Or, why you might want to feed your children a little American History this summer.

I regret to report, the following was a real conversation, as best I can remember it.

Mom: “What do we celebrate on the 4th of July?”

Son (doesn’t matter which one): “The end of slavery.”

Mom: “Uh, no.”

Other Son: “Abraham Lincoln’s birthday?”

“No.”

“The day Abraham Lincoln was assassinated?”

We watched National Treasure 2 - Book of Secrets on DVD last night, in which President Lincoln was prominently featured. Apparently they had Lincoln on the brain.

Mom: “No. It has nothing to do with President Lincoln, slavery or the Civil War. You are almost a century too late.”

Older son (whose class did an entire unit on American history last year): “Oh, oh, oh. I know. It’s the day the first person signed the Constitution.”

Mom: “No. A very important document was signed, but it wasn’t the Constitution. That came later.”

Son: “The one where they say you have freedom of speech, and everything?”

Mom: “No, that was the Bill of Rights, and they came after the Constitution. What was signed on July 4th, 1776?”

Second son (with superior grin, now that he has caught on): “It was the Declaration of Independence!”

Mom: “Very good. Now who declared their independence, and from what?”

Older son: “Um, the slaves declared their independence from the constitution.”

Argh.

We had a lovely July 4th yesterday... very low key. (Finally, a sunny day!) We spent the morning in the pool, and went out to lunch. Our evening was spent at home, roasting marshmallows and watching the neighbors’ fireworks.

I wonder if they would have done better on my little quiz, if we’d gone to a parade, or something. Maybe a barbecue.

Might have inspired them to ask a few clarifying questions.

I received an email yesterday, from a young man in Belarus, who’d spent a month with us one summer several years ago. He wanted to send good wishes on our “Day of Independence.”

At least someone is paying attention.
Hopefully, your children already know about one of the most (the most?) important days in our nation’s history. Either way, I invite you to put some history on your family’s summer vacation schedule.

Most of us live near some historic sites. These are the places that you think about going to see for years, but don’t actually make it there until you have out-of-town guests.

Or maybe you remember that you never actually made it to one of these real national treasures, until you are moving out of town eight years later.

Such was the case with me.

I used to live in a little seaside town just outside Plymouth, Massachusetts.

It was only as I was watching the movers load all my worldly possessions into their van, that I recollected I had never made time to visit the 1629 homestead of the pilgrims John and Priscilla Alden, which sat about a mile from my house.

Argh. Again.

We’ve done better since then. The boys’ have been to Paul Revere’s house and the Old North Church in Boston, which they vaguely remember. I was pleased to hear them recite “One if by land, two if by sea.”
Especially since we were there just last October.

We will have to go back to Washington, D.C. The only thing my older son could recall about our visit there a couple years back was the “giant pencil”, which he misidentified as the Lincoln Memorial.

Bringing history alive takes a lot of work. And sometimes really long car trips.
But oh, what a gift to our children!

Recommended Reading:

Jumpstart your study of American history with a little summer reading.
The DK Eyewitness books are usually a good bet for kids – especially boys. Color photos combined with text in manageable bites are an effective way to introduce subjects to less-than-avid readers. Try out Presidents and American Revolution, and see how you like them!

Author's Bio: 

Intent.com
Intent.com is a premier wellness site and supportive social network where like-minded individuals can connect and support each others' intentions. Founded by Deepak Chopra's daughter Mallika Chopra, Intent.com aims to be the most trusted and comprehensive wellness destination featuring a supportive community of members, blogs from top wellness experts and curated online content relating to Personal, Social, Global and Spiritual wellness.