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)


The Power of Story in the Elementary Homeschool Years

Stories shape us.

Think of the favorite stories of your childhood or the favorite stories you have shared with your own children. 

As CS Lewis so aptly stated - stories "steal past watchful dragons" to implant in our minds a picture of things worth valuing. 

Isn't that why we homeschool? To implant in our children's mind that which is to be valued? 

We have a unique opportunity in our homeschools to teach almost EVERYTHING through story - because at the root of all knowledge and greatness are individuals, whose STORIES inspire us to greatness and to deeper understanding.

(Consider a story on the blog, Secret Heroes of WWI, which takes a child's love of horses and inspires them to learn more about World War I.)

Let's examine basic ways to use story with your elementary age homeschool kiddos. Perhaps this will inspire you to incorporate stories in ALL areas of learning, with all ages and types of learners.

The Power of Story in Your Homeschool

But first, let's start with me telling YOU a story.

This is the story of one mother who was deeply committed to the public school system. This mother had even taught in the public school system.

When the day arrived for this mother's oldest child to attend public Kindergarten, however, the mother was a MESS. Something didn't feel right. She cried the whole way home and continued to cry on and off for nearly the next three years until she and her husband finally gave up the ideal of public school and decided to homeschool.

Once this mother began homeschooling she saw the immense power of STORIES and the value in living books. She saw the power in learning stories from older family members and in learning history through story. In short, she became hooked on STORIES and began incorporating them in her homeschool anyway she could.

This is the story of me - and I suspect perhaps of you, too. 

Stories are important. They have shaped my children's education, and I am so thankful for that!


Storytelling is the Oldest Form of Teaching


Storytelling has been around since the beginning. Before people could read or write, they could tell stories. 

The Power of Story in Your Homeschool

Storytelling bonded the earliest of human communities and gave children answers to the biggest questions of creation, life, and the afterlife. Stories define, shape, control, and make us. Isn't it interesting that not every human culture in the world has been (or is) literate, but every culture tells stories? 

Stories are UNIVERSAL.

The Creation Story is the oldest story we know, and so many other engaging stories from the Bible follow. The very first stories I told my children were Bible stories - owning a beautiful Bible story treasury is a must! The Beginner's Bible was a well-loved book on our shelves! 

In this way we began to implant the seeds of our faith, and also moral tales of right and wrong, good and evil, and life and death in our children. 

Don't forget to search out STORY within your own circle - within your family, church, community, and friends. Sometimes, if you just LISTEN and SEARCH, there are many older people willing to share their stories with our children. These can be perhaps the stories with the most lasting impact. 


Story and Elementary Age Children

Story can be used to teach all concepts and subjects. 

This is by no means an exhaustive list, but rather a jumping off point to get your imagination going and those ideas flowing. These are my children's favorite stories - and the ones I have seen have the biggest impact on our homeschool. You will also find that I'm including specific categories for teaching - the fun picture books that we all have on the shelves probably won't be included here.

Full Disclosure: I have a problem with collecting books! We use the library a lot, but I also invest in books because I find that having them on hand to loan and reference throughout our homeschool tenure has been helpful. I've included Amazon links to all of the books I recommend.


Fables/Folk Tales/Nursery Rhymes/Mythology

We're big fans of treasuries in our house. I had many from when I was a child. It's just a great way to have everything in one place.

Here are some favorite collections to get you started! 

The Classic Treasury of Aesop's FablesFrederick's Fables: A Leo Lionni Treasury of Favorite StoriesMary Engelbreit's Nursery and Fairy Tales Collection: A Treasury of Children's ClassicsFavorite Nursery Rhymes from Mother GooseRead-Aloud Rhymes for the Very YoungOriginal Mother GooseMy First Mother GooseTomie dePaola's Mother GooseAmerican Tall TalesThe Complete Folk & Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm (Wisehouse Classics - The Complete and Authoritative Edition)Tales of Ancient Egypt (Puffin Classics)Animal Folk Tales of America: Paul Bunyan, Pecos Bill, The Jumping Frog, Davy Crockett, Johnny Appleseed, Sweet Betsy, and many othersTreasury of Greek Mythology: Classic Stories of Gods, Goddesses, Heroes & MonstersD'Aulaires' Book of Greek MythsD'Aulaires' Book of Norse Mythsd'Aulaires' Book of Norwegian Folktales



Stories to Learn About History

I could go on and on with a list for you. 

By far, The Story of the World has been the biggest example of how STORY helps children learn.  If you watch the video below I talk about how we've used the written books, audio books, and also notebooking with SOTW. 

A simple search for Story of the World Reading Lists (and also books mentioned in the SOTW teacher's guides) will recommend so many wonderful books, so I won't list those here - it would be impossible to include all of the beautiful historical fiction for our younger children! 

Two of our favorite series are below.  These books definitely engaged my son and daughter.

Many of the books dealing with history will also be found in the other categories below -- because doesn't history encompass so much? 



Facing West: A Story of the Oregon Trail (Once Upon America)Earthquake!: A Story of Old San Francisco (Once Upon America)Pearl Harbor Is Burning!: A Story of World War II (Once Upon America)The Bite of the Gold Bug: A Story of the Alaskan Gold Rush (Once Upon America)Dear America: Voyage On The Great TitanicDear America: The Winter of Red SnowDear America: A Journey to the New WorldDear America: The Fences Between UsDear America: A Picture of FreedomDear America: Cannons at DawnMy America: Our Strange New Land: Elizabeth's Jamestown Colony Diary, Book OneMy America: Freedom's Wings: Corey's Underground Railroad Diary, Book OneMy America: Westward To Home: Joshua's Oregon Trail Diary, Book OneMy America: The Starving Time: Elizabeth's Jamestown Colony Diary, Book TwoMy America: Home At Last, Sofia's Ellis Island Diary, Book TwoMy America: My Brother's Keeper: Virginia's Civil War Diary, Book OneMy America: Our Strange New Land,  Elizabeth's Jamestown Colony Diary, Book OneMy America: As Far As I Can See



Stories to Learn About Nature/Science

Again, just a sampling to get you started. 

We found ourselves completed engrossed in the Burgess Animal Book when my children were young.  (You can get this for FREE on Kindle.)

We also loved stories of famous scientists, legends having to do with nature, as well as any types of biographies about astronauts, scientists, etc....  

You name it, we generally had a story to go with it. We could also pick up a story at the library and begin learning from that - completely unaware of what we would learn at the outset.

I guess this is a bit of my "unschooling" nature coming out - much fun!

The Burgess Bird Book for Children (Dover Children's Classics)The Burgess Animal Book for Children (Dover Children's Classics)The Burgess Seashore Book for Children (Dover Children's Classics)The Little Burgess Bird BookThe Works of Thornton W. Burgess, Vol.3 (illustrated): Bowser The Hound, The Boy Scouts In A Trapper's Camp, The Burgess Animal Book For Children, The Burgess Bird Book For Children, Happy JackPaddle-to-the-Sea (Sandpiper Books)Girls Think of Everything: Stories of Ingenious Inventions by WomenThe Story Book of Science (Yesterday's Classics)Child's Introduction to the Night Sky: The Story of the Stars, Planets, and Constellations--and How You Can Find Them in the SkyThe Girl Who Thought in Pictures: The Story of Dr. Temple Grandin (Amazing Scientists)The Legend of the Indian PaintbrushThe Legend of the BluebonnetWho Was Neil Armstrong?Alan Shepard: Higher and Faster (Heroes of History)Isaac Newton (Giants of Science)Newton's Rainbow: The Revolutionary Discoveries of a Young ScientistWho Was Isaac Newton? (Who Was?)



Stories to Learn about MATH

I can't tell you how much FUN these math stories were in our homeschool. I have one child who is very creative and story oriented. For her, learning certain concepts through a story just HAD to be done.

Enjoy these recommendations! 

Sir Cumference and the First Round Table (A Math Adventure)Sir Cumference and the Dragon of Pi (A Math Adventure)Sir Cumference and All the King's Tens: A Math AdventureSir Cumference and the Fracton Faire (A Math Adventures)Sir Cumference and the Roundabout BattleSir Cumference and the Great Knight of Angleland (A Math Adventure)Sir Cumference and the Sword in the ConeSir Cumference and the Isle of Immeter (Math Adventures)Sir Cumference and the Viking's Map (Charlesbridge Math Adventures (Paperback))Sir Cumference and the Off-the-Charts Dessert (Charlesbridge Math Adventures (Paperback))Sir Cumference Classroom ActivitiesMultiplying Menace: The Revenge of Rumpelstiltskin (A Math Adventure)What's Your Angle, Pythagoras?Math CurseA Hundred Billion Trillion StarsThe Adventures of Penrose the Mathematical Cat


Stories to Learn About PEOPLE

I believe some of the most memorable learning experiences have been when we I have shared biographies with my children... ESPECIALLY biographies of famous figures when THEY were children themselves. 

Again, just a few to get you started. These have been our favorites. 

Walt Disney: Young Movie Maker (Childhood of Famous Americans)Davy Crockett: Young Rifleman (Childhood of Famous Americans)Harry Houdini: Young Magician (Childhood of Famous Americans)Knute Rockne: Young Athlete (Childhood Of Famous Americans)Jackie Robinson: Young Sports Trailblazer (Childhood of Famous Americans)John Muir: Young Naturalist (Childhood of Famous Americans)Roberto Clemente: Young Ball Player (Childhood of Famous Americans)Ray Charles: Young Musician (Childhood of Famous Americans)Ludwig Beethoven and the Chiming Tower BellsSebastian Bach, The Boy from ThuringiaFrederic Chopin, Son of Poland, Early Years (Great Musicians)Mozart, The Wonder Boy (Great Musicians Series)The Story of Peter TchaikovskyAdventures of Richard WagnerKid Artists: True Tales of Childhood from Creative Legends (Kid Legends)Picasso and the Girl with a Ponytail (Anholt's Artists Books For Children)van Gogh and the Sunflowers (Anholt's Artists Books For Children)Frida Kahlo: The Artist who Painted Herself (Smart About Art)Beatrix Potter and Her Paint BoxGeorgia O'Keeffe: The Artist in the DesertWho Was Leonardo da Vinci?Who Was Frank Lloyd Wright?The Magical Garden of Claude Monet (Anholt's Artists Books For Children)Who Was Harry Houdini?The Noisy Paint Box: The Colors and Sounds of Kandinsky's Abstract ArtMatisse the King of Color (Anholt's Artists Books for Children)Leonardo and the Flying Boy (Anholt's Artists Books For Children)Christian Heroes Books 1-5 Gift Set (Christian Heroes: Then & Now) (Displays and Gift Sets)Paul Brand: Helping Hands (Christian Heroes: Then & Now)Paul Brand: The Shoes That Love Made (Trailblazers)William Wilberforce: The Freedom Fighter (Trailblazers)Amy Carmichael: Rescuer by Night (Trailblazers)100 Women Who Made History100 African-Americans Who Shaped American History (100 Series)Lightkeepers Boys Box Set: Ten BoysLightkeepers Girls Box Set: Ten Girls


Online Resources for Story in the Elementary & Middle Grade Years

Stories in the Elementary Homeschool

In addition to physical books, there are an abundance of online resources for stories. Many of these are podcasts (and if you haven't caught the podcasting bug -- I HAVE -- and it is my favorite way to consume content now!). 

A Facebook Live About the Power of Story

I recently did a Facebook Live about the power of story in your homeschool. I hope it can prove helpful and inspirational to you as you seek to incorporate more stories in your children's education.


Do you include story in your elementary children's lives?

I'd love to know your favorite stories to share!