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For many children around the country, Memorial Day brings to mind barbecues, hot dogs, the beginning of summer approaches, and for some, a day off from school. But as adults, and homeschool parents, you know Memorial Day is set aside to honor those who have given the ultimate sacrifice while serving our country.
Memorial Day is a great learning opportunity that you shouldn’t miss out on. Your children will be able to learn the holiday’s true meaning and understand why our armed forces personnel are celebrated and respected.
1. Give Your Children a Memorial Day History Lesson
Memorial Day was first called “Decoration Day.” It was started by General John A. Logan, leader of an organization for Northern Civil War veterans. He declared, “The 30th of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers, or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village and hamlet churchyard in the land.”
The rebellion he spoke of was the Civil War. But during World War I, the holiday grew to commemorate the armed forces personnel who died in all wars. Memorial Day was officially named a U.S. holiday in 1967. In 1968, Congress passed the Uniform Holiday Act that marked Memorial Day as the last Monday in May. For more information on Memorial Day, go to the History website. You could even have your students take a pop quiz after the lesson.
2. Utilize Crafts and Flowers
Considering that Memorial Day began as “Decoration Day”, why not create themed decorations by using flowers, paints, star stickers, crepe paper, and anything else you can get your hands on? Some great craft ideas include:
- Making an American flag
- Building streamers with red, white and blue decorations
- Painting rocks with patriotic colors
- Creating bouquets of flowers
- Blowing up balloons and tying them on chairs for a picnic
- Face painting
There are many things you and your children can create — even on a tight budget. Use your imagination and have fun.
3. Attend a Parade or Concert
Many towns celebrate Memorial Day with free parades and concerts. These usually feature military personnel and music. Dress up in red, white and blue to show your support. Bring the crafts you made and proudly wave the colors as the parade passes by. Be sure to point out to your children who is walking in the parade: different marching bands, Scouts, community leaders, as well as military, civic, volunteer, and service organizations. PBS is also airing its 2018 National Memorial Day Concert on Sunday evening, May 27 at 8:00pm.
4. Watch Videos and Read Books
YouTube offers many educational videos featuring fun facts and other themes that will help children better understand Memorial Day. They even feature interactive activities. A simple Google search will help you pick and choose what interests your children the most.
There are also many books available at public libraries. Check out a few and then discuss key dates, historical events, and individuals who helped shape Memorial Day.
5. Write a Letter to a Soldier Serving Our Country
Even if you don’t know someone serving overseas, soldiers love receiving mail. And what an incredible way for your children to make an impact, and perhaps begin a friendship with a brave man or woman representing our country. For additional information, research non-profit organizations such as Operation USO Care Package and A Million Thanks.
Many parents lament that Memorial Day has been commercialized and turned into one giant sales and promotional event for retail stores. Don’t let that stop you from educating your children on the real meaning of Memorial Day. It’s one time when you can address the fact that men and women give their lives for our freedom, and although we celebrate with barbecues and other activities, it doesn’t diminish the sacrifices they’ve made.