For many Americans this week will be filled with picnics, fireworks, and red, white & blue popsicles. And while I love a good old BBQ as much as the next American, I’m troubled by the reality that, like most holidays, Independence Day has become more about food and fun and less about the history and freedom that defines it.
So what? Why should we care about Independence Day? Because 14 percent of American teens think we declared independence from France (another 5 percent think it was Canada), and 3 out of 4 graduates aren’t proficient in civics. That’s scary.
As parents, and homeschoolers, it’s vital we ensure our kids understand American history and how politics their country works. Because if they don’t understand American politics, how can they participate? If they don’t get why representation was worth dying for, why would they demand it for themselves? And, if they don’t understand what freedom meant then, how can they begin to understand that those same freedoms apply to them and, for many, are still worth dying for today?
This is a great week to spend some time in the history books and, because the holiday involves food and explosives, you have a much higher chance they’ll engage and not tune out the second they hear the word “history.” Isn’t this what we parents live for? Organic opportunities to teach our kids about the stuff that matters without removing the “fun factor?” That’s what Independence Day hands us on an antiqued silver platter: the opportunity to weave a bit of truth and history into our children’s definition of what it means to be “American.”
To help you plan some history-inspired activities this year, we’ve compiled a list of patriotic factoids and activities you can use to teach your little ones about the true importance of this American holiday.
- Teach them about the actual events of the first July 4th so they can understand why we celebrate it today.
- Learn about the extensive history of the Liberty Bell:
- Study the history of the American Flag and learn how to properly fold it. http://www.kidsdiscover.com/spotlight/stars-stripes-for-kids/
- You can have your children read various sections of the Declaration of Independence and explain to them what it means and the freedoms it gives every American. http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/charters/declaration_transcript.html
- Here’s a cool idea: have you children design a ballot box and collect votes for vanilla versus chocolate ice cream, or hot dogs versus hamburgers. Have them discuss campaign strategies or political posters to help them understand the importance of proper representation. http://www.vincigenius.com/community/teaching-kids-the-meaning-of-independence-day/
- You can also sneak some science into the mix by teaching your kids how fireworks actually work. It’s informative and teaches them the very real dangers of playing with fireworks. http://science.howstuffworks.com/innovation/everyday-innovations/fireworks.htm
- Have your kids help decorate your July 4th BBQ with patriotic arts and crafts. http://www.marthastewart.com/359178/fourth-july-kids-activities
- To wind things down you could sing patriotic songs or watch a Independence Day movie. http://www.sheknows.com/parenting/articles/964945/teaching-your-kids-about-independence-day
- Become a U.S. detective –– research together why the bald eagle, Liberty Bell, and Statue of Liberty are so important to America. http://www.celebratingholidays.com/?page_id=390
- Research historical American landmarks and plan a family trip to learn more about our great nation! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_U.S._National_Historic_Landmarks_by_state
Always remember to keep your activities fun and engaging, or you might end up facing a revolution of your own!
Now it’s your turn parents: What fun Independence Day activities have you used in the past? What do you have planned for this year?