Of America and war (2012 curriculum fair)

Ages of my kids at home: 15 and 11 1/2
Educational Philosophy Influences: Literature-based, Eclectic, College-Bound

I am so excited about this upcoming year! I have always maintained that educational flexibility is the highlight of home education, and 2012-13 will be one of those years that embraces flexibility.

Shouldn’t education be crafted by creativity, rather than squished into a box labeled “scope and sequence”?

For me, part of the joy in homeschooling my kids comes with the designing, the knowing that my kids get an individualized education plan that suits them perfectly.

So here is what I have planned for my two at-home kids:

Student #1: All Things America

The upcoming year is an election year, and my daughter will be a sophomore. What a perfect year for all things America! I had already planned to teach American Literature at our co-op, and I knew U.S. history would also be offered there as well. That leaves government, and what better year to study government than an election year?

I remembered that a father in our support group teaches government at a local high school, so I contacted him to see if he’d consider teaching for our co-op. He was enthusiastic and immediately began planning.  He put together a class description, which includes watching debates and election returns together, and reached his class maximum in just a couple of days. I am excited about my daughter having the opportunity to really be immersed in government during an election year.

So you’ve noticed that all her classes so far will be through our co-op? The rest of them—ecology, geometry, ACT Prep, and performing arts— are as well. In an area where public education is a strange mix of mediocrity and fierce competition, we are blessed to have a phenomenal high school program through our support group. We all agree that our life is richer within the network of the homeschooling community.

High School Resources

  •  American Literature: I’ll be teaching this course, and I create my own course materials drawing on various resources. My three favorites are: Glencoe Literature Library, Shmoop, and Signet Classics Teachers’ Guides.  We’ll be reading a variety of novels, plays, short stories, and poetry, as well as seeing plays, watching movie version of novels, and of course writing!
  • U.S. History and U.S. Government will both be teacher-created courses, not relying on one particular textbook.
  • Geometry will meet twice weekly, using Geometry by Harold Jacobs
  • Ecology:  My husband, a biology professor, will be teaching this class for our co-op using Elements of Ecology by Thomas Smith and Robert Smith. Besides the weekly class, they’ll be doing lots of field work in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Can you imagine a more memorable science class?
  • ACT Prep: I am team-teaching this with two other moms. Students will be using The Real ACT Prep Guide.

Photo by justinday

Student #2: War

My youngest will be straddling 6th and 7th grades. We move him rather fluidly between levels, based on his needs rather than his age. (See my post Stepping Outside the Grade Level Box.) One day I remarked to my husband that, “I wish we could just spend a whole year studying World War II.” He looked at me with a look that was a combination of “Ummm, why can’t we?” and “Duh, isn’t that why we homeschool?”

Ah, yes. That is precisely why we homeschool. Why let this perfect timing slip away because the typical scope and sequence calls for a vague “global and regional studies”? We have a nearly 12-year-old son who is fascinated by this period in history. My father is World War II veteran, as well as an historian. What ideal ingredients for intense, delight-driven learning: an eager student, a primary source (my father), a library, the internet, and a facilitator (me).

So what will be doing? Lots of reading. My father is putting together an outline of events, from the start of the war to the fall of Japan. I have only just begun a reading list, but some of our possibilities include:

Our World War II study will include reading, writing, and history, but we’ll continue on with our regular math (finishing Teaching Textbooks pre-algebra and then beginning algebra) and grammar (Easy Grammar). I am excited to begin a new classical science program, Elemental Science, which  “focuses on the science being studied instead of a person’s religious viewpoint.” My son and I will be doing Biology for the Logic Stage.

This year our trip to New York City greatly enhanced our homeschooling year. Next spring we plan to visit Washington D.C., a perfect trip for our daughter’s year in America studies and our son’s study of World War II.

Although we are just winding down 2011-12, I am already so excited about our upcoming school year! I have all summer to enjoy relaxing—and planning!

I’d love help in planning our World War II study! What are some of your favorite books, movies, field trips and other resources from this time period?

About SarahS

Sarah has graduated one child from homeschooling and is happy to have miles left on the journey with her 11 and 15 year old children. With a master’s degree in English/creative writing, Sarah enjoys teaching writing and literature classes at her co-op and blogs about learning at SmallWorld at Home.


  1. What an interesting year for your kids! I love US History, and actually took every US History class my college offered, it was pretty awesome to have such in depth classes. I look forward to hearing what you come up with!
    Heather’s latest post: Short Break!

  2. This looks so cool Sarah. I love it. Sorry, no WWII recommendations.
    renee @ FIMBY’s latest post: Why Writing a Mission Statement is So Hard

  3. your family may enjoy the BBC series 1940’s House.

  4. Hi Sarah! This is Nicole from Journey to Excellence. Great studies for next year! My son is also a huge War guy, and in our American History studies this year we got as far as World War II and ran out of time. I can’t WAIT to see what all you come up with for this course, because I am thinking that we will be taking it on his junior year (in two years). Next year?? Yep … Current Events and U.S. Government.
    Nicole @ Journey 2 Excellence’s latest post: Freedom of Speech

  5. “Operatives, Spies, and Saboteurs: The Unknown Story of WW2’s OSS” by Patrick K. O’Donnell and “Navajo Code Talkers” by Nathan Aaseng were two of my son’s favorites.
    Kristina’s latest post: What if He Was Your Child?

  6. Ellen Dockham says:

    My 12-year-old son and I are just finishing up a yearlong study of WWII. Last year when he asked to do this, I was not all that excited about an entire year on one war, but now I’m thinking we could easily do another whole year on it! It was fabulous, and I ended up being just as interested as he was. I would highly recommend these two books as spines: World War II: The Rest of the Story & How It Affects You Today by Richard J. Maybury, and Great Battles of WWII (published by Parragon; available at Barnes & Noble). My son’s favorite historical fiction book was Soldier X by Don Wulffson, and he adored the Band of Brothers documentaries from Netflix.
    I have more suggestions if you want them!

  7. I strongly recommend the Spy Museum, along with the better-known museums and memorials, when you visit DC. And, the movie Miracle at Midnight is a wonderful WWII movie that personalizes the situation without being too horrifying or graphic for tweens.

  8. Natalie says:

    We really enjoyed reading Snow Treasure – set in Norway during WWII where the kids work to outfox the Nazis. Nothing too exciting, but a fun story, from a different perspective than you usually get.

  9. Here’s a living WW2 resource – There’s a great national organization with chapters in major cities. It’s called Honor Flight and they pay to escort and fly vets to their respective memorials in DC. Here is their facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Honor-Flight-Network/98939133890. See if there is a chapter in your area and maybe your family can volunteer to escort a vet or interview some of them, or just be around in DC at the same time as a group of them are there.

  10. My tween daughter loved the book “Someone Named
    Eva.” she has checked it out from the library at least
    five times. It is very interesting!

  11. The Ken Burns PBS documentary, “The War”, was amazing. There are definitely some graphic images of the concentration camps but the personal stories of bravery and love are a real treasure. It helped me understand my grandparents so much better.

  12. The Night by Eli Wizel (not sure if I spelled that right) is very powerful. I would caution to read it first before introducing it to your son as it can be very graphic in parts. I read it in HS and loved it, although I will say there were several parts where I just burst into tears and sobbed. It is a first hand account of a young boy in the concentration camps and follows him from detainment to escape.

  13. Amy @ Hope Is the Word says:

    It looks and sounds like a great year! I have one recommendation for WWII: The Yellow Star by Carmen Agra Deedy. It’s a picture book about the legend of King Christian X of Denmark. I wrote about it here: http://www.hopeisthewordblog.com/2009/07/31/author-spotlight-carmen-agra-deedy/
    Amy @ Hope Is the Word’s latest post: Our penultimate week of school

  14. When you go to D.C., the Holocaust Museum is a MUST see (in my opinion).

  15. The Holocaust Museum in D.C. is worth every penny and more. It is so well put together.

  16. Great list! We also liked:
    “The Endless Steppe” by Esther Hautzig
    “Prisoner B-3087” by Alan Gratz
    We also researched about the Monuments Men and spent some time learning about some of the heroes who saved Jew’s lives like Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Carl Lutz, Raoul Wallenberg, Sir Nicholas Winton, and others who started underground resistance movements.

  17. I would also recommend “Summer of My German Soldier” by Bette Greene, and “The Boy in the Striped Pajamas.” Both of these are excellent!

  18. For World War II, some of my favorites are written By Stephen E. Ambrose. Citizen Soldier, Band of Brothers, and D-Day. Lots of first-person stories from veterans. Very captivating.

  19. Marnita Sonnenberg says:

    One we found interesting is an audiobook from Australia . It is fictional but quite interesting. It is called Hitler’s Daughter.

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