When I was in grade school (okay, I'm dating myself here - I don't think anyone calls it "grade school" anymore), we celebrated both George Washington's and Abraham Lincoln's birthdays each February. The good news: I remember that we observed it; the bad news: I only remember three things about the celebrations.

1. We made black construction paper silhouettes of their profiles.
2. We heard stories about their childhood. (Yes, the famous, but inaccurate, cherry tree story is the first that comes to mind.)
3. We decorated the classroom with red hearts and ate cookies with sprinkles on them. No, wait, I think that was Valentine's Day. Hmmm ... I guess I only really remember two things.

How sad! In-depth studies of our presidents still appear to be lacking, even in the home-school arena. Presidents' Day (Feb. 18th this year) provides me an opportunity to encourage you to spend time year-round learning about our presidents. Perhaps because the office of president took such a beating under the Clinton Administration the appeal of studying presidents just isn't there. Unfortunately, many of our children grew up during that time frame and have not learned respect for the office and for the men who have held it in the past.

I would encourage you to look to these men who have played such a great role in shaping our country. What can we learn about our government, methods of leadership, and the impact one individual can have on society? Do your children know their presidents, chronologically, from Washington to Bush? Do they have a grasp of what made these men great? Can they describe important events related to the better-known men? Can you?

There are tapes available in which the presidents from Washington to Bush are sung in chronological order. There are colorful books, activity books, fact books, flash cards, games, and many other resources to make this job easier.

Here are a few suggestions for activities the KIDS can do (with your assistance as abilities necessitate).

1. Listen to a tape, or make up their own song, about the presidents. Sing it together.

2. Make a timeline. (This does NOT have to be elaborate!)

3. Make a coloring book.

4. Make flash cards.

5. Design your own game to play with those flash cards. For example, make additional cards with either a fact about each president (or naming each of the vice-presidents) and match them up "Memory" style.

6. Use clothing styles, transportation, entertainment, books, chores, communication, hobbies, school, etc. to engage the interest of younger students. (What did Abraham Lincoln's sons wear? What did people drive when Roosevelt was president? What did people do for amusement during George Washington's presidency?)

7. After researching, verbally compare and contrast presidents, their lives, and accomplishments. Make a chart or Venn diagram to illustrate findings.

8. Make an ABC fact book.

9. Nothing wrong with a little hands-on fun while you are learning! While studying Lincoln, use pretzel rods and a glue gun to build a log cabin.

10. Use a large laminated outline map to label and color in presidents' birthplaces.

11. If you enjoy using the Internet with your kids, see the sites below. Older students could even develop a nice treasure hunt for their siblings by writing questions that can be answered at specific sites.

Although one day is set aside each year, our students should spend more than one day on our presidents. Please, use Presidents' Day as a starting place. Your children deserve to learn about the rich heritage left by these great men.

What is Presidents' Day?

I took this information directly from the US Embassy Website:

Washington's Birthday - Third Monday in February
Until 1971, both February 12 and February 22 were observed as federal holidays to honor the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln (Feb. 12) and George Washington (Feb. 22).

In 1971 President Richard Nixon proclaimed one single federal holiday, the Presidents' Day, to be observed on the third Monday of February, honoring all past presidents of the United States of America.
Please Note: The Federal statute designates this day as Washington's Birthday. President Nixon issued a proclamation declaring the holiday as "Presidents' Day" in 1971. President Nixon erroneously believed that a Presidential Proclamation on the matter carried the same weight as an Executive Order. Since that change in 1971, the common term has been "Presidents' Day."

Helpful Web sites

I went Web surfing and picked a few good sites from the gazillions out there. If you have time to search, you'll find many more.