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FIRST-PERSON: The lessons of Pearl Harbor: home-school teaching ideas

WASHINGTON (BP)–Although I believe in teaching history in a chronological, orderly fashion, I also believe in “teachable moments.” Important dates fall into this category. Pearl Harbor Day should not pass unnoticed. This column will give you some home-schooling ideas for making it a day to be remembered in your house. I’m working on the assumption that you will be taking this event out of context and that you probably only have a day or two to spend studying it. So … we’ll keep this simple!

Warning! Do not attempt to do everything listed below in one day!


There are many movies made about World War II. Most are unsuitable for families. One that we think stays fairly close to the facts and keeps gore to a minimum is an older movie called “Tora! Tora! Tora!” It is probably best for junior high and up. It’s a great summary of the events surrounding Pearl Harbor.


You only have a day or two, so instead of books I recommend you visit the websites listed below and read some of the summaries and eyewitness accounts found there. Also, make a point to read at least part of FDR’s famous speech out loud (see last website).


Define harbor. Find good pictures of Pearl Harbor (see websites) and draw or trace them. Using a blank outline map of the world, fill in the following places: Japan, Hiroshima, Tokyo, Okinawa, Philippines, Bataan, Wake Island, Midway Island, Guam, Hawaii, Oahu, Pearl Harbor.


Use the information at the second website below to fill out a large poster with the events in the order in which they happened. Younger students can add drawings to illustrate the important moments.


World War II broke out while my dad was in college. He joined the Navy, went to Annapolis Naval Academy for Officer’s Training School, married my mom and shipped out on the U.S.S. Princeton (which later sunk in the Pacific). My mom, a new bride during difficult times, took to keeping a scrapbook of the war. She cut out newspaper headlines and articles, photos, clippings from magazines, etc., and along with letters, she pasted them in her book. A few years ago our oldest son became enamored with World War II and read everything he could find about the subject. Imagine his delight when his grandmother was able to pull out this old scrapbook with crumbling yellowed pages and show him what it looked like from her eyes!

You may know someone who has kept a book like this. There may be World War II vets in your church or family. These people are like gold! Find them and talk to them — even over the phone.

Keep a scrapbook about the war on terrorism. This may become a special book for your grandchildren. Keeping a scrapbook is a way for kids to help organize the many aspects of this war, to feel like they have some control, and to remind them to pray for all involved. Current events are an important part of education and these historic times in which we live especially demand our attention. Working regularly in a “War Book” provides an outlet and opportunity for discussion. A 12-by-15-inch scrapbook would be a good size to accommodate newspaper articles. (Note: This does not give Creative Memories junkies permission to go buy another album!)

Writing assignments or discussion questions

Here’s an opportunity to practice logic and thinking skills. Write or discuss: What are the major similarities and major differences between “The Day of Infamy” and the events of Sept. 11, 2001? Or, put yourself at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. Decide who you are and why you are there. Write a journal entry (in the first person) for that day.

Field trips

Catch a flight to Oahu. Okay … just kidding! But my friend Stephanie was blessed to visit Pearl Harbor along with her Air Force Pilot husband. Here’s what she had to say about it:

“What struck me the most was how solemn it was. Here we were, a bunch of typical tourists (including many Japanese) filing through the memorial SILENTLY. We were reminded that this is not just an historic monument, but also a military graveyard. The wall of names listing all the dead servicemen was particularly touching. While at Pearl Harbor, I could sense a feeling of what it must have been like on that day. For me, being there made history come to life.”

My friend Sharon from New York went with her family. She adds: “I have only felt that solemnity and heavy sense of death and grief one other place I’ve visited — Dachau Concentration Camp in Germany.” (Probably folks who have been to ground zero would say they felt it there, too.)

Punchbowl National Memorial Cemetery, a large military cemetery on Oahu, is the Pacific version of Arlington National Cemetery. On Dec. 7, the relatives of the men who were killed gather there and drop leis into the harbor in their memory … VERY touching. Men who served on the Arizona are still being interred there today when they die. Divers take the ashes below the water following a memorial ceremony and lower them through the hull.

Note: The USS Arizona Visitor Center is located on the Pearl Harbor Naval Base adjacent to the sunken remains of the USS Arizona, which went down in nine minutes with 1,177 men on board. The center is operated and maintained by the National Park Service. Young children are not allowed to go out to the Arizona Memorial.

Websites for research

www.unverse.com/WW2.html — Brief year-by-year timeline of events surrounding WW2 with links to specific subject areas.

www.execpc.com/~dschaaf/mainmenu.html — Enough to read, but not overwhelming. Has an hour-by-hour account of the day.

http://plasma.nationalgeographic.com/pearlharbor/ — Large, wonderful site! Check out the multi-media map and timeline.

www.google.com — Fabulous search engine for finding more great sites.

http://www.ukans.edu/carrie/docs/texts/fdr81241.htm — Here’s the full text of the famous speech by President Roosevelt, beginning with, “Yesterday, December 7,1941 — a date which will live in infamy — the United States was suddenly and deliberately attacked….”

For outline maps, atlases and blank timelines, visit our website Bright Ideas Press. This article is taken from my upcoming book “Homeschoolers’ History Sourcebook.”
Maggie Hogan is a motivational speaker and coauthor of “The Ultimate Geography and Timeline Guide,” “Gifted Children at Home” and other resource books. She and her husband, Bob, have been home schooling their boys since 1991. Involved in local, state and national home-schooling issues, they both serve on boards of home education organizations in Delaware. They are also owners of Bright Ideas Press, a home-school company dedicated to bringing practical, fun and affordable materials to the home-school market. Maggie’s e-mail address is [email protected]. This article originally appeared on the Crosswalk.com HomeSchool Channel (http://homeschool.crosswalk.com).

    About the Author

  • Maggie Hogan