Among the Poppies | A Memorial Day Story

When you're fifteen, the world can seem to be mainly about you. It makes sense. So many changes! But, it's also a time when, if you're brave enough to look up, you might find that the world is about something even bigger. And it just might beckon you to step into it and make a difference. 

Here is a his-story of Memorial Day from across two families, through the eyes of one fifteen year old girl. 

Among the Poppies A Memorial Day Story.png

This post continues our emphasis on STORY in your homeschool - enjoy!

Why does it always rain on holidays?

"Seriously," she thought, "why does it always rain on holidays?" Her grumbling continued as she thought of the upcoming field-trip planned by her parents for this holiday. She just didn't get it. Didn't we just celebrate Veteran's Day? What's the big deal? She'd much rather curl up under her blanket today and read. 

But, no. The entire family would pack up and head to the town square where some kind of flag thing was happening. "It's a flag ceremony," her Dad reminded her. "Raising the U.S. flag quickly to the tops of flagpoles, slowly lowering it to half-mast, and then raising again to its full height at noon. The lowering of the flag at half-mast is meant to give honor to the fallen soldiers who have died for their country over the years. While re-raising the flag is meant to symbolize the resolve of the living to carry on the fight for freedom so that the nation's heroes will not have died in vain.", her Dad went on, reading from the website on his smartphone.  Abby just sighed as she thought, "Details." 

She pulled on her rain boots, grabbed her umbrella, and followed the rest of her family to the van. "This is going to be a long day," she said under her breath. 


Why all the crowds?

Abby couldn't believe what she saw. It was standing room only on the town square. And on a holiday, no less! 

She took in the sights, following her parents to seats among the folding chairs. She decided to take the seat towards the end, where she might excuse herself to walk around when this got boring. Which it promised to do. She was promptly asked to leave the end chair open for late-comers. "Great," she thought, "Now I'll be seated next to a total stranger. And they'll want to talk. About this." 

It wasn't long before the seat was taken. But, to her surprise, the person who took the chair look to be her age. She was quiet and held a piece of paper and a small bouquet of red poppies. Her curiosity was piqued. The girl was solemn. And she seemed to be alone. 


Red Poppies

The scene continued to interest Abby. Because of the red poppies her seat neighbor held, she now noticed them worn on many lapels. Another curiosity. After many speakers, older men recounting lost friends or family, the girl next to her stood and went to the podium. 

She took the paper she'd held in her hands and began to read. It seemed to Abby that she could do little else, for tears came down the girls face. In a brave voice, the girl read a brief statement, "I am here today to honor my father, Chief Warrant Officer Michael O'Riley. He was killed in combat in Mosul on April 21, 2015. My hero." 

She proceeded to read this poem:

In Flanders Fields



In Flanders fields the poppies blow

Between the crosses, row on row,

    That mark our place; and in the sky

    The larks, still bravely singing, fly

Scarce heard amid the guns below.


We are the Dead. Short days ago

We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,

    Loved and were loved, and now we lie,

        In Flanders fields.


Take up our quarrel with the foe:

To you from failing hands we throw

    The torch; be yours to hold it high.

    If ye break faith with us who die

We shall not sleep, though poppies grow

        In Flanders fields.


Something bigger

Abby now knew what Memorial Day meant. It meant sharing more than just the history of a long-forgotten war. It was the mutual sharing and remembering of the sacrifices experienced by those who serve. And their families left behind.

She pondered, for the first time, what the word serve meant. Then, she turned around in her mind that those in the military are often called "in the Service." Because, to her, service meant there was someone who was served. She wiped her eyes. There, among the poppies, she realized she was the one served.

Note Bene

Often our children have trouble making the connection between the holidays we celebrate and their true meanings.

It's easy to get Veteran's Day, Independence Day, and Memorial Day mixed-up. Even for adults! What is a holiday, anyway?

It's a marker that honors an event that a nation, church, or individual wishes to recall.

Beyond using the poem above for copy and memory work, following are links and ways to help keep Memorial Day well (and separate from Veteran's Day). 


Homeschool Tips to Celebrate Memorial Day

Seven Kid Friendly Memorial Day Activities

God's Chapel - God's Nation: Remembering 9/11

Red Poppy Craft

Free Memorial Day Unit Study


Recommended resources:

Use these books to help learn about Memorial Day and the importance of sacrifice. There are recommendations for all ages.

Sometimes we haven't been able to do a full-fledged study of a holiday, but adding some books has been sufficient!

A Memorial Day Memory: Memorial Day Picture Book for Children which includes a Memorial Day ParadeJohnny TremainThe Poppy Lady: Moina Belle Michael and Her Tribute to VeteransDon't Forget, God Bless Our TroopsH is for Honor: A Military Family AlphabetThe Wall (Reading Rainbow Books)What the Baby SawThe Red Badge of CourageThe Things They CarriedCatch-22: 50th Anniversary EditionMemorial Day (Holidays in Rhythm and Rhyme)


Easy Ways to Give Children Music

Music is a profound expression of our deepest emotions. It is one of God's greatest gifts of beauty to us.

Learning to appreciate music gives us a window into the world of the composer. 

Playing a musical instrument promotes discipline and improves academic abilities.

You know all of this - or else you wouldn't be reading this post. 

What you might not know is how to give your children a beautiful music education.

It's really very simple - with intentionality and commitment you can give your children the gift of music.

 Why Children Need Music (and easy ways to give it to them)

I've learned a lot of tips and tricks in my years as an elementary music teacher, piano teacher, choir direction, and homeschool music curriculum developer... I pray this post will help you!

(I'm going to leave out private instrument lessons and choruses, orchestras, bands, etc... Those are obvious ways to give our kids music that I'm sure you know about!)

Let's not make this hard.

First, a book that never fails to inspire me - worth having on your shelf if you are committed to having musical kids: Raising Musical Kids by Patrick Kavanaugh.

Now, the easy ways to give your kids music.


Listen to Music With Your Children

Immerse your children in beautiful music every chance you get. It's the same principle as when you want to raise a reader - you need to provide books and model reading yourself. 

Provide your children with the opportunity to listen to quality music and listen to that music yourself.

A few simple ways to do this:

  • YouTube

YouTube is a great resource for music, but please don't let your child explore unsupervised. 

I've compiled a list of 10 Best YouTube Channels for Classical Music.

  • Spotify

This is a free streaming music service (you can pay a fee to eliminate the ads).  I have a playlist to get you started. You can also create playlists based on composers. A few suggestions might be to create a station for JS Bach, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Johannes Brahms, or John Williams. These are just a smattering of great composers to get you started.

Just listen to this whenever you can - and don't make a big deal about it! 

  • Beethoven's Wig

These collections are so much fun. Classic pieces are played in their original form, and then they are given silly lyrics in another version. My kids always laughed themselves to death - and they STILL sing the lyrics to pieces like The Moonlight Sonata and one of Brahms' Hungarian Dances. Fun!

  • Amazon Music

With Amazon Prime Music you can listen to all kinds of wonderful music for an additional monthly fee. You can put the app on your phone for easy listening, too!

  • Apple Music

Since we are hard core music lovers in my house we subscribe to Apple Music. I can get virtually any piece on my iPhone or computer. I love this! Any time a piece is referenced anywhere I can look it up on Apple Music and play it for the kids. 

 Easy Ways to Give Children Music


Take Your Children to See Live Concerts

Nothing compares to the magic of going to a concert. 

I know my son will never forget when I took him to see the Atlanta Symphony play - a concert pianist was there that evening playing the works of George Gershwin. This was the perfect concert for a pre-teen boy - lots of big piano playing - JAZZ nonetheless! 

Keep your eyes on your local paper and online for free events. Visit your local symphony's website and subscribe for updates. Is there a local college where you can attend performances economically? 

Many orchestras offer homeschool/education days. We do this each year in our area.

Love this guy -- using SQUILT Music's Meet the Orchestra cards while he attends a symphony concert!

The opportunities are out there - you just have to find them!


Give Your Children Simple Instruments

When children are very young, you can purchase them a simple set of rhythm instruments that will allow them to play and explore as they listen to music. 

As children get older they can self-teach themselves on what I like to call "starter" instruments:

  • Ukulele
  • Guitar
  • Recorder
  • Tin Whistle

You can purchase these instruments at music stores or online, with simple books your child can work through on their own. There are also a myriad of YouTube videos and courses online.

Let your child explore!

(This year in our homeschool I contacted someone who taught guitar and other instruments and asked him if he would put together a group Ukulele class -- we've had such fun!)

 Easy Ways to Give Children Music

Take advantage of resources all around you. Many times musicians who teach independently or work in churches are willing to teach groups of children - especially homeschool kids! 


Create a Culture of Music with Books

Reading is integral to my kids' education - and learning about music is no exception. We have an area in our homeschool shelves dedicated to music.

Check out Best Books for Music Appreciation over at SQUILT Music - this is an excellent list to get you started!



Let ME Help You Teach Music Appreciation

My mission, through SQUILT Music Appreciation, is to make music easy, affordable, and enjoyable for families.

Our offerings:

  • Self-paced PDF volumes spanning all four eras of music
  • Meet the Instruments and Meet the Composers flashcards & curated videos
  • Extra resources to aid in teaching music

Last year I also decided to fulfill a dream of teaching music appreciation online to children - and SQUILT LIVE! was born.  I have been overwhelmed with the interest and success of this program.


Members of SQUILT LIVE! attend live online music appreciation lessons with ME twice a month, in addition to receiving a monthly listening calendar, a members-only volume, a weekly newsletter with teaching tips, and a discount on all SQUILT products. 

We have such fun! 

Parents like this program because children of multiple ages can participate at the same time... no prior knowledge is required - but somehow the children who already have musical knowledge are engaged, too. 

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Do you include music in your homeschool?

Do you have any questions? Leave me a comment and I'm happy to help!