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Raising patriots

"Raising patriots" Continued...

Issue: "The 2007 Books Issue," June 30, 2007

Meanwhile, Blyth said, celebri-crats like the Dixie Chicks, Michael Moore, and Al Gore also have a big influence on kids' perceptions of America. But nobody, she added, has the influence parents have: "All they have to do is use it-to say we're proud to be Americans, we're proud of our history, and we're part of the American story. It's not hard . . . in fact it's kind of fun."

The bulk of How to Raise an American is devoted to hundreds of tips and ideas parents can use to help their kids appreciate America and its institutions, history, and traditions. Ideas include:

  • Volunteering together in a political campaign;
  • Taking your kids with you when you vote;
  • Observing patriotic holidays with visits to historic sites or fun activities like making a flag cake;
  • Sending a letter or care package to a soldier;
  • Inviting an immigrant family to Thanksgiving dinner, and asking them why they came to America;
  • Participating with your kids in community service projects that help the poor;
  • Through arts and crafts, helping your kids explore important American documents like the Declaration of Independence and the Emancipation Proclamation;
  • Exposing your kids to great speeches by notable Americans such as Patrick Henry, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Martin Luther King Jr.;
  • Visiting cities rich in American history such as Washington, D.C., Boston, and Philadelphia (Blyth and Winston list 250 domestic destinations "your kids will love").

The Sluga family of Randolph, N.Y., began by teaching their kids to appreciate military veterans. "My husband is a Vietnam veteran," said Vickie Sluga, 54. "That has been a biggie in our son's life. He always mails his dad a thank-you card on Veterans Day."

The Slugas took their kids to patriotic parades and ceremonies, and now they take their grandkids. "We collect the state quarters," Sluga said. "We study the map of the USA and have explained the meaning of the stars and the colors of the stripes."

In addition to their domestic travels, the Fischer family lived overseas during Mike's military career, setting up housekeeping in places as diverse as Germany, Okinawa, Greece, and Italy. "The kids saw firsthand what it was like to live there and they heard stories of people trying to deal with the health care system, homeschooling issues-illegal in Greece, by the way-transportation, strikes, and taxes," Virginia Fischer said.

The experience helped the four Fischer kids appreciate America, she said: Her daughter, Kristina "specifically told me she hopes to raise any children she has with the same love of country."

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