Fran’s book study of War Horse (for which i have finally managed to find a performance at a time we can do with 2 seats left together!) has led us to an impromptu exploration of the First World War and onwards through European history in the 20th century in conversational, scrape the surface, style. I quite like doing it this way and i’m lucky that i’ve got a good enough working knowledge of the ins and outs of it, that we can talk through how politics shaped Europe in the 20thC without having to use books or get too bogged down. I don’t suppose i’m any different there to anyone else – but i’ll bless my education for it because i felt confident enough in what i was saying for us all to get plenty out of how we covered the information without starting wall charts, projects and losing the impetus that got us there in the first place. I’ve never really recovered from the “Tudors” – i always feel that everything needs to be a massive project to be anything, but really it is not true.
We started with the (frankly, i feel, rather inadequate) information in the SOTW4 on the first half a few days ago and carried on yesterday using the BBC Schools WW1 pages and an Usborne book as a starting point. We discussed Edith Cavell (something of a local hero, we have a car park named after her in Pboro!) and firing squads, people being shot for cowardice and the idea of posthumous pardons, the Lusitania and propaganda and a variety of other things. We’ve not, in fact, gone into much detail about the war yet and to some extent i can see why my GCSE course focused on the reasons for the war rather than the war itself; unless you are very into military stuff and weapons, there is less to get your teeth into in some respects, unlike the WW2 where you can really look at The Home Front and Germany etc. However, i think we’ll be looking more at some poetry, the trenches and probably the Suffrage Movement on the back of this.
The conversation yesterday was prompted then by Fran asking me (which i thought was fairly perseptive for a 10 year old!) why Europe doesn’t go to war with itself any more. My brain deserted me on what the UN’s first incarnation was called…. (still has actually…. errrr… aha… League of Nations) so we discussed that and the idea behind it and how we still have something similar now. We talked about communication being important, how alliances alter and refine, times when that has broken down and times when it has really worked. We discussed the pressures put on Germany by the end of WW1 and how that led to WW2, we talked briefly through WW2 including the persecution of the Jews and then on to the Cold War.
Incidentally, Doctor Who played a good part in this particular conversation, after the references to Labour Camps in last weeks episode. It was great to have a human angle on not only the euphemistic use of the phrase (and who doesn’t drive passed the signs to “Immigration Reception Centre” on the M11 without a shiver?) but also on how that would remind and horrify people of a certain generation. We thought about the differences between blatant propaganda and “spin” and discussed the differences between the Concentration Camps in Germany and the Internment Camps here.
By this time the younger children had drifted in too and were listening, while leaning against me, the door frame and chairs… it felt very natural and they were all engrossed. We moved on to the division of Germany after WW2, of the beginning of the Cold War, travelling from West to East, the division of Berlin and the differences in what was available on each side. This has been backed up further today by reading about the birth of Communist Russia. We discussed the travels my dad made into Eastern Europe (regularly, as a sports journalist, they were very good at Basketball!) and the things and stories he would bring back. We talked about friends who tried to get help with marriages in the West, or who were known to have (lost the word again.. not eloped, what is it?) over the border and the penalties for families who were left behind.
We had a good giggle over the idea of a “Cold War” across 2 halves of a bedroom, where Fran and Maddy might each have a bag of flour to hurl as a deterrent if the other crossed the half way line and how, knowing i’d make them clear it up, neither would want to be the one to throw it or provoke it. We discussed Nuclear bombs and the extent to which the felt a real threat in our lives back then.
Again, we drifted on and talked at length about the summer when the Berlin Wall came down and how mindboggling that was. We tried to imagine how it felt to have something taken away that had always been there and how much we had to change our mindset, even as Western Europeans, to get used to the Iron Curtain no longer existing. We thought up loads of scenarios to try and imagine changing it, of which the best was perhaps Fran, likening it to how her mouth is now different and how she couldn’t imagine changing it, how odd it felt and how it is now so normal to her. We talked about my family trip to Czechoslovakia and the 6 year old spitting in the road at a Russian soldier and how the man we stayed with simply wouldn’t acknowledge that there was an airfield behind his house.
Today we’ve used SOTW4 to conclude the war (the Americans arrived, everything was okay, hurrah!!!!!) and looked at the Romanov family, discussed conspiracy theories (again!) and talked about women gaining the vote and how the UKs modern political system worked.
We’ve also done Meleto, music, EC, maths, reading etc and at the weekend Max did the first section from one of our new resource books on Astronomy; he rates them highly. The little 3 are now playing and Fran is learning to draw horses.
Overall, i feel it hasn’t been a bad start to the week!