Thursday, July 3, 2014

Planting Patriotism into the Hearts of Our Children

"Freedom must be purchased anew by each generation."
-(Declaration of Dependence: Teaching Patriotism in the Home, Robert K. Thomas and Shirley Wilkes Thomas, 1976).

I have spent a fair amount of time thinking about and studying freedom and patriotism lately with the upcoming Fourth of July.  In fact we have spent the whole last month learning about it in Mommy School to prepare for the holiday!  My kids love it!  

Our decorations began to go up on Memorial Day (a tradition I've decided to begin this year) and won't go down until the end of July!  I want my children to be prepared to celebrate the Independence Day of the United States of America with understanding, knowledge, appreciation, and excitement!  Thus, this blog post to help others do the same!  I hope many of you will find it useful!

(A note to my international readers, I believe many of these concepts apply to people all over the world regardless of the nation in which you live, so read on and apply to your own home and nation!  It is my prayer that you may find these helpful as well!)

"Citizenship may be more than a matter of birth or formal naturalization. For unless one truly promotes the common welfare of his country, he is an alien in the oldest sense of that term—that is, estranged from his fellows. Citizenship is a declaration of dependence upon one another, a recognition that only in unity is there strength and a security that is moral as well as physical. The natural expression of that identification and that security is patriotism."
-(Declaration of Dependence: Teaching Patriotism in the Home, Robert K. Thomas and Shirley Wilkes Thomas, 1976). 

Six Ways to Teach Patriotism to Your Children

1. Teach by Example
I owe so much of the patriotism that I feel within my heart to my Father, who has a deeper love and appreciation for his country and constitution than anyone I have ever met.  The loyalty in his heart and the tears in his eyes when we speaks of the freedoms we enjoy, and the patriots of the past who sacrificed so much for us to have those great gifts, have moved me many times throughout my life.  As a college student, I had the opportunity to visit Washington D.C. with my parents, and learning from my dad there is an experience I will treasure my whole life through.  I only wish he could have accompanied me on the two-week Patriots and Pioneers tour I did a few years after that!!  I am deeply thankful to him for the love and appreciation he has given me for the freedoms I enjoy and the blood that was shed, and continues to be lost, for me and my family to maintain the way of life to which I have become accustomed.  I only hope and pray that I can distill that love and those blessings upon my own children and the generations to come.

2. Put Family First
So often we think we have to go looking for projects or a great cause to make the world a better place.  However, in reality, as the poet William Ross Wallace so beautifully wrote, "...the hand that rocks the cradle, is the hand that rules the world!"  And as many of us know, "No other success can compensate for failure in the home!" --David O. McKay

"The heart of patriotism...lies in attitudes that are rooted in family relationships, for the family unit, in microcosm, undergoes most of the stresses which test the larger societies that make up a nation. The qualities that distinguish patriotism are all of the “homely” variety: respect, integrity, loyalty, self-sacrifice, consideration, fairness, appreciation, and devotion. No exhortation to respect his country’s flag can mean much to the youngster whose casual, permissive upbringing has left him with little respect for anything. And the child who equates freedom with indulgence may never understand the consideration for others that is fundamental to a workable democracy."
-(Declaration of Dependence: Teaching Patriotism in the Home, Robert K. Thomas and Shirley Wilkes Thomas, 1976).

3. Practice Values that Define Patriots...
At Home!
How can we ever expect to raise patriotic children who are good citizens of the community, if they don't learn and practice values at home?  The home and family are the foundation of our nation.  This is what our Founding Fathers gave their all for.  Lives have been lost and sacrifices have been made time and time again, not to preserve gold and silver, but to protect and enrich the family and thus the community at large!  That's where it all begins and what it's  really all about!
"When we are able to make each family member feel equally loved and equally important—and we do this by acknowledging the smallest contribution and honoring the greatest need—we all develop a concept of loyalty and concern that will transfer easily from home to country. If, in the family, we have learned to be tolerant of difference and generous in judgment, we find it easier to work with others outside the family circle in democratic goodwill. Research in child development suggests that cooperation and concern for others are usually learned before children begin the first grade. If they are not learned in the home, they will be hard to find in the school yard, on the campus, or on the job."
-(Declaration of Dependence: Teaching Patriotism in the Home, Robert K. Thomas and Shirley Wilkes Thomas, 1976).

4. Serve Together
“Patriotism is more than flag-waving and fireworks. If we ask only, ‘What’s in this proposal for me?—What do I get out of it?’—we are not patriotic and we are not good citizens. But if we ask, ‘Is this right?—is it good for the … people?—would it preserve and strengthen our freedom?’—then we deserve to stand in the company of [great patriots]. Patriotism is trying always to give more to the Nation than we receive. It is selfless service” (Ezra Taft Benson, 1962).

Telling our children to help others is not enough.  Ideals are not enough.  We must work right alongside them, showing them that we practice what we preach!  There are a million ways to serve both inside and outside the home, and it is this selflessness that supports the ideals of America.  The Founding Fathers did not create this nation for themselves, but for their posterity!  These great men who could have been kings of a new land, chose instead to think of the future and sacrificed so much, not for themselves, but for us!

5. Take Them "There"
Not everyone is blessed to stand on Plymouth Rock, walk the battlegrounds of Gettysburg, pace the halls of the Capital Building, or to walk the trek of the pioneers to the west.  However, we can take our children to these places so easily through books, family history stories, videos, and the Internet!  The possibilities for virtual field trips are endless these days in our world of technology!  We cannot expect our children to appreciate the gift of freedom if they don't understand the cost.  They need to experience the sacrifices that have been made for them.  Let those great people of the past and the stories that shaped our nation come to life in your home!  Their love and appreciation for this great land will sink deep into their hearts in a way that no lecture can ever truly do.

In addition to the Mommy School unit mentioned above for toddlers, here are some great lessons and fun activities to celebrate with your kids at most any age:

6. Sing Songs of Patriotism
There is a power in music that research has proven over and over again.  Aside from research, think of the lessons you learned as a child that you still remember.  Chances are you probably learned most of them through song!  The emotion that patriotic music invokes is hard to describe, especially when combined with the aforementioned teachings!  Additionally, teach ALL the verses to the National Anthem and other patriotic songs.  Who ever said that we should only sing the first verse anyways?  All it asks is a question...which you have to sing the other verses to get the answer to.  However, the last verse is the one with the message all Americans should remember!

Oh! thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved home and the war's desolation!
Blest with victory and peace, may the heav'n rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation.
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: "In God is our trust."
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

When I taught elementary school, I felt it VERY important to share these concepts with my students and practice them in our classroom.  I created the video below for us to watch every patriotic holiday I could think of!  Now, I feel greatly blessed to do the same, only at an even deeper level now with my own children. How very thankful I am to live in this beautiful land and enjoy the freedoms and blessings that have come because of our forefathers!  Let us always remember and honor them through our actions each and every day!  Please enjoy this video with your family as you celebrate this great nation.  

Here is the link to the amazing talk I got many of these quotes and ideas from as well:

Happy Independence Day!

CALVIN COOLIDGE: “Patriotism is easy to understand in America; it means looking out for yourself by looking out for your country.”
TEDDY ROOSEVELT: “This country will not be a good place for any of us to live in unless we make it a good place for all of us to live in.”
JFK: “My fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country. My fellow citizens of the world: ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man.”
RICHARD NIXON: “We must always remember that America is a great nation today not because of what government did for people but because of what people did for …. one another.”  This is patriotism.
GEORGE H.W. BUSH: “Use power to help people. For we are given power not to advance our own purposes…..but ….to serve people.”

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