When I count my blessings, right near the top of the list is the blessing of being an American citizen and the freedoms that come along with it. A knowledge of and gratitude for my country then is, naturally something I’d like to pass on to my children, and it seems natural and logical to teach this to my children during summer, around Independence Day. The problem is it’s summer and my to-do list seems to have sky-rocketed at the same time my motivation plummeted. I know I need and would like to set aside some time to talk about America, and it’s history, but doing so feels a little overwhelming.
So, this year, I’ve decided to figure out a few ways to teach my kids about America that involve as little of my time and preparation as possible. Here’s what I’ve come up with.
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Teach them the Pledge of Allegiance.
All of our school-aged kids know the Pledge of Allegiance because they repeat it in their classrooms, but I wanted to teach it to my younger two. We simply got out a little American flag, we already had, and I told them all I know about The Pledge of Allegiance. That took 30 seconds. So then we talked about why we do this and what the words mean, it was nice to be able to have my older kids set an example for and teach my younger ones on this.
Teach them about the symbols of our country.
Why is the flag red, white and blue? Why is the liberty bell important? These were some questions I didn’t know right away, but wish I did, so, to start off we watched this video:
We learned from watching this video that special songs are part of the symbols of our nation, so, we also sang “The Star Spangled Banner.”
We ended by watching this video from kid president that talked about being near some of our nation’s important symbols because he’s just fun.
Take them to visit a war memorial near you.
In most places we’ve lived there has been some sort of war tribute nearby. We don’t visit these often, but when we do we can’t help but feel we are on sacred ground. It is a great way to talk to kids about the sacrifices of others and why our freedom is so important. If you don’t know of a war memorial near you, you can check out this website where you can search for a local war memorial.
Write thank you notes to soldiers or veterans.
If you know someone who has served in the military it would be great to be able to write a letter to them personally. Since we don’t know anyone right now that is serving, we found an organization that sends care packages to troops currently deployed or veterans, called “Operation Gratitude”. You can check out their website here, they have specific instructions about what to write and not to write and what can go on the letter (no foam stickers or glitter for instance) so you’ll want to make sure you read it before starting, but their instructions really made this seem feasible for all of us.
Teach them about America’s history.
We got a show called Liberty’s Kids this year and have really enjoyed watching these together. This is a series with short episodes centered around important events in America’s history. In the first episode we learned about the Boston Tea Party. We had lots of good conversations throughout the show and afterwards.
I also like watching The Majestic. This is a movie that tells of a man who is mistaken for a MIA soldier after World War II. It is set during the McCarthur trials when people were being put on trial for being communists and has some pretty powerful reasons why this was not okay and also why it’s important we have people who are willing to fight for our freedoms.
Read a good book about America, one of the founding fathers or it’s history.
For my elementary school kids, I just checked out anything from the non-fiction section of the library about America that looked interesting. Like I said, motivation plummetted, but if you want to be a bit more purposeful or thoughtful about your books, you could check out this great list from “Mrs. Jone’s Creation Station.”
I did purposefully get a few books for my older kids, it gets a little trickier to just grab some books and hope for the best the older they get. Here are a few I would recommend.
Johnny Tremain by Esther Forbes: I remember reading and loving this as a young teenager, it made history come alive for me. It is about a young boy who gets caught up in the American Revolution.
Rush Revere and the First Patriots by Rush Limbaugh: This and other books by Rush Limbaugh tell of some of the key founders of our nation. I haven’t read them yet, but am excited to try.
Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson: Just finished this one and really enjoyed it. It was centered around the American Revolution, so I learned about that history, but it was also told from the perspective of a slave, so I also gained a greater empathy and understanding of that view point as well.
We’ve been learning about America’s history little by little via these methods and are learning and enjoying our time together despite my lack of motivation and preparation.
What about you? What are some simple ways you like to teach your kids about America?
Write it down in a journal, talk it over with a friend or leave a comment below or on Facebook.