Sometimes the best way to really teach your kids about the world around them — even if its complicated — is to get right in there. Back in December, a student of mine turned me on to Adopt a Platoon — a non-profit group established in 1998 to provide deployed US service men and women with real support from citizens in the U.S. Instead of plastering a bumper sticker on the back of your car supporting the troops, you can put a little bit of time, effort, and money and show the kids what support can really mean. My kids are learning first hand the responsibility of good citizenship.
This January, my kids and I have started writing and sending care packages to two soldiers — one deployed in Afghanistan and one deployed in Iraq. My kids know very little about either war or the reason the U.S. decided it needed to be there. We are pacifists by nature, but putting a human face to what a solider is and what a solider does and what a soldier needs, I think, is very beneficial for my six- and eight-year-old to know. What are the benefits?
Starts a Dialog
My kids know that we are not supporters of war, but supporting soldiers brings up important questions that we should be discussing. They need to know that human beings are involved in wars and how it is that young 20-somethings from our country find their way to fighting overseas.
Gets Them Thinking of Others
I'm around 18- to 20-year-olds three days a week at the community college that seem to have excuses for everything. I can't help but think if they were made to get outside themselves and think of others sooner they might not cop such attitude. I want my own kids to know it's important to do for others and that the world doesn't revolve around them.
There are great lessons in history and geography, economics and government to be learned here. There's also the act of writing letters which will sharpen their writing skills.
Expands the Horizon
My kids are having a great time collecting things for a care package to our soldiers. The items recommended also start the questions rolling: "You mean they might not always get to brush their teeth everyday?!" my daughter asked. "They might not have the Internet all the time?!" asked my son. Coming up with a care package makes the kids put themselves in the soldiers' boots. Both have realized it must be very hard to be that far from home.
Sense of Patriotism
As a small progressive family, we often feel a little out of place in our nation. We rarely shop Wal-Mart, we don't listen to country western, and we never wear t-shirts that say things on them — much less wrap ourselves in red, white, and blue garments. Our children see every day this mainstream patriotism sold to us as the real deal. By participating in something real like Adopt a Platoon, we're able to put some meaning and action into patriotism and call it our own.