P.S. World War II isn’t actually for kids. No war is for kids.
However, we did learn about World War II, and learned a lot of great stuff. I also cut out a lot of interesting and important stuff so as not to totally damage their innocent little minds.
We did cover the Holocaust – and barely crossed the border of age inappropriateness – but I think we did OK in the end.
We did cover Japanese internment – and had a really interesting time with that.
Similar to our study of WWI, we spent a lot of time talking about the causes of WWII, but unlike our study of WWI, we didn’t go too in depth into the battles or technology. (Makes sense, though, considering there were a lot of other things unique to WWII to talk about as well. The planes, tanks, and trenches were all new and revolutionary to WWI, whereas the Holocaust and Japanese internment were unique to WWII.)
So, here are the resources I used for the study of the basics of the war:
We started out discussing the causes of the war and life in Europe during the 20s and 30s. I spent a lot of my own personal time reading books for myself. I’ll put an adult reading list at the end of this blog post.
But THIS book, is very kid appropriate. Even though the cover is kind of terrifying.
This book on battles was also very readable and kid friendly. (And also that is a tiny picture! It says “Battles of World War II” by Mike Taylor – in case you want to check it out.
I also had checked out “Weapon’s of World War II” by the same author, but I didn’t read it out loud to the kids. (I didn’t read it at all.) But my oldest son read it. I leave all our history books up on a shelf, easily accessible to the kids. So even if we don’t, as a family, get to reading all the books together, they often pick them up and read them on their own if they are interested
Here is another book my oldest son read. We really like the “choose your own adventure” stuff. There are a LOT of books in this particular history series. This is not the first we have read and will definitely not be the last.
We went into depth on just two of the major battles and everyone could probably guess which battles I chose. I really enjoyed both of these books. “Remember Pearl Harbor” had more eyewitness accounts, especially from the Japanese soldiers, which I thought was really interesting. The D-Day book was fascinating because that entire attack was so heroic and fascinating in itself, but there weren’t as many eye witness accounts, especially not from the German perspective.
I would be interested in finding more books in this “remember” series. As a funny side note, my kindergartener was so confused the entire time we were reading about the attack on Pearl Harbor. One, I think, because he isn’t used to hearing/learning about books from a non-American or neutral narrator perspective (remember the first half of the book is full of accounts from Japanese soldiers who survived) and two, because he had never considered that the United States, of all places, could ever be attacked or be on the losing side of a battle.
Oh honey, just you wait. There’s more to come.
But the entire time he kept asking what was going on? Who was doing what? etc., etc. And then whenever that attack came up again in other books as a review or just a summary, he would stop and shout in confusion “Wait! They did it AGAIN?” If one attack was unfathomable, he wasn’t going to believe that there were more than one attack on the Americans! (I’m happy to say, no, Pearl Harbor only happened once, and what a blessing.)
Books we checked out, but didn’t read.
We didn’t talk much about the home front with this war. Nor did we even get into the Navajo Code Talkers, which is unfortunate. BUT, that just means that in 4 years when we hit “modern times” in our history circuit again, we will have brand new material to cover. Plus, then we will be able to cover other important battles more in depth – like Midway, the Bulge, etc., which this time we only really mentioned in passing.
Also, there are SO MANY documentaries about WWII, and really, really good ones, too,(and just regular movies) that I would have loved to show the kids. But I still feel they are a little too young still. Other homeschool sites have suggested having the younger kids watch “Bedknobs and Broomsticks” and “The Sound of Music” (which we both own and have seen multiple times) so I did invoke the von Trapps, Miss Price, and the Rawlin’s children multiple times, but didn’t feel the need to sit the kids in front of the TV for hours (literally HOURS) rewatching those movies.
Adult reading list (some of these are appropriate for older children ages 12-18)
“Defying Hitler” by Sebastian Haffner. Writing in 1939 before the war had even started, this book is more about what transpired for every day Germans from the end of World War I to, well, 1939. It is a memoir, and very, very insightful. I wish it had been a much longer book.
“In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin” by Erik Larson. This is an autobiography of the American Ambassador to Germany and his very promiscuous (and later communist spy) daughter in the 1930s. The book doesn’t get into the war years, either, but shows life in Germany and Berlin from an outsider’s perspective, right before the war.
“The Upstairs Room” by Joanna Weiss. A story of two Jewish sisters who hide during the war. Good for older children.
“The Hiding Place” by Corrie ten Boom. Excellent story of two sisters who joined and led the resistance in Denmark. They were eventually captured and put into a camp themselves. Because of the description of the camp I didn’t allow my children to read it, but I will definitely have them read this one when they are high school age.
“I am David” by Anne Holm. This book was recommended to me as a WWII/Holocaust book, however, the main character actually escaped from a Soviet came in Eastern Europe – at least that is what I gathered from it, the author never really comes out and says it. Still, after being essentially raised in the concentration camp, he escapes at the age of 12 or so and tries to make his way back home and to find his mother, who he hopes is still alive. He doesn’t even remember her. This is an excellent, excellent book with potential for lots of deep discussion on what makes a person a person, or what gives a person value. But although the language isn’t difficult, I think the concepts would be better understood by 12+ year olds. I guess it has also been made into a movie.