For the home school classroom, children may not be too keen on approaching subjects such as World War II. It doesn’t relate to their lives. It’s in the past and you can almost see the yawning faces as the announcement is made that you are about to study World War II. However, this doesn’t have to be the case if you do your research well, and incorporate elements which go hand in hand with the historic events and which explain them in a manner children understand.
The best basis for a homeschool lesson plan is one which touches the lives of children, and during this period in European history, children were particularly vulnerable. An element which would be of interest to them is the evacuation of children from major cities, and the way they felt about relocating for the period of the war to rural areas where they were safer.
The evacuation period of the war brings on different topics for discussion and learning, in that the children can learn why the Government introduced the idea of evacuation, and how people were chosen who fell under those rules. This period in history also shows an interesting contrast for children who had known nothing but town life, and who were suddenly sent to the countryside to live among strangers. What were they allowed to take with them? How would they stay in touch with family? Would brothers and sisters be separated by the war effort?
This can also add a new dimension to their learning, as they go through the process of learning what billeting officers did, and why mothers were not available to look after their children. This was a period in history when women were encouraged to work for the war effort, and these were women who had not previously been a part of the workforce. A suitable topic to add here would be the work of land girls, and the work done in munitions factories by women.
In support of the lesson, there are many posters available on the Internet which can illustrate the idea that children should be evacuated and which outline how word of the scheme was spread to ordinary mothers within inner city areas. Images such as these will bring out the reality of the situation to children who will be able to envisage what it was like to be an evacuee, what evacuees wore and how they were labeled so that they would not be lost.
For those who are interested in how this affected children in different parts of the United Kingdom, maps can be drawn up and children asked to research to find out information, under the supervision of their teacher to try and establish the time period in which children moved away from their homes, and where the children went. Maps drawn up to show the major cities give the student a better understanding of the geography of England, and which areas were considered as safe from German invasion.
The lesson plan is a good one because children can imagine being in that same situation, and be asked to write letters as if they had been sent away from home, imagining the differences between country and town life. The imagination of a child is very good and given the backbone of the story of the war, and how that affected children of that time, the results of the letter writing exercise would be that children gain more understanding of the generation of kids their age who went through the evacuation process.
As the child gets older, this could be expanded upon based on their previous knowledge, although, as an introduction to World War II for younger children, the evacuation process makes safe reading without having to deal with more worrying aspects of war, they may not yet understand. The area that this kind of lesson plan would include would be:
The type of transport used in the evacuation process
How children were labeled and who they traveled with
What kind of homes received them?
How long they would be away from home?
How they were reunited with their parents after the war
All of these areas give background information and make the search for relevant details something children can actually see as being relevant to their lives as children in another country. Although World War II is a vast topic to learn, this introduction will enable children to become aware of a period in history which touched the lives of children like them. It’s a journey of discovery which teacher and child can take together to make a whole study unit.