If you haven't guessed already, I live in America. June 14, if you did not already know, is known as Flag Day. (Yeah, I didn't know either.) For those of you American readers, I hope this will be interesting. If you're not, I encourage you to take a look at your country's flag history. I know I certainly was surprised! It took 30 years for the idea of a day to honor our nation's flag to become official. (Who was the president? Find out here!) Although it's not a federal holiday, it is a patriotic holiday, often celebrated by commemorating American soldiers who died in battle while defending our country.
We have probably all learned in school when our flag originated (if you don't know, you can refresh your memory here). According to the USA Flag Site, each of the colors of the flag have a special significance: Red for hardiness and valor, White for purity and innocence, and Blue for vigilance, perseverance and justice.
The flag has 13 horizontal stripes, representing the 13 original colonies and 50 white stars, one for each of the 50 states in our Union. As we added states to our country, the configurations of these stars would change until President Eisenhower finalized the arrangement we know today. (If you'd like to see how our flag has changed over the years, check out this flag timeline!) Little known fact: there is a flag with 51 stars on it, waiting in the wings, should that day ever come.
Pledging Allegiance to What?
Now, if you're like me, you have probably recited the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag every day in school. While I may be able to recite it, I was wondering, what exactly am I pledging allegiance to? Why? According to the Home of Heroes website, this Pledge is a commitment to loyalty to our country, as well as unity within its peoples and liberty and justice for all who call this country our home. (I really appreciated their phrase by phrase explanation of this Pledge on the site. It might be good to go over with our kids so they know what it means!)
Celebrating Our Flag
With numerous lawsuits (here's the latest) against the wording of the Pledge of Allegiance (namely directed at the phrase "under God"), it is a sobering reminder to us that we cannot take our Christian roots for granted here in the States. While we are citizens of a heavenly country, for those of us who live in the United States, we are also citizens here for the time being. A part of discipling our children is also raising them to love and fight for our country and what it was founded to stand for.
Whether you do this on Flag Day or not, why not plan some time to do some of these activities while discussing some of the things mentioned above. You can:
- Color in a flag and talk about the colors and what they mean, count the number of stripes and stars. Your older kids may want to find out what states were added with each new flag and who the presidents were at the time.
- Talk about the Pledge of Allegiance and what each line means.
- Learn about flag etiquette. If you want to see the actual document from our Senate, you can check it out here. Especially interesting is learning that if you have a flag design on your t-shirt or tie, it is a violation of the code.
- Read books about our flag. These are geared for younger kids and early elementary.
As I was reading some of the posts and articles on the internet, I wanted to point out that I'm not advocating worshipping the flag or making it an idol. That certainly can happen. Rather, in teaching my kids, I hope instead to help my kids reflect on what it means to be a citizen of this country and how we can honor it while we are here, for His sake. (See Heb. 13:17, 1 Peter 2:13) As we slowly lose the character of respect for one's country, we can become increasingly self-centered instead of sacrificial. As a democratic nation, we have very little understanding of what a monarchy means. This may be the closest I can get to helping my kids grow a humble heart in regards to authorities. Life here is practice for the one to come.
As we have been studying US History over the past two years in our homeschool, I have prayed that my children will continue to carry on the story that God has begun here in America. Our country is not a perfect one, and there have been many events, legislation and issues that have arisen over the past few years that have grieved my heart. But I also know what a privilege it is to live here. I pray that God will continue to bless our country as we do our part to honor Him as we respect our country. Ultimately, I pray that in learning to live respectfully under authority here, my children will also be able to transition well into their heavenly home, the country in which they really belong.