Memorial Day Lesson Plans for All Ages: Helping Our Kids Remember
While my homeschooler was taking her first standardized test, I peaked over her shoulder and saw a question about what Memorial Day celebrates.
I smiled as I thought my daughter would get that right for sure.
We have talked about Memorial Day and what it means. She has been to Arlington Cemetery and seen the changing of the guard.
She has laid wreaths on soldiers’ graves with Wreaths Across America.
Not to mention, both her parents have served in the Army. Her grandfather was in the army for 27 years. Three of her great grandfathers served in the military.
My daughter should know what Memorial Day is all about.
You can imagine my shock and horror as I watched her bubble in “it celebrates America’s workers.”
How could that be? How did she not know?
What I learned is that kids forget quickly.
It is our job as parents to continually teach our American history and why we recognize federal holidays like Memorial Day.
Do you feel comfortable explaining Memorial Day to your kids? Do you know why we recognize it every year?
If you feel a cold sweat coming on, don’t worry – you’re not alone! Many people struggle with this!
But hopefully after you go through these Memorial Day lesson plans, you and your kids will not be one of them.
Why People Don’t know What Memorial Day Celebrates
I am a homeschooling mom of 3 now, but I used to be a proud officer in the Army Nurse Corps.
Every year I would receive messages on Memorial Day from well meaning people thanking me for my service.
It is an awkward thing to explain that this is not my holiday to be recognized. This is the day we honor those who have given the ultimate sacrifice in the line of duty.
I’m still alive. Send me a message on Veterans Day, please.
But, I don’t blame people. The reason they are confused is because school is nearly over by the time Memorial Day comes around.
Everybody is focused on end of year grades and being done. That long weekend is coming up and we have pools and barbecuing on the brain!
If the schools aren’t teaching about Memorial Day, kids are checked out, and your parents aren’t knowledgeable on the topic either…how would you ever know?
Most people know it’s a patriotic holiday that has something to do with military people, but beyond that, they’re really not sure.
Why Your Kid Needs to Know About Memorial Day
The first reason would be so that your kids do not make a cringeworthy mistake as adults and wish a service member a “Happy Memorial Day.”
Understanding our federal holidays should be a core part of our social studies curriculum.
Our children should be taught and reminded that our freedom is not free. The freedoms they enjoy every day were bought with a high price. The people who paid the price should be remembered and honored.
It is awe inspiring to learn about the bravery and selflessness of people who have laid down their lives for our country. There is much for our kids to learn about character, duty, strength, and courage if we hope to raise a generation who will continue to defend freedom.
Memorial Day Lesson Plans for your Homeschool
Below you will find a list of suggested books, youtube videos, activities to do with your kids, and discussion questions.
I love the idea of reading a book with my kids, bringing that book to life with a youtube video, doing an activity to cement what has been learned, and then having an open discussion to answer questions and go deeper.
I purposefully chose things that could be used with younger children all the way up to high schoolers.
Feel free to pick and choose from below to set up the perfect Memorial Day lesson plan for your age kids!
***You might consider doing one book on Monday, a video on Tuesday, an activity on Wednesday, and discussing questions on Thursday to wrap it up. Stretching it out over the week before Memorial Day may help your child retain more and prepare them to honor the holiday.
1. Memorial Day Suggested Books:
These are three inexpensive options for you to add to your homeschooling library. Click the image to read more and decide which one or more will be the best fit for your kids on Memorial Day.
Memorial Day by Emma Carlson Berne
“Memorial Day honors soldiers who fought and died for the United States. On this day, communities gather to remember soldiers’ sacrifices and celebrate the beginning of summer. Sing along as you explore Holidays in Rhythm and Rhyme! Includes online music access.”
Let’s Celebrate Memorial Day by Barbara deRubertis
“On the last Monday of May, when spring flowers are in bloom and summer is just around the corner, we pause to remember all the brave men and women in our Armed Forces who died while protecting our country, our freedoms, and us.”
Memorial Day by Clara Cella
“Many men and women have died fighting for our country. They gave their lives to keep us free. Let’s celebrate them on Memorial Day.”
Older kids may enjoy listening to these books as a read aloud with you or reading it themselves:
The Greatest Medal of Honor Stories Ever Told by Tom McCarthy
“In The Greatest Medal of Honor Stories Ever Told, editor Tom McCarthy has pulled together some of the finest writings about heroes awarded the highest military honor that capture readers imaginations. The one thing the heroes in this collection have in common—from the bloody battlefields of the Civil War through the lonely mountains of Afghanistan—is uncommon valor. Each of the men in these stories had the courage to calmly stare death in the face and move on—to do what they had to because that was their duty and the lives of others meant more to them than their own.
Chosen from hundreds of accounts of singular devotion to duty, the stories in Medal of Honor stand out for their jaw-dropping tales of bravery. They are the best. No small feat.”
Alone at Dawn: Medal of Honor Recipient John Chapman and the Untold Story of the World’s Deadliest Special Operations Force
“In the predawn hours of March 4, 2002, just below the 10,469-foot peak of a mountain in eastern Afghanistan, a fierce battle raged. Outnumbered by Al Qaeda fighters, Air Force Combat Controller John Chapman and a handful of Navy SEALs struggled to take the summit in a desperate bid to find a lost teammate.Chapman, leading the charge, was gravely wounded in the initial assault. Believing he was dead, his SEAL leader ordered a retreat. Chapman regained consciousness alone, with the enemy closing in on three sides.John Chapman’s subsequent display of incredible valor — first saving the lives of his SEAL teammates and then, knowing he was mortally wounded, single-handedly engaging two dozen hardened fighters to save the lives of an incoming rescue squad — posthumously earned him the Medal of Honor. Chapman is the first airman in nearly fifty years to be given the distinction reserved for America’s greatest heroes.”
2. Memorial Day Video Suggestions:
Here are three short videos for you to preview and see which is most appropriate for your kids.
Homeschool Pop and Bedtime History targets the elementary age range, while the History Channel offers a 3-4 minute video more appropriate for high schoolers.
3. Memorial Day Activity Suggestions
Here are some ideas of how you can celebrate Memorial Day and really internalize what this national holiday is all about:
Attend a Memorial Day ceremony in your area
This is a wonderful way to show your children the solemn remembrance of those who have died defending our country.
A search on Facebook or local news outlets should help you find a local ceremony.
If not, contact your local Veterans of Foreign Wars chapter. They are sure to have more information about what is going on in your area.
If your area is locked down due to COVID-19, be sure to check for any virtual Memorial Day ceremonies.
Visit War Memorials in your area
If going to a somber ceremony sounds like way too much with little ones, consider taking your kids to visit a war memorial near you.
Bring flowers to lay on the memorial and help your children read any names that may be inscribed.
Make Patriotic Crafts
For younger kids, just making a patriotic craft and celebrating the Red, White, and Blue is a great way to honor Memorial Day.
Instill a sense of pride in our flag with these crafts:
American Flag Craft with Do A Dot Paints
Super Easy Popsicle Stick American Flag Craft
Simple Patriotic Holiday Wind Catcher
Patriotic Paper Plate Wind Catcher – this one is my favorite and what I plan to do with my girls!
Learn About Service Members Who Have been Killed in Action in Iraq/Afghanistan
It can be hard for kids to appreciate the importance of Memorial Day if they are imagining a faceless person far off in history.
The sad truth is that there are people that have made the ultimate sacrifice in 2020 for our freedom. Many seem to have forgotten that we still actively deploy soldiers into harm’s way.
Take your students to thefallen.militarytimes.com to show them pictures and stories of people who have been in killed in action.
Take time to remember their names and pray for their families as you gather for your own Memorial Day celebrations
Watch a Patriotic Movie Together
Movies are a great way to bring history to life and help kids understand the sacrifice of so many for their freedom.
Again this is for the older student, and depends on what you think they can handle.
Consider watching one of the following movies with your kids to show them a vivid picture of the bravery and sacrifice of the American soldier.
Click on the link to find out more, watch a trailer, and stream the movie through Amazon.
Gettysburg (1993 – rated PG)
A Bridge Too Far (1977 – rated PG)
Battle Cry (1955 – not rated)
We Were Soldiers (2002 – rated R)
Band of Brothers (2001 – rated R)
Tora! Tora! Tora! (1970 – rated G)
The Longest Day (1962 – rated PG13)
Saving Private Ryan (1999 – rated R)
Black Hawk Down (2002 – rated R)
The Big Red One (1980 – rated PG)
Midway (2019 – rated PG13)
The Great Raid (2005 – rated R)
The Patriot (2000 – rated R)
4. Questions to Review with Your Student About Memorial Day
I always like to follow up lessons like these with questions to open discussion with my kids and make sure they understand the deeper concepts we have covered.
What is Memorial Day about?
Memorial Day is a day to honor those who have died while serving our country.
How is Veterans Day different from Memorial Day?
Veterans Day is a day to honor those who are currently serving or have served in the military.
Why was Memorial Day first referred to as “Decoration Day?”
Because people would decorate the graves of soldiers with flowers and flags.
What freedoms do you enjoy because others have defended your freedom?
There could be many different answers here. If your child has no idea or goes off into left field, remind them of the freedom of speech and freedom of religion – two things that set us apart from many other countries.
For Christians, this is a great time to end in prayer.
Thank God for the freedoms you enjoy in America, and thank Him for the people who so bravely defend that freedom. Pray for the families of those whose loved one is not with them because they have made the ultimate sacrifice.
Um, is it okay to have fun on Memorial Day?
Yes! As I wrote above, I would recommend doing all of these things the week before Memorial Day (except for attending the Memorial Day ceremony of course).
There is nothing wrong with going to the beach, having friends over, and enjoying the long weekend.
Tell your kids that they are celebrating their American freedom, and that is a good thing.
The underlying message is that we should be thankful for the men and women who laid down their lives so we could enjoy those freedoms.
Recap Memorial Day Lesson Plans
I know it’s at the end of the year and adding one more thing to your lesson plan book seems impossible right now.
That’s why I made these Memorial Day lesson plans simple, age appropriate, and easy to follow.
You can pick and choose what you want to do and leave the rest to go through next year!
Memorial Day shouldn’t be a one time teaching. Every year is a chance to remind your children what Memorial Day means and help them celebrate it in a way that is honoring and appropriate.
Want to save this all for later? Definitely pin it to your favorite Pinterest Board and share with your friends and followers.