Raising Patriotic Kids: US History Through Holidays

By Donna-Jean A. Breckenridge

As promised, I'm sharing my thoughts and ideas on how to raise patriotic kids - by emphasizing US History and Principles through US holidays.

First, I've listed some general resources (and where you can locate them). Then I've listed each holiday starting in September, (I have not included spiritual holidays like Christmas and Easter here) and what can be taught or emphasized on those days.


General Resources:

Children's Book: "America, A Patriotic Primer," by Lynne Cheney, VP's wife
Cassette: "America's Favorite Patriotic Songs for Kids"
Copies of Historical Documents (bought at gift shops of historical sites)
Holiday posters (teacher supply stores)
Flashcards of Presidents (Staples, or teacher supply stores)
Other books: Laura Ingalls Wilder's "Little House" series"; Childhood of Famous Americans series, American Adventure series, American Girl series
Free Online Patriotism Lessons for Children - - I can't say enough about this free site. It's part of William Bennett's curriculum, but this site includes several free lessons, some quotes with audio, great monuments to see, and a fantastic series of essays from the Fordham Foundation entitled "September 11th: What our children need to know."
TV series: "Liberty's Kids" on PBS. The website has lots of fun things to do and read:  It's not listed on any longer, but I have one of the programs on DVD - "Give Me Liberty." It's listed at
"This is America, Charlie Brown" series of 8 videos:
     1 - The Great Inventors
     2 - Wright Brothers at Kitty Hawk
     3 - Building of the Transcontinental Railroad
     4 - The Mayflower Voyage
     5 - The NASA Space Shuttle
     6 - The Birth of the Constitution
     7 - The Smithsonian and the Presidency
     8 - Music and Heroes of America
      and "What have we learned, Charlie Brown? A Memorial Day Salute" once found at - I have not viewed all of these, but the ones I've seen are wonderful. The Memorial Day one is said to be a little more intense, but very effective. Parents of young children should preview first.
Local places, you might not have thought about. Those within about 200-250 miles of my home include: Washington's Headquarters in Morristown, NJ; Grover Cleveland's Birthplace in Caldwell, NJ; Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, Edison National Historic Site in West Orange, NJ; Monmouth Battlefield State Park (Molly Pitcher), NJ; Washington Crossing State Park, NJ; U.S. Military Academy at West Point, NY; Valley Forge National Park, PA; Historic Speedwell, NJ; Fosterfields, NJ; Historic Philadelphia (Independence Hall, etc.), North Bridge - Minute Man National Historical Park (Concord, Mass.), Antietam National Battlefield (Sharpsburg, Maryland), Washington, D.C.: all the monuments, the Smithsonian. has a listing of sites for CT, NJ, NY, PA, DE, and MD.
Other Videos: Animated Hero Classics
Websites with information and prayer requests:


Labor Day (1st Monday in September)
Celebrate the right to work and the importance of work; set up family chores for the year, do a family work project.
Poem to read/copy: Walt Whitman's "I Hear America Singing"
Quote to read/copy: John F. Kennedy from his 1961 Inaugural Address: "And so my fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country."

Patriot Day (September 11th) -
Tell your own stories and understanding of 9/11; tell stories of the heroes of 9/11; pray for the President and those fighting against terrorism; visit a 9/11 memorial - the one near my home is here; honor those who died that day.
Song to sing: "God Bless America"
Quote to read/copy: George W. Bush, from his September 20th, 2001 address to Congress: "We will not tire, we will not falter, and we will not fail."
Book to read: "The Little Chapel that Stood" by A. B. Curtiss, (I have not read this book completely - I'll let you know as soon as I get it - but the preview on Amazon looks very good. It is a children's book about 9/11, and about St. Paul's Chapel, a Revolutionary War era church at Ground Zero that withstood the attack, and became a safe haven for workers at the site throughout those early days and that entire first year. It starts "Around the Chapel of Old St. Paul/Blow the dancing leaves of the coming Fall./In the morning breeze they leap and fly/Beneath the towers that scrape the sky...); older students and parents can read Lisa Beamer's "Let's Roll" and Chaplain Ray Giunta's "God @ Ground Zero."
Articles for parents:
Also for parents: "September 11th - What Your Children Need to Know" (a collection of essays)

Constitution Day (September 17th; some call this Citizenship Day)
For the last two years, the Pledge of Allegiance has been said simultaneously across the nation at 2 p.m.; also, the Preamble to the Constitution has been read simultaneously at 4 p.m. This year, General Tommy Franks will lead the reading of the Preamble on Friday, September 16th, at 2 p.m. ET, so that all schoolchildren may participate. Children will be encouraged to wear Red, White, and Blue on that day, and there is a video available for downloading on the site below.
Read/copy the Preamble to the Constitution: "We the people of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America."

Columbus Day (October 12th)
View free patriotic lesson on Columbus Day at (site is gone)
Song to sing: "Oh Columbus" song from website lesson.

Election Day (1st Tuesday in November)
The right to vote; take your children with you to vote!
Quote to read: Patrick Henry in 1775 "Is life so dear or peace so sweet as to be purchased at the price of chains or slavery? Forbid it, God Almighty! I know not what course others may take but as for me, give me liberty or give me death."
Song to sing: "America the Beautiful"

Veterans Day (November 11th) - (Originally Armistice Day, signaling 11th hour of 11th day of 11th month ending of World War I)
Talk to veterans from family, neighborhood, church, and learn their stories. Write a thank you note to a veteran.
Song to sing: "My Country, 'tis of Thee"
Read a section from Tom Brokaw's "The Greatest Generation" (Use discernment, and pre-read as a parent, but this book is America's "family stories" book.)

Thanksgiving Day (fourth Thursday of November)
Teach the true history of the holiday and importance of freedom of religion and freedom to worship.
Read/copy the Mayflower Compact (it's surprisingly short), and learn about its importance as a founding document.
Books to read to young children: "Squanto and the Miracle of Thanksgiving" by Eric Metaxas (Tommy Nelson publishers, found in Christian bookstores); "Sarah Morton's Day, A Day in the life of a Pilgrim Girl," and "Samuel Eaton's Day, A Day in the life of a Pilgrim Boy," both by Kate Waters (Scholastic); Also read sections from William Bradford's "Of Plymouth Plantation."

Martin Luther King Day (third Monday in January; actual date: 15th) -
Quote to read: from 1963 speech "When we allow freedom [to] ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, 'Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!' "
View free patriotic lesson on Martin Luther King at
MLK Day website

Sanctity of Human Life Sunday (third Sunday in January)
Emphasize value of each life - born and unborn - in America, including that of the handicapped, and of those individuals that other societies have deemed worthless.
Quote to read: Ronald Reagan, 1988 "[I ask] all citizens of this blessed land to . . . give thanks for the gift of life they enjoy and to reaffirm their commitment to the dignity of every human being and the sanctity of every human life." (declaring National Sanctity of Human Life Day)
Donate items to a local Crisis Pregnancy Center; talk about good ways adoption has affected your family or that of someone you know.
A book (now out of print) I read my children regarding abortion: "No More Singing," by Norman Bomer.
Websites to consider: and

Lincoln's Birthday (February 12th)
Poem to read: "Lincoln" by Nancy Byrd Turner
Books to read: "Mr. Lincoln's Whiskers" by Karen Winnick Honesdale (Boyds Mill Press); "Abe Lincoln's Hat" (Step into Reading, Step 2) by Donald Cook (Random House); "Abraham Lincoln" by Ingri D'Aulaire.
Quote to read/copy: from Gettysburg Address "That this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."
Website for parents/older students:

Washington's Birthday (February 22nd)
Poem to read: "Washington" by Nancy Byrd Turner
Book to read: "George Washington" by Ingri D'Aulaire
Quote to read/copy: Henry Lee about Washington, "First in war, first in peace, first in the hearts of his countrymen."
Website for parents:

Presidents Day (third Monday in February)
Display chart of presidents (or flashcards in a timeline)
Write a letter to the president; pray for the president.
Children's website:
Parents' website:

National Day of Prayer (first Thursday in May)
Pray at noon with your town.
Quote to read/copy: First amendment "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances."
Website with resources for children:

Armed Forces Day (Third Saturday of May)
Songs to sing: Songs of Military Branches
Write letter to a serviceman or woman.
Quote to read/copy: George W. Bush: "Freedom will be defended."

Memorial Day (May 30th, or last Monday in May)
Poem to read/copy: "In Flanders Fields" by John McCrae
Book to read (with activity to consider): "America's White Table," by Margot Theis Raven, about the practice of setting a table for those missing in action or held as prisoners of war. Can also be read at Veterans Day.
Decorate a military grave; buy a poppy from a veteran.
Make (or attend) a neighborhood parade.

Flag Day (June 14)
Recite Pledge of Allegiance (also here.)
Song to sing: National Anthem - "Star-Spangled Banner."
Books to read: "The Star-Spangled Banner" by Francis Scott Key, illus. by Ingri and Edgar Parin D'Aulaire; "The Story of the Star-Spangled Banner" (Cornerstones of Freedom) by Natalie Miller (out of print).

Independence Day (July 4th)
Quote to read/copy: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."
Books to read: Lynn Curlee's "Liberty" (about the Statue of Liberty); for parents/older students: "Sacred Honor," by William Bennett.
Excellent website for parents: