Did you know?
In 1777, Philadelphians celebrated Independence Day on the 4th of July. Bells were rung, guns fired, candles lit, and firecrackers set off. While the War of Independence dragged on, however, July 4th celebrations were modest at best. When the war ended in 1783, July 4th became a holiday in some places. Speeches, military events, parades, and fireworks marked the day. In 1941, Congress finally declared Independence Day to be a federal holiday.
In our home, we have had the traditional barbecue get-together with family, followed by the fireworks celebrations. As we began traveling across the country for homeschool conventions, we often found ourselves in the West Coast of the U.S. and experienced the celebration during the chilly summer nights in Washington state.
Over the years our celebrations have varied, but our gratitude for the freedoms we celebrate have deepened each 4th of July. As we round the corner of another year, I’ve already started thinking about what we can do this year to celebrate.
As a homeschooling family, I must admit, we do not start each day with the Pledge of Allegiance, nor will you find us singing our national anthem before a hall bell rings. However, these are great traditions that bring a sense of pride and patriotism.
This year, although the holiday falls on the off-season of traditional school, we will use the songs, books, and trivia listed below to prepare for the festivities. These are excellent ways to further our children’s knowledge of our country’s history and bring a new level of appreciation for the celebration.
TUNES TO TEACH
Teaching kids what it means to be an American is more than history and dates. It’s about patriotism, duty to country, and a thankfulness for the grace God has blessed us with. This is often accomplished through songs. These are our family favorites:
- America the Beautiful
- Battle Hymn of the Republic
- God Bless America
- My Country ‘Tis of Thee
- Star Spangled Banner
- Yankee Doodle
BOOKS FOR KIDS
- The Night Before the 4th of July by Natasha Wing
- F Is for Flag by Wendy Cheyette Lewison
- Independence Day by Trudi Strain Trueit
- Happy Birthday, America by Mary Pope Osborne
- The Fourth of July Story by Alice Dalgliesh
- The Flag We Love by Pam Munoz Ryan
- A Picture Book of John Hancock by David A. Adler
- Will You Sign Here, John Hancock? by Jean Fritz
- Liberty!: How the Revolutionary War Began by Lucille Recht Penner
- If You Lived At The Time Of The American Revolution by Kay Moore
- DK Eyewitness Books: American Revolution by Stuart Murray
- The Declaration of Independence by Elaine Landau
- Sam the Minuteman by Nathaniel Benchley
TRIVIA & NOTABLE FACTS:
- The Declaration of Independence was drafted by Thomas Jefferson in June 1776. This document is the nation’s most cherished symbol of liberty. It set forth a list of grievances against the King of England in order to justify breaking the ties between the colonies and the mother country.
- The Continental Congress actually voted in favor of independence on July 2, 1776, but the Declaration of Independence was adopted by the delegates on July 4th.
- Only John Hancock, the president of Congress, and Charles Thomson, the Congressional Secretary, actually signed the first copy of the Declaration of Independence July 4, 1776. All the others signed later.
- The average age of the signers of the Declaration of Independence was 45. The youngest was Thomas Lynch, Jr. of South Carolina, who was 27. The oldest delegate was Benjamin Franklin of Pennsylvania, age 70.
- The first recorded 4th of July celebrations were in 1777 on the one-year anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence. The first 4th of July party wasn’t held at the White House, however, until 1801.
- Three of the first five U.S. presidents died on July 4. John Adams and Thomas Jefferson died July 4, 1826. James Monroe, the fifth president, died five years later in 1831.
- On June 28, 1870, Congress passed a law making the 4th of July a federal holiday.
- The Pledge of Allegiance received official recognition by Congress in an act approved on June 22, 1942. The Pledge was first published in 1892 in the Youth’s Companion magazine in Boston, Massachusetts, to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the discovery of America, and was first used in public schools to celebrate Columbus Day on October 12, 1892.