Taking Suggestions
August 27th, 2008 by Sonja

As those of you who read this blog regularly know, I homeschool the LightChildren.  Well, a more appropriate description is … they engage in home learning and I throw books at their heads.  No.  That’s not right either.  But something happens around here and occasionally something like an education seems to sprout.

Well, we fell behind in history.  This is sorta bad since I’m just a hair shy of being a certified social studies teacher.  Three hairs shy of having a masters in secondary education with a focus in … history and social studies.  So you’d think that we’d just fly right through history.  Well, yes.  And, um, no … not so much.  You see, I have all these hang ups and pre-conceived ideas about how history has to be.  So we fell behind.  We’re scooting through the modern period this summer and starting over again with the ancients this fall.  It will be fun because now I’m finally teaching a teenager and all.

In very exciting news, LightGirl has decided that she’s going to work on her own theory of everything.  The books are spread out all over the sofa.  First, though, she needs to get over Lyme Disease.  It all began yesterday when she and LightBoy watched a documentary on the History Channel on the island of Atlantis.  They came up from the playroom and recounted the whole thing to me.  Silly mom … I thought they’d been watching cartoons and was plotting revenge.  In any case, as she watched the documentary, LightGirl began to notice that many of the stories from Atlantis bore a striking resemblance to all the myth stories she read when we studied the ancients several years ago.  Later in the day, she asked to go to the library so she can get some books on myths and Atlantis.  She is quite determined to find this “missing link” as it were.  She didn’t even realize that we’re getting ready to tackle the ancients again this year in history.  It was a pleasant surprise.  Her eyes were sparkling.  She’s busy plotting the next book she wants to write.

In the meantime, we’re just flying through modern history, giving it a lick and a promise.  The girl who lives in my heart and studied international relations twenty-five years ago is weeping with shame at the utter horror of raising children with so little knowledge of modern history and its importance to where we are now.  (Okay, weeping may be overstating it just a little … but … you get the picture.)  So, here’s the thing.  We have a family movie night tradition.  We love to watch movies together.  LightHusband makes delicious popcorn, we have a light dinner before hand, turn down the lights and snuggle in together.  It can be any night … but we watch the movie together and then talk about it for some time afterwards.  So I thought it would be a good idea to get some movies with historical content to watch for modern history.  But I’m running out of ideas.  I’m going to post my list below.  Please add yours in the comments.  I’m looking for any reasonable movies about history anywhere in the world from 1875 to the present.  Please remember the ages of my children are 11 and 14.  They’re used to some violence (we’ve watched BraveHeart together without the final death scene, and LightBoy has watched Saving Private Ryan) as long as it has purpose and context.  We try to stay away from sexual content … but well the Viv@ Vi@gra ads and KY ads on television these days leave little the imagination, so really … who cares.

Here are the movies I found:

Grapes of Wrath
We Were Soldiers
To Kill A Mockingbird
Judgment At Nuremberg

15 Responses  
  • Debbie Tate writes:
    August 27th, 20082:30 pmat

    Hey Sonja…

    Have ya’ll seen Courage Under Fire with Meg Ryan? It’s Desert Storm history.

    Another great one is World Trade Center with Nicholas Cage.

    Other ones with him in it also that goes on the history of the Free Masons is National Treasure and National Treasure 2…

    Enjoy your movie nights!!

  • Debbie Tate writes:
    August 27th, 20082:44 pmat

    Just remembered a couple more…

    A Night at the Museum – it’s very comical – great for tween/teens – has various Natural History characters.

    Of course, Titanic is another great one (if you haven’t seen it – prepare – it’s 3 or so hours long).

    The Mummy movies may be a tad frieghtening for the kids – but they are Egyptian History based (I’d watch it after the kids are in bed first and get a feel if they could sit all the way through it).

  • Debbie Tate writes:
    August 27th, 20082:50 pmat

    Got more…

    Tom Hanks in A League of their Own – it’s sports history (during the Vietnam War)

    And another one of his is the Da Vinci Code

  • Sherri T writes:
    August 27th, 20084:00 pmat

    I’ve been thinking about supplementing with movies, too, but this first semester I have to do PA history–that’s a bit narrower than 1875 on.

    The link below has a list to start with. It jogged my memory on some movies I’ve seen that are worth watching again.


    I’ve also done some hunting with Netflix’s search engines, and I have the book LEARNING WITH THE MOVIES (Holland).
    It is somewhat helpful but hasn’t been revised since 2004, and it simply lists movies in categories with some synopses/reviews. You can probably do just as well with the Internet IMHO.

    Have fun!


  • Julie Clawson writes:
    August 27th, 20084:51 pmat

    Evita – to discuss revolutionary dictatorships in south america.

    The Inner Circle – story of the KGB and Stalin’s film guy (there might be some sex though)

    Swingkids – oppression under the NAZI’s

    I know thee are more, but the baby just woke up… internet time over…

  • Peggy writes:
    August 27th, 20085:06 pmat

    Well, here are some ideas from the Abbess:

    Galipoli (Mel Gibson at a young age)
    Apollo 13
    Hunt for Red October
    October Sky
    Fly Boys (WWI, when planes first entered the equation)
    any of the movies about Helen Keller
    The Hiding Place
    You Know My Name (a bit gritty–last of the old west sheriffs, with Sam Elliot as lead)
    Forrest Gump (with a little parental editing)
    Chariots of Fire
    Tora! Tora! Tora!
    The Far Pavilions (about India’s move to independence)
    The Great Escape
    Out of Africa (with some more parental editing)
    The Last Samurai (also a little early, just by a few years)
    End of the Spear
    To Sir, With Love (all those great Sidney Poitier movies)
    Lilies of the Fields
    A Patch of Blue
    A Girl of the Limberlost
    The Gods Must Be Crazy (I & II)

    …well, I’ve run out of time…but maybe there was an item or two that sparked your imagination! I tried to think globally, not just US.

    Have fun! History was my favorite subject….

  • brad writes:
    August 27th, 20087:59 pmat

    Oh Sonja! This is the most fun I’ve had all day! Thankyou, thankyou, thankyou …

    Okay, some of these have drug usage, some violence, as little sexual content as possible. Some may still be over the line … parental content advisories on http://www.imdb.com are useful …

    Steamboy – Victorian England (1860s) with a “what-if” steampunk anime twist. What if steam engines had continued being developed instead of switching to electricity? But an intriguing look at problems of industrialization.

    Lagaan – set in 1893 India, story of a cross-caste group that challenges the British rule. A must-see Bollywood film.

    Vincent Van Gogh; A Stroke of Genius – A&E biography.

    Lawrence of Arabia, plus the sequel, A Dangerous Man: Lawrence After Arabia (starring Ralph Fiennes as T.E. Lawrence at the 1919 Peace Conference). Haven’t seen it yet but looks fascinating.

    Life is Beautiful – World War II concentration camps in Europe and Paradise Road – women prisoners of war in the South Pacific, WW II.

    I am David – fictional escape from a Bulgarian prison camp in the 1950s; with James Caviezel. Check out online activities at http://www.walden.com and documentaries on modern slavery/human trafficking.

    The Right Stuff – space program, Cold War, early 1960s.

    Earth Day Special 1990 – first Earth Day was 1970, and it took another 20 years to have a national level event. This was a TV special made for the occasion. Not necessarily stellar, but of historical interest. That same year, Ted Turner

    Window to Paris – A Russian comedy that explores the aftermath of Peristroika while embedding a few serious lessons in the midst of a magically realistic portal between Russia and Paris!

    Beautiful People – displaced people from the postmodern Balkan wars take their conflicts with them to England; set in 1993.


    Magic Boy – first Japanime film released in the U.S., 1962-ish.

    Beat Street, or Breakin’ – beginnings of the hip-hop movement before it took a nasty turn, mid-1980s.

    Clueless – how post-Valley Girl language spread virally throughout the known world, mid-1990s.

    Trekkies (Star Trek uber-fans) 1990s and Ringers (LOTR uber-fans) 2000s.

  • Rickard writes:
    August 27th, 200810:36 pmat

    Have you seen the movie “Titanic”? It’s a movie about the history and the fate of politics in North America. Very interesting…


  • K.W. Leslie writes:
    August 27th, 200811:56 pmat

    I’m looking at a few of these movies suggested and thinking, “Man, have you never taught history.” I could never personally justify incorporating some of them into lesson plans.

    However, there are quite a few I could. And I like your list, by the way.

    World War II:
    Tora! Tora! Tora! What happened at Pearl Harbor, from both the American and Japanese perspectives. A bit undramatic, but very historically accurate.
    Band of Brothers, the HBO miniseries based on the Stephen Ambrose book about one paratrooper company in the European Theater. I think the History Channel was broadcasting an edited-for-normal-broadcast version.
    Patton, to see the North African Campaign.
    To Hell and Back, about (and starring) Medal of Honor winner Audie Murphy.
    Das Boot, what it was like on a German U-boat.
    The Hiding Place, about Dutch Christians in a concentration camp.
    The Last Emperor: Pu Yi of China lives through the democratization of China, World War II, and Maoism.

    Cold War:
    The Atomic Café, a documentary about the use of nuclear weapons during that time, consisting entirely of film clips.
    Thirteen Days, the Cuban Missile Crisis.

    Civil Rights Movement:
    Boycott with Jeffrey Wright, about the Montgomery Bus Boycott.
    Crisis at Central High with Joanne Woodward, TV drama about the Little Rock Nine.

    Space program:
    The RIght Stuff, about the Mercury 7.
    From the Earth to the Moon, the HBO miniseries about everything after The Right Stuff to the moon landings.
    Apollo 13, which you’ve likely seen already.

    All the President’s Men about Watergate.
    The U.S. versus John Lennon, a documentary about the counterculture and the counter-counterculture.
    Pirates of Silicon Valley, on how Bill Gates and Steve Jobs popularized the personal computer.

  • grace writes:
    August 28th, 200812:12 pmat

    Since my husband is a WWII buff, I’m sure we’ve watched every movie ever made about that. The only ones that made a lasting impression on me were “The Scarlet and the Black”, “Band of Brothers”, and “Shining Through” (which is more of a romance, which is probably why I remember it).

  • Mike writes:
    August 28th, 20081:10 pmat

    Sonja ~ There have been some great suggestions here. Band of Brothers was a great series on a specific unit of the 101st Airborne starting from the Normandy Invasion and their subsequent march inward to include battling at Bastogne and capture of the Eagle’s Nest.

    One that I would also include is Schindler’s List.

  • Sonja writes:
    August 28th, 20081:29 pmat

    Wow … thanks everyone … I am seriously overwhelmed and grateful for all the great suggestions here. Some movies I’ve never heard of and some I’d forgotten about. And some I did the forehead clunk (ala “I shoulda had a V-8”). And a couple we have and have already seen (like … The Gods Must Be Crazy!!! I & II).

    Here’s another one for those of you who might be thinking you’d like to do this:

    Whale Rider (BlazingEwe thought of it)

    Keep ’em coming … I think I’m going to compile this into a page for my sidebar, this is great!!!

  • Julie Clawson writes:
    August 29th, 200810:40 pmat

    I like all the suggestions. I’ve found though that often fictionalized or loosely historical movies often create better discussion/interest than straight documentaries. They create interest and push people to discover the real story and explore where reality and the movie differ. Provides great opportunity to discuss how all history is interpretation as well.

  • Sally writes:
    August 31st, 20084:22 pmat

    well it depends on the age of the Light Children but Schindlers List is awesome. It deals with the holocaust, and the bravery of those who stood up to the Nazi regime.

  • kievasfargo writes:
    September 1st, 20083:48 pmat

    History is not a favorite subject with our daughter, either. BTW, good luck to LightGirl with that ToE :)

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