Looking around, it feels like American patriotism is an attitude that’s becoming more and more rare in this 21st century political climate. Our nation feels more polarized than ever before, and as a result of current events and reactions to them, people express feeling less and less proud of our country than ever before.
I was always told growing up how lucky I was to be an American, and how proud I should be to live in the “greatest nation in the world.” I can see how some might bristle at that superlative, but I think the pendulum has swung too far in the other direction, with some individuals proclaiming feeling ashamed to be American, to display the flag or to say the Pledge of Allegiance.
As I raise my children to be proud of their country, I’m aware of the climate I’m doing it in. Patriotism is becoming less of a mainstream stance to take, and more of a deliberate choice to impart as a value to the next generation.
My kids are all young, so we’re still teaching the fundamentals right now. Of course, our approach will get more nuanced as they get older and learn more about both history and current events.
Here are some of the ways our family is trying to instill patriotism in our kids:
■ We include the Pledge of Allegiance as part of our homeschool routine every day. While reciting the pledge, we also include lessons in respect for the flag itself and follow the Flag Code.
■ We discuss and celebrate our citizenship. Our kids know that their dad was born in another country and how proud he is to belong to the USA now. We talk about how lucky they are to be born here. They know it’s something to be proud of, and as they get older, those conversations will include more about the duties and responsibilities of a citizen.
■ I take my kids with me to vote in person when I can so I can show them democracy in action.
■ We take opportunities to teach our kids about respect for the military. We live in an area that has lots of servicemembers around, and we have some veterans in our extended family, so we get opportunities to tell our kids about these heroes and how their sacrifices keep us safe here at home.
■ We discuss American history, in an age-appropriate way, in our homeschool curriculum, including both its brighter and darker moments. In these early years we’ll be telling shiny happy stories about the first Thanksgiving, but also not shying away from realities like slavery. This conversation will get far deeper as they get older and learn more about the complexities of our past and our present as a nation, but it will always include frank discussions of how these periods of history did or didn’t reflect the true values America was built on, and how we can emphasize those values better in our own lives.
■ We visit museums, memorials and patriotic and educational events that celebrate the history of our country and the sacrifice of our service members. As we celebrate our veterans this weekend, I’m renewing my dedication to instilling patriotic values in my children. We want to raise the next generation of Americans who will face the struggles of our modern society with the goal of building up our nation, rather than tearing it down. I hope some of these ideas will inspire your family to do the same.