Teach kids what Fourth of July really means

Dad Days of Summer: While Momania’s Theresa Walsh Giarrusso takes a vacation, local dad and sportswriter Andy Johnston will be filling in. You can e-mail him atajcmomania@gmail.com.

When kids are 4 or 5, you’re never sure what their minds grasp. I’m happy if Ty’s is focused on something other than Lego, candy, cartoons or digging in the dirt for more than 10 minutes.

Andy and his son Ty.

Andy and his son Ty.

He grasps things quickly – when he wants to – and one of the things I’m glad he’s learned what the American flag looks like.

We bought one for our front porch more than a year ago. He wanted to know what it was and why we were putting it on our house.

I told him that we lived in America and that the flag was a symbol of our country. I’m sure I said a lot of other wise things about freedom and patriotism and George Washington and the Declaration of Independence and stuff like that, all of which led to his response of something like: “That’s red. That’s white. That’s blue. It has stars on it.”

Still, I think it was a strong start in teaching him about our country’s history and heritage. The Fourth of July is a critical part of that.

I enjoyed writing about shooting bottle rockets at my friends in a previous blog – and reading about your creativity with explosives — and that was an important part of my youth.

But my parents always made sure I knew the meaning behind Independence Day. The real one, not that movie where Will Smith blew up that huge alien ship.

I’m proud of our history, of our traditions, of the foundations that America was founded on, and I plan to make sure Ty learns about them as he grows.

Even though this site is called grandparents.com, it offers a good step-by-step process for teaching kids about patriotism.

So have a great Fourth of July, but don’t forget to tell your children what it’s all about.

Do you teach your kids about American history? When did you begin teaching them about patriotism?

Does your family have any Fourth of July traditions, like reading the Declaration of Independence?

- By Andy Johnston, for the Momania blog

21 comments Add your comment


July 1st, 2011
1:00 pm

Growing up. our families were not history families. So…

We have taken our children to many historical sites, since they were small.. Not everyone can do this. It means so much more to SEE Ellis Island, Pearl Harbor, Castillo de San Marcos, the Liberty Bell, the Statue of Liberty, Boston, Washington DC or Williamsburg. Even our recent visit to the Mayflower replica, in Plymouth, was new to me and my daughter too. What a small ship to carry all those who came over for an opportunity. We saw all sorts of stuff that is not in textbooks.

Honestly, I do not think the majority of Americans do not realize what it means to be blessed and to wake up in a safe house, with food to eat, and open opportunities. While we have iPhones, others are scrambling for clean water or food. I regroup when I am traveling, across the US, as I realize we have so many conveniences. I have met some wonderful Americans and I am blessed. They have enriched my life.

I did not grow up in a military family but married into one and THEN gained respect for the sacrifices that are being made every day…so we can be free. I tear up any time we sing the patriotic songs.
America is a great country and I hope we can keep it that way.

I just wish everyone who lives here would realize that if the takers become more than the givers…things will not be comfortable. I hate it that so many folks are out of work or cannot find a job.. I hate it worse that some have never worked and do not have plans to do so. I know lots of people who have more money than I do. GOOD FOR THEM. If you work hard and are financially comfortable, that is something to be admired.

This is probably what I try to teach my kids the most:
It is up to YOU to have a goal and be successful. The road is open, you need to get moving! Then, you need to make a contribution back to others around you. I hope it sticks!

Happy 4th to all my blog friends. Just being able to post our thoughts in an open forum, is something we should not take for granted. Thanks Andy for helping us to think in new areas.
TWG…if you are reading…I hope you are having a great time!


July 1st, 2011
1:16 pm

Pearl Harbor had a profound and lasting impression on me. Standing over the USS Arizona, and seeing oil still leaking out 30 years later, and reading all the names of those who perished that day…….I was only 11 years old when I saw it, but it’s an image I will have for the rest of my life. I saw one lady crying, and I asked my Dad why she was crying, and he said she probably had a family member’s name on that wall. It could have been her child…….

I cry every time I hear about our soldiers being killed in the line of duty, or when we bury a soldier or see a flag-drapped coffin. They paid the ultimate price for our freedom. I hold our soldiers in the highest regard, and admire anyone who choses to go into the military. These brave men and women do this voluntarily. No one forces them to sign up. My best friend’s son just signed up to go into the Army. Another friend’s son has been to Iraq twice. Both times I was there at the airport, waiting for him to come off the plane.

One time, while we were waiting at the airport, we were standing next to the USO desk. There was a yellow line we were not allowed to cross, as the soldiers were coming up the escalator. There was this one soldier, all dressed in his camo’s, and his two, maybe three year old daughter came out of the crowd, running across the yellow line yelling Daddy, Daddy….this brave man dropped to his knees to embrace his daughter, while the USO people were trying to stop the little girl from crossing the yellow line….all of us said, “let her go to her Daddy”. There was not a dry eye in the crowd. Even the men I was with had tears rolling down their faces……

I’m proud to be an America and I fly my flag with pride!!!!!


July 1st, 2011
1:39 pm

JJ…I LOVE to see the family members greet the arrival of their loved ones….tears BIG time for me.
We knew someone who lost his life, soon after our son was born. My husband was Navy for the first part of our marriage and I learned a lot about sacrifice. Not as much us but other families.

FYI for JJ…Fed Ex MOG has a hiring sign…seems like a nice place to work…not trying to bother you just thought I would mention it. Just tell me to drop it, if you want to. No hard feelings.


July 1st, 2011
1:53 pm

Thanks MJG! I appreciate your help. I’ll let my daughter know…..


July 1st, 2011
1:58 pm

My two are very aware of what the flag on our door and hanging from our fence is for…They have been to see the wall in DC..That is beyond what I could even try to say in words..

My Dad was in the Army, as was my oldest brother..I have a nephew now that is Air Force and he’s in Japan..I have another nephew that is Army Reserves…So I am very thankful to all that serve in the military..I also appreciate the families that are left here for the sacrifices that they make..

So THANK YOU to all of the men and women that have served, are serving and will serve so that I can sit behind a keyboard and grumble (at times) be happy and make new friends..To all my blog family, hope that you all have a wonderful, safe and happy July 4th..


July 1st, 2011
2:25 pm

Happy Birthday to the United States of America.

Yes, it took a courageous military to secure it from the English crown, and brave soldiers protect us to this day.
I can’t claim pride for something I had nothing to do with, like being born, but I count myself fortunate as hell to be born an American. Thanks mom and dad.

HUGE THANKS to the first American partiots, for founding the greatest country that has EVER been.

Let Freedom Ring!


July 1st, 2011
6:09 pm

Thanks for this piece, Andy! How cool it is to see the beginning of appreciation for our country in your son! How fortunate we are to live here–most of the world would take our place if they could!

We have had servicemen in our family for generations, including the Civil War, until this one. My son would never be considered for service, due to his brain injury. I feel very proud to be an American!

Commodore Stephen Decatur: America, may she always be right,but right or wrong, my country!


July 1st, 2011
6:49 pm

If you’re in Atlanta, take the time soon to see the Atlanta History Museum in Buckhead, and take your kids (if they’re 7 or over in my opinion). Do take the time for the free Coach House and Tullie Farm tours. My 7yo girl loved it, and learned something about the Civil War and the country. They soak it like sponges at this age.


July 1st, 2011
6:58 pm

My children are involved in a faboulous “school” program that teaches American History through not only text books but classic novels written for their age groups. I hope this helps cement the understanding of what America is all about. In addition, we constantly try to remind them of how lucky they are to live in America and how no other country has the freedoms that we do. I hope it is working.
I still don’t feel like our society does a really good job at instilling patriotism in our children. Other than saying the pledge every morning and celebrating the 4th, what do we do as a society to respect our country? I don’t think a lot of today’s kids know that you should not let a flag touch the ground. And don’t get me started about seeing kids milling around and talking during the National Anthem at a sports event. I snatch mine up quickly and tell them “you better stop whatever you’re doing and look at that flag”.
Although we are not a family who ordinarily attends big events, I try to take my kids to big 4th celebrations where they can see tons of people all being proud of America.Complete with patriotic music and fireworks etc.. I feel like it helps them understand the importance.
Happy 4th!!!


July 1st, 2011
7:20 pm

Wow. It is wonderful to read about such patriotims and appreciation. My little brother was KIA in Afghanistan in January. It is comforting to read that there are those who acknowledge and recognize the sacrifices our military makes for us. I will be placing the flag I have had flying at my house since my brother was deployed on his grave this year.

Proud Gold Star Sister of LCpl Ryan Giese


July 1st, 2011
8:26 pm

@Alison, thank you and your brother for his service..May Gods loving arms wrap around you and comfort you..Yes, I am proud to be an AMERICAN..


July 1st, 2011
9:21 pm

@ Alison…thank you! May God Bless You!


July 1st, 2011
9:41 pm

Both my son’s grandfathers served our country in the Navy and the Army, and now my son is following in their footsteps and serving our country in the Navy too. My ex-husband’s dad (army) served in Vietnam, Panama, and South America (chasing Che Guevara) and, after living in other countries, he always proclaimed that the United States of America is the best country on earth. And that was (and is) one of the things we agree on. God bless America and its service members :)


July 1st, 2011
9:43 pm

@ Alison…god bless you and his sacrifice will not be in vain…

Tad Jackson

July 2nd, 2011
12:24 pm

The National Infantry Museum and Soldier Center in Columbus, just outside the main gate of Fort Benning … go. It’s free, and I still can’t believe there’s not a fee. It’s one of the most incredible museums I’ve ever been to.


Andy Johnston

July 2nd, 2011
1:17 pm

Hey, great comments. I love the history of this country and just recently took Ty to Kennesaw Mountain, where he walked up the trail and went through the museum with me and Lori. Then we bought him a bag of plastic army men.

Alison — Sorry for your loss and your family’s sacrifice.

Tad — The National Infantry museum is amazing. I went a couple of years ago, right after it first opened, and was amazed at the quality of the exhibits.

JJ — Pearl Harbor is one of the most moving places on earth. You can’t help but walk those grounds with profound reverence.

Tad Jackson

July 2nd, 2011
3:27 pm

And after your visit to the Infantry Museum, go on up the main drag to the National Civil War Naval Museum … and then to eat at Chester’s, a real local BBQ joint.

I took some students on the aforementioned adventure and while we were enjoying the pork bounty of Chester’s outside by the street, the “mayor of Columbus” came by to say hello. The mayor was holding a huge stack of newspapers he was … well … “reselling.” I gave the mayor five bucks and asked him to go attend to other city business.

When we got back into the bus, one of my students, Spike, asked me why I gave the mayor of Columbus some money. I told Spike that the mayor told me he had recently fell on hard times. Spike screamed real loudly to everybody on the bus that the mayor of Columbus had recently fallen on hard times. They all seemed satisfied with that, and then they fell asleep.



July 2nd, 2011
6:39 pm

We went to the Army base to welcome my nephew and his unit home from Afghanistan over Memorial Day weekend. It was quite an experience. He is 27 and was one of the older ones returning, most of the soldiers were much younger than him, and were returning from either a second or third deployment. My dad served in WWII and Korea, my brother during Vietnam. The flag flies regulary outside our door. Happy Birthday, USA!


July 3rd, 2011
6:51 pm

i just went to a get-together for my best friends son who will be deployed to afghanistan in 10 days for the 2nd time. i was a navy wife once, and many of my kids friends (and my friends kids) are now serving our country. these kids were always taught the history of our country and i have always made sure my kids (and others) know the true meaning of the patriotic holidays–they are not just days to cook out and get drunk and party. do all that if you like–but remember why you are free to do it. god bless our troops. im very emotional right now with these kids i know being deployed and re-deployed. its so hard to watch their parents who are great friends go thru the pain and worry of hoping their children, whom i have watched grow up, come home alive…or in one piece. seeing all the kids going through this takes me back to the viet nam days. that was my generations war.


July 4th, 2011
7:57 pm

I find myself coming to your blog more and more often to the point where my visits are almost daily now!


July 5th, 2011
11:18 am

@Alison: I am so sorry for you and your family’s loss, and am humbled by his sacrifice and yours.