts (a fascinating portrait of the American ambassador to Germany right before the war. I also wrote about this one here) and "Those Angry Days," (really interesting look at the little-known ins and outs of the build-up to war in the U.S.).

Here are a few posts on WWII-related places I visited:

The Brandenburg Gate, and some pictures of before and after WWII in Berlin

The Reichstag Building and the New Synagogue in Berlin

Site of the Potsdam Conference

Thoughts on war and suffering

On to the unit itself! Here are some resources that didn't fit on my other posts.

Link to my World War II Unit Pinterest Board, so you can see many of these resources in one place (plus a few I pinned but didn't use).

Propaganda posters from WWII. Here's a post from our lesson on propaganda a few years ago.

We talked about inflation that day too, come to think of it. And this video is a funny illustration of inflation in Germany before WWII. Want to do more with inflation? This auction we did was SO much fun! And...here are a whole bunch more kind-of-related Economics links and resources.

A short video about Adolf Hitler

Biographical information on Adolf Hitler, including pictures

A rare recording of Hitler speaking in his normal voice--very interesting

Some interactive maps of the war: these about the "blitzkrieg" portion of the war, this one, and this one (time lapse)

These "Horrible Histories" clips can be pretty funny. This is kind of an overview of WWII.

Video about the plot to assassinate Hitler, and more about the man who attempted it. Every time I learn about this I wonder how things could have turned out differently!

After the war, there is much more fascinating history, of course! Here's a post about my visit to and thoughts about the Berlin Wall. Also some book recommendations about the Berlin Wall and East Germany under communism (Stastiland and The Collapse were both great.)

But my single favorite post-war story is probably this one, about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' "Dutch Potato Project." A beautiful beginning to a discussion about forgiveness and reconciliation.

And of course, we always love to talk about our friend Gail Halvorsen, the Berlin "Candy Bomber," and another example of how one person doing good can help improve the lives of countless people.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Road signs and markings

Sebastian is, oddly, really interested in intersections and road markings and so forth lately. He makes endless drawings like the one above, with stretched-out writing to mimic the elongated font they use for words like "stop ahead" on the road, and different variations on lane configurations and freeway entrances etc. There is a feeder road to the freeway where they have those variable lanes (the ones that can go one direction at certain times of day, and then the other direction at other times of day) and every time we go anywhere, he wants me to drive on that road so he can check out the interesting lanes. So, of COURSE we had to learn more about road signs and markings during our car unit!

I thought one of the coolest things we learned about was the Interstate Highway numbering system. You can tell whether an interstate runs north-south or east-west based on its number, and beltways are always three numbers with the number of the "parent" route plus an even-numbered prefix. (So, in Utah, I-215 is a belt route around I-15, and if there were another big city that needed a belt route, it would be I-415. Interesting, huh!) If the branching-off route is not a belt, but just a spur to a city, the first digit of its three-digit number will be odd rather than even. U.S. Highways or Routes have their own numbering system too. It's all fascinating—this is the sort of thing I love knowing! We learned more about this here and here.

This street sign guide is great! Tells all about the different categories of signs and what they mean.

Sebastian is still skeptical about this one. He thinks the lines are more like eight feet long. I promised him someday, late at night or when a road is deserted, we will pull over with our tape measure and see for ourselves. Until then, you just have to believe the article: Those lane divider lines are longer than you think!

You didn't realize how great it is to know the name of these things, but it is.

We learned the name of these things years ago, and still remember fondly how little Junie would call out, as a baby, when we drove onto one: "Ah-bip!" That meant "rumble strip."

Pavement marking guide. Sebastian is super into this, as seen here.

More about road lines.

Another pavement marking and sign guide. Sebastian wanted a copy of this printed out for himself. :)

Very interesting: this tells about the reflective sheeting they use on road markings.

This is fun; you can take a practice driver's license test. I was really confident that I knew everything on it, but there were a couple I missed!

Monday, November 28, 2016

Car-related field trips

Abe by a rare LaFerrari, or the Ferrari The Ferrari, as they always call it on "Top Gear."
I wanted to take the children to a junkyard so they could see the wrecking machines and how cars got stripped down for parts, but unfortunately we couldn't find a place that would let us come. Apparently everyone is too worried about liability to allow anyone under 16, blast them. It's a shame because I know lots of people who used to love visiting the junkyard with their dads when they were kids. So I was sad about this.

We did, however, visit the Ferrari dealership in Salt Lake (Ferraris are Abe's favorite car), and they were really nice. I called ahead to ask if they'd be bothered by a bunch of kids showing up, and they said not at all. So that was really fun.
This picture is so great. I have no idea why they're shaking hands; I think they thought it made them look professional or something. :)
I also took the children to a gas station and showed them how to fill the car up with gas.

And at the end of the unit, Sam took the boys to a Go-kart racing track. (The girls aren't tall enough yet to do it.) They LOVED that. It was expensive, but fun and memorable for a culminating activity.
We considered going to this Classic Car museum in Salt Lake City, but never made it there. Maybe another time. We did go to a Car Show closer to home, though, and saw many classic and vintage vehicles there, so that was fun.

Here is a calendar showing the dates and locations of Car Shows in Utah.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Car Design and Logo Design

Sam taught the children about car design and how designers often use existing chassis to make designing easier. He showed them how to take the basic body shape of a car and change it to make more interesting shapes, and how designers have to take engineering requirements into account as well. The children had fun trying to design their own cars!
On another day, Sam talked about marketing and how designers think about branding and advertising. He showed us how to use shapes and archetypes to suggest certain qualities, and how to focus our messages on just one or two main concepts that could be expressed visually. He also talked about propositional density (how many visual concepts are being conveyed in an image—the goal is to have a high propositional density for maximum effect).
Sam gave us an assignment to design a logo that conveyed the message "Fast, but friendly" (or something like that...my memory of it is uncertain). It was really fun to attempt!

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Teaching children to change a tire

I wanted the children to learn how to change a car tire, as this felt like one of the most practical things we could teach them. I've never been totally confident about doing it myself, so it was a good review for me too! Sam showed them where to find the jack in both cars, and how to use it, and how to loosen the bolts and so forth. They thought it was cool to see how the car raised up and to peer under the chassis behind the missing tire! The boys even did some good working of the jack and the wrench, and the girls did it too with a bit of help. Those lug nuts and bolts are really on tight!

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Roadster rides

My friend's dad loves old cars and has rebuilt many different types in his garage over the years. We went over to her dad's house and saw his old Model A, and he even let us take some rides in his cute little red roadster! We loved it!

Some people enjoyed the backyard slide even more than the roadster rides. :)
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