Patriotism. It is the week of the 4th of July, after all.

In our home, the 4th of July is a big deal.  A really big deal.  It falls just behind Christmas and Thanksgiving on the spectrum of important holidays.  Just like the other two, it spills over and takes a week or two of focus and fun for us. Here are some of the things on which we spend time during our patriotic studies.  Many things listed here are studied at other times of the year as well.  In order to cover everything on this list, we do one year of patriotic study when the kids are young, and then add things to our curriculum plan to cover the items for older learners.

Early Elementary Years

Learn about our nation’s holidays

  • Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Birthday
  • President’s Day
  • George Washington’s Birthday
  • Abraham Lincoln’s Birthday
  • Memorial Day
  • Flag Day
  • Independence Day
  • Labor Day
  • Patriot Day
  • Columbus Day
  • Veteran’s Day
  • Thanksgiving

Learn patriotic songs and their stories

  • “America, the Beautiful”
  • “The Star-Spangled Banner”
  • “America (My Country ‘Tis of Thee)”
  • “The Battle Hymn of the Republic”
  • “Hymn of Thanksgiving”
  • “God Bless America”
  • “The Marine’s Hymn””Anchors Aweigh”
  • “You’re a Grand Old Flag”
  • “The Army Song”
  • “Hail to the Chief”

Learn American folk songs and their stories

  • “When Johnny Comes Marching Home”
  • “This Land Is Your Land”
  • “Yankee Doodle”
  • “Home On the Range”
  • “Turkey in the Straw”
  • “Carry Me Back To Old Virginny”
  • “Casey Jones”
  • “John Henry”
  • “Shenandoah”
  • “Clementine”
  • “The Erie Canal”
  • “I’ve Been Working On The Railroad”
  • “Yellow Rose of Texas”
  • “Hymn of Thanksgiving”
  • any song from the slave/freedom movement

Read patriotic poetry

Learn about those who helped create the United States of America (Ensure material is age-appropriate.  Save more disturbing details/stories for older age groups.)

  • pilgrims
  • Native Americans
  • Squanto
  • Sacagawea
  • Pocahontas
  • Sequoyah
  • pioneers/explorers
  • Christopher Columbus
  • William Penn
  • Lewis and Clark
  • pioneers of the Oregon Trail
  • Mormon Pioneers
  • founding fathers and other great Americans
  • George Washington
  • John and Abigail Adams
  • Benjamin Franklin
  • Patrick Henry
  • Betsy Ross
  • Paul Revere
  • Thomas Jefferson
  • James and Dolly Madison
  • Alexander Hamilton
  • Andrew Jackson
  • Daniel Webster
  • Abraham Lincoln
  • Davy Crockett
  • Daniel Boone
  • Robert E Lee
  • Wilbur and Orville Wright
  • family members of the past

Learn about the symbols of America

  • flag
  • symbolism of start and stripes
  • flag etiquette
  • attend a parade-practice proper flag ettiquette
  • uniforms of the military
  • bald eagle
  • The Statue of Liberty
  • Liberty Bell
  • Create an alphabet book of America
  • geography
  • people
  • Memorize “The Pledge of Allegiance”

Favorite resources

  • “Take Your Hat Off When The Flag Goes By” cd  (Brite Music)
  • “America Rock”
  • “I Love America” (Julie Kimber)

Favorite authors

  • Jean Fritz
  • Ingri and Edgar Parin D’Aulaire
  • Alice Dalgliesh
  • Lynne Cheney
  • Ann McGovern
  • William J. Bennett
  • Steven Kellogg-illustrator (re-tellings of folk tales)

Favorite series

  • Childhood of Famous Americans
  • If You Were There….
  • Meet…..
  • Picture Book of….
  • Little House on the Prairie

Later elementary years

Learn American folk songs and their stories

read about famous American composers

  • Stephen Foster
  • John Philip Sousa
  • Aaron Copeland
  • George Gershwin
  • Read patriotic poems
  • Rewrite the Pledge of Allegiance in today’s vernacular
  • Create patriotic works of art
  • murals
  • dioramas
  • works by famous American artists

Learn about the symbols of America

  • The Great Seal of the United States
  • Uncle Sam
  • The Liberty Bell
  • The White House

Learn about the basics of American Government

  • three branches of government
  • being a loyal citizen-rights and responsibilities
  • electoral system
  • Learn/memorize the Presidents of the United States

Create a time line for American history-add to it as you learn

Learn about those who helped create the United States of America

  • militia
  • current military
  • inventors

Learn about the documents of America

  • Mayflower Compact
  • The Declaration of Independence
  • The Constitution
  • Bill of Rights

Favorite authors/series

  • Jean Fritz
  • Genevieve Foster
  • Landmark Books
  • Childhood of Famous Americans
  • Eyewitness Books
  • Cornerstones of Freedom

Watch “A More Perfect Union: America Becomes A Nation”

Art project ideas

  • recreate a pilgrim or pioneer village from a shoe or cereal box
  • make a flag
  • use papier-mache to create a cornucopia, puppets, geographic location. or bust of a famous American
  • use clay to make a model of an important site
  • create a poster or mural on an American theme-as a family or individual

Secondary school years

  • Read patriotic poems
  • Write essays on topics of freedom, government, or the Constitution
  • Learn about the documents of America
  • The Mayflower Compact
  • The Articles of Confederation
  • The Bill of Rights
  • Gettysburg Address
  • Work through “The Making of America” (by Cleon Skousen) and workbook 1

Study the immigration of various ethnic groups

  • When did they come?
  • From where did they come?
  • What did they bring with them that we all now claim?
  • How can we show respect/acceptance for all?

Take a U. S. citizenship test.  How did you do?  What do you need to study in order to fill gaps?  How do you feel about your own citizenship?

Learn about the Abolition and Civil Rights Movements

Study the various types of government/judicial systems throughout history

Become involved in the political process

watch debates

learn about the election process

find ways to support a candidate or cause

visit local or national centers of government

Favorite authors/series

  • Albert Marin
  • Clarence B. Carson
  • Landmark books

Watch “April Morning”


  • Read “The Children’s Story” by James Clavell.  If you have older children, read it aloud to them, then talk about it.  We began the school year with this book once my children were all 9ish and above.
  • Familiarize yourself with the Constitution and other important documents
  • Have a flag in your home

Handcart list- fine arts

We live in pioneer country; this list is the result of a question posed to me by a friend.  “What books would you load into a handcart and push to Missouri if need be?”  While the list is a bit long for that actual event, it does represent the items without which I would feel lost as I teach.  This list contains my thoughts on why each item is on the list, and how I use them.  Remember each resource is a favorite because it lends itself to being used in different ways for different learners. This list focuses on fine arts and various ways to expand your studies.  (If you are unfamiliar with the learning levels, please refer to my blogs dated 2/26-28/2013.)

Discovery level-

  • Spiritual Lives of the Great Composers by Patrick Kavanaugh- tell the stories in this book as you listen to the music of each of the twenty composers about whom Kavanaugh writes.   The history of each is written in a style that makes a great read-aloud book.  No need to research, and compile.  He has done it for you.
  • Recordings of a variety of musical genres.  One good starting point can be Beethoven’s Wig volumes 1,2, and 3.  Beethoven’s Wig is a fun, easy introduction to classical music.  Each composition is on the cds twice, once with silly lyrics and once as it was meant to be played.  Love them!
  • Copies of visual art pieces.  Find calendars or other inexpensive resources for prints with the work of famous artists.  Dover Publishing has prints in 3×5 card form for art study.  The book Mommy, It’s A Renoir!  has activities to teach art appreciation to young people.
  • An art anthology (or two) with pieces of classic and religious art- You can study time periods, or individual artists; but make art study part of the exposure you give your children.   Lift their sights as they see the vast array of art created by gifted, inspired individuals.  (Classic art study is a good introduction to the ideas of celebrating the beauty of the  human form vs. form for arousal’s sake.  There is a difference.)
  • Various art media for experimentation-crayons, chalk, clay, pencils, paints.  There are so many great, messy ways to experience creating your own masterpiece.  Let them get in there and try a variety of methods.  They may well surprise you!  Try your hand at it too.  Make it family experience.

Analysis and Application levels-

  • Experience with playing a musical instrument- This can help with brain development, self-image, focus, and self-discipline.  Don’t set things in concrete for them.  Let them dabble a bit if they need.  Piano, strings, brass, whatever calls to them.  Give it a year or two.  Some will continue.  Some won’t.  That’s okay too.  The experience may teach them that serious musical study isn’t for them, or it may begin a love that lasts through their lifetime.
  • Continue with experience through various art media.  Sculpting, whittling, and other forms which require the use of sharp implements are better suited for these stages.  If your child is interested, consider art classes through Community Education or the local school.
  • Attend community events which focus on the fine arts.  Museums, concerts, and other venues can allow for and expanded appreciation for the creative process.
Home and Family, Homeschooling

Life is better with great music in it!

A day or two ago, I turned  the classical music playlist on as the boys were here working on their academics.  M looked up and said, “I know that song.  I love this!.” One of the songs from Beethoven’s Wig was playing.  Later, one of the twins (15 months) was grinning, swaying, and bouncing back and forth.  A Sousa march was playing.  While my family may not know all the composers by name, they certainly know what they like!  I am still grinning!

Musical education does not require special training or talent.  You can provide a diverse education for your family with a little creativity.  Some ideas include:

Study composers one at a time.  Use books such as Spiritual Lives of the Great Composers by Patrick Cavanaugh.  Read the stories and listen to the referenced compositions.  Listening to a variety of any composer’s music can help develop a familiarity for their work and, potentially, love for certain composers. Or they find they prefer a certain type or genre.  Fugue, sonatas, ballads, or symphonies.  If so, look for those types of compositions  from the various composers.

Study music by creative period.  Medieval, Renaissance, Baroque, Classical and so on.  Each period of time has its own style and characteristics.  Some is orderly while other music is more playful or dissident.  The study of music along with history can assist in developing a “feel” for the time in which it was written.

Have fun with music.  Find recordings such as Beethoven’s Wig I, II and III.  Look for nonsense song books or recordings.  Find “kid-friendly” music.  Wee Sing has produced a series of CDs that cover many types of children’s music in an easy-to-listen-to format.  Brite Music also has great CDs for children with positive messages.  Marches, lullabies, and songs with finger-plays can all give them exposure to the wonders of music.  If you have a strong ethnic tie to a specific genre or instrument, introduce it to your children as you learn about family history.  (Our family has strong ties to the Celts on both my side and my husbands.  A pipe and drum corp has been known to bring tears to my eyes.  Now we take the grandchildren to hear them as they play in local venues, and joy as they grin and can’t help dancing.)

Formal lessons in instrumental or vocal training tend to be more successful when started at age 7 or later.  My own teaching experience and many music teachers I asked expressed the concern that children younger than 7 often lack the discipline and drive to “stick with it”.  Practice is required if mastery is the goal. If you are uncertain about your ability to help your children in their musical endeavors, look for the book Raising Musical Kids by Patrick Cavanaugh.

I was raised in a home where music abounded!  My mother is a trained pianist and accompanist, my father was a trumpeter in the Air Force Band and played in a number of bands when he was younger.  We watched musicals, went to concerts, sang in choirs, and listened to a wide variety of musical genres and performers. Each of my siblings took lessons on at least one instrument.  I was a music major at the university with a focus on strings and vocals.  My own love of music stems in part from the opportunities I was given as I grew up in my own home.

Music can seem intimidating.  Don’t let it.  Just go out and expose you and your family to what life has to offer.  However you choose to approach it, experience music as a family.  Listen to a variety of genres live or on CD, go to musical theater, acquaint yourself with religious and cultural music.  Watch dance from around the world.  You’ll love some, and some may not be to your liking (I still am not an opera fan).  Make it an on-going voyage of discovery.  Enjoy!