Today was “Red, White, and Blue Day”. The day before Veterans’ Day is a perfect time to teach patriotism. How do you teach patriotism to young children? The best place to start is with singing. We sang “God Bless America”. Some of the children know this song, but for many this was new. They loved it! We spread patriotism to all the classrooms in school, and that started with singing “God Bless America”.
I held a big American flag for the children. Seeing a full size flag close up is a far different experience than seeing it at a distance on a flag pole. We talked about the red white and blue colors. We talked about the stripes and stars, and we counted fifty stars. That concrete number of stars led to the number of states, of course. I raised my hand and said, “I know one of those states, Massachusetts!” The chaos that followed was loud and wonderful. Everyone wanted to talk about Massachusetts and states, and also the flag.
I taught children how to properly shake hands. They simply didn’t know exactly how to do that. Right hand to right hand, thumbs up and interlocked, a firm squeeze and a shake. When you meet a member of our Military, knowing how to shake a hand and say “Thank You” is important.
I asked the children, “What is patriotism?” They didn’t know. We pulled out our big dictionary (which we use all the time), and found the word ‘patriot‘: One who loves and supports his or her country. I asked each child if s/he loved America, and of course the the ‘yeses’ were unanimous. Finding the word in the dictionary was exciting and hands-on. It seemed to validate what was brewing and what we were teaching.
I educate the heart. That’s the foundation for children’s learning. If their heart isn’t in it, learning the academics is a struggle. Yet, there’s far more to educating the heart, and that begins with all those important values; kindness, giving, and character. They make you feel good, give you confidence, and more importantly shift your thinking to others. A teacher said it well, “Classroom, classmates, self”. She was talking about the order of importance in her classroom. I remember when a Navy Blue and Gold Officer said the same message but in different words, “Ship, shipmate, self.”
This is most important, because children need to have a strong foundation of self in order to grow. Once they do, they can spread their wings and learn. And, learning those all-important values from the heart will give them the tools they need most in life to become more than academic learners; to become good citizens.
Patriotism is a great way to teach the heart. That’s what I did today.