The History of Boudica for Kids

When you think of Great Britain, what do you think of? A modern country with a prime minister, democratic elections, and people from all over the world? Or maybe you think of the kings and queens who ruled for hundreds of years; or the royal family of today, with Queen Elizabeth, Prince Edward, and Prince Harry. Or maybe you think of it as your home! 

Today, we’re going to travel to Britain, but it will be the Britain of almost 2,000 years ago. This was before the kings and queens we think of as being a major part of England’s history, before the modern country with a prime minister and parliament.  We are going to meet a queen though. This queen ruled an ancient tribe called the Iceni (eye-seen-eye). She inspired her people and made great sacrifices for them when they needed it most. They needed an inspiring leader, because this was a troubling time for them. This was a time when their island was becoming part of the Roman Empire. 

But wait, isn’t Rome in Italy? Yes, it is, you don’t need to check your atlas. Although the city of Rome is in Italy, and has been for thousands of years, in ancient times, Rome was also an empire. This meant that they went out and conquered, or took over control of many areas far from their original city and surrounding region. By the first century before the common era, the Roman empire had reached Britain’s doorstep, and they didn’t plan to knock politely and ask to be let in. 

Before the Romans came along, much of England was inhabited by people called Celts (Kelts). There were many Celtic tribes with many names. They shared a similar culture and similar languages. Together, these tribes were often called the Britons, and you’ll hear me use that term as well today. Sometimes the tribes fought with each other, but they had a thriving and complex society. They worked both iron and bronze to make tools, jewelry, drinkware and other items. They worshipped their own gods, built houses and forts, farmed the land, and issued their own coins. The Iceni (eye-seen-eye) were one of these tribes. 

The Celtic people had followed this way of life for centuries, but things started to change when Julius Caesar invaded Britain in the first century BCE. At that time, Rome didn’t take over completely. They let the Celtic tribes live pretty much as they always had, but they did force many of the local rulers to pay tribute to Rome. This meant they were expected to send money or gifts to Rome, and support the Romans against their enemies. These local kings were now ruling over client kingdoms. Being a client kingdom of Rome often meant they’d eventually try to make you part of the Empire officially. Later, in the middle of the first century CE, that’s exactly what happened. The Roman Emperor Claudius conquered the southern part of Britain, and made it an official Roman province in 43 CE. 

The Roman conquest meant big changes for the Celtic tribes who lived in the area or nearby. The Romans sent a governor to run the province and set up a capital city. They brought along many new luxuries from the continent as well, such as food and drinks, glassware, and jewelry. The Romans wanted to teach the Celtic people how to live like Romans, but they also needed places for their retired soldiers to live. The Roman empire had made a promise that if you joined the military, they would give you a piece of land to farm when you completed your service. Many poor citizens thought this was a great offer. Most of the land closer to Rome, in Italy, belonged to a few very wealthy nobles, who used slaves to farm it. This left very little land for the poor to live on or farm. So part of the reason Rome conquered so many other tribes and kingdoms was to give their poorer citizens, especially soldiers, someplace where they could own land. 

There were still many independent tribes in Britain, even after Claudius set up the Roman colony. The Iceni were one, and they lived in the eastern part of England. After Claudius set up the Roman province of Britain, he let the Iceni live as a client kingdom under their own king. His name was Prasutagus. Prasutagus had a wife named Boudicca and two daughters who lived with him. The Romans allowed him to keep control over his small kingdom. When Prasutagus passed away he left his home and land to his two daughters and to Rome.

But Romans acted as though he had left it to Rome alone. They treated his widow, Boudicca (Boo-DI-kuh) and his daughters very badly, even beating them. They also took away all the land, possessions, and money he had wanted his daughters to have. 

The Roman veterans had also begun treating the local British people very poorly, stealing their land and even forcing some of them into slavery. This made them angry. When they saw how Boudicca and her daughters were being treated, they became even angrier and began to rebel.

The tribes in Briton decided to join forces. They chose Boudicca to lead them. She was a powerful woman. A later Roman historian describes her as very intelligent and strong-willed. She was tall, with fierce eyes and long hair the color of a lion’s mane. She led the Britons in an attack on the capital of Roman province, Camulodunum. The Romans thought it was very strange and inappropriate for a woman to lead an army. At first, they may have thought she couldn’t do a very good job. The Roman leader didn’t send enough troops to defeat the rebels. The governor himself was with his army in another part of England, trying to win even more new territory for Rome. 

But, having Boudicca as their commander wasn’t that unusual for the Britons. Women from the Celtic tribes often did lead soldiers in battle. This allowed the Britons to win their first victory at the Roman capital easily. Next, they went on to attack and raid the towns of Verulamium and Londinium. You might know Londinium by its modern name, London.

As the Britons continued their march, the Romans finally decided to take Boudicca’s rebellion seriously. The Romans returned to the area with an even bigger army. 

Boudicca encouraged her troops before each battle, riding among them with her two daughters in a chariot. She told them she was with them not as a queen, but as one of the people who had lost her freedom and been mistreated just like them. She told them it was better to live a simple, poor life with freedom, than to give up their freedom and have all the luxuries the Roman had brought to the island. Her plan was that they would either win their freedom, or fall trying.

Unfortunately, though Boudicca led her people valiantly, they fell trying. The Britons lost the battle with Suetonius’ army. Boudicca died alongside many of her people. Their part of Britain was now Roman. Over the next 20 years, the Romans would expand their territory in Britain almost all the way to Scotland, in the north of the island.

But although her rebellion wasn’t successful in the end, Boudicca left a legacy that people have looked to for inspiration for thousands of years. Artists and poets, especially many from Britain, have found inspiration in Boudicca’s story. Poets like Alfred Lord Tennyson and William Cowper wrote poems celebrating her story, and many artists have memorialized her in paintings and sculpture. A bronze sculpture of Boudicca stands near the Palace of Westminster in London, where the British government meets. It shows Boudicca and her daughters riding in their chariot as she rallied the soldiers. Boudicca also helped inspire women in England to fight for the right to vote in the early twentieth century. These women, called suffragists, would carry a banner with Boudicca’s name on it as they marched in the streets, demanding that they be allowed to vote.

Standing up for what you believe is right isn’t always about winning. And you don’t have to win every time in order to inspire people and make progress. Boudicca stood up not just for her family, or her tribe, but for her entire culture. She stood up for ideals like freedom and self-determination, even when it was clear that she would most likely not succeed. Standing up for what is right, even if you don’t win, is always worthwhile!

Poems:

https://www.bartleby.com/41/320.html

https://allpoetry.com/poem/8473297-Boadicea-by-Alfred-Lord-Tennyson

Sources

Cassius Dio Roman History  Bk 62 https://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/e/roman/texts/cassius_dio/62*.html

Tacitus Annales Bk 14.29-37

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roman_conquest_of_Britain

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prasutagus

https://www.history.com/topics/ancient-history/celts

http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/ancient/british_prehistory/overview_british_prehistory_ironage_01.shtml
https://www.oxfordreference.com/view/10.1093/oi/authority.20110803095617744
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boadicea_and_Her_Daughters

The History of Charlemagne for Kids

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be a king? Would it be an easy life for a hard one? Would you just do whatever you please, or would you work to make your kingdom a better place for the people living in it? Today we’re going to learn about Charlemagne, one of the most powerful kings of Europe. 

Charlemagne was born around the year 742 C.E. He lived during what is known as medieval times. Think of castles and knights and ladies. That is the medieval times. Charlemagne was a Frank. The Franks were a Germanic people who lived in what is now known as Belgium, France, Luxemborg, the Netherlands and Germany. The Franks became very powerful at the time the Roman Empire was losing power.  France is named after the Franks. 

Charlemagne’s father was Pepin the Short who was the king of the Franks. Pepin led the Franks in war and won many battles. His kingdom grew as he won battles for his people. This made him and his family very powerful. Very little is known about Charlemagne’s childhood to this day, but it is known that he grew tall and strong, he had light hair, and was good at learning languages. He became a powerful warrior and later in battle carried a large sword with a gold hilt, which he named Jway-uze.

When Charlemagne’s father died in 768, his kingdom was divided between Charlemagne and his brother, Carloman, who didn’t get along very well. But once his brother died, Charlemagne became the only ruler of the kingdom. He was also known as Charles the Great, which is what Charlemagne translates to. 

As king, Charlemagne’s main goal was to unite all of the people of his kingdom under one rule and one religion, which was Christianity. Charlemagne was a skilled military leader and used his talents and his army to bring other people under his rule. Over the years he fought in 53 military campaigns to enlarge his kingdom. The people he fought included the Avars (what is now Austria and Hungary), the Lombards (what is now Italy) and Bavaria, along with other peoples. One of his most difficult opponents were the Saxons, the people of what is now Germany. They wanted to be free and control their own lands, not be part of Charlemagne’s kingdom. They resisted him fiercely, but Charlemagne was determined to bring them under his rule, even though it required a great deal of violence and cruelty. Charlemagne was known for doing whatever it took to reach his goals of growing his kingdom. Even if it meant hurting others. But whenever Charlemagne conquered the Saxons in one place, they’d start fighting him in another place. It took him over 30 years to finally bring the Saxon’s under his rule, they were a very independence people. Because Charlemagne was Christian, anyone forced into his kingdom was required to adopt the his religion as well. Charlemagne also fought very hard to take control of Italy, which finally ended in 777 C.E.

Charlemagne had a very large family! It was very important to him that his children became educated. At the time only monks knew how to read and write, but Charlemagne believe it was important for kings and their families to be educated. This was very out of the ordinary for his day. He loved books and often had someone read to him while he was eating. Even though he was a kind and very rich, he dressed very simply and ate simple food. He believed this made him stronger. He also saw how many kings became rich and then became lazy, spending all of their time enjoying their money, good food, big castles, and nice clothes. Instead, Charlemagne focused on staying strong and smart. He built libraries in his homes and stayed active. He also made sure his children didn’t grow lazy with all of their wealth. He hired tutors to make sure his many children learned how to read and studied good books. 

Charlemagne once said to his sons, “You think because you are rich and are the sons of the great men of my kingdom that your birth and wealth will protect you in my favor. I will let you know that you stand in need of learning more than those who are poor and dependent. You think only of your pleasures and of your dress and play, but I attach no importance to your wealth and to your station, and if you idle your time when you are young you will be worthless when you are old.”

During the time of Charlemagne’s reign, the Christian church based in Rome was concerned about being taken over by its enemies. Because Charlemagne was Christian, he gave much of his money to support the church in Rome. The leader of the church in Rome was called the Pope, and at the time his name was Pope Leo III. In order to create a strong alliance between Rome and Charlemagne, so he could protect them, Pope Leo III crowned Charlemagne emperor of the Romans in 800 C.E. on Christmas Day at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. This gave people and leaders throughout Rome even greater respect for Charlemagne. 

After taking control of much of Europe, and even though he did it in a very violent way, Charlemagne did a good job at taking care of the lands he had conquered. He allowed people to keep most of their laws and customs and let them rule themselves. Because he believed in education, he had schools built and used his money to pay for teachers. He also pushed for schools to use an alphabet that was the same, so people could communicate better within his big empire. 

He also wanted the economy to be strong in his empire. An economy relates to how people buy and sell things. He worked to have common money used throughout his empire, to make it easier for people to buy and sell goods. He ordered the construction of a great canal, the Fossa Carolina, to connect the Rhine and Danube Rivers. A canal is a man-made river. The uniting of these lands and the result of his reforms are called the Carolingian Renaissance. He also became known as the “Father of Europe.”

Charlemagne often moved throughout his empire, living in different lands in order to help govern them and push his reforms. He was also known to be very athletic. He liked hunting, horseback riding, and swimming. 

Because of his activity, Charlemagne was known to be very healthy most of his life, but during the last four years he had fevers and started to limp. In 813, he crowned his son Louis the Pious as a co-emperor. In 814 when Charlemagne died Louis became the emperor. He was buried in a cathedral in Aachen, ending a reign of more than 40 years. It is incredible to think of all that was accomplished during his reign. 

Like many people in history, Charlemagne’s character is a complicated one. Like many military leaders like Julius Caesar or Napolean, he was very driven by power to conquer all of Europe. This led him to do many terrible things and attack people who just wanted to be left alone. When Charlemagne did finally conquer, he did his best to make his kingdom a good one.

Thanks for listening to this episode about Charlemagne. We also have a video on YouTube about Charlemagne if you want to check it out. Thanks again and be sure to tune in next week for a brand new episode!

The History of D-Day: Operation Overlord for Kids

Close your eyes and imagine you are cold and sitting in the back of the boat. The sky is cloudy and many airplanes are flying overhead. The water from the chilly ocean is splashing into your boat and as you look ahead you see a beach which you and your team of soldiers must invade. Bombs explode in the water around you. Your boat tries to navigate through spikes and landmines that are guarding the water leading up to the beach. A boat nearby you is sinking from an explosion. “Out of the boat! Out of the boat!” someone shouts. The ramp to the front of the boat goes down and you rush out with the other soldiers. You are very scared, but you know in order to win the war this beach must be taken back! It is D-Day and you are one of the Allied soldiers preparing to take Normandy Beach in France.

For many years Hitler and the German Army controlled France and many other countries in Europe. The main goal of the Allies was to kick Hitler and his army out of France and take the fight to Germany. The Allies were made up of many countries, but the main ones were the United States, England, France, Russia, and Canada. D-Day was one of the most important missions of the war because it would take place on the beaches of France where the Allies would start taking back Europe from Hitler. 

The United States General Eisenhower was made command of the D-Day operation in January 1944. The Allies knew they wanted to attack, but weren’t sure where. And part of the plan was to trick Hitler into believing the attack would be from somewhere else, so he wouldn’t be able to concentrate all of his forces in one place. The Allies used many tricks to go about this such as spies, secret agents, fake tanks, and fake radio messages. They even put one of their best generals, George Patton, in different area to confused Hitler. Over 3,200 reconnaissance missions were used to prepare for D-Day. Reconnaissance means to to spy on the enemy and do research to decide how to act next. The original name of the mission was Operation Overlord, and only later referred to as D-Day.

The plan was to attack the Germans on Normandy Beach. 5,000 ships and 11,000 airplanes were used during the attack. After the ships brought in the soldiers, the plan was to put them all on amphibious vehicles, move them to the beach, then the soldiers would attack the Germans guarding the beach.

But the morning before they started the attack the Allie’s planes dropped bombs on the Germans guarding the beach. French people living in a town nearby were awoken to the sound of bombs. A French villager lived near a house overlooking the beaches. He said: “I saw light coming from two bombs that exploded at the ridge of the cliff.” The Allies were doing everything they could to make sure the soldiers coming in on the beach would be safe.

The night before the invasion 24,000 soldiers also parachuted out of planes and landed behind the German army to help the troops who would be landing on the beach. These soldiers were called “paratroopers.”

One of the paratroopers was named Bob Nobles. He and his 16-man team flew in a plane across the English Channel. Just after midnight the light inside their plane told them it was time to jump out. They all lined up and one after another jumped out of the back of the plane. He said “By the time my parachute opened, I was on the ground!” He landed in a farmer’s field all by himself and took off his parachute. Then he hurried off on foot until he came across another paratrooper. “Don’t shoot! Don’t shoot!” the other paratrooper shouted. “I’m from Indiana! But I forgot the password!” They were supposed to have a password to know who was on their side and who was the enemy. Bob laughed as they looked for the rest of the teammates. But most of the other paratroopers had missed the drop zone, the place they were supposed to land.

These paratrooper missions proved to be very dangerous and a challenge in some cases where the soldiers landed in the wrong place or were captured or shot as soon as they landed. But in other cases the soldiers were able to regroup and take bridges and help the soldiers who would be landing on the beach the next day. 

The original plan was to attack on June 5th, but the weather was very bad, so it was put off until June 6th. In a message to troops before they left, General Eisenhower told them, “The tide has turned! The free men of the world are marching together to victory…. We will accept nothing less than full victory!”

On June 6th 1944 starting at 6:30 a.m. the amphibious vehicles took the Allied troops from the ships to the beach. Amphibious means something that works in water and on land. These vehicles were designed to float like a boat and drive like a car!

Over 100,000 Allied soldiers attacked the beach at the same time! They were from many different countries like the United States, England, and Canada. The invasion was the largest amphibious landing and assault in history!

For many months the German Army had prepared for an attack on the beach. They had built many defenses armed with machine guns, barbed wire, land mines, so attacking the beach was extremely dangerous. 

One of the soldiers, Colonel Moulton, was on the amphibious landing craft with his soldiers. He told them to fire smoke bombs into the sky so they would be hidden from the enemy machine guns. It helped some, but their landing craft was still smashed up and some of the soldiers died when they hit the beach. Telling his story many years later, he said that the “Germans built concrete strong points in the villages and we landed right in front of one,” which caused much harm to his fellow soldiers.

Another soldier, Harry Timmins, said that when their landing craft came on the beach “the noise was more than you could possibly imagine. There were explosions all around us in the sea and the shells and mortars were kicking up sand all over the beach. A couple of buildings were on fire and the guns on our boat also joined in the barrage and deafened us.”

Many soldiers lost their lives as they came out of the landing vehicles. In some places the water was too high, so sadly they sank with all their heavy gear on. 

Another soldier, Robert Watson remembered that nothing went quite as planned. Everything took longer than expected and his landing craft was taking on a lot of water. “Landing craft were exploding all around me,” he remembered and got very sick in his boat. He remembered someone yelling “Get to the beach!” Then their craft hit a floating mine and they had to climb onto another craft to get the rest of the way to the beach. After he finally got to the beach he said, “I was scared my ammunition wouldn’t work” because it was wet. But he was able to fire shots without any problem and started firing at the enemy. The company of soldiers he started with had 62 soldiers. Only 36 of them were left after the attack. Many of his friends never made it to the beach. 

The beaches were given different codenames. Omaha Beach and Juno Beach had the most casualties. A casualty is when someone is hurt or dies in battle. By the end of the morning over 4,000 soldiers had died during the intense battle! 

By the time the battle was done the Allies had taken the beach and started moving into France. It was one of the most dangerous battles of World War II, but also one of the most important as well. Now that the Allies were in France they had shown the world and Hitler that they were very strong and would be able to win the war. The war continued on for many more days, but because of the sacrifices made on D-Day there was hope for the people of France and people all around the world that the war would come to an end.

Do you know anyone who has served in the military? Take some time to think about their bravery in deciding to serve and what courage it must take to decide to put your life on the line for your country. Think about those who gave their life on D-Day and how many of the freedoms you have exist, because someone else has given up their own time and sometimes even their life. There is a quote that says “Freedom isn’t free.” Freedom is often something that has to be fought for. Because of this, we shouldn’t take our own freedom for granted. Think about what you might do to keep freedom strong wherever you live. This might mean learning more about government and your local leaders. This might mean learning about different laws and voting when you are the right age. It might also mean serving in the military as well. Whatever you do to help, remember that freedom is a wonderful thing that not everyone has; and something we should never take for granted.

Nancy Wake Story for Kids

Close your eyes and imagine you are a soldier flying in a plane high above the ocean. Outside you hear the plane’s propellers turning and strong winds rushing past the windows. It is the middle of the night and down below the ocean is dark and cold. Sitting around you are other soldiers, men and women with dark clothes and large backpacks. They look nervous and you feel nervous too. You check your gun and tighten a parachute which is also on your back. 

The year is 1944 and you are in the middle of World War 2. Nazi Germany has invaded France. France’s allies England and the United States and other countries are working to help France and many other countries be free again. If the battle can be won in France there might be a chance to beat the Nazis and make the world a safe place again. You look around at the other soldiers, but remember you and the others here are no ordinary soldiers. You are part of England’s Special Operations Executive, commandos which are a combination of a soldier and a spy. You have trained many months to be a commando and it’s finally your chance to help the people of France. 

“Everyone ready?” a voice calls from the back of the plane. You look out the window and see that you are above land now. This is France. You and the other soldiers stand up and walk toward the back of the plane. In the front you see one of the most famous commandos — a woman named Nancy Wake. The back doors to the plane open. You watch as Nancy walks to the back of the plane and jumps out into the cold night. Soon you jump out, too, and are are falling down, down toward the ground.  At the right moment you pull your parachute and are yanked up into the sky. You look across the French countryside and float downward until your boots hit the ground and you roll, then hurriedly wrap up your parachute. 

Nancy Wake and the other commandos are running low across a grassy field to the cover of trees. Someone whispers that a German patrol is nearby. You quietly hurry on until you are hidden deep in the woods. Everyone huddles together and pulls out their backpacks. You see that Nancy is safe and are glad to have such a brave woman leading your team. You know with her help you can accomplish your dangerous and very important mission. 

Nancy Wake was born in Wellington, New Zealand. A couple years later her family moved to Australia. There she went to school until the age of 16 when she left home and found a job as a nurse. Working as a nurse, she was able to save some money and with the help of an aunt, was bought a plane ticket to New York City. There she learned how to become a journalist. A journalist is someone who writes stories for the newspaper. To Nancy being a journalist was an adventure. She loved to travel and learn about new people and places. One of the places she visited was Austria. While she was in Austria a powerful leader named Adolf Hitler had become very powerful. Hitler’s country of Germany was nearby Austria. In Austria Hitler’s followers, the Nazis, were hurting people they did not like, such as the Jews. When Nancy saw how horribly the Nazis treated these people, she realized Hitler was very dangerous.

Nancy moved to Paris, France one of her favorite places in the world. She loved the city and the people and eventually married a Frenchman named Henri Edmond Fiocca. While Nancy was living in France, Hitler’s army invaded the country. Hitler wanted to control France, but Nancy did everything to try and stop him. She joined a group called The Resistance. She helped soldiers escape France and sent secret messages to help The Resistance. Nancy was very careful, so for a long time the Nazis didn’t know she was a spy. She was very sneaky and for this reason the Nazis called her “The White Mouse.” Her job was very dangerous, but Nancy knew that fighting against the invaders was the right thing to do, so she did it anyway. The Nazis wanted to catch Nancy so badly that they offered 5 million French dollars to anyone who would turn her in. 

Soon it was too dangerous for Nancy to stay in France, so she snuck out of the country, hiding in the back of a coal truck, just before the Nazis caught her. From France she went to Spain and then to England, which was a country safe from the Nazis. Nancy could have lived a safe life in England far from her enemies, but she knew she needed to keep fighting to keep the world free. In England Nancy joined England’s spy group called the Special Operations Executive. There Nancy trained to be a soldier and a spy, also known as a commando. She learned to shoot a gun, use a radio, and be sneaky, which she was already pretty good at. But Nancy worked very hard and tried to be very cheerful. When other soldiers were sad she made funny jokes and cheered them up. The other soldiers like to be around Nancy. 

Once Nancy and the other soldiers were trained, a plane flew them across the ocean to France where they jumped out and parachuted down to the ground. Many Nazis were in France so they were careful and spent much of the time in hiding. There Nancy and the other soldiers helped The Resistance. They gave them guns and other supplies, blew up bridges, recruited more people to the Resistance. Once they even attacked a Nazi base. Nancy and the other commandos weren’t afraid to complete dangerous missions to help free the people of France.

To keep in touch with England the commandos used radio and special codes. One night the codes were destroyed by the enemy and the next closest radio station was very far away. Many would have given up, but Nancy decided she could ride a bike to the other radio. So she jumped on her bike and rode almost 200 miles. She had to pass many Nazis along the way, so it was a very dangerous journey, but Nancy was brave and believed in her cause. After delivering the message to be sent, Nancy got back on her bike and rode all the way back to her team.

While Nancy and the other commandos were helping The Resistance, the Allied Armies fought Hitler’s army on the battlefield until chasing them out of France. Nancy was excited to see France free again and proud to have been one of many to make it happen. 

After the war Nancy received many medals for her bravery. Later she wrote a book about her life and adventures during the war and called it “The White Mouse.” Nancy moved into a hotel in France where the owners and others helped take care of her, because of all she had done to help their country. Nancy Wake’s bravery inspired many women and men for years to come. 

Like Nancy, you can do things even when you’re not sure how they’ll turn out. Sometimes we only want to do the things we know about — this is called staying inside our comfort zone. But it’s also good for us to get outside of our comfort zone and try new things like Nancy did. We can stand up for what we believe even when it might be scary. If you see someone picking on someone else, you can tell them this is wrong and stand up for them. You might wonder if you can be as brave as Nancy, but remember she was once a child just like you. 

History of the Navy SEALs for Kids

In the 1960s, during the Vietnam War, the United States military began to train special soldiers who could move about secretly in small teams and complete special missions. This was the beginning of the Navy SEALs. 

Any man or woman who wants to become a Navy must first join the Navy. Then they must pass tests to be sure they are ready for BUD/S training. BUD/S Training is a very difficult camp where leaders decide who is ready to be a Navy SEAL. There they run through wet sand with all their clothes on, crawl through deep mud, and carry heavy rubber boats. They do lots of situps and pushups and plenty of running. Most days they get very little sleep and have to swim far out in the ocean, and hold their breath underwater for a very long time. Not only do their bodies have to be strong, but their minds as well. They have to be able to keep going and going even when their body and mind want to give up. People who want to become Navy SEALs spend many years training before they even go to BUD/S Training. Because it is so hard many aren’t able to finish. This doesn’t mean they are weak, it is just a very great challenge to become a Navy SEAL.

At the end of boot camp, SEALs start other training, such as learning how to scuba dive under the water and how to parachute out of very high airplanes. They also learn how to shoot guns and set off bombs. The word SEAL is the words “sea”, “air”, and “land” all together. This means a SEAL needs to be able to move across sea, air and land to accomplish their special missions.

SEAL training can last up to a year, but even when they are done they keep practicing and practicing. A Navy SEAL is never fully done learning and improving.

At the end of their first training, the trainees are given a gold badge that has an eagle on it, which they can pin to their Navy uniform. It is a very exciting day, because they have worked so hard and so long to reach their goal.

Once a Navy SEAL completes their training they are assigned to a team. That team may live anywhere in the world, because their mission may take place anywhere in the world; and they need to be close and ready when they are needed. 

When a mission takes place the Navy SEALs may arrive there by airplane, where they parachute down, or it might be by boat or helicopter or even by submarine if they are scuba swimming to their mission. They wear camouflage clothes depending on where the missions is, since it may be in the desert or the jungle or in a city.

The Navy SEALs have assisted in many wars in the past and are active today in places like the Middle East. Their mission might be to capture an enemy or to rescue someone who has been kidnapped. SEALs are very fast and skilled at what they do and can get in and out of places very fast. During one mission their job was to stop modern day pirates who had captured a big ship and its crew. For another mission they rescued soldiers who had been captured by the enemy.

Often Navy SEALs have to sacrifice their own lives when they go on these dangerous missions. In 2005 during the Afghanistan War, a 4-man team of SEALs landed by helicopter in an enemy area. Their job was to capture a dangerous Taliban leader. The members of this team were Lieutenant Michael Murphy and Petty Officers Marcus Luttrell, Danny Dietz and Matt Axelson. 

While sneaking through enemy territory, the team ran into a boy and his father herding goats. The team decided to let them live and after they let them go, the father alerted the enemy and soon the team was being attacked Marcus from all sides. The SEALs fought for a very long time and tried to survive, but soon only Marcus Luttrell was left alive. 

Marcus was strong and kept fighting and running until he was taken in by a friendly villager who lived nearby. Sometimes it’s not easy to know who is a friend or enemy in war, but this family took care of Marcus until a Navy helicopter came and took him away. After arriving home, Marcus wrote a book about the battle of him and his team and called it “Lone Survivor.” 

Navy SEALs are in many ways ordinary people who want to make a change in the world and serve their country. Their job is never easy, but they practice long and hard to be very good at what they do. 

Spend some time thinking about what you can do to improve yourself like a Navy SEAL. You don’t have to become a Navy SEAL to make yourself strong or become better at something. It might just be playing outside instead of watching TV, or riding your bike, or swimming, or doing something kind for someone else. You can have the spirit of a Navy SEAL, which is to accomplish great things even when they take time, hard work and practice.  

Marquis de Lafayette For Kids

Our story begins on September 6, 1757 when a young boy was born to the Lafayette Family in Chavaniac (Shevinyik), France. His parents named him Marie-Joseph-Paul-Roch-Gilbert du Motier! Can you imagine having a name that long! Not only did he start off with a big name, but also a very big fortune. He was born into a long line of French nobles, which means the people who ruled France and were very wealthy. He even inherited a castle at birth! The Lafayette Family had lived in France for many years and had distinguished themselves as brave soldiers. One of his ancestors fought alongside the brave woman soldier, Joan of Arc. Another ancestor traveled East and fought during the Crusades. His grandfather was a famed Musketeer and one of King Louis XV’s bodyguards. Also, when Lafayette was very young, he lost his father in a battle. So not only did he inherit much wealth and property, but also a famous name to live up to.

Although he had a long name he later became known as Lafayette, so we’ll use this name for the rest of our story. After losing his father, Lafayette’s mother moved to Paris and left him to be raised by his grandmother. Later, when he was 11, he moved to Paris with his mother to attend school. There he decided to be a soldier like his father and the many generations of Lafayette’s before him. He attended a school to learn to be a Musketeer, one of the king’s famous bodyguards. He graduated and did this for a time while still in school. 

When Lafayette was 14, his family introduced him to a young woman named Adrienne Marie Francois. She was only 12, but they spent time with each other and eventually fell in love. Later, they were married when Lafayette was 16 and she was 14. They ended up being a good match and stayed together for the rest of their lives.

By 1775, Lafayette was a Luitenant in the French Army and watched with interest what was going on across the ocean in the American Colonies. There, the British ruled the colonies but many of the Americans wanted to break free and become their own country. This struggle and war later became known as the American Revolution. Lafayette was French and the French didn’t get along with the British. They had fought against each other in many wars, include the Seven Years War or French and Indian War in America. Lafayette began to think about how he might help the American’s fight for liberty and get back at his enemies, the British. His father had also died in a battle against the British. 

In 1776 the French decided to help the Americans fight the British by sending soldiers and weapons. Lafayette volunteered to go with them. He was only 18 at the time, but his heart was set on going. When the British heard the French decided to help, they threatened to declare war against France, too. This caused France to change its position, but Lafayette had already made up his mind to go. His father-in-law, who was also his commanding officer, threatened to arrest him if he tried to leave to America. Lafayette hid from him and decided to find a way to escape to America, anyway. He was determined to join their cause and nothing would stop him. 

Lafayette’s first problem was America was across the ocean and he didn’t have a ship. He decided to use his great wealth to buy one. Then, he and the his friends boarded his ship and sailed for 2 months to America.

In Philadephia, Lafayette met General George Washington of America’s Continental Army. They ate dinner together and became good friends right away. Lafayette joined George Washington’s staff and in many ways became the father he never had. 

In September 1777, Lafayette fought in his first battle, The Battle of Brandywine. While rallying the troops to attack, he was hit in the leg and wounded, but continued to rally the soldiers to hold off the British advances.

Later that year after he recovered, he fought in another battle and defeated the British in Gloucester. During that same winter, he stayed with George Washington at Valley Forge. At Valley Forge they waited out a very harsh winter. Many soldiers suffered and were lost, but Washington and Lafayette and others were able to encourage the troops and keep them from leaving to continue the fight against the British.

Lafayette next fought in battles at Barren Hill, Monmouth, and Rhode Island, and was successful in his attacks and given a sword for his bravery and skill in battle. By this time, the French government now planned to help the Americans and Lafayette sailed a ship back to France to help get more soldiers and weapons to help.

In France, Lafayette was praised as a hero for fighting in America. He was also happy to see his wife and children again. While he was there she gave birth to a boy. They named him George Washington Lafayette! There, Lafayette also met Benjamin Franklin and worked with him and the French army to find enough soldiers and weapons to take back to America. Then, he sailed back to America to continue the fight.

In America, he found George Washington and the Continental Army struggling. They had lost battles and were worried they wouldn’t win the war. Washington was happy to see Lafayette and gave him command over troops as they continued the fight. Battles were won and lost and Lafayette continued to write letters to France urging them to send more soldiers and weapons. 

The Battle of Yorktown was one of the major battles in the American war for Independence. There, Lafayette and Alexander Hamilton and their troops faced off against the British general Cornwallis. Ships and soldiers from France also joined the battle. Muskets and cannons were fired from both sides. Smoke and gunfire filled the air. The battle was very intense and many soldiers were lost. In the final moments of the battle, Lafayette and Hamilton charged the British defenses and fought with swords in hand-to-hand combat until the Americans won the battle and General Cornwallis surrendered. The war wasn’t completely over yet, but the final major land battle had been won and America was on its way to freedom as a nation. 

After the war, the Marquis de Lafayette returned to France and was welcomed as a hero for his bravery. There, he joined the abolitionists in their struggle against slavery. He believed all people should be treated equal, regardless of the color of their skin. Lafayette even wrote a letter to George Washington, encouraging him to liberate his slaves.

Lafeyette spent the rest of his life in France dealing with its own revolution, but being an noble, he worked to find ways that the common people and the monarchy, the king, could work toward a better country. He lived through the French Revolution and later the rule of the general and dictator, Napoleon Bonaparte. He spent the later part of his life running his farm, far away from city and government life, much like his hero and father figure, George Washington. 

When Lafeyette was 67, he made his final visit to the United States. There he visited the grave of George Washington and spent time with Thomas Jefferson who was now 81, near the end of his life. His spoke to congress and once again toured the states where he was welcome as a hero. While at Bunker Hill, one of the battle sites of the War of Independence, he asked his son to gather up a scoop of dirt. 

After returning to France, in 1834, Lafayette passed away and was buried using some of the dirt he had collected at Bunker Hill.

Spend some time thinking about what it might have been like to be Lafayette. He was born with much wealth and privilege. He could have just stayed in France and enjoyed is money, but during the War for Independence, he went against the wishes of his family and government and used his own money to travel to the colonies and help in their fight for freedom. Think about what it means to be brave? Can you think of a time when you had to be brave? It’s not always easy. But often when we take the leap and do something that’s not easy, we grow and become stronger. That’s one of the only ways to become stronger, to do hard things that require bravery. I believe you can do hard things! I believe that you can be brave!

The Red Baron For Kids

Close your eyes and imagine you’re sitting in the cockpit of an airplane. Its a World War 1-era biplane with an open cockpit and a propeller spinning in front of you, pulling you high above the clouds. You wear a pilot’s helmet and goggles and look left and right to the see your friend’s planes flying nearby you. Below the countryside is green and lush. Above you the sun is shining brightly. You’ve been flying for a while now, searching the area of enemy planes. You check your fuel and altitude, make a small adjustment and then decide to look up. You sun blocks you view and see something dark coming toward you. It’s an enemy plane! You wave you hand and motion to the other pilots. Then you hear the engines of the planes as they shoot down toward you. You bank to the left as a plane races by, nearly hitting you. You watch as it dives down and then curves up, turning toward you. The plane is bright red with black crosses on it. Instantly, you recognize it as the plane of the famous German fighting ace, The Red Baron!

The Red Baron’s real name was Manfred, and he was born May 2nd 1892 in Breslau, Prussia which is now known as the country of Poland. His full name was Manfred Albrecht Freiherr von Richthofen! Quite the name, right? The “Freiherr” part of his name means “Free Lord,” which means his family was wealthy and had power in their community, also called aristocrats. Because his family was wealthy, which is another word for “rich”, he had lots of time to do his favorite things like explore the woods around his home, play sports, ride horses, and hunt. He and his brothers learned how to use and take care of guns from a young age. Hunting quickly became one of Manfred’s favorite pastimes. In the woods around their home he and his younger brothers hunted wild boar, elk, birds and deer and Manfred became very good at it. 

He was taught at home until he was 11, when he moved away to a military school in Berlin, Germany, which was common for children his age born into wealthy families. There he became a cadet. At the age of 18, he became a very good horseman and joined a cavalry unit, which is made up of soldiers who ride horses. 

At this time World War I was waging in Europe. This war was fought primarily between Germany and Great Britain and France. But Austria-Hungary, Russia, the United States, Italy, Japan and Austria-Hungary had also taken sides. The battles in France were fought mostly in trenches, which were long holes dug into the ground where each side fired at each other from a distance. It was one of the first major wars in which machines were used such as machine guns, tanks, and airplanes. It was a very tragic war and many lives were lost on both sides.

Manfred was in the army, but because most of the fighting was in trenches his horseman skills weren’t needed, so he spent most of his time running errands. Daily, he watched airplanes taking off and fighting in aerial battles. Only 11 years before World War I, two brothers, Orville and Wilbur Wright, invented one of the first airplanes that could fly for a longer distance. Their first flight took place in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. The Wright Brothers and others took what they learned and soon were creating airplanes that could fly very fast and very high. These were the airplanes Mandred saw. He was amazed by them and wanted to be a pilot himself.

Like any new skill, flying took time for Manfred to learn. He first flew with a more experienced pilot and then as an observer, someone who watches out for enemy planes. Over time he learned how to fly on his own. The airplanes during World War I look very different from the planes you are used to seeing today. They used a propeller to give them thrust and had two (or three) sets of wings, above and below each other, to give the planes lift. The pilot’s head stuck out of the top and in battle a machine gun was mounted in front of the pilot.

By 1915, Manfred or Baron Manfred von Richthofen (his full name), was a certified fighter pilot. Through 1916 he flew air missions against his country’s enemy, which was Great Britain, France, and the United States at the time. He joined a group of skilled fighter pilots called the Fighter Squadron. Manfred won his first battle against an enemy fighter plane on September 17, 1916. This is called a “dogfight” and ends when one pilot shoots down another. 

Before long, Manfred was one of the best fighter pilots for Germany, also known as an “ace.” He received many awards for his skill and bravery. His brother Lothar also became a fighter pilot. Lother was known for being more risky and aggressive, but Manfred’s style was to be more careful and direct. One of his best strategies was to fly between his opponent and the sun, so the sun would block their view and they wouldn’t be able to see him coming.

In 1917 Manfred von Richthofen started painting his plane red, so it would be recognized by enemy pilots. His enemies started calling him “The Red Baron.” Baron is the name given to someone in Prussia who is nobility or an aristocrat. The other fighter pilots in The Red Baron’s fellow pilots (including his younger brother) started painting their planes different, bright colors. For this reason others started calling them “The Flying Circus.” During the war, Manfred shot down more than 80 other airplanes, more than any other pilot on both sides during the war. 

During an air battle in July 1917 he was hit and for a few minutes was unable to see. His plane started to spiral downward, but once he regained his vision, he levelled it out and was able to land safely. He was quickly taken to the hospital and had surgery. He returned to flying a few months later, but continued to have headaches and feel sick from the wounds he received. 

Manfred became a fighter pilot because it looked thrilling and exciting. Growing up in military school he had been taught that fighting battles was a good thing and would bring his family honor. He was very good at what he did and believed it was a good thing. But people who knew Manfred also saw that war caused him pain. Whether this was because he lost friends or from harming others we don’t know exactly. But during war he saw and did terrible things and some believe deep down he wasn’t proud of it. 

Manfred often described his experiences as a pilot and once wrote: 

“I am in wretched spirits after every aerial combat. I believe that [the war] is not as the people at home imagine it, with a hurrah and a roar; it is very serious, very grim.”

He also saw that the war was going nowhere and realized that his side was going to lose. It made him wonder if being a fighter pilot was the right thing. But Germany used The Red Baron’s fame and wrote books and articles about him and often said many things that were untrue to keep their people excited about the war. This often happens with both sides during a war and is called propaganda.

On April 21, 1918 The Red Baron was chasing a British plane over the Somme River in France, when the plane of his cousin came under attack. Manfred pulled away to try and help his cousin. When he did this he and his plane were shot and he went down during a battle. He was only 25 at the time and didn’t survive. The news about The Red Baron travelled around the world and he’d go down in history as the most skilled fighter pilot of World War I and one of the most famous aces of all time. Many books and movies have since been made about The Red Baron and his prowess as a fighter pilot.

From this story we learn that war is a common but tragic part of history that takes place when countries don’t find ways to work through their problems but turn to violence instead. The better way is for countries to meet together and come to agreements about how problems can be settled rather than going to war. In some cases, arguments can be made for war, particularly when countries are defending themselves or trying to help another country, but it’s always better if conflicts can be worked out other, more peaceful ways. War at first often seems exciting for the young soldiers and pilots involved, but the things they experience can result in painful feelings, such as the ones The Red Baron felt when he lost close friends in battle.  

Sitting Bull for Kids

Close your eyes and imagine you are in the middle of a battle in the American wilderness. All around you, American soldiers dressed in stiff blue jackets load their guns and fire at the enemy. Running at them are Native American warriors dressed in loin cloths and leather. They are yelling and charging the soldiers with weapons raised. They clash in battle and fight ferociously. Around you echo the sounds of metal clashing on metal, gunfire, and people crying out. Then as you turn around, your eye catches a peaceful sight.  There in the middle of the fight scene sits a Native man with his legs crossed.  He peacefully packs a pipe full of tobacco and lights in on fire.  He sits silently and smokes while men fight all around him.  This man is one of the famous American Indians, Sitting Bull. 

Sitting Bull was born around 1831. He was one of the Hunkpapa people, a Lakota Sioux tribe that lived in the Great Plains area in what is now known as North and South Dakota. When he was born his family called him “Jumping Badger”.  

Later, his parents changed his name.  He was quiet and deliberate and they didn’t think “Jumping Badger” fit him.  Deliberate means careful and cautious.  His parents gave him the nickname “Slow” instead and he was called this as a child. 

Slow’s father was the chief, which meant someday he would be the chief of his people. When he turned 10, “Slow” killed his first buffalo. Hunting buffalo was very dangerous, but the tribe depended on buffalo for their meat for survival. They ate their meat and used their skins for clothes and shelter. Slow’s family was proud of his first buffalo kill and celebrated to honor him. When he was 14, “Slow” and others from his tribe snuck into an enemy tribe’s village and stole food and other items. This is called a “raid” and was common for tribes in the Great Plains to fight and steal things from each other for survival. Because of “Slow’s” bravery during the raid, his father gave up his own name and gave it to his son.  From then on, “Slow” became known as Tatanka-Iyotanka, or “Sitting Bull.” 

Around this time, the government of the United States wanted settlers to move into the western states even though Sitting Bull’s people already lived there. To settle means to make a permanent home. This meant that Sioux Lakota tribes would have to leave and find a new place to live even though they had lived on these lands for man years.

But Sitting Bull and his family refused to leave and fought against the U.S. government and the people who tried to take over their land. The government sent the army to fight Sitting Bull and his people.  As a young man, Sitting Bull became famous for his fighting skills and people all over the United States heard about him and became afraid of the stories about him. 

In 1872 the Northern Pacific Railroad was trying to build a railroad across the United States. It ran through Sitting Bulls land, so he and the Sioux people were determined to block it. When they did, the U.S. Army was called in to try to remove them and the conflict quickly turned into a battle.  During the battle, Sitting Bull, who was now a middle-aged chief, walked out into the middle of the field where they were fighting and sat down in front of the U.S. soldiers. He invited several other tribesmen to join him.  Sitting Bull and his friends sat in the field and had a long, slow smoke from his tobacco pipe while watching people battling all around him. Legend says that after finishing his pipe, Sitting Bull carefully cleaned it and then walked off, without showing any fear. He was very brave!

During the 1860s, Sitting Bull continued to fight against settlers encroaching on Sioux land.  He and his tribesmen attacked white military outposts and stole livestock, or farm animals, or attacked the soldiers living there. Sitting Bull’s group of men was brave, but he knew that it wouldn’t be enough to keep back the U.S army. So he went and spoke to leaders of other tribes nearby and together, they worked as one group, the Lakota Sioux. They decided to just have one leader and in 1869, Sitting Bull became their new leader.  The group continued to grow and by the mid 1870s, the group also included warriors from the Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes. 

Even though Sitting Bull is mostly remembered as a warrier, he was also a type of holy man.  He was believed to have the gift of prophecy, or the ability to see the future. Sitting Bull once had a vision or dream that the Sioux people were soon going to have a great victory in battle.  Shortly after that, the prophecy came true. 

In 1876, a Lieutenant Colonel by the name of George A. Custer’s and his soldiers rode out against the Sioux to battle. They were known as the Seventh Cavalry. They attacked Sitting Bull and his warriors, but they were inspired by Sitting Bull’s vision and even though they were outnumbered by Custer’s army, the Sioux people won the battle against over 200 soldiers. This became known as the Battle of Little Bighorn. 

Sitting Bull’s nephew, White Bull, and another warrior named Crazy Horse fought bravely at the Battle of Little Bighorn and became famous for their victory against Custer and the Seventh Cavalry.

But of course, the U.S. Army was not happy about losing the battle. Instead of backing down, they sent an army of twice as many soldiers to fight Sitting Bull. They wanted to push the Native (or First Nations) people off of the land and force them onto reservations. Reservations were an area of land set aside for them to live on instead of the land the settlers wanted. 

Sitting Bull refused to leave his own land and move to the reservations.  Instead, in May 1877, he led a group of his people to Canada where he spent four years hiding out.  Sadly though, the buffalo in the area disappeared. Because buffalo are what his people needed to survive they almost starved.  Sitting Bull and his people left their camp in Canada and moved back to the United States.  A few years later their camp was attacked and Sitting Bull and his followers surrendered to the U.S. army in North Dakota. 

By this time, Sitting Bull was now an older man.  He spent two years in prison and later was sent to live on a reservation at Standing Rock. He lived on that reservation for the rest of his life. 

Sitting Bull was famous when he got out of prison.  Many people heard stories about his fighting skills and admired him for his bravery.  When they met him they were willing to pay $2 just for his autograph.  He got permission to leave the reservation to go on tour as his own exhibition, or entertainment show.

When Sitting Bull was at a stopover in Minnesota, he saw a show starring Annie Oakley, the famous sharp shooter. Sitting Bull was very impressed with her gun shooting skills. He introduced himself and he and Annie Oakley became friends.  He gave her the nickname “Little Sure Shot” and called her his daughter.  Rumour has it that Sitting Bull gave Annie Oakley the pair of moccasins he had worn during the Battle of the Little Bighorn as a gift.

In June 1885, the showman William “Buffalo Bill” Cody hired Sitting Bull to perform in his famous “Wild West” show. Sitting Bull was paid $50 a week to wear his full chief’s war attire and ride a horse during the show’s opening scene. Sitting Bull considered the job an easy way to earn money and help audiences learn about his people and how difficult their lives had become.  But some audience members didn’t like Sitting Bull because they knew he had killed white soldiers during battle. Sometimes, audiences cruelly boo-ed Sitting Bull and threw things at him. 

Sitting Bull soon got tired of traveling and some of the mean crowds.  And he missed his family.  So he left the tour for good after its final show in October.

Beginning in 1889, many Native American (or First Nations) people started talking about a religion called the “Ghost Dance”.  These people believed that a spirit was going to come to earth and remove white people from the area where they lived, allowing the Indians to return to their old ways. U.S. Authorities started to worry that Sitting Bull was going to use the Ghost Dance movement to lead a group of Indian people to war against the white people.  They always knew that Sitting Bull resisted, or refused to follow, white traditions.  So they believed he was likely to get involved and lead this movement against white people.  

On December 15, 1890, police were sent to arrest Sitting Bull and bring him in for questioning.  Sitting Bull, who was 59 at the time, refused to go with them.  So the policemen dragged him from his cabin.  The noise and commotion caused a large group of Sitting Bull’s followers to come to see what was going on.  One of them fired a shot at the policemen, setting off a brief gun battle. In the confusion that followed, more than a dozen people were killed including Sitting Bull.

Sitting Bull had many hard experiences in his life and there is a lot that we can learn from him.  He showed great bravery from a young age while hunting and in battle. He was also able to stay very calm under stress and pressure. Have you ever practiced trying to stay calm when you feel afraid or angry?  What works well for you?  I know it helps me to take deep breaths and try and clear my thoughts. Sometimes if I go outside or take a walk that helps, too. Reacting to stress that way is much better than yelling or calling names or other things we later regret. It’s completely normal to feel upset. I do all the time. The question is how we will deal with those feelings. Sitting Bull showed us that even in intense situations, we can be calm. 

Sitting Bull also fought for what he believed in and stayed close to his family and his tribe. Even when they were threatened and told to leave their lands, he refused. He put himself in great danger to try and save his people. Sticking up for yourself and your family is a very noble thing to do. Think of what you can do to take care of your family and the community in which you live. Like Sitting Bull, we can all be leaders in our communities and families if we stick up for what we believe and for our loved ones. 

The History of the Spanish Armada and Queen Elizabeth for Kids

Close your eyes and imagine you are a farmer living in England long ago. Your family is poor, but you all work hard to make sure you have enough food to eat everyday. Everyone is outside and working on the farm. Your dog is running around and playing. The land around you is green and beautiful. The ocean is nearby and the air is salty with its smell. Suddenly your dog begins to bark. You look up. He is running toward the ocean and barking. In the distance you see the white sails of a very big ship. You drop your tools and follow everyone to the water. More ships appear through the fog. Now there are dozens of ships and soon hundreds of ships. It’s the largest armada of ships you have ever seen and their sails have the red cross of Spain. Because it’s Spain, the enemy of England, you know this can’t be good! The Spanish Armada has come ready for an invasion.

In the 1800s Spain was one of the most powerful countries in the world. It was called “the empire on which the sun never sets,” because Spain had conquered and controlled many places across the globe including the Americas and the Caribbean. The Spanish Empire was one of the first world empires. It was ruled by King Phillip the 2nd, who wasn’t afraid to use his large navy of ships and his army to make Spain more powerful. But by the 1850s other countries in Europe were beginning to challenge Spain’s world power. One of those countries was England. England was a small island, but was beginning to strengthen its own navy and grow in power. It was led by Queen Elizabeth, the daughter of Henry the 8th. She was a strong queen who wasn’t afraid to go up against King Phillip, even though in many ways Spain was bigger and stronger. Queen Elizabeth wanted to beat Spain, but couldn’t take them head on, because they’d lose in a traditional battle, so instead she worked with privateers to attack Spanish ships. “Privateers” were similar to pirates, but they usually had the permission of someone powerful like a king or queen. A daring sailor named Sir Francis Drake became Queen Elizabeth’s favorite privateer. 

Sir Francis Drake was born in Plymouth, England in 1596. At a young age he started working with his relatives, the Hawkins Family, who were merchants, which means they shipped and traded goods by boat. During one of the voyages to San Juan their ships were attacked by Spain and Drake barely made it back to England alive. To get revenge, Drake began finding ways to get back at Spain by plundering its ships and attacking their settlements around the world — places like the Carribean, where Spain owned land and kept its money. 

Sir Francis Drake was very adventurous and was determined to sail his ships all the way around the world. Ferdindand Megallan had done it first in 1519, but Drake believed he could do it again. With the help of Queen Elizabeth Drake set off with 5 ships and 200 sailors. From the start the journey did not go well. Many sailors died and they had to scuttle some of the ships, which means sink them and leave them behind. Some of his sailors also mutineed, which means they wanted to be in control of the voyage instead of him. 

When Drake and his sailors reached South America, they took advantage of the situation to get back at Spain. They attacked Spanish settlements and ships and filled their ships with bars of gold and silver, pearls, Spanish silver coins and precious stones. But as they continued on they encountered more problems while crossing the Pacific Ocean. Drake and his sailors didn’t know if they would survive, but they kept going, against all odds, and after 2 years of sailing around the world returned to England with only 1 ship remaining and 56 sailors! In England Queen Elizabeth congratulated Drake for completing the voyage and made him a knight.

King Phillip of Spain was angry at Queen Elizabeth and Sir Francis Drake for attacking his settlements and ships. He was also upset because they were helping the Netherlands in his war with them. For this reason King Phillip decided to put them in their place by sending an armada of his ships to attack England. An armada is a large group (or fleet of warships). Once the armada landed its troops they would invade England, take control, and remove Queen Elizabeth from power. On May 28th 1588, the Spanish Armada set sail for England. The armada was HUGE! with 130 warships, 8,000 sailors and 13,000 soldiers. It took two full days for all of the ships to leave port.

Fortunately for the English, storms and other bad weather slowed the ships from attacking and some had to turn back to Spain. But by July the huge armada of Spanish ships could be seen off the coast of England. You can imagine what the people of England thought when they saw this armada coming to invade their country! 

But England wasn’t going down without a fight! When the armada arrived the English ships were armed and ready for battle. Sir Francis Drake was captain of his ship called The Revenge. The English had more ships, but they were smaller with less firepower. In many ways it looked like they would lose to the bigger and more powerful Spain. The first cannon fired! Explosions thundered across the water. Black smoke and the smell of gunpowder filled the air. Sailors loaded the cannons with gunpowder and shoved a cannonball in the front. Then they aimed at the enemy ship and fired! To Spain’s surprise the English ships were smaller, but much faster! 

They dodged around the huge Spanish galleons and took shots at them from all sides. The Spanish cannons couldn’t keep up with them. Spain’s tactic would be to get as close as they could, throw hooks onto the other ship, pull them close, and climb aboard and fight hand-to-hand. But the English knew they couldn’t win that battle, so they kept their distance and fired from afar. The English cannons shot much further, so they were able to hit the Spanish ships from far away.

During one battle two Spanish ships accidentally crashed into each other, so they were unusable. All of the sailors climbed onto another ship and left these ships behind. Drake noticed the abandoned ships, so that night he turned off all his lanterns on his ship and sailed past the enemy ships through the darkness. Then he snuck onto the abandoned ships and took all of the extra gunpowder and guns to be used in the next day’s battle.

The battle continued through the following days. Ships on each side fired their cannon. Sailors reloaded the cannons, waited for their captains word, and fired. More explosions and black smoke. Ships were damaged on both sides, but the English kept fighting. From the ocean they could see their island home they loved and would not back down. Soon their allies the Dutch joined in and fired their cannons at the Spanish armada, too.

After one day’s battle, the Spanish took a rest for the night and anchored their ships closely together. This gave Sir Francis Drake and the other captains an idea. They picked out eight of their ships and filled them with pitch, brimstone, gunpowder and tar. This made them very flammable. Then they lit the ships on fire and sailed them directly at the Spanish ships. When the Spanish saw the flaming ships sailing toward them they panicked and quickly got to work moving their own. Fortunately for the Spanish, none of their own ships were burned, but it did break their formation giving the English an advantage. 

The next day was a long and dangerous battle. Throughout the day the English had the advantage with their small, quick ships which fired from long range and badly damaged the Spanish ships. During the battle, many sailors were lost on both sides. 

A broadside is when a ship pulls alongside another ship and opens fire. The English did this all day long until the Spanish ships were badly damaged and couldn’t fight back. The Spanish knew they were beat and by the end of the day finally retreated. This famous battle became known as the Battle of Gravelines and went down in history as the day that the powerful Spanish Armada was defeated. No longer would Spain rule the seas and the world with its powerful navy. 

After the battle was over, Queen Elizabeth dressed in armor and rode out to congratulate the sailors for their victory. She told them that the strength of England lie in its people, and that they would never bow down to an invading enemy. Instead they would take up arms and fight for their freedoms. 

England won because of its faster, lighter ships and its long range cannons. Their ship engineers, called shipwrights, continued to design faster ships and better cannons. Over time they became the most powerful navy in the world and like Spain before, became a world-wde empire known as the British Empire. 

History of Athens and Sparta for Kids

Greek Parthenon

Close your eyes and imagine you’re walking down an ancient, stone road. In the distance, you hear music and the voices of people gathering and singing songs. You join the crowd along the road and slowly walk up a very tall hill. At the top of the hill is a magnificent white building supported by gigantic marble pillars. People are streaming into the building as they clap their hands, sing and celebrate. Inside the temple, you gaze up at an enormous statue of Athena, the greek god who protects your city. You place a wreath of flowers and food at her feet as an offering. Others around you do the same. Today is Panathenia, the festival celebrating Athena’s birthday. It’s the most important holiday of the year in the city of Athens.

Tonight we’re going to learn about Athens and Sparta, two of the earliest civilizations in Western History. Athens and Sparta were located in what is now known as Greece in Europe on the Mediterranean Sea. 

Around 2,500 years ago Greece had over 1,000 city-states. A city-state was like a very small country. Athens and Sparta were two of the most powerful. At the time the Persian Empire controlled Greece and many of the city-states. But the Greek city-states wanted to be free of Persian rule, so they went to war and eventually beat the Persians during the Battle of Marathon. After the Greco-Persian War Athens and Sparta grew in number of people and in wealth.

Even though they lived nearby each other, the people of Athens and Sparta couldn’t be more different. The people of Athens were known for their love of wisdom and subjects such as philosophy, history, science, and art. The word philosophy is a Greek word that means “love of wisdom.” The earliest and most famous philosophers like Socrates, Plato and Aristotle were Greek. They spent their days studying the world around them and reflecting on their own thoughts. One of Socrates most famous quotes was an “unexamined life is not worth living,” which means we should focus on trying to understand our own thoughts and motivations and trying to make sense of the world around us. Inscribed on the Temple of Delphi were the words: “know thyself.” As we come to understand our own minds and intentions, we can improve ourselves and likewise the world around us. The philosopher Aristotle was known for studying nature and making observations about it. He was fascinated by the world around him. 

During its Golden Age Athens formed one of the first democratic governments, which means large groups of people made decisions for their city-state rather than a single ruler. This style of government was ahead of its time and later influenced the democratic governments we enjoy today, ruled by the people instead of a king. One of their leaders was named Pericles. Pericles was a talented speaker who loved wisdom and was known for thinking rationally, which means making decisions based on truth rather than strong emotions. The people loved Pericles and he led them to make good decisions for Athens. Most children were able to attend school and taxes were used to make the city a better place. The Athenians built beautiful temples to the Greek gods. The Parthenon was the most famous temple whose ruins can still be seen today on Acropolis Hill. Inside the Parthenon, they built sculptures of the goddess Athena and Zeus, the god of sky and thunder. 

The Athenians wrote stories about their gods, which became known as Greek Mythology. Each of the gods had personalities and behaved like humans. Sometimes they were angry, sometimes they were happy, and even threw parties. In the stories, the gods fought wars and often used humans to do the fighting for them. The Athenians used their gods to explain acts of nature like hurricanes and the crash of thunder. The stories often also included moral stories to teach how people should behave. Some of the other well-known gods were Poseidon, god of the sea, Hera, goddess of marriage and family, and Ares, god of war. 

The theater was also very popular in Athens. The people loved to gather and watch plays and listen to songs and music. Some of the great playwrights of the time were Sophocles, Euripedes, Aeschylus (ES-kul-us), and Aristophane. 

The Athenians loved art and wisdom, but to protect themselves and secure their freedoms, they also built a powerful navy. A navy was important because Greece was located on the Mediterranean Sea and surrounded by islands and other coastal city-states, which often attacked each other. Athen’s navy was made up of triremes (tri-remes), huge wooden warships that carried 170 rowers manning 3 banks of oars. The ships were 100 feet long and 20 feet wide. At one point Athens had over 400 warships and 80,000 sailors that protected their coasts. All young men joined the military when they were 18.

Athens wasn’t the only powerful city-state in Greece at the time. Sparta was another very powerful city-state, but they couldn’t be more different than their neighbors. The Spartans were ruled by two kings and a small group of leaders who controlled the people by force. They prized military strength above all else. They were all about being strong and dangerous — a true warrior society. At the age of 7, Spartans joined a military school called the Agoge (ah-go-gey), that trained to be tough and fierce. They went everywhere barefoot, so their feet could be strong. They ate bland food and wore uncomfortable clothes to toughen them. They learned how to wrestle and fight as soldiers. They were taught self-control and to be courageous in the face of danger. All Spartans were expected to devote their lives to their city-state above all their personal wants and needs.

Sparta was made up of three groups: the Spartans, who were full citizens and full-time soldiers, the Helots, who were slaves to the Spartans, and the Perioeci (peer-ee-oh-see), skilled craftsmen who built things such as homes and weapons of war.

Spartan soldiers were called hoplites. In battle, they wore bronze helmets, breastplates, and red cloaks. They carried large round shields, and a spear or sword. They were truly fierce warriors and were known for their tight fighting formation called a phalanx. In a phalanx, hoplites stood close together with their shields overlapping to form a single wall of armor. Then they attacked together as one body. 

One of the most famous Spartans was King Leonidas, who led his army against the Persians in the Battle of Thermopylae. According to Greek historians, when Leonidas saw they were losing he sent most of his troops home, but stayed with 300 soldiers to fight a much larger army of Persians for three days. Leonidas and the other Spartans fought bravely, but the Persians found a way around them and eventually won. Even though Leonidas and his army lost, they would forever be remembered for their courage to continue fighting even when they were outnumbered.  

Spartan women were known for being strong-minded and independent. They were also expected to be fit and physically strong. They received some education and competed in games such as javelin throwing and wrestling. They also enjoyed dancing and singing and were able to own their own property, which wasn’t common in other parts of Greece.

Sadly, Sparta and Athens didn’t get along. As they grew more powerful, Athens tried to control the other city-states like Sparta, who wouldn’t stand for it. In 431 B.C. Sparta and its allies attacked Athens in what became known as The Peloponnesian War. Athens had a strong navy, but Sparta was stronger on land and besieged Athens. A siege is when one army surrounds the city of its enemy. During the siege a plague also hit Athens and many of its people didn’t survive, making the city even weaker. Surprisingly, Athens survived the siege, but the war went on another 15 years. Athens tried to use its navy to beat Sparta, but in 405 B.C. the Spartan general Lysander and his armies finally beat Athen’s navy and besieged the city once again. This time they conquered. Athens had to surrender and join the new Spartan Empire. 

Eventually Sparta faced its own problems, like the revolt of its slave class who didn’t want to be ruled anymore. By around 300 B.C. the more powerful empire of Alexander the Great conquered Greece and the Sparta, too. 

Even though Athens lost the war against Sparta, their ideas about philosophy and history and science and art spread throughout Greece and beyond. Later the Roman Empire admired Greek thought and culture and it’s beautiful sculptures were admired through the ages. During the Renaissance Greek culture was rediscovered by the Italians and once again the philosophy of Socrates and Plato was read. In fact, you can read their writings today and they have formed the foundation of modern philosophy.

Tonight think about the values of each of these amazing groups of people. Neither were perfect, but you can take what is best about them and apply it to your own life. The Athenians loved the mind and wisdom. What does it mean to you to “know yourself”? Spend some time thinking about your own thoughts and why you do things or maybe why you were upset about something the other day. As you come to know yourself first, you can better manage yourself, and in turn help those around you.

Also think about Aristotle and how curious he was about the world around him. He studied every living thing he saw: the sky, the trees, the birds and other animals. He made observations about them and continued learning and sharing his ideas with others. 

The Greeks loved beauty and found ways to express it through their sculptures. You could do the same by drawing beautiful things around you.

The Spartans were dangerous and aggressive, but we can take their values of courage, strength and apply them to ourselves. Spartan children didn’t always get what they wanted, this taught them to have self-control. Sometimes when we get everything we want, we don’t appreciate things as much. They also found ways to strengthen their bodies by running and swimming and doing sports. It’s important to keep your own body strong and healthy. Think of ways you can be physically fit like a Spartan.

Spartans also had courage and continued to fight even when they were outnumbered. The struggles you face may not always be physical, it may just be a problem you’re trying to solve or something you’re trying to be better at, but you can continue trying and persevering even when it seems like you can’t win.

May you have the mind and heart of an Athenian and the strength and courage of a Spartan!