Home and Family, Homeschooling, Parenting

Patroit Day

Today is 9/11.  That date has come to mean something to just about every American, and to many others across the world.  Many important dates have rituals or events that are saved specifically for them.  May I make a few suggestions for today?

Thank any and all emergency responders or military personnel (or their families) you meet today.

Take cookies to the local firehouse.

Bake bread and write thank you cards to drop off at the police station nearest your house.

Take time to talk with your children about the brave men and women who spend their lives defending our rights and property,  so that we can pursue life, liberty, and happiness.  Help them understand that, as well as those who came before and died for our country, there are also many who are alive and still fighting that we need to remember.

Make today a day of gratitude.

So fly your flag, wear red, white and blue; attend a commemoration, live your dreams, and do a good turn for someone around you…because that is what America is all about!

Home and Family, Homeschooling

The Children’s Story

During my third grade year (when the dinosaurs roamed the earth), I had a wonderful teacher.  Class was held downstairs next to the boiler room in the old elementary school just a few blocks from my home.  The ceiling was low; there were odd noises; we could smell lunch before anyone else in the building.  I loved that class.  Mrs. Suehr was amazing.  In a day when tolerance was not generally considered a necessary virtue, she taught us how to work together with those who were different.  In our class were children of different colors, religions, economic status, and abilities.  We sat in groups of six desks which rotated regularly.  I was not best friends with everyone in my class, but we all learned to get along and appreciate one another.  She was also doggedly determined that no one would leave her class without the ability to read, write, and understand math appropriate to grade level.  (It was years before I realized how much time she spent with each of us.)  She taught us to think critically, and encouraged us to express opinions.  She encouraged those who were struggling, and cheered on those who were advanced and needed enrichment activities to keep moving.  I loved this woman!

My memories of third grade are many, and most are quite delightful.  One, though, has almost haunted me into adulthood.  We had returned to our classroom after lunch and the desks had been shifted to make room for the other third grade class to join us.  That generally signaled to us that we would be watching a film strip or television clip, but no tv or projector was in sight, so we all sat down on the rug and wondered what was happening.  She read a book whose name I would not learn for 25 years, but whose story has stayed with me from that day forward.

Fast forward 25 years.  I am attending a home school convention class on government, and the presenter takes 15 minutes to read a small volume to the attendees.  Within a few sentences I recognized the story and had a difficult time containing my excitement.  It was the same book read to us that long ago day in third grade.  This time I was able to better understand the story and its implications.  And I was able to speak with the presenter afterward to get the title and author.  The book is The Children’s Story…but not just for children by James Clavell.

Best known for his novels Gai-Jin and Shogun, Clavell wrote The Children’s Story as a response to an experience he had with his young daughter when she returned home from school one day.  It is effectively written, and has a message every adult who values freedom needs to hear.  Just be prepared to be slightly disturbed, and have someone to speak with afterward.  Sometimes truth resonates with agitating clarity.  While I would not read it to a seven or eight-year-old child, adolescents need to hear its message as well.  I read it to my teenagers each year as part of our “beginning of the school year” routine.

If you are unfamiliar with the book, you may find a copy in your local library.  It can also be purchased online for just a few dollars.   (It was also made into a film that can be watched online, but I would read the book first.  The written version is slightly different, and I prefer it.)

Sometimes life comes full-circle.  It certainly did for me with this book.  Looking back, it is apparent that the message of this story affected actions I took and some I didn’t.  It definitely had an effect on the things I felt it was vital to teach my children when they were young.

If you find a copy, let me know what you think.


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
Home and Family

Memorial Day

Today America celebrates Memorial Day.   American’s generally think of today as a day for barbeques, camping, and many consider it the unofficial beginning of summer.  While it may be all of those things, it is so much more.  This holiday gives us a wonderful opportunity to remember those who have given the “last full measure of devotion” so that we can enjoy living in a free land.  In our home, we also express gratitude for those who still serve.

Not sure where to start?  Here are some ideas:

  • Fly the flag.
  • Memorize the National Anthem.
  • Learn the anthems for the various branches of the military.
  • Listen to marches composed by John Philip Sousa.  If possible, attend a performance where military pieces are being played.
  • Locate a local memorial for those who have served and take flowers or a wreath to place beside it.
  • Attend a parade.
  • Know a veteran or someone currently serving in the military?  Make them cookies, a nice meal, or thank you card.
  • Some municipalities have programs in the morning or at sunset to mark Memorial Day or to retire old flags.  Attend as a family.
  • Read some poems or stories about those who have served.  The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere, O Captain, My Captain, or Nathan Hale are just a few examples.

Have a fun and safe Memorial Day and enjoy time together as a family!