On Saturday, my Raising Austin column offered many tips on how to teach your kids about patriotism beyond just seeing fireworks on the Fourth of July. You can read that column, below.
Reader Liz Viola called in with another great idea. When her 16 grandchildren turn 18, she has the county that they live in send them a voter registration card. Her oldest grandchild is 32 and she still has four more under 18. She wants them to know how important voting is, no matter which way they vote.
Here were my ideas:
Learn “The Star-Spangled Banner.”We might think we know the words, but do we? And what do they really mean? Then head to a Round Rock Express game and sing with abandon.
Find a cause. Is it animal welfare? Gun control? Standardized testing? Homelessness? Equal pay? Find out what ignites your kids. Have them do the research and then write a letter to their congressman, state representative or senator. Turn beliefs into actions by volunteering for a local nonprofit agency.
See a presidential library. Easy peasy. We have the Lyndon Baines Johnson Presidential Library and Museum right here in Austin. On the UT campus at 2313 Red River St., it’s open every day from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Take a road trip to the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum in Dallas or the George Bush Presidential Library and Museum in College Station. You also can search the archives of the libraries online at archives.gov/presidential-libraries.
Vote. Model yourself exercising your right to vote. Talk to kids beforehand about what issues are on the ballot. They can even help you do some research on a candidate or a proposition.
Visit a national park. We’ve got 15 in Texas, including San Antonio Missions National Historical Park, Big Bend National Park, Padre Island National Seashore and the Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park. Many parks have junior ranger programs to earn a pin or a badge.
Read a newspaper in print or online. Teach them how to be aware of the events around them. For younger kids, you might want to select which stories to read.
Find a historical role model. Does your kid dream of living on Mars? Read a book about the first U.S. female astronaut, Sally Ride, or the first man to walk on the moon, Neil Armstrong. Want to be a doctor? Read about polio vaccine creator Jonas Salk or Elizabeth Blackwell, who was the first woman to earn a medical degree in 1849 and trained other women to become doctors.
Know the 50 states. First learn where they are on a map, then work on the capitals. Easy. Now it’s time for the fun. Find some interesting facts about each state. Where was the Raggedy Ann doll created? Indiana. Which state is the Grape State? California. Where is the largest man-made geyser in the world? Idaho. Find more fun facts at 50states.com.
Design a country. If your kids could create their own country, what would it be like? What would the laws of the land be? What would the flag look like? What’s the geography? What would be the major industry?
Trace their roots. Who was their first family member to become an American? Where did he or she come from? Ancestry.com is great for this, but also have them interview grandparents or even great-grandparents.
Compare their lives with kids around the world. What sports do kids in Uganda play? What’s a favorite after-school snack in France? What do kids in Israel watch on TV? If your kids are particularly interested in one country, find a pen pal from there. Try amazing-kids.org or pen-pal.com.
Plan a trip to Washington, D.C. Look at a visit next year to D.C. What museums will you go to? Which monuments? Can’t afford to go? Go on a virtual tour of D.C. by researching the history of the monuments and what’s inside the Smithsonian, Congress and the White House. Washington.org can get you started.