Teaching Children American History

Parents often lament what their children are being taught in school as well as bemoaning what they are not being taught; the history of our (U.S.) country’s founding appears to be on the list of not or barely taught items. Whether you consider this lack of early American History a fiendish plot by progressives or simply the result of an increasingly larger curriculum which needs to be taught in a finite amount of school time, a parent can use their 4th of July celebration to augment their children’s education and instill patriotism.

One way to interest your children in the founding of their country is to rent movies such as 1776 or The Patriot. There are many movies concerning the American Revolution and even a Disney series, The Swamp Fox. Ideally you could start when your children are young and change the viewing material as they grower older. It won’t be enough to just park them in front of the TV and let them watch, the family needs to watch and discuss the story. Point out the differences between life in the 1700’s and now and what life would have been like if the Revolutions had never taken place.

Make it a 4th of July tradition to read the beginning of the Declaration of Independence to your children and explain it to them in words they will be sure and understand. Explain that the Continental Congress wanted to give written reasons for why they had decided to become an Independent Nation. Encourage your children to write parts of the Declaration in their own words using modern language.

Tell young children stories about life during colonial times and specifically about individuals important to the birth of our country: Betsy Ross, Ben Franklin, Paul Revere, and George Washington, to name a few (but leave out the myth of the cherry tree).

On the 4th of July give out prizes for the middle school children who can name the 13 colonies or the 10 amendments which comprise the Bill of Rights. Smaller children can earn prizes for knowing who was our first President, who signed the Declaration of Independence first (and with the largest signature), and what year the Declaration was signed.

It will also be worth pointing out that America is not perfect and didn’t give everyone the same liberties but that from its inception the Constitution provided for ways to be amended.

The important thing is to let your children know that Independence Day isn’t just the second big summer cookout holiday or the day we set off fireworks but is a day that has meaning for all Americans because it is the day America took charge of her destiny. Remember, freedom isn’t free. Freedom costs and the minimum price is eternal vigilance. The next generation can’t be vigilant if it doesn’t know what it is guarding.