Every morning at Knowledge Quest Academy, two middle school students can be seen raising the American flag, and at the end of every school day, the flag is brought down with care. Nearly 5 years after leaving my last military post, the site of this still makes me feel home. They are taught to fold the flag and never let it touch the ground. They are taught the significance of this act and why it should be carried on. When the school board meets, they begin with the Pledge of Allegiance, God and all. And at school assemblies it is said without shame, and a sea of parents and students can be seen participating without protest. It brings joy to my patriotic heart.
At a time when it seems as though our children are being taught to apologize and be ashamed of who we are as a nation, it is refreshing, to say the least, to know that some schools still have the foresight to take a stand against the bandwagon of American shame. Pride and confidence are not national sins. They are characteristics that are the backbone of any strong nation and should be encouraged for the generations who will inherit ours in years to come.
With two daughters of our own, in a household of two veteran parents, we take great care in teaching our children to love their nation, respect those who protect it, and question those who wish to sweep it under the rug. Don’t get me wrong! I’m realistic and am fully aware that America is far from being perfect, and we have blemishes and marks in our past, present and future that should serve as learning experiences to improve upon. That is part of patriotism, though. Loving America, flaws and all, and aspiring to make it better! Patriotism is not an unabashed attachment or a denial of our flaws. Patriotism is a love of our ideals.
That being said, these are some of our favorite ways to teach our own young daughters about patriotism:
- Support your troops! Our daughters recognize a military uniform when they see one and love to proudly declare, ‘My daddy was a soldier too!’ At 6 and 3, they aren’t yet aware of the enormity of what that means and what he did in Iraq, but they know enough to smile and wave at the man or woman in uniform. And they know enough to be proud of it.
- Say the Pledge of Allegiance. As our 1st grader grows older and has the Pledge of Allegiance memorized, we’ve taken it upon ourselves to begin teaching her what it really means. It is a Pledge to our ideals and the belief that everybody should have a chance. Don’t let your children aimlessly say the Pledge; make sure they know what it means!
- Vote! As November draws closer, our daughters have become accustomed to staying busy while mommy and daddy watch the debates and news feeds. Our oldest knows that ‘two men both want to be the President’ and that we get to decide who it is. Voting is a cornerstone of our Republic and for far too many years, voter turn-out was limited to those 40 and above. It’s refreshing to see the college crowds getting involved. Teach your kids to vote at a young age and let them see you doing it!
- Teach them about Independence Day. For the first time this year, our oldest really started to grasp the idea that the 4th of July isn’t just about fireworks and hot dogs! We taught her that it was the day our Founding Fathers made a firm decision to take a stand and fight for their freedom. It is the day that we celebrate the heroism of those men, and the men and women since who have fought just as fiercely for our independence and ideas. My daughter saw me cry on the 4th of July as we paid a tribute to the fallen at a public event, and she didn’t question why. She may not fully grasp it, yet, but you could see the recognition on her little face that that day is more than just playtime.
- Get involved in the Community. This is yet another exemplary ‘pillar’ of my daughters charter school curriculum, and it’s one that should be more common! Our communities are the heart and soul of America and children should be taught to participate and be proud of them. Our daughters attend and participate in the local church, fall festival, summer carnival, pumpkin patch, community garage sale and even small business networking groups with me. Why? Because I want them to be attached to the place in which they leave. I want them to know it and be a part of it, not just a small person within it. And getting them involved in their community gives them their first taste of being a part of something bigger than themselves; a humbling experience that every American child should know.
- Find a school that supports patriotism! Although the local public school is literally just down the road, we make the longer trek to the charter school solely because the curriculum goes beyond the basic textbooks and teaches the students what it means to be an American and what needs to be done to take it back! If your child’s school has jumped on the bandwagon of shame, find one that hasn’t. The more we, as American parents, fight the fad of American apologies, the more we can teach our children to love their country and improve it.
- Finally, teach your children a healthy level of skepticism. Our daughter knows full well my preference in this election and she knows that it’s because I don’t truly trust either one of them! As both of my daughters grow older, one of the cornerstone concepts I will undoubtedly be teaching them is that, ”Patriotism is supporting your country all the time, and your government when it deserves it.” – Mark Twain
How do you teach your children to be proud Americans….?