*3/16 UPDATE for the 2016 Presidential elections: Please scroll down to find some excellent guides to the candidates and issues involved in this year’s election!
Between last week’s 15th annual Constitution Day, the recent Presidential debates and the beginning of a you-can-bet-it’ll-get-heated campaign season for next year’s Presidential elections, now is a great time to usher in some Civics lessons for you and the kids!
No need to be a homeschooler for this one – as American citizens, we should all be committed to making informed decisions to ensure that we maintain the free and just democratic republic we all enjoy.
When you listen to the news or get caught up in political discussions as I sometimes do, it’s easy to see that many people are either on the brink or over the edge with cynicism related to next year’s election, and politics in general.
I understand that. I get it.
But it’s important for us to also remember a few things…
- Politics and government is so much more than just the Presidential elections.
Sure, our President is the representative of the US to the world; and yes, of course, he is an important part of the Executive branch of our government. But our country, and our government, is so much more than “just” our President!
- We are a blessed nation.
Even with all its faults, we live in a country that many people around the world are (sometimes literally) dying to live in. We enjoy freedoms many people worldwide only dream about. We sleep soundly at night and travel about during the day without worry about physical harm or returning home to a bombed-out or burned-up shell…
So as I get off my soap-box, let me present some wonderful materials that you can use as a family while you enjoy a meal or some weekend down time together. Your children’s ages or where they are taught during daylight hours doesn’t matter one iota ~
Because politics should never be taught in a vacuum.
While there are those that suggest we should not “force” our political or religious views on our kids, I disagree.
If we don’t teach them ANYthing of those matters, if we don’t pass on our thoughts and principles and experiences which they can accept or reject and then move forward to form their own ideas and perspectives, then we have done them a serious disservice, to say the least.
At the same time, I understand that many of us flounder about in our own political and civic education and knowledge, so what better way than to explore these concepts and materials together as a family?!
Here are some tools to help you get started!
Vote!, by Eileen Christelow, offers in graphic format a simple and cute explanation of complex concepts for young readers. Originally written for the elections in 2008, her presentation is still relevant today.
When it comes to U.S. History, few topics are more difficult for kids to understand than our nation’s complicated election process and how it came to be. From interpreting the important differences between a Primary and a Caucus, to understanding that the Electoral College is not a place for higher education, kids (and parents!) can easily become confused!
Learn Our History’s DVD, ELECTION DAY: Choosing Our President makes it easy and fun for kids of all ages to grasp what it takes to become president. For only $1, you get a DVD, free online streaming and downloadable learning guides. Get more information and order here.
EXCELLENT resource for Constitution Day (which is September 17th), presenting lesson plans and activities for grades K-12 to explore our Constitution and Citizenship topics.
- From Homeschool Freebie of the Day, I discovered two fantastic resources: Easy Lessons on the Constitution is a set of 25 lessons in PDF form that you can use either as actual lessons, or to go through together as a family.
- The Origin of the Constitution is a 22-minute audiobook, but it’s also available as a PDF which includes a discussion guide to use afterwards.
- Notgrass History offers a 1-year Civics curriculum geared to ages 10-14. Uncle Sam and You answers questions ranging from “What does the President do all day?” to “What is Labor Day?”.
- Check out CurrClick for a wide variety of resources to learn about elections, the electoral process and other topics related to government studies. Many of them are on sale right now, too!
- PBS Learning Media offers this really neat class: Personality or Politics, which explores the important role that both personality and politics play in shaping our Presidential elections.
- Another interesting tool they have is this video and handout called Presidential Candidates Travel the Country Courting Votes, where you get to hear/see just what some candidates say to grow their voter base as they begin their campaign efforts.
- Annenberg Lerner presents Voting Isn’t Enough and Voting is Essential, both of which go beyond the “how”s and “why”s to examine the effect of power, leadership and other issues on the election process.
- The Election Book: The People Pick a President, published by Scholastic Books, is an engaging book for both kids and adults, explaining in clear words the electoral process.
More books include:
The Election Book: The People Pick a President – Published for the 2012 elections, but the information is timeless!
The Kid Who Ran for President – Cute 2-book series about a 12-year old boy who runs for President!
The Election Activity Book – Revised for the 2016 Election season
From SchoolHouse Rock: I’m Gonna Send Your Vote to College – A musical explanation of the Electoral College 🙂
- For the mere cost of registering at her site (for free, of course), The Homeschool Mom makes some great tools available to her subscribers.
“We Salute You, Mr President”, All About Presidents, “Elections A to Z Unit Study”, and “US Constitution” are all notebooking/unit study lessons that contain a wealth of information for Civics studies, and can be adapted to any grade level. Head on over to her site for more info, and to download any of these materials.
- CNN Student News has a terrific discussion/activity guide regarding the Constitution and Constitution Day, and also gives links to related sources for further investigation.
- Crystal at TidbitsOfExperience published a review of the US Elections Lap Pak by Homeschool in the Woods Publishing. Lap paks are great hands-on tools for your visual and kinesthetic learner…
- Also related to choosing any type of leader is understanding the answers of questions such as “What is a leader? What is a good leader? What is a bad leader? What is a godly leader and why, as a Christian, is that important?” Everyday Graces has a FREE printable study in Biblical leadership and discernment.
And enjoy this video with your kids, where CNN Student News hosts an interesting quiz…how many answers did YOU get right?!
(Fast forward to 4:14 if you only want to see the quiz.)
As the next year unfolds, let me encourage you to have discussions with your kids about what’s going on. Answer their questions honestly, and if you don’t know an answer, look it up together!
*RESOURCE UPDATE: Looking for some clearly-presented information on the candidates and/or issues in this year’s election? Check out some of these guides:
The first 2 sites here are all a part of Politiks.org, a site with a HUGE vision: to become “the biggest repository of American politics online.” They are well on their way, in my estimation, and you’ll find a vast amount of information there. Always remember, however, that everything we read is filtered through a lens; our job as parents, and informed citizens, is to discern the lens and read with awareness.
- You’ll find a great explanation of the process in general here: http://2016.presidential-candidates.org/
- This one is fun and informative. It compares pairs of candidates on specific issues:http://2016.candidate-comparison.org/
Finally, from a conservative viewpoint, you can find profiles of the Republican candidates here at The Conservative Review.
At the end of the day, and after the election, let me leave you with this: remember that no matter WHO is in any office in our land, God is still in control and on the throne! So don’t worry or despair, just stay awake and alert!
God reigns over the nations; God is seated on his holy throne.
You might be interested in these posts, too!
Latest posts by Pat (see all)
- 9 Ways to Celebrate
Women’s Health and Fitness Day – September 25, 2017
- Coffee and Conversation #164 – Time to Get Unstuck – September 20, 2017
- Coffee and Conversation #163 – and “100 years”… – September 13, 2017