A few observations about teaching this subject to grammar students:
- It is their first real encounter with World War II and it isn't necessary that they fully understand the event. A few key concepts that they are able to master: the difference between democracy and dictatorship, the corruption of wanting power, the self-deception of sin, the persecution of Jews, and the value of freedom, even at a very high cost.
- The better they know the geography, the easier it is to understand the events. Reflecting on my own education, I see this as a major gap. Even now, most children's picture books about historical events fail to include maps that show where the places are. We have colored and labeled several maps of Europe and always pointed on the map to follow along with the direction of the war. This has helped them to grasp the impact of Hitler's Blitzkrieg march across Europe.
- It is important that kids understand that life is very hard and full of sorrow. This is obvious to most children in the world, but in our sheltered hometown it isn't so obvious. I'm not doing them any favors by pretending that God will make everything wonderful for them. There is plenty of opportunity to teach this through a study of World War II, without going too far and giving them knowledge too heavy to bear. We've been able to talk about God's promise to be with us through suffering, even if it isn't something that He takes away.
- There are enough resources for children that the Holocaust can be presented appropriately. There are many, many aspects of World War II that are too much to bear, but it is possible to find the balance.
- Grammar-stage boys love to learn about aircraft like the RAF's Spitfire (pictured above), the Japanese Zero, the tanks, the aircraft carriers, and the weapons. This is obvious, but not having brothers, I'm really experiencing this for the first time. I'm amazed that for all my study of World War II over the years, I never have recognized the aircraft by name until now! Lane and Toby made paper airplanes just as soon as the movie Battle of Britain was over, colored them like Spitfires and 109s, and immediately launched into dogfights.
Spitfire image from Wikipedia; public domain.