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How to teach about Pearl Harbor in your homeschool

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 article will give you 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!

How to teach about Pearl Harbor in your homeschool


There are many movies made about WW2. Most are unsuitable for families. One that we thought stayed fairly close to the facts and kept gore to a minimum is an older movie called “Tora! Tora! Tora!” 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 web sites listed below and read some of the summaries and eye-witness accounts found there. Also, make a point to read at least part of FDR’s famous speech out loud.


  • Define harbor.
  • Find good pictures of Pearl Harbor 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, O’ahu, Pearl Harbor.


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


WW2 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. along with letters and pasted them in her book. Our oldest son became enamored with WW2 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!

First Person Accounts

You may know someone who has kept a book like this. There may be WW2 vets in your church or family. Sadly, there are fewer and fewer vets of this era still living. Find them while you still can and talk to them – even over the phone.


Keep a scrapbook about the current 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 we live in especially demand our attention. Working regularly in a “War Book” provides an outlet and opportunity for discussion. A 12” X 15” scrapbook would be a good size to accommodate newspaper articles.

Writing Assignments/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 9/11?

Or, put yourself at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7th.

Decide who you are and why you are there.

Write a journal entry (in the first person) for that day. Visit Eyewitness History for real first-person accounts

Field Trips

Catch a flight to O’ahu. Okay… just kidding! But my friend Stephanie (along with her Air Force husband) is blessed to live at Hickham Air Force Base adjacent to Pearl Harbor. Here’s what she had to say about it visiting Pearl Harbor for the first time:

“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 a 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.”

There is a large military cemetery (Punchbowl National Memorial Cemetery) on O’ahu that is the Pacific version of Arlington National Cemetery. On December 7, the relatives of the men who were killed on Dec. 7 gather there and drop leis into the harbor in their memory … very moving. 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 9 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.

Web Sites with Pearl Harbor Resources

Infographic Pearl Harbor by the Numbers

An infographic depicting the impact of the attack on Pearl Harbor Dec. 7, 1941. A “day that will live in infamy,” the attack on Pearl Harbor inspired the nation and motivated the American people to wholeheartedly commit to the victory in the Second World War. (U.S. Navy photo illustration by Annalisa Underwood/Released/HI816)

Additional resources to teach about Pearl Harbor



This article was adapted from an entry in History & Holidays: Tips, Tricks and Projects by Maggie S. Hogan.

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