Crafts are fun and can fill time, but if you want to really learn about Memorial Day, you have to learn about why America is worth fighting for and why people in the past and present have pledged their lives, fortunes, and sacred honor for freedom.
Read and discuss a war poem with your kids. Pick one from this list.
Learn about some real heroes (as opposed to movie stars or sports figures). How about George Washington, Nathan Hale, Robert E. Lee, Daniel Boone, Davy Crockett, Abigail Adams, Molly Pitcher, Clara Barton, Alvin York, or Audie Murphy. Pick one, read a short story or give a recap of what they did and discuss the qualities they had that made them heroes.
Learn about the history of Memorial Day. Why do we celebrate it?
Some of the symbols surrounding Memorial Day are crosses (on graves), American flags, poppies, flags at half mast, and images of soldiers from every American conflict. Discuss some of these symbols and what they mean.
Teach your kids how to conduct a formal flag ceremony and have one for family or friends. Here are the basics: Have the audience stand, advance the colors, salute the flag, post the colors, have the audience sit. You can include the pledge of allegiance, state or organization flags, short stories, poems, or quotes, or a prayer if you wish. Look for flag ceremonies online.
Discuss the cost of freedom. Is it worth dying for? Living for? What is freedom?
Take the time to thank a vet by sending an e-card, making a phone call or writing a letter. This a great letter writing activity for kids. Have them start by saying “Thank you for fighting for my freedom. What I love about America is . . . ” or something similar. Send the cards to soldiers at a VA hospital or soldiers currently serving in war zones.
Teach kids about some of the military cemeteries and monuments for American soldiers: Arlington National Cemetery, The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, Normandy American Cemetery, Flanders Field American Cemetery, Gettysburg cemetery, and the Iwo Jima Statue are a few. Cover why there’s a monument or cemetery there and the significance of the special respect we have for such places.
Discuss your beliefs about the role of America in the world, our origins and destiny. For example, I believe that America was brought forth by the hand of God and as long as we are righteous and deserve His help we will have it in spreading freedom over the world. I want to pass that belief on to my kids. Pass your beliefs on to your kids as well.
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