Using The War In Ukraine As A Teaching Moment

When Russia invaded Ukraine on Thursday, February 24, 2022, the world was in shock. There might have been signs, but most people watched in horror, watching live video from civilians in Ukraine who streamed the action on social media platforms. For your children, the experience of watching one nation attempt to simply take what they want from another can be frightening. Here are some lesson ideas from Northgate Academy that you can use to teach your homeschooled students to create order out of the chaos for them. 

Be sure to check your emotions.

Before you start any lessons related to the invasion of Ukraine, it will be important to withhold any major fears or strong emotions that you have personally about the invasion. Although it’s good to show how we feel and share our fears with our young people to teach them how to cope with difficult times, when you’re teaching these lessons, you’ll want to be sure to help your students stay focused by keeping those emotions in check. If you are calm and rational about the situation, you’ll have an easier time checking in with them about their fears.

Set the historical context.

A photo taken from the Nazi invasion of Poland in 1939.
German soldiers marching on Poland in 1939.

The war in Ukraine is an opportunity for some important geographical and historical lessons. Ukraine has spent the past three and a half centuries trying to attain statehood. They have struggled for independence through conflict with the Russian Empire, the Ottoman Empire, & the Hungarian Empire. Lessons about each of these issues can be a valuable learning experience for your students. When you frame the current conflict with the events of the past, you have the opportunity for your child to learn a lot about world history, helping them have a clearer understanding of the present.

The conflict also parallels of Germany’s 1939 invasion of Poland. This is an important piece of more current history and offers an opportunity to teach students the skill of comparison and contrast. You can use many different resources to help your student write a comparison and contrast essay to analyze how the information they’ve learned about both conflicts parallel each other. 

Comparing and contrasting the invasion of Poland by Germany and the invasion of Ukraine by Russia can also put into perspective the Polish people’s open and helpful reactions to the many Ukrainian civilians fleeing across their border. This provides an important jumping off point to talk about broader topics.

Connect to broader topics.

Speaking to your homeschooled students about difficult topics like refugee displacement and immigration is important, so the events in Ukraine provide an opportunity to teach about these topics without the political spin of the public school system. You can frame these topics in a logical, rational light and help your student form their own opinions based on history and facts.

You can also naturally jump into lessons about colonization related to the conflict in Ukraine. The world has seen many instances of colonization in modern times. The United States, Australia, New Zealand, Algeria, and Brazil have all been controlled by settlers from European powers in modern times. If you are looking for lessons about nations from ancient history, you can cover colonialism by ancient Greece, Rome, Egypt, and Phoenicia. Each of those powers began extending their control using their superior military powers starting in 1550 BCE. Lessons about these events, both modern and ancient, can provide clarity about the current events happening in Ukraine today.

Use the war as an opportunity to teach about resilience.

The Ukrainian people have fought hard and offered far more resistance than anyone expected. Your students might have seen the viral videos on social media platforms, or you can find them to share as well. Anything from farmers towing Russian tanks with their tractors to civilians creating human roadblocks to stop the invaders from moving into their cities: the evidence of Ukrainian resilience abounds. 

Teaching your children to examine what is most important to them and how to prioritize these beliefs – whether about their faith, their family, or their life goals – can be a lesson that they carry with them for a lifetime. Each person carries with them flashbulb memories: exceptionally vivid and long-lasting memories that stick with them about a dramatic event. For older generations, it’s the moment they heard that JFK was killed; for some of us, it’s the moment the planes hit the Twin Towers. 

For this generation, the images of everyday citizens defending their nation could be their flashbulb moment. Using it to teach them how to learn from history and how to demonstrate resilience in the face of uncertainty is a healthy way to help your student understand the war in Ukraine.

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