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! 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.

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