Presidents Day began as a celebration of George Washington (the official name is still Washington’s Birthday–the name “Presidents Day” was a marketing ploy of the 1980’s) and falls on the third Monday of February. Washington’s actual birthday was February 22nd and originally the day was celebrated at this time, but Americans have a thing for three day weekends so it was adjusted accordingly. When we celebrate Presidents Day at my house we usually focus just on Washington, partly to keep it simple and partly because he’s the most admirable man and president in our country’s history. Washington is a person I really want my children to emulate.
When teaching my own kids I don’t just look for cute activities around a theme, like Presidents Day. I mean making a puppet of George Washington would be fun, but what would they learn? I always approach a lesson from the idea of “what do I want them to learn from this” and then I design an activity or discussion that teaches the facts or the principles I want them to absorb. So there’s nothing wrong with making the puppet of George, but then make it meaningful on top of that.
A Story To Emulate
So today I will read my children a story about the humility of Washington and what made him truly a great man. You can find it here. Then we will discuss the story:
- What did Washington do when the corporal (a corporal is just above a private in rank) refused to help his men?
- Why do you think Washington did this?
- What do you think the corporal thought after Washington told him who he, Washington, was?
- What do you learn about Washington’s character from this story?
Here are a few other stories of George Washington that give insight into his character.
When I have read them a story or two and we have discussed them, I will ask the kids to choose one of the stories to draw a picture of. Then on the back or in a caption they will narrate the story back to me as I write (the bigger ones can write themselves).
And For the Crafty People
That’s all it takes and instead of a pointless craft to fill time you have learned a real lesson. Of course you can substitute the drawing with a “puppet of Washington” (or another craft) and write some of Washington’s character traits on the puppet.
- George Washington on a toilet paper roll from DLTK
- Idea for making a paper and clay finger puppet of a president.
- Several Washington themed crafts including his hat, his ax, and the fabled (but inaccurate) story of the cherry tree.
- Re-enact one of the battles that Washington generaled during the Revolutionary War: The Battle of Long Island or the Battle of Trenton.
- Learn more about Mt. Vernon, Washington’s house, by taking a virtual tour.
- The site where you read the story of Washington and the Corporal has many more interesting and little known anecdotes about the Revolutionary War period. Read some of them. The stories can also be purchased as a book called American History Stories You Never Read in School . . . But Should Have by Mara Pratt.
- High schoolers and adults will enjoy reading the Real George Washington .
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