The principles of patriotism and the history of America’s founding are not being taught in schools as they once were. Now, many parents are taking it upon themselves to instill national pride in their children.
Rachel Gerli is one such parent. Gerli, along with friends Alli Pillinger Choi and Britt Riner, founded the online platform Primerrily to offer families the resources to help raise the next generation of American patriots.
Gerli joins the show to discuss Primerrily’s mission and how you can take advantage of those resources.
We also cover these stories:
- Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., says he won’t meet with Judge Amy Coney Barrett, the president’s Supreme Court nominee.
- Voters in New York receive ballots in the mail with incorrect addresses, voter ID numbers, and names.
- The Justice Department says San Francisco Mayor London Breed, a Democrat, may be violating First Amendment rights by limiting church meetings to one person.
Listen to the podcast below or read the lightly edited transcript.
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Virginia Allen: I am joined by Rachel Gerli, one of the founders of Primerrily, an online resource for families and teachers raising the next generation of American patriots. Rachel, welcome to the show.
Rachel Gerli: Thank you so much for having me here. I wish my two co-founders Alli Pillinger Choi and Britt Riner could be here, but like many other conservative parents, they’re picking up the kids from school and running campaigns for local office.
Allen: Well, that’s great to hear. And we’re excited to hear a little bit of the story of all three of you, how you came together to found this site, Primerrily.
Your website offers so many great resources for parents for teaching children about our founding and really instilling in them a spirit of patriotism. So just tell us a little bit about the mission of Primerrily.
Gerli: Absolutely. So, you kind of nailed it. It’s a parenting resource. It’s really aimed at passing along American founding values and a love of our country to the next generation. And we do that through fun crafts, through curated stories, guided conversations for your dinner tables. You can find more at Primerrily.com.
The name is a portmanteau of primer, like “The New England Primer of Education,” the first textbook in this country, and merrily like merrily down the stream because we want it to feel like a primer for our merry American life.
Allen: Oh, I love that. I was going to ask you where that name came from. That’s so clever.
Gerli: Yeah. I mean, we try to do all these different plays on the values that we cherish, but in the end, we just came down to we want to have fun. We want to make patriotism cool and civility about old school timeness, not political correctness. Civics can be fun and I think we’ve found a lot of ways to unlock that for families.
Allen: So, right now in our country, I think there’s no doubt that we need this. We can all be in agreement that we are at a moment in history where we need to be inspiring those traditional values. We need to be raising up patriots. But this journey began for you and your two friends that you mentioned about two years ago. So tell us the story of how you all kind of stumbled upon this idea and how it was brought about.
Gerli: Absolutely. So, it really did start with Britt and Alli. They are a few years ahead of me in the parenting journey and they had styles of motherhood that I really admired.
So, we were all at this black tie thing down in D.C. and kind of bemoaning what we were seeing in culture and in schools. And Alli was saying that at her child’s preschool they stopped saying the Pledge of Allegiance. So they hung a flag in their New York City apartment and Alli taught her daughter herself and it’s a ritual they still do every morning, even though now that the children are older.
And Britt, who’s down in Florida, is always posting these pictures and ideas around things she does with her kids to commemorate American holidays, planting flags in the front yard, talking through their family constitution on Constitution Day.
And so we said to her, “Is this something that you’re seeing in Florida also or are we in this New York bubble?” And she’s like, “Actually that was a question in the debate for school board candidates last year.” And we were like, “When did the flag become controversial?”
So our kind of initial outrage sparked an idea of an opportunity that if we didn’t get involved and we simply allowed the mainstream media and culture to raise our kids, we were going to raise woke children.
And we’re really intentional in everything else we do, and we recognize that children are sponges, so it was important to us to know what they’re absorbing and we want them to absorb American values. We want them to learn about America and see growing up in America as this really fun, exciting adventure because anything still really is possible.
Allen: I think so many parents are in that same boat where they’re looking at society and they’re just kind of wondering, “What do I do?” Because those founding principles that used to be taught in school are not being taught anymore.
So tell us a little bit more about the website. What is actually on there? What can be found there?
Gerli: Yeah, absolutely. Lincoln said that the philosophy of the school room in one generation is the philosophy of government in the next, and we know that we don’t have control over the school room, so we’re taking it up at the dinner table.
We’ve split our site into a few different categories, parent-to-parent content, tips that we found, or ideas that we have that we feel like are worth sharing, discussions for the dinner table that are more like big ideas for small people, so things about how to talk to your kids about race.
We do that through food and immersion and we take our children to Korean restaurants and restaurants in Harlem and Lebanese restaurants and celebrating in that way.
We also have a section we call the Treehouse, which is activities. So it’s things like holidays. If you start following Primerrily, be prepared to celebrate a lot of holidays.
We’re not just here for Memorial Day and Veterans Day. It’s the day our towns were founded. It’s Election Day. It’s the anniversary of the moon landing, the defense of the Alamo. There’s so much. And sometimes it’s a patriotic cupcake and sometimes we have activities around those holidays.
And then the last category is our shop where we’ve curated books, materials, craft supplies that we think have deeper meaning because we just see an opportunity for curation and so much of what’s put in front of children. And so we’ve tried to do that there.
Allen: On the “about” page of your website, you write, “America is not perfect—and we believe it is the best country on earth.”
Now we are at a moment in history where we are being reminded that America is not perfect. We have a broken past and at present we’re facing a lot of division and violence across the country, but you all hold fast to the perspective that America is the greatest nation on earth and you want to teach your kids that. Why?
Gerli: Absolutely. I mean, it was the American experiment and this is our parenting experiment. And just like America is not perfect, there’s all this pressure on parents who really consider these things to be perfect.
And I’m coming to you with a mom bun today that it’s not about becoming the perfect parent. No one mom or dad has the corner on parenting genius and as we think about America and how to share it with our kids, we’re still figuring it out too. We’re figuring out how to talk about sacrifice in a way that young minds can understand.
As we piece this together, if we each thread the needle and share our stitch, we might just strengthen the fabric of our nation and the character of the next generation, so we’re giving it a try.
We’re trying to put a positive spin on even the segments of our history that maybe are a little bit tougher for young children to understand, but we always do it through a kid’s lens so that everything feels really age appropriate.
Allen: When we look at the current events of today—whether it be racism, disagreement over how to handle COVID-19, we see violence erupting in cities—how are you all taking those big conversations that we see in the news and talking about them with your kids at a level that they can understand?
And then how, through Primerrily, are you giving parents the resources to do the exact same thing?
Gerli: Absolutely. Some of it is just from our homes to yours.
Britt I thought had a really great piece about line leaders. And we were talking about the election and how to explain why people run for office. And every child understands the matter of school, the person that gets to be the line leader, if you say the pledge, the person that gets to be the flag holder. These are positions of leadership that they create. And we say our country’s leaders are the line leaders of our country, and we want to make sure that we’re following them to the places that we want to go.
When we think about racism and we talk about food, we have another piece that just launched today with some more ideas around that, but I think the key of it is to make it relatable to young minds because they won’t always understand the scope of sacrifice when you visit a veterans cemetery.
But if you leave them coming home learning something about courage and bravery and what it means to give up something for something you love, there are ways to distill it into ways that they can receive.
Allen: What is the response that you have received from other families that have stumbled upon Primerrily? What are they saying?
Gerli: We’ve only just soft-launched, so we might be preaching to a choir.
Thus far, I’ve been so enthusiastic and we’ve received so many wonderful offers to contribute to the site because people are seeing and experiencing things and they’ve come up with us all for that, that they want to share with the rest of the parents and our community, whether it’s how to support families in your community who are fostering through foster care, when you’ve lost a dog, how to talk to your kids about that and grief.
Part of how we get ahead of that is through books and curating children’s books, which I could talk to you forever about, but there are just so many children’s books out there that are misguided or just vapid. There’s no content to them anymore. Intentional parenting involves asking, like, “What’s the intent of reading this book?”
Allen: So, parents, in other words, they can visit your site and they can see, “OK, here’s a list of books that I can trust that I know I can read to my child that’s going to instill those traditional values, that’s going to instill patriotism within them”?
Gerli: Absolutely. We’re curating book lists for every occasion—from going back to school, to 9/11, to grief—and we’re accompanying those lists with questions to ask your child about the book and then follow-up activities to really solidify the values.
One of the books that comes to mind that I loved as a kid but I read as a parent and was kind of horrified was “The Rainbow Fish.” Do you remember this book?
Allen: I do. I do remember that book.
Gerli: You may not remember the theme, but the abbreviated version is that there’s this gorgeous, shiny fish surrounded by a bunch of drab fish and he’s peer-pressured to give his scales away to the other fish so that he can fit in. And I was like, “What am I teaching a child to do? Accept bullying and become the average of his peers?”
We just recognized an opportunity to highlight so many great materials that are out there, pull them into lists by age and by occasion, and have these follow-up questions, like, “Have you ever been pressured to do something to fit in?”—or things that are maybe more to their level because if you can change a generation, you can change the world, and it’s all about what you give them to absorb.
Allen: So true. You mentioned that you all have soft-launched. When is the hard launch?
Gerli: Yeah, we’re probably about two weeks away from that. We are planning additional ancillary streams of communication with our audience in social media and on the podcast. And we’re just ramping those up to get going, but we’re really excited to start shouting about it because right now it’s been very much like a wink and a nudge, “Have you heard about this thing that I’m working on?”
Allen: I love it. So tell us practically, how should parents think about this resource? I mean, is this something that is really intended to be used on a daily basis? How can parents really practically start making Primerrily part of their family’s life?
Gerli: That’s such a great question and something that Britt and Alli and I talk about all the time.
I think, ideally, if you sign up for our lists, you’ll get articles once in a while, some that may be relevant to you at the time and some that maybe you want to revisit later, but it’s a great archive for when you’re coming upon either a milestone or a holiday and you say, “My child lost a tooth. How can I make this potentially more meaningful than slipping a dollar under the pillow and saying that a fairy brought it?”
I should have said shield your ears if there are young listeners, but actually, losing a tooth can be a great celebration of growth and civics because coins and bills are conveniently compact treasure troves of American symbolism in history. If it’s the first tooth, maybe you give a Susan B. Anthony dollar and you talk about Susan B. Anthony, or a Jefferson $2 bill and dig into that Founding Father.
There’s so many occasions that we just don’t give the intentional underscore of value to.
I was thinking about birthdays recently. I wrote an article about this, how when you turn a year older, there’s a cake, there are presents, but in order to give that idea of getting older and with age comes power, with power comes responsibility, starting a tradition of giving your child two envelopes—one with a new privilege and one with a new responsibility, both age appropriate.
Maybe it’s 15 minutes more reading time before bed, but your new responsibility is bringing the laundry to the laundry room. But something that says that this isn’t just a celebration of you, but also I’m trusting you to carry on responsibility for this house. So ideas like that are, I think, what you can expect to find at Primerrily.
Allen: Yeah. I love that. Wow. I think that’s such a good idea because it’s practical, it’s hands-on, and it’s simple, but yet would have such a huge impact, I’m sure, on so many kids. So tell us just kind of the practical how-to: What is the website? How can we follow you on social media?
Gerli: Yes. The website is www.primerrily.com. You can also follow us under the same name on Instagram and our podcasts will hopefully be forthcoming in the next couple of weeks.
We invite everyone to send us ideas of how you’re instilling your kids to be the voters and the teachers and the parents and the citizens of tomorrow because some of our best ideas have come from readers and we’ve only been doing this a couple of weeks, so we’re so encouraged seeing all the creativity that’s out there.
Allen: Oh, that’s so exciting, Rachel. We will be sure to put the link for the website in today’s show notes and we certainly encourage all of our listeners to check out Primerrily. And we just thank you so much for your time today.
Gerli: Thank you so much for having us.