Today while looking for ways to explain more about Veterans' Day to my children, I came across a Muppets version of "Stars and Stripes Forever". 
We started watching it, but then it became apparent that the music meant nothing to them. So we started on a learning journey.  If you want just the more serious side, skip down to the last video on here.  The one that, while we watched it, my 11-year-old turned to me and asked, "Is this something real?"  Yes.  Yes, it is.  I'm not convinced that we've been truly justified in many of the wars in the last 100 years, but I recognize the intent and courage of those who were doing the actual fighting, among whom are family members  Thank you, veterans.  

First, we learned that "Stars and Stripes Forever", by John Philip Sousa,  is our official national march.  (I didn't know we had a national march...)

A little about the music: Sousa was on a tour of Europe in 1896, when he got word that his band director had suddenly died.  Here's what Sousa himself said in his autobiography, Marching Along, about this time and how the march came about:

"Here came one of the most vivid incidents of my career. As the vessel (the Teutonic) steamed out of the harbor I was pacing on the deck, absorbed in thoughts of my manager's death and the many duties and decisions which awaited me in New York. Suddenly, I began to sense a rhythmic beat of a band playing within my brain. Throughout the whole tense voyage, that imaginary band continued to unfold the same themes, echoing and re-echoing the most distinct melody. I did not transfer a note of that music to paper while I was on the steamer, but when we reached shore, I set down the measures that my brain-band had been playing for me, and not a note of it has ever changed."

Sousa later wrote words to go along with the music; in the National Band version below, they use only these words as a verse:

Hurrah for the flag of the free!
May it wave as our standard forever,
The gem of the land and the sea,
The banner of the right.
Let despots remember the day
When our fathers with mighty endeavor
Proclaimed as they marched to the fray
That by their might and by their right
It waves forever.


If you want to know all of the words, they're at the very bottom of this post.
Now my kids had some context for the Muppets' version:
Complete lyrics- written by John Philips Sousa- to "Stars and Stripes Forever":

Let martial note in triumph float
And liberty extend its mighty hand
A flag appears 'mid thunderous cheers,
The banner of the Western land.
The emblem of the brave and true
Its folds protect no tyrant crew
The red and white and starry blue
Is freedom's shield and hope.

Other nations may deem their flags the best
And cheer them with fervid elation
But the flag of the North and South and West
Is the flag of flags, the flag of Freedom's nation.

Hurrah for the flag of the free!
May it wave as our standard forever,
The gem of the land and the sea,
The banner of the right.
Let despots remember the day
When our fathers with mighty endeavor
Proclaimed as they marched to the fray
That by their might and by their right
It waves forever.

Let eagle shriek from lofty peak
The never-ending watchword of our land;
Let summer breeze waft through the trees
The echo of the chorus grand.
Sing out for liberty and light,
Sing out for freedom and the right.
Sing out for Union and its might,
O patriotic sons.

Other nations may deem their flags the best
And cheer them with fervid elation,
But the flag of the North and South and West
Is the flag of flags, the flag of Freedom's nation.

Hurrah for the flag of the free.
May it wave as our standard forever
The gem of the land and the sea,
The banner of the right
. Let despots remember the day
When our fathers with might endeavor
Proclaimed as they marched to the fray
That by their might and by their right
It waves forever.
 
 
Picture
Photo of the construction paper flag we made with this template to come... as soon as I can figure out what in the world my camera did with my photos!
Yes, I'll get some great recipes on this blog again soon... the reason it's been a bit is the same problem as above.  My camera is taking the pictures and burying them somewhere deep inside its circuitry. Sigh.

I'm teaching Joyschool to a group of children ages 1-5.  That's a huge spread in capability and ability to focus.  The group meets for two hours once a week, and has a focus on incorporating the scriptures into lessons. Since today is Constitution Day, I decided to teach them about the reason and purpose of the Constitution, plus the symbols of our flag and what the Pledge of Allegiance means.  I've learned to overplan and then be flexible- so there's a lot below.  :)

Materials needed

‘The Gift to Choose’ cube in a pretty box
Scriptures (Book of Mormon, D&C)
Constitution paper puppets (page 4 of the link, or see photo below)
Constitution puppet story (same as above)
Pictures of a school, church, plus an envelope
Map of the original 13 colonies
Map of the United States (I have a placemat map)
Marker or crayon
American flag- any size
flag pieces (red and blue construction paper) and silver star stickers (see picture below)
Music for “My Flag, My Flag” 
glue sticks or school glue


Section 1: God gave us the gift of Agency and the U.S. Constitution to protect it

Show the present, let someone open it to find the rolling cube inside.  Tell them that God gave us an amazing gift- the freedom to choose.  Let a few children take turns rolling the cube, read what it says.

Sing Do As I’m Doing (CS, - then ask, did I make you do this, or did you get to choose?

Read, then have them recite this scripture  3x: Wherefore, men are free … to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men (2 Nephi 2:27).

Tell the paper-puppet story of the Constitution (Constitution FHE manual, pg. 4).  God told us that gave us the Constitution to protect our right to choose (D&C 101:77).  We sometimes call this “liberty”.  (Have them repeat the word.)

Time for playing inside: US map puzzle for older ones?  Also let them use the cube and the finger puppets.   Also play outside for 10 minutes if weather is good: look for things that are red, white, and blue.

Section 2: The Flag and the Pledge of Allegiance

Today is a special day- show the colonies map and have the kids point out corresponding ones on the placemat map.   Count them with me while I circle them.

Show the flag, tell them it is a symbol of liberty and freedom.  Tell about the meaning of the 13 stripes (colonies and rays of light), and the stars (heaven and trying to reach it by following God, 50 stars/50states), and the colors (white: being pure and righteous, red: bravery and courage, blue: paying attention and sticking with what is true and right) = a symbol of liberty and freedom. (symbolism explained better in Supplemental Materials, at the end.)

Sing a song: My Flag, My Flag- have them wave their flags whenever you sing the word “wave”, or make up motions or dance.  Bring the music and use the piano, or the CD and a player.  

Tell about the Pledge of Allegiance

Recite it, say why we put our hand where we do, then talk about some of the words:

Pledge: a promise
Allegiance : to be faithful and helpful to it

So when you pledge allegiance to the flag, it means you promise to be faithful and helpful to liberty and freedom.

The United States: our country
Republic: the kind of government the Founding Fathers gave us, where we have power to choose our leaders.
Under God:  God is the most important, and helps the country when we’re righteous.
Liberty: we get to use our agency
Justice for all: the law is the same for everyone, no matter how old, young, rich, poor, or how they live.

End by reciting the Pledge of Allegiance together, then my testimony of God’s wisdom and love in giving the Constitution to us.
Picture
Print this to fit a regular-sized piece of paper. Cut out blue construction paper to fit the proper place (mine- 4 3/8" x 3 3/8"). Cut red stripes- each one will need 4 short ones and 3 long ones- red is the first stripe at the top and the last at the bottom. (My red stripes were 1/2" wide, long ones 10 1/2", short ones 6 1/2")
Supplemental materials:

http://www.usflag.org/colors.html "The colors [of the Great Seal] of the pales (the vertical stripes) are those used in the flag of the United States of America; White signifies purity and innocence, Red, hardiness [bravery] & valour, and Blue, the color of the Chief (the broad band above the stripes) signifies vigilance, perseverance & justice."

Also this from a book about the flag published in 1977 by the House of Representatives:
"The star is a symbol of the heavens and the divine goal to which man has aspired from time immemorial; the stripe is symbolic of the rays of light emanating from the sun."

50 stars- states; 13 stripes- original 13 colonies  (bring in US placemat, color/circle the 13 in front of the kids)

Explaining the Pledge of Allegiance: http://www.ehow.com/info_10043483_explaining-pledge-flag-kids.html

Mormon Messages:  The Freedom to… http://www.lds.org/media-library/video/2009-06-27-the-freedom-to?category=mormon-messages/mormon-messages-2009&&lang=eng

Read a  story  "Do As I'm Doing" at   

Scriptures  D&C 101:77, 80   the Lord caused Constitution to be established for protection and liberty D&C 134:1–5 (Governments are instituted of God for the benefit of mankind)

For an explanation of the need and purpose of the Constitution, see the FHE lessons for the Bicentennial, page 4 

My Flag, My Flag  http://www.lds.org/music/library/childrens-songbook/my-flag-my-flag?lang=eng, also on Youtube (at the :54 mark) at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g88bnDkoHbc

My Country  http://www.lds.org/music/library/childrens-songbook/my-country?lang=eng

Schoolhouse Rock “The Preamble”

http://www.usflag.org/colors.html "The colors [of the Great Seal] of the pales (the vertical stripes) are those used in the flag of the United States of America; White signifies purity and innocence, Red, hardiness [bravery] & valour, and Blue, the color of the Chief (the broad band above the stripes) signifies vigilance, perseverance & justice."

Also this from a book about the flag published in 1977 by the House of Representatives...

"The star is a symbol of the heavens and the divine goal to which man has aspired from time immemorial; the stripe is symbolic of the rays of light emanating from the sun."

50 stars- states; 13 stripes- original 13 colonies  (bring in US placemat, color the 13 in front of the kids)

Explaining the Pledge of Allegiance: http://www.ehow.com/info_10043483_explaining-pledge-flag-kids.html
 
 
Want something meaningful to do on the Fourth of July?

There's a whole slideshow of possibilities, on my home page.

Or you can find some great local thing to participate in.  If you're anywhere near the Wasatch Front, two great options are the Orem FreedomFest, and the week-long Patriot Camps for 1st-6th graders.
FreedomFest has several free events, including the Walk of Freedom, "Cries of Freedom, the Musical", and Constitution Hall.

If you'd like something low-key that keeps you inside with the air conditioning running, watch The Swamp Fox, a Disney series on a real-life Revolutionary War hero.  Keep in mind some things are embellished in it; for instance, Francis Marion (the Swamp Fox himself) was actually only 5'2" and 42 years old.  But it's good family watching and can lead to even better reading up later.
 
 
The apron is made with two 15x25" flat-weave dish towels from a local discount store.  The apron below is from two dish towels from the dollar store.  The orange ones were in the Halloween decoration section, the red and blue in a Fourth of July decorations section.  It would have been cute to add a star-shaped pocket on the red and blue one, but that would require a third dish towel, since I wanted a flounce at the bottom of the apron.  

The whole thing takes under an hour to make if you're used to sewing.  How much less, I don't know because of my Mommy Sewing Method... you know the drill!   -Cut, iron, start stitching, pull out lunch for everybody, sit and eat with everyone, sit and sew, stop to get the Table-Clearer child back to do his job, iron, sew a little more, stop to get the youngest child down for a nap, sit and sew some more...

You could use the terrycloth dish towels for an extra-absorbent apron.  There are some cute dish towels sometimes!
 
 
I grew up with the vague idea that the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence were kind of the same thing.  Or at least I thought they were written at the same time.  Now that I know more, I want my children to know and understand better the background and history of each.  This way they can better appreciate what our Founders set up, why they did it, and at what cost.

This year I ran across the following quote, which sparked an even greater desire to learn and teach:

“If American freedom is lost, if America is destroyed, it may be by Americans who salute the flag, sing the national anthem, march in patriotic parades, cheer Fourth of July speakers–normally good Americans, but Americans who fail to comprehend what is required to keep our country strong and free
– Americans who have been lulled away into a false security... 

If America is to withstand these influences and trends, there must be a renewal of the spirit of our forefathers, an appreciation of the American way of life, a strengthening of muscle and sinew and the character of the nation. America needs guts as well as guns. National character is the core of national defense.” –Ezra Taft Benson

Hosea  4:6  “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee... seeing thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, I will also forget thy children.”

"Knowledge will forever govern ignorance; and a people who mean to be their own Governors, must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives."   James Madison  Aug 4, 1822

The lesson is below this photo.

Of course, your family may only need some of these pieces, or something different, or a shorter version, or longer.  Pray to know what they need.  God cares about what we learn and teach!
*********************************************** 
FHE lesson on The Declaration of Independence

Sing a song: God Bless America,  or My Country, 'Tis of Thee

Have an opening prayer

Introduce the topic:  Hand everyone something little like pennies (or pieces of cereal, or jelly beans).  Give them several, based on how much they helped today, or if they did all of their chores (so they feel ownership).  Tell them they are like the 13 Colonies, and you’ll be England.  Take some of the pennies back and give all of them to one person.  How do they feel? 
Explain that when a government takes money from you without you getting to have a say in where it's used, it's called "taxation without representation".   The colonists knew it wasn't right, England's own Constitution even guaranteed them a say in how tax money was spent.  (With older children, you can explain more about the Stamp Act of 1765, or the Boston Tea Party in 1773.)

Have someone read D&C 134:1-2, the LDS Statement of Belief on government:

We believe that governments were instituted of God for the benefit of man; and that he holds men accountable for their acts in relation to them, both in making laws and administering them, for the good and safety of society.

 We believe that no government can exist in peace, except such laws are framed and held inviolate as will secure to each individual the free exercise of conscience, the right and control of property, and the protection of life.

Ask: What was wrong with how the colonies were treated?


The colonies had been fighting with England for a couple years already.  At first they were fighting for their right to be treated fairly, but by the summer of 1776 they decided that the only good solution was to become their own nation.

July 4th, when they finalized the Declaration of Independence, became the birthday for The United States of America.  It was the beginning of our nation but the bigger deal was how our leaders claimed that right- not from men, but from rights given to all mankind by God.

“The Declaration has three parts—the famous Preamble, a list of charges against King George III, and a conclusion. The Preamble summarizes the fundamental principles of American self-government. The list of charges against the king presents examples of the violation of those principles. The stirring conclusion calls for duty, action, and sacrifice.” ( -The Heritage Foundation- great article!!)

_________________
Read The Declaration of Independence! (see a photo of the original here.)

Words you might need to explain or discuss:

self-evident -they prove themselves true

unalienable -cannot be given up or taken

pursuit of happiness- living to your full potential, bettering yourself and your situation

evinces -shows or proves

Despotism -(1828 Webster’s: ‘Absolute power; authority unlimited and uncontrolled by men, constitution or laws, and depending alone on the will of the prince)
____________

Encourage application
:

Read or relate the following: John Adams wrote in a letter to his wife Abigail:

“The second day of July, 1776, will be the most memorable epoch in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the Day of Deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more.”

(Note: A rough draft of the Declaration of Independence was written in June 1776;  July 2nd  is the date the Continental Congress  unanimously voted for separation from Great Britain.  The Declaration was modified a little, then read and approved on July 4, 1776, though it may not have been signed until August.)

Have someone read 1Thessalonians 5:18  In every thing give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.

Ask: How can you show that you remember and are grateful for our nation and freedoms?  
Bear your testimony of the great blessings God has given us.

Closing song: America the Beautiful
Closing prayer
-----------------
Choose one or more activities (or do one of these each day for a week):

-Make paper pinwheels 

-Watch a Mormon Messages video: What Freedoms Are you Grateful For?

-Ring a “Liberty bell”-  Hang a bell from a rope.  Take turns telling each other some blessing that you’re grateful for; each person gets to toss a beanbag or ball at the bell for every blessing mentioned.

If you don’t have a bell, you can make one out of cardboard or cardstock, or punch two holes in the bottom of an empty soup can (run a piece of yarn, string, or  a twist tie through the two holes; you can hook onto something for a clapper at the same time), or  make a bell from a porcelain or glass cup.  One of my children drew a large bell,  taped it to a thread, which was tied onto the ceiling fan pull (I asked him to draw a bell and find some way to hang it someplace) ... the game was a big  hit with them!  (I did have to remind them the goal was to RING the bell, not DESTROY it.)

-Write a Family Creed

-Make and hang a sign saying "Remember" over the inside of your front door.

-Decorate your table, living room, or porch with flags and red, white, and blue.

-Eat red, white, and blue foods:

Blue and white tortilla chips with salsa (red!)


 
 
Picture

(originally from 6/11/10)
This last week I moved my bookcases around (thanks to a great organizing suggestion from a neighbor) and found a treasure:

In 1987, to celebrate the Bicentennial of the signing of the Constitution, the Church published a 14-page booklet with Family Home Evening lessons on the Constitution and the Founding Fathers.  I had a copy hiding amongst our books.  It's also available online.  The lessons are great for teaching simply and powerfully what is at the heart of our country's existence.  At the following website, halfway down the page you can click to download this in pdf format. http://www.latterdayconservative.com/articles/family-home-evening-lessons-for-the-bicentennial-of-the-constitution    

Use it, teach it, spread it around!  We've been told often (especially the last couple LDS General Conferences)  to teach our children truth; this is a great way to see that they are being taught the truth about our nation's birth.

Here’s what lds.org had to say about the booklet (Ensign, Nov. 1987, 102–3)

Booklet Published

The Church has published for its members in the United States a special booklet explaining the divine significance of the U. S. Constitution and its principles.

The First Presidency has asked that the booklet be used as the subject of family home evening lessons by all member families in the United States.

The delegates to the Constitutional Convention in 1787 were inspired men the First Presidency said—men who produced a document that the Prophet Joseph Smith called “a glorious standard” and “a heavenly banner.”

In a preface to the new booklet, the First Presidency stated the purpose of the publication:

“In commemoration of this important event, we are providing this booklet, which contains three family home evening lessons, activity ideas, and a copy of the Constitution. We encourage you to prepare and teach each lesson prayerfully so that family members may feel the divine significance of the Constitution in their minds and hearts.”

Some 1.3 million copies of the booklet have been printed and are available to congregations throughout the United States. Local leaders may order copies through the Salt Lake Distribution Center.

TV Special

“America, the Dream Goes On,” was the title of a one-hour variety special spotlighting the U. S. Constitution. The show was produced by Church-owned Bonneville Media Communications.

The television special featured singing by the Tabernacle Choir and Marie Osmond. LDS actor Gordon Jump portrayed Benjamin Franklin. Another prominent actor, Harry Morgan, was host and narrator. The show was televised nationally in September (1987)."

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Chicken Nachos     6 servings

1 can cheddar cheese soup (or make 1 cup of white sauce and stir in ½ c. cheese)   
1/2  c. salsa   
1   c. cooked chicken,  diced  (I use my frozen or canned chicken)
1   10 oz bag   tortilla chips    
        chopped tomato, optional    
        sliced olives   
On low, heat together soup, salsa, and chicken.   Serve over chips; top with tomato and olives.