One of the most fun times during summer is the celebration of the United States of America’s birthday. Every July 4th, families, friends, townships and alike gather for barbeques, parades and firework displays that mark a sense of community and pride because of the unique nation that we are. Americans enjoy more freedoms than most nations on this planet.
This year’s national birthday arrives during one of the most hotly debated presidential election cycle in years. Without question, our young children are picking up small amounts of information that confuse their understanding of why United States of America is good and why being a citizen matters.
This July, as you enjoy the time with your children, please share with them details about America that they can understand. When discussing with our children the amazing gift of being a citizen of this country, it is important to share with them why the United States is unique.
Our founding fathers came from various backgrounds and those backgrounds coupled with their courage, passion and intellect helped to found our nation. The ideals and principles that we enjoy and continue to evolve are envied by many nationalities because we have, as citizens, the power to change.
Great points that a young mind can understand:
- USA was founded under the principle that all individuals matter.
- Every US citizen has the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
- Through hard work and effort, people can define their own life.
The brevity of this post is by design. Our young children only need to know that they will one day understand fully what it means to be a citizen of the United States of America—eventually they will take on the responsibility of citizenship themselves.
Our citizenship in the United States is our national character. Our citizenship in any particular state is only our local distinction. By the latter we are known at home, by the former to the world. Our greatest title is AMERICANS—our inferior one varies with the place. – Thomas Paine
The Story of America’s Birthday
Patricia A. Pingry, Illustrated by Meredith Johnson
The founding of the United States of America is truly not simplistic but Patricia A. Pingry does a respectable job of the summarizing the main topic that led to our founding. Pingry uses a very basic representation of why the United States wished to separate from England and why that separation was a positive. For the young child, this is an excellent introduction to why July 4th is a wonderful celebration.
Empire of Liberty
A History of the Early Republic, 1789 – 1815
Gordon S. Wood
As a refresher, Gordon Wood’s book is a heavy and well-researched history of the very earliest part of our Republic. Wood dives into various attitudes about the United States and whether or not it would survive in the eyes of England and Europe. The title of this book comes from a theme developed by Thomas Jefferson, who believed that the United States of America should be the ambassador to the world for spreading the ideals of freedom. But what sets this volume aside from others is its honest consideration and treatment of what our Founding Fathers hoped to accomplish, what turned out and what looked different after implantation.
39 years after the United States is established, it did not hit the expectations of our Founding Fathers but instead of cowering from adversity, America reestablished our footing and started to bear fruit that would eventually make us an established and important factor in the world.
Question for Lonna
The 240th birthday of the United States is upon us. Currently, the citizens of our amazing country are seeped in the most controversial of political elections. As adults, we wax and wane about many ideas and feelings which are positive and negative. As parents, we feel a strong need to give our children a more optimistic understanding of why the United States is a great place to live and be a citizen. What approach, as parents, should we use with our young children?
Raising children is greatly about creating a narrative. Parents are storytellers. You tell stories about family, religion, science and history. You choose schools that support and further engage in the stories you tell. Freedom is a part of the story of our great nation, and the freedom to choose where your child goes to school is a very special part of our American narrative.
For twenty years the center of the classroom in Playgroup has been an 18×15 foot rug of needlepoint squares depicting the most iconic events in American history according to Ann Getty. Children sang, danced, learned to read and count with the Declaration of Independence, Dolly Madison, Abraham Lincoln and George Washington crossing the Delaware.
After the move to the Presidio, a former Army base, I made the decision to have the rug repaired and hung on the wall in the entryway. I want parents, visitors, teachers and children to pass the homage to The United States’ most iconic figures and events with great pride. The rug is an important part of the Playgroup narrative.
The story of our nation can be very exciting, romantic and blustery. The current political landscape is ugly and contentious and divisive. I would not allow Playgroup children to speak to each other or about each other the way commentators and presidential candidates have spoken. During this very heated election year, the narrative we choose for our children during the special month of July should be deliberate.
At Playgroup we are celebrating our freedom as Americans, we are honoring our beautiful Presidio and the solders who trained and lived here for years during war and peace.
We will have snow cones and wave red, white and blue colored streamers. We celebrate. Details of the wars, details of politics, details of family partisan views should be put aside. Our young children have the right to grow up with the story of freedom being special and American. The time to celebrate is on the Fourth of July. Every Playgroup child will pass the United States history rug and have a favorite square. When they return to Playgroup as adults they see the rug and recall the story it told of their country.
I love to hear a visiting Alum say, “I remember the rug!” The rug tells a story of American history, Playgroup loves our story of freedom and independence. We simply and elegantly leave the narrative at that. The beauty of childhood should be in the simplicity.
Celebrate independence without politics and adult noise. Go to a parade and treasure the ability to openly embrace being an American. I tell the children, it is an honor and a privilege to be in the Presidio. We can all say the same about being in The United States of America.
Executive Director, Playgroup