Friday, July 28, 2017

Love and Family in World War II: The Silver Sword

by Ian Serraillier

This is a wonderful old book sharing the lives of three children whose lives are disrupted by World War II. Their father and mother are arrested and interned, leaving the children on their own. Though their lives are difficult, the book doesn't dwell on the fear and dreariness as much as more modern books seem to do. Along the way, they are helped now and then by soldiers from various armies and a kind German farmer and his wife.

As the war comes to a close, Ruth, the eldest, adopts a vagabond child who has met her father and knows he has gone to Switzerland where their grandparents live. They begin a trek across the war-ravaged and Allied-occupied land to recover their brother from a work camp and walk to Switzerland.

This book doesn't hide the struggles of those who suffered and survived the war, but it focuses instead on courage and the healing power of love and family. The children and their parents suffer terribly in the war and at the hands of the Germans, but their journey at the end reveals the hope of forgiveness and compassion.

This is one of the many recommended books in the Level 4 history program at Mater Amabilis™and, after much deliberation, I have finally found one I can definitely recommend to First Son. My plan is to offer him a few choices for the supplemental reading during World War II, and this will be one of them.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Our Level 4 (8th Grade) Six Week Study on World War II

Mater Amabilis™ gives some lesson plans for History in Level 4 (8th grade) in which a student studies national history for twelve weeks followed by four six-week terms chosen from six options.

In the first term, First Son will follow the Mater Amabilis™ study reasonably closely, modified only a little to add in a few Kansas-related books. I've posted those plans in the Mater Amabilis™ facebook group for those that are interested.

Beginning in the second term, First Son will spend six weeks studying World War I. I posted the plans for that study on the blog. As I mentioned there, I already owned a book on both world wars from Usborne: The World Wars by Paul Dowswell, Ruth Brocklehurst, and Henry Brook. You can find it on Amazon, but I bought my copy from a friend who sells Usborne books.

Mater Amabilis™ recommends Witness to History: World War II by Sean Connolly as the main book and I requested a copy from PaperBackSwap. I liked the aspect of the eyewitness accounts so I decided to use it in addition to the Usborne book.

I haven't used these plans yet and there's a good chance I've scheduled more than my rising eighth grader will be comfortable doing in the time suggested for history. We'll give it a try, though. (It's hard to know for certain, but it's possible my second child will manage these plans perfectly well.) I've modified the Mater Amabilis™plans considerably to use the Usborne book, but I have no reason to believe they're really better than those. It's also possible these plans would work just as well if you followed them and left out the Usborne book. There's a lot here.

Mater Amabilis™ says history at this level should take about 45 minutes each day three times a week. In addition, a supplemental reading book should be chose from the recommended books. I haven't picked a supplemental reading book yet; there are just so many good ones I'm still considering my options.

Our Main Resources

Optional Resources

Week 1

Lesson 1
The World Wars p 123-129 – Narrate. (The Second World War, The world at war, The Rise of dictators, The fragile democracies)

Lesson 2
Kingfisher History Encyclopedia p 398-399, 406-407, 412, 408-409. (The Rise of Fascism 1922-1939, Weimar and Hitler 1919-1939, German Expansion 1938-1939, The Spanish Civil War 1936-1939)
The World Wars p 130-133 (Hitler’s Germany, The Road to War)
Notebook: Why do you think World War II happened?

Lesson 3
The World Wars p 135-143 (War begins in Europe, War breaks out, The fall of Western Europe, The battle for Britain, Germany invades Eastern Europe)
World War II p 8-13 (Blitzkrieg, The Battle of Britain, The Blitz)
Stories of Karol chapters 3-4: September 1, 1939 and Hitler’s “New Order” (I decided to assign this book as a saint biography, so First Son won't read it in this lesson.)
A letter from Caryll Houselander in Caryll Houselander: Essential Writings (p 82-84) in which she speaks of how to remain faithful in the dark time of war. 
Notebook: Describe Hitler’s successes early in the war or write about the future Pope’s experiences on September 1st.
Add an event to your Book of Centuries from this week.

Week 2

Lesson 1
Listen to excerpts of speeches by British Prime Minister Winston Churchill:
  1. "I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat" - 13 May 1940
  2. "We shall fight on the beaches" - 18 June 1940
  3. "Never in the field of human conflict" - 20 August 1940
Notebook: Written narration on the events at Dunkirk.

Lesson 2
The World Wars p 144-151 (European War to World War, Operation Barbarossa, The Siege of Leningrad, Pearl Harbor)
World War II p 14-15 (Pearl Harbor)
Kingfisher History Encyclopedia p 416-417. (War in the Pacific 1941-1945)
Listen to Franklin D. Roosevelt’s address to congress on December 8th. You can follow along with the transcript of the speech in your notebook.
Notebook: Written narration on the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Lesson 3
The World Wars p 152-157. (Japan’s new empire, Underground resistance, The home front)
Remember Pearl Harbor by Thomas B. Allen (from our library) – Read chapter 2.
Read the text of the speech along with some context, printed in your binder.
Add an event to your Book of Centuries from this week.

Week 3

Lesson 1
Read articles from and the Smithsonian on the Internment camps.
Gajin: American Prisoner of War by Matt Faulkner (from the library)
Notebook: Write a position paper on the Japanese-American internment camps.

Lesson 2
The World Wars p 158-163 (The War in North Africa, Life in occupied territories, The battle of the Atlantic)
World War II p 16-17 (Fighting in North Africa)

Lesson 3
The World Wars p 164-169 (Propaganda, The Holocaust, Auschwitz-Birkenau)
World War II p 40-41 (The Holocaust)
Read Elie Wisel’s “Listen to the silent screams” speech to mark the 50th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, printed in your binder. Note: the Hebrew words in bold are the opening words of Kaddish, the Jewish prayer for the dead.
Watch Elie Wiesel addressing the Auschwitz survivors gathered in Krakow for the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz- Birkenau.
Listen to Pope John Paul II’s “Holocaust Speech,” given at Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Memorial in Israel, in 2000. The text of the speech is printed in your binder.
Notebook: Write a prayer for the victims of the Holocaust and their families.
Add an event to your Book of Centuries from this week.

Week 4

Lesson 1
Kingfisher History Encyclopedia p 414-415 (War in the West 1939-1945)
Look at the maps of the Battles of the Coral Sea and Midway in your binder. Keep them in front of you as you read about the battles.
The World Wars p 170-173 (The Tide Turns, Coral Sea and Midway)
Find Midway Island on the globe.
Read the article on Midway at Eyewitness to History.
Notebook: Written narration on Midway.

Lesson 2
The World Wars p 174-181 (The Battle of Stalingrad, The death of an army, The secret war, Kursk)
World War II p 20-21 (The Soviet Defense)
Notebook: Written narration on the Battle of Stalingrad.

Lesson 3
The World Wars p 182-189 (Allied bombing in Europe, Bombs, Bombers, Battle of the Titans)
World War II p 24-25 (The Enemy Below)
Watch video of Nazi V-2 rocket launches.
Add an event to your Book of Centuries from this week.

Week 5

Lesson 1
The World Wars p 190-201 (Women on the front lines, Island fighting, Entertaining the troops, Special forces, The Italian campaign, War in the Pacific)
World War II p 28-33 (War in the Pacific, Defending Australia, Advancing through Italy)

Lesson 2
The World Wars p 202-207 (The Defeat of Germany, Preparing for D-Day, The D-Day Landings)
World War II p 34-35 (D-Day)
Notebook: Written narration on D-Day.
Our library also has a DVD called Eisenhower on D-Day I may have First Son watch when the others aren't around.

Lesson 3
The World Wars p 208-223 (Hitler – the military commander, Fighting for France, Mother of Invention, Special Relationships, Germany’s ill-fated cities, To Germany’s Eastern border, Into Germany from the West, The fall of Berlin)
World War II p 36-39, 46-47 (Air Raids on Germany, The Battle of the Bulge, V-E Day)
Listen to part of Churchill’s victory speech.
Add an event to your Book of Centuries from this week.

Week 6

Lesson 1
The World Wars p 224-231 (The defeat of Japan, Iwo Jima and Okinawa, The Manhattan Project, Hiroshima & Nagasaki)
World War II p 42-43, 48- (Through Burma, The Atomic Bomb)
Kingfisher History Encyclopedia p 418 (Peace in the Pacific 1945-1948)

Lesson 2
Hiroshima by Harris p 22-45 (Making the Decision, Mixed Motives, Flight over Japan, Blinding Flash, Burning Wind, Scenes of Horror, Heroes’ Welcome, The Destroyed City, The News Breaks, Second Strike, Japan Surrenders, Invisible Rays, Occupied Japan)
Watch video footage of Hiroshima before the bomb housed at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum.
Notebook: Position paper on the use of the atomic bomb to end World War II.

Lesson 3
The World Wars p 232-238 (The world after the war, The end of the war, The aftermath of the war, The war and the 20th century)
World War II p 50-51 (What Have We Learned from World War II?)
Kingfisher History Encyclopedia p 419-420 (The United Nations 1945-1948, Italy and the Balkans 1943-1949).
Notebook: What did you learn from this study of World War II?
Add an event to your Book of Centuries from this week.

My dad suggests we watch The Longest Day at the end of our study, but I haven't decided whether we will.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Reading Journal Questions for Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry

by Mildred D. Taylor

In the first term next year, First Son will spend twelve weeks studying the United States in the twentieth century, found in the Level 4 history program at Mater Amabilis. One of the suggested further reading books (remember, one every six weeks) is Roll of Thunder, Hear my Cry, a book I also read in eighth grade.

Most of the further reading books will just be read without any narration or other assignments, but I wanted to make sure he and I had a chance to discuss this book a little more, so I've assigned a reading journal question for each week. Just in case someone else might be interested in adopting or adapting the questions, here they are.

Week 1: Chapters 1-2
Describe the difference between the Mississippi schools for white and black children at the time of the novel.

Week 2: Chapters 3-4
Give examples of some of the racism you have read so far in the book.

Week 3: Chapters 5-6
Write a narration of the history of slavery and black people in America, based on Mrs. Logan’s explanation to Cassie.

Week 4: Chapters 7-8
Describe the friendship between Stacey and T.J. What about that between Stacey and Jeremy? Why does Mr. Logan give Stacey the advice he does about Jeremy?

Week 5: Chapters 9-10
Describe how options are limited by the poverty of the black sharecroppers and how that poverty is maintained by the white landowners.

Week 6: Chapters 11-12
Choose one of the characters from the book and explain how he or she was courageous.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Faith Amidst Horror: The Hiding Place

by Corrie ten Boom

This is one of many worthwhile books proposed as further reading in the Level 4 history program at Mater Amabilis. One reading book should be chosen for the six-week study of World War II, but oh, how to choose just one?! Only a few are ones I had read myself, so in a hopeless search of the perfect choice (since they are all excellent), I'm reading many of them myself for the first time.

The Hiding Place is a memoir of Corrie ten Boom's life. In her late forties when the Nazis invade her Dutch homeland, she and her family courageously protect and shelter Jews from the invaders. Eventually, they are caught. She and her sister are imprisoned and moved from camp to camp until the war's end draws near. The book is one of faith and trust, describing how her saintly sister's hope and prayers sustain them and bring light to the world in a time of tremendous darkness and evil.

Corrie's family is Christian and her thoughts often dwell on how a Christian should behave when the world has gone mad.
We knew, of course, that there was an underground in Holland--or suspected it. Most cases of sabotage were not reported in our controlled press, but rumors abounded. A factory had been blown up. A train carrying political prisoners had been stopped and seven, or seventeen, or seventy, had made it away. But always they featured things we believed were wrong in the sight of God. Stealing, lying, murder. Was this what God wanted in times like these? How should a Christian act when evil was in power?
Though they always balked at murder, her family members and their underground often stole and lied to protect people from the Nazis.
Love. How did one show it? How could God Himself show truth and love at the same time in a world like this?
By dying. The answer stood out for me sharper and chillier than it ever had before that night: the shape of a Cross etched on the history of the world.
In the concentration camps, Corrie's sister, Betsie, recognizes the greatest needs and sorrows within the guards and other employees at the camp. Though their bodies suffer less than those of the inmates, their souls endure grievous wounds. Betsie always insisted there was hope for them, that they could be taught to love.
I glanced at the matron seated at the desk ahead of us. I saw a gray uniform and a visored hat; Betsie saw a wounded human being.
And I wondered, not for the first time, what sort of a person she was, this sister of mine...what kind of road she followed while I trudged beside her on the all-too-solid earth.
Working in Germany after the war, work her sister envisioned before her death at their hands, Corrie met one of the SS men they had encountered in a camp. Though she had been serving the German people and speaking repeatedly of forgiveness and love, she stood dumbstruck, angry and quivering. She prayed:
Jesus, I cannot forgive him. Give Your forgiveness.
As I took his hand the most incredible thing happened. From my shoulder along my arm and through my hand, a current seemed to pass from me to him, while into my heart sprang a love for this stranger that almost overwhelmed me.
And so I discovered that it is not on our forgiveness any more than on our goodness that the world's healing hinges, but on His. When He tells us to love our enemies, He gives, along with the command, the love itself.
Corrie's story is a powerful one of holding fast to the Truth and Beauty of Jesus in the face of absolute horror in the concentration camps. Yet it maintains the dignity of all human life, even those who participated in the camps or turned their backs rather than speak out.

It is a book strikingly Evangelical in character; it's purpose is to share the story of Betsie and God's redeeming work in the world.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Servant of God and War Hero: The Miracle of Father Kapaun

by Roy Wenzl and Travis Heying

This book grew out of newspaper articles written by Wenzl and Heying about Father Emil Kapaun, a man maybe little known outside of Kansas, but someone who has inspired the local Catholic population.

Emil Kapaun grew up in Pilsen, a small town in rural Kansas, became a priest, served as a chaplain in World War II and Korea. He died in a prisoner of war camp after inspiring hundreds of men, bolstering their hope and their chances of survival.

Mater Amabilis™recommends in Level 4 a saint biography for each term, one focused on a twentieth century saint to correspond to the literature and history recommendations. Though Father Kapaun is not on the list, as he is not yet a saint, he seemed a natural and really necessary choice for our son growing up in Kansas.

This particular book focuses on Father Kapaun's ministry in Korea, incorporating interviews with surviving POWs and people in his home diocese. Additionally, it describes the actions of those campaigning for Father Kapaun's receipt of the Congressional Medal of Honor (awarded in 2013) and the cause of his sainthood.

Materials have been submitted to the Vatican and many in Kansas pray daily for Father Kapaun's beatification. He has already been named a Servant of God and Vatican has placed him on the expedited list for consideration because he would be the first saint from his diocese. (Expedited for the Vatican means something like seven years to consider the cause rather than fifteen.) Wenzl and Heying describe some of the purported miracles attributed to Father Kapaun's intercession.

The authors are not Catholic; they are journalists. The actions of Father Kapaun in the war and the miracles are often presented with an air of detached amazement. They do not discount the miracles, however.

I did find it a little annoying how the book is often written in snippets, as they try to present multiple storylines simultaneously.

I enjoyed reading the book. The stories of Father Kapaun's courage and hope in the prisoner of war camp are inspiring and reveal what such places are often like. The later chapters about the Medal of Honor and canonization provide information on what those processes can look like, something usually neglected in saint biographies. However, it's not really a proper biography of Father Kapaun. It moves very quickly over his boyhood in Kansas and even his service in World War II. While I would like First Son to read this book, I'm not entirely sure it's the one I'd like to assign. to read another book!

Monday, July 17, 2017

Contemplating God in Prayer: Prayer and the Will of God

by Dom Hubert van Zeller

This is one of the best books on prayer I've ever read.

This book is divided into two parts. Part 1 addresses prayer and Part 2 is focused on the will of God.

Right from the beginning, this book is an encouragement to prayer.
If we can honestly say we are trying, we can just as honestly say we are praying. So long as I am really trying to please God in my prayer (or in anything else, for that matter), I am pleasing Him. All He asks is that I should try to serve Him. The moment I try, I am in fact succeeding. I do not have to feel that I am doing it well, and that my prayer is pleasing God, because feelings are likely to be quite wrong about the goodness or badness of our prayers. All I have to be clear about is that I am making an effort.
Prayer does not have to be something complicated or intense. Early in the book, van Zeller compares prayer to gazing at a work of art.
Say you were to stand in front of a painting, a masterpiece. If you were ready to take in what you saw, you would gain in knowledge. Your knowledge would make you like the picture. Your liking for the picture would make you understand a little about the artist who painted it. So, altogether you would be a lot better off, in regard to art, from having stood for a while in front of a masterpiece and gazed at it. The perfection of the work would have revealed itself to you.
In the same way, spending time in prayer, regardless of what you think is accomplished, allows you to receive something of God, which can nurture a love of God within you.

Some of the advice is quite solid and practical, especially in Part 1. Why we pray, how we pray, when we pray, distracted prayer, and unanswered prayer. There are also three simple questions (on p. 15 for those who care to look them up) to contemplate when reading Scripture.
The purpose of prayer is not to bring God's will down to your level so that you may get what you want. The purpose of prayer is to lift your will to God's level so that you may get what He wants.
Evaluating prayer is almost impossible this side of heaven. We simply do not understand enough about God to determine our prayer is unfruitful.
You may not see much during your prayer, but afterward and because of your prayer, you come to see more and more of God's light wherever you look.
Of course, such results may take years or decades to become apparent to us.
What happens is that our faith is strengthened by every prayer we make, and with faith we view the world differently and the whole of life differently. There is nothing miraculous or exciting about it. It is simply the result of having been nearer to God for a bit.
The second part of the book, on God's will, is not so easily quoted. Many of the arguments and explanations go on for a few pages, but they are worthwhile. The author is not afraid to confront the dilemmas of prayers like the truly consuming work of struggling to know God's will, to align our own will with His in trust that it is best.

This is a Catholic book. There are probably many chapters that would appeal to non-Catholic Christians, but the author does draw on liturgy and tradition in addition to Scripture.

I usually read a chapter or half a chapter each day, with sometimes many days in between to consider what I had read. This would be an excellent book to bring to Adoration, inviting an honest conversation about its words with the Lord.

There are plenty of books on prayer I have read and passed on to others, but this is one I intend to keep and read again. Highly recommended.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Hard Work and Family: The Good Master

by Kate Seredy

Cousin Kate, weak and unruly, breathlessly arrives at the smoothly run far of her uncle, the Good Master. She learns from her aunt, uncle, and cousin Jancsi how to care for plants and animals on the farm and control her own behavior. She grows strong and healthy surrounded by a beautiful land, beautifully described.
From the distant, shadowy line where earth and sky merged together, golden shafts of light rose, piercing the white mist over the plains. A few lingering stars flickered and were drowned in the brightening sky. Then slowly, majestically, the red sun rose above the horizon. It seemed to hover for a second, as if reluctant to tear itself away from the earth; then it came into full view, painting everything to the smallest seedling in Kate's garden with its glorious light. The full-throated warble of a robin rose from the apple tree, heralding the new day.
The children are frequently visiting throughout the Hungarian countryside and often hear stories of myth and history.  The illustrations are simply delightful (and I believe are the same in the book I have and the paperback linked on Amazon).

There were a few stories of gypsies that had me cringing a little. I never know how much of what's told of gypsies in older books is prejudice and how much is based on actual behavior. I may talk with my children about that a little when we get to those parts. There are also a few parts where the children tease each other, speaking disparagingly of "sissy" behavior. We don't talk that way around here, but I'm not going to let it stop us from reading and enjoying the book.

In one chapter, the children meet Mikulas (St. Nicholas) at the train station and help him distribute gifts to the children in the village. (He turns out to be Kate's father, dressed in red and wearing a fake white beard.) If you have little ones who still believe Santa Claus or St. Nicholas leave gifts, this episode might raise questions in their minds. I'm pretty sure all of our children know we are the ones who leave gifts so I'm going to risk it.
"You know who the real Mikulas is? He is a different person to every child. He is always the one who loves you best in the world. We left beautiful gifts for the village children, but each of them will find some other gift, too, tomorrow morning. Perhaps it will be a very, very simple little gift, but it will be precious to those children because it was given with the greatest love."
I have a lovely hardcover copy printed in 1967. I bought it used on a whim because I recognized the name of the author and am delighted it appears as a recommended supplemental book for World War I in the Level 4 history plans at Mater Amabilis. The Good Master takes place before World War I. I intend to read it aloud to all the children: eighth grade, fifth grade, third grade, and first grade.

The sequel, The Singing Tree, is also recommended, which takes place during World War I. I just found a used copy of that on Cathswap so we may read that one as well.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Like Pearls Slipping off a String: Anne of Avonlea

by L. M. Montgomery

My ten-year-old daughter recently finished the Anne series. I started along with her, but don't have as much time to devote to reading as she does. Of course I read all these books when I was a little girl, but they have a new sweetness to me as an adult.
Saturday proved an ideal day for a picnic...a day of breeze and blue, warm, sunny, with a little rollicking wind blowing across meadow and orchard. Over the sunlit upland and field was a delicate, flower-starred green.
Why, oh why, is nature study not like that? We can't even manage a nature walk imbued with that kind of softness and peace. I think there must be a difference between a group of elvish teenage girls and my raucous thirteen-, ten-, eight-, and six-year-olds.

Anne is seventeen and working full-time as a one-room schoolhouse teacher, supporting her aunt and distant relation six-year-old twins, but her thoughts are far different from what we expect of modern teenagers. Perhaps they shouldn't be.
In the delicate, white-browed face beside her, with its candid eyes and mobile features, there was still far more of the child than of the woman. Anne's heart so far harbored only dreams of friendship and ambition, and Mrs. Allan did not wish to brush the bloom from her sweet unconsciousness.
Anne of Avonlea, when Anne is teaching school, prompted questions in my mind about the kind of life we're living each day in our homeschool.
"After all," Anne had said to Marilla once, "I believe the nicest and sweetest days are not those on which anything very splendid or wonderful or exciting happens but just those that bring simple little pleasures, following one another softly, like pearls slipping off a string." 
Anne's days are ones of hard work compared to our modern ones. She didn't have dishwashers or washing machines or vacuum cleaners, but how lovely they seemed to be. They are imaginary, of course, but I can't help feeling I could improve our days by focusing more on peace and relationships rather than activities and screens.
Perhaps she had not succeeded in "inspiring" any wonderful ambitions in her pupils, but she had taught them, more by her own sweet personality than by all her careful precepts, that it was good and necessary in the years that were before them to live their lives finely and graciously, holding fast to truth and courtesy and falsehood and meanness and vulgarity.
Kansas Dad reminds me all the time that we are creating this kind of environment for our children, a much different one from that found in most homes, but it's difficult not to see the room for improvement. Anne of Avonlea provided some much appreciated encouragement and inspiration.

Monday, July 10, 2017

A Rich World Bereft: Joan of Arc

by Mark Twain

This book was our book club selection, one long enough we spread it over two meetings. I enjoyed this book much more than Tom Sawyer. It's long, but moves quickly along so it doesn't feel particularly long.

I do not know how historically accurate this book is, but it seemed to agree what what I had know of her life. It was told with some of Twain's characteristic sarcasm like this passage when Joan was taken away from a stake and a crowd greatly disappointed by the lack of a burning:
Then suddenly everybody broke into a fury of rage; maledictions and charges of treachery began to fly freely; yes, and even stones: a stone came near killing the Cardinal of Winchester--it just missed his head. But the man who threw it was not to blame, for he was excited, and a person who is excited never can throw straight.
There were also lovely sentiments:
Yes, she was gone from us: Joan of Arc! What little words they are, to tell of a rich world made empty and poor! 

Friday, July 7, 2017

Our Level 4 (8th Grade) Six Week Unit on World War I

Mater Amabilis™ gives some lesson plans for History in Level 4 (8th grade) in which a student studies national history for twelve weeks followed by four six-week terms chosen from six options.

In the first term, First Son will follow the Mater Amabilis™ study reasonably closely, modified only a little to add in a few Kansas-related books.

Beginning in the second term, First Son will spend six weeks studying World War I. Mater Amabilis™ recommends Witness to History: World War I by Sean Connolly as the main book but our library didn't have it and I already owned The World Wars by Paul Dowswell, Ruth Brocklehurst, and Henry Brook so I decided to use that instead. You can find it on Amazon, but I bought my copy from a friend who sells Usborne books. 

Because my main book is different than that recommended, I had to revise the lesson plans considerably and thought I'd post them here in case anyone else happens to have this book and wants a six week study of the First World War. I haven't seen Witness to History: World War I, but I do have the World War II book of the same series. It is shorter than the part of The World Wars devoted to World War II and I think would therefore allow for more exploration of topics of interest, World War II saints, or the Church in World War II. It's probably also cheaper than the Usborne book.

I haven't actually read any of the books yet, but I have no reason to believe my plans are any better than the Mater Amabilis™ plansso this post is for the few people who might already have the Usborne book lying around.

Also, these plans have never been used. Hopefully I have the courage to report back if they turn out to be a disaster!

Mater Amabilis™ says history at this level should take about 45 minutes each day three times a week. In addition, a supplemental reading book should be chose from the recommended books. (I picked War Horse which I was able to find on

Our Resources

  • Usborne The World Wars (I purchased this new through a friend.)
  • Kingfisher HistoryEncyclopedia, as recommended in the Mater Amabilis™ plans (I bought this used from a mom in my local homeschool group.)
  • MapTrek Outline Maps of World History (I've had this for years as it's recommended in Connecting with History; I probably bought it at RC History.)
  • I printed to PDF most of the articles linked in the plans and placed them in a binder before the term began. Movies or audio files I linked in a Google doc I shared with my son.

Week 1

Lesson 1
Kingfisher History Encyclopedia p 376-377 and 386-387 - Narrate. (The Balkan Wars 1921-1913, The World at a Glance 1914-1949)
The World Wars p 9-11 – Narrate. (The Great War)
MapTrek Modern World Map 20: The Balkan Wars
Review the map of World War I in your history notebook (MapTrek Modern World Map 21 completed during the first term’s American History)

Lesson 2
Kingfisher History Encyclopedia p 388-389. (The Start of World War I 1914)
The World Wars p 12-17. (Balance of power, Assassination and crisis, Europe in arms)
Notebook: Write a brief note on the causes of the First World War.

Lesson 3
The World Wars p 16-19 – Narrate. (Plans unravel)
Notebook: Write a brief summary of the Schlieffen Plan or the First Battle of Marne.
Add an event to your Book of Centuries from this week.

Week 2

Lesson 1
The World Wars p 21-27 – Narrate. (Over by Christmas?, Carving a new frontier, Fire, wire and mud, Going up the line)
Notebook: Sketch a copy of the map on p 23 of the battles and front lines in the first year of the war. Write a brief summary of life in the trenches.

Lesson 2
The World Wars p 28-29, 32-37 – Narrate. (A storm of steel, North Sea raiders, Your country needs you, A day of peace)
Read more about the Christmas Truce in two articles in your history binder: BBC special news report and a Smithsonian article.
Notebook: Write a summary of the Christmas Truce.

Lesson 3
The World Wars p 39-49 – Narrate. (Going global, Cruiser warfare, African action, Turkey enters the war, Jihad and genocide, The Eastern front)
Notebook: Sketch the map of the Eastern front on p 48.
Add an event to your Book of Centuries from this week.

Week 3

Lesson 1
The World Wars p 51-55 – Narrate. (Deadlock, A deadly mist, Settling in)

Lesson 2
The World Wars p 56-61 – Narrate. (A dangerous voyage, Out of thin air, The home front)
Read more on the Lusitania in articles in your binder: A survivor story from SlateLost Liners Lusitania on PBSRMS Lusitania: The Fateful Voyage on
Notebook: Write a newspaper account of the sinking of the Lusitania from England or Germany’s point of view.

Lesson 3
The World Wars p 62-65 – Narrate. (Gallipoli, War in the snow)
Notebook: Sketch the map shown on p 63 of the Gallipoli campaign and write a brief summary of its failures and successes.
Add an event to your Book of Centuries from this week.

Week 4

Lesson 1
The World Wars p 67-77 – Narrate. (The mincing machine, Dreadnoughts duel, Doomed youth, Sky fighters, Slaughter and Sacrifice)
Flying Aces by John Wukovits (from our library) – read Introduction and chapter 1 on the Red Baron.
Notebook: Written narration on the Battle of Verdun, Battle of Jutland, Air warfare in the First World War, or the Battle of the Somme.

Lesson 2
The World Wars p 78-87 – Narrate. (Trials and trauma, Women in uniform, Shock tactics, Secrets and spies, Desert wars)
Read about Lawrence of Arabia at IWM, found in your notebook.
Notebook: Write a short biography of Lawrence of Arabia.

Lesson 3
Explore the EWTN Fatima website:
Notebook: Written narration on the apparitions at Fatima.
Add an event to your Book of Centuries from this week.

Week 5

Lesson 1
The World Wars p 89-91 (Riots and Rebels)
Kingfisher History Encyclopedia p 392-393 (Ireland: Civil Unrest 1916-1923)
MapTrek Modern World Map 24: The Division of Ireland.
Notebook: Written narration on Ireland just before, during, and after World War I.

Lesson 2
The World Wars p 92-93 (Peace, bread and land)
Kingfisher History Encyclopedia p 394-395 (Russia 1917-1924)
MapTrek Modern World Map 23: The Russian Revolution.
Notebook: Write a summary of how Russia’s participation in World War I ended.

Lesson 3
The World Wars p 94-95 (Waking the giant)
Read Wilson’s War Message to Congress and what it meant, both in your binder.
Notebook: Question to answer – Do you think the USA should have entered the war earlier? Explain your answer.
Add an event to your Book of Centuries from this week.

Week 6

Lesson 1
The World Wars p 96-105 – Narrate. (Drowning in mud, Backs to the wall, Death throes, Armageddon, The time for peace)
Review MapTrek Modern World Map 22 of the final allied offensive, in your binder from first term.

Lesson 2
The World Wars p 107-113 – Narrate. (Peace and its aftermath, Coming to terms, Redrawing the map, The glory and the pity)
Read some war poetry in your binder: Dulce etDecorum Est by Wilfred Owen and The Soldier by Rupert Brooke.
Review MapTrek Modern World Map 25: Europe, Post WWI, in your binder from first term.

Lesson 3
The World Wars p 114-121 – Narrate. (A changed world, Soldiers’ stories, Visions of war, Lest we forget)
Notebook: Write an essay sharing what you have learned from studying World War I.
Add an event to your Book of Centuries from this week.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Universal Delight: The Hobbit

by J. R. R. Tolkien

We listened to this audiobook version of The Hobbit with Kansas Dad on a recent vacation. It was absolutely perfect. The story captivated everyone. The reader was excellent. It was a new story for three of the children and they loved every minute of it. Our youngest is six, but I think he would have enjoyed it even a few years ago. Highly recommended!

Monday, July 3, 2017

Why I Should Read My Own Blog

by Cheryl Harness

I read this book aloud to the children at the end of this year along with our American History studies. I respect the story of his life and his undeterred search for education. He also has a connection to Kansas and his birthplace in Missouri isn't too far off our usual travels to be out of reach for a little visit. I should have read my own blog, though, and would have remembered I read the book myself a few years ago and didn't care for it.

The Groundbreaking, Chance-Taking Life of George Washington Carver and Science and Invention in America (Cheryl Harness Histories) by Cheryl Harness was a book I really wanted to like and started out enjoying it. Ms. Harness has interesting illustrations throughout and a fascinating timeline of George Washington Carver's lifetime, showing events around the world, along the bottom pages of the book. I was a little annoyed by her use of initials. Sometimes (not always), George Washington Carver was GWC. Sometimes (not always) Booker T. Washington was BTW. Theodore Roosevelt was sometimes TR. I really should be able to get over that. I was also concerned by the description of a black man accused of raping a white girl and then brutally murdered before Carver's eyes. The murder was horrible and my children don't know what "rape" is yet; I'd rather not explain it until after they've learned more about married life in a good and beautiful way. (The rape was not described, just the murder.) I did appreciate the discussion in the book of the differences between Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. De Bois. Overall, I'm not interested in giving this book to my third grade son to read on his own and at the moment don't have any other recommendations. I'm open to other suggestions. (library copy)
I agree with all I wrote then, though as I was reading aloud I was able to pretty easily adjust the story of the rape and murder. This time through (reading aloud to a 7th grader, 4th grader, 2nd grader, and kindergartener), I was more concerned with the introduction of the physicists working on the atomic bomb. It didn't go into great details, just enough to get my kids asking and talking about it for a few days. I wasn't excited about explaining the devastation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki to my 8 year old.

The last paragraph was the worst in the book, though. I actually tried to skip it but made the mistake of telling my children I had. After all their questions, I just read it aloud and we talked about it.
Was the atomic bomb a good use of science and scientists? It is a desperately difficult question, but, as George Washington Carver would tell you, that's what science does best. It guides you to a never ending questioning, answering, and then more questions, such as what should we do -- or not do -- with our knowledge?
I have an undergraduate degree in cell biology and genetics. I have worked in labs at universities and corporations. The pursuit of science does indeed foster never-ending questions. One of the glorious gifts of our Lord is a physical world we can never completely understand, fostering (hopefully) a greater love for it and its creator. But science does not properly ask or answer the question of what we should do with our knowledge or our quest for it. Frankly, our society generally neglects asking those kind of questions until it's too late and action has been taken. When those kinds of questions are asked, they are in the realm of philosophy and ethics.

Hopefully next time I'll remember not to read this book again.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

May and June 2017 Book Reports

Richard Halliburton's Complete Book of Marvels: The Orient by Richard Halliburton - link to my post (purchased used copy)

The Breadwinner: An Afghan Child in a War Torn Land by Deborah Ellis is recommended as a possible fiction supplement to a short study of Afghanistan in the Mater Amabilis™™Level 4 history lesson plans. First Son will be using those plans next year for eighth grade, though I haven't decided whether we'll have time to include Afghanistan. It's the story of a young girl who ends up dressing as a boy in Taliban-controlled Kabul to earn money for her family after her father is arrested. Through the course of the story, the reader learns about the changes in Kabul from the wars and the occupation by the Taliban. There are a few graphic descriptions of things like soldiers cutting off the hands of accused thieves, people shot in the streets, and bodies left to be eaten by dogs, but they are not unnecessarily gory or excessively described. (library copy)

Homeless Bird by Gloria Whelan is another Mater Amabilis™™Level 4 history supplement book. A young girl in India is married to a sickly boy who dies, leaving her a widow with a mother-in-law who resents her. With the assistance of others, she gradually learns to support herself and begins a new life. This is a sweet story that reveals much about Indian life and culture. When Koly is abandoned by her mother-in-law, she sees poverty and callousness as people live and starve in the streets, but not in a way I'd refuse to share with my 10 year old (though it's the 8th grader that might be reading the book). I did think it odd that Koly didn't consider supporting herself with her exquisite embroidery earlier in the novel, especially because her mother earned extra money that way herself. (library copy)

War Horse by Michael Morpurgo, another Mater Amabilis™™Level 4 history supplemental novel, shows some of the horrors of World War I from the point of view of a remarkable horse. It begs a little in believability if in no other way than that the horse understands a variety of languages. It's a good way to tell the story, though, because while the injuries, deaths, and sufferings of the soldiers and people of Europe are depicted, most of the bloody action of the war is removed from the action. (requested from

Lassie Come Home by Eric Knight is the original Lassie book. I read this aloud to the kids (13, 10, 8, 6) and they all adored it. Highly recommended as a read-aloud of adventure, devotion, and virtue. We also watched a few episodes of the Timmy show and the original movie, Lassie Come Home, which did a surprisingly good job of following the book. (book and movie were library copies)

Blessed Miguel Pro: 20th-Century Mexican Martyr by Ann Ball - link to my post (purchased from the publisher)

The King's Thane by Charles Brady, Beowulf by Michael Morpurgo, and Beowulf the Warrior by Ian Serraillier - link to my post (library copies of The King's Thane and BeowulfBeowulf the Warrior purchased from the publisher)

Old Sam and the Horse Thieves by Don Alonzo Taylor is the sequel to Old Sam, Dakota Trotter, one of our favorite books. I finally bought a copy and read it as we began our summer. Old Sam continues to astound everyone except Johnny, right up to the end when he helps catch actual horse thieves. There is a shootout at the end of the book. Bodies are lying as if on a battlefield. The actual events are just described to the twelve-year-old narrator, though, so it wasn't too gruesome to read aloud. (purchased from the publisher)

Kingfishers Catch Fire by Rumer Godden - link to my post (purchased used on Amazon)

Dead Souls by Nikolai Gogol - link to my post (purchased used on Amazon)

The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame - I'd tried to read this book a few times to the children and never made it through it, but I kept seeing it as a book that should be read. So I finally got the audiobook which I've found to be a good option for books I have trouble reading aloud myself. Kansas Dad listened to this with us. We found it a rather odd book. I'm glad Toad learns his lesson, but it seems a shame he had to escape prison to do it. (We have a copy illustrated by Michael Hague from years and years ago and an unknown source, but we listened to this Audible audiobook.)

The Long-Legged House by Wendell Berry - link to my post (library copy)

The Book of Saints and Heroes by Andrew and Lenora Lang - link to my post (copy First Son received as a gift)

Books in Progress (and date started)

The italic print: Links to Amazon are affiliate links. As an affiliate with Amazon, I receive a small commission if you follow one of my links, add something to your cart, and complete the purchase (in that order). Try Audible - another affiliate link.

Links to RC History and are affiliate links. Other links (like those to Bethlehem Books) are not affiliate links.

These reports are my honest opinions.