October 7, 2008

Civics Based Day

Today was an unusual school day. We started the day with contractors above our heads installing our new bamboo floors. It is very loud to be under all the staple and nail guns. Rhiannon worked on some reading for history and science as well as completed her math in various rooms of the house moving away from the noise and chaos of the construction and her younger siblings lessons.

Ciaran, Sirah and I started studying Ancient Egypt, the Nile and random interesting facts. The lesson was fun and engaging and ended with an actual sword fight between the two with the result being Sirah (White Crown King of Upper Nile) defeating Ciaran (Red Crown King of Lower Nile) and capturing his crown naming her the double crown king. They really enjoyed the lesson and seemed engaged even when we did some map work and talked about things like silt and the direction the Nile flows.

Eventually the noise became too much and after finishing the lessons that require lots of discussion, read aloud and interaction we packed up the rest of the book work and headed out to finish the bookwork in more quiet.

Then we headed to a nearby political campaigning office we are affiliated with for the afternoon. The kids got messy with paint, markers, glitter and glue creating candidate posters while I made some voter identification phone calls. They were rewarded with their artwork being displayed and some potato chips with lemonade.

We headed to a friends house where I taught our weekly civics class - this week our topic was presidential debates and the campaign trail. We discussed what types of activities are going on at this point in the presidential campaign. We broke the students up into different roles and held a town hall styled debate between Senator Obama and Senator McCain. The rest of the students asked questions about topics ranging from the economy to education to foreign policy. The kids seemed to enjoy it and I was impressed with how knowledgeable the students ranging 2nd to 6th grade were about the issues and candidates. We ended with a discussion about whether winning or losing a debate matters in an election, if there really can be a winner and why the candidates answers tend to be less than clear and direct on many issues. Then I opened it up for random question and answer time where the kids can ask me any questions about politics, campaigning, issues and candidates they can think of. We had some interesting questions like:

What is a whig? What is a federalist? Why don't we have anymore?
Do you have to be a senator to become president?
Have we ever had a female presidential candidate?
How do you get to be Obama or McCain (presidential campaign)?
Why do you have to be a natural born citizen to become president?
What are the criteria for becoming president?
Didn't a president have to step down? Watergate
Can a president be elected more than twice?
How do you get to vote?

There were others but I can't think of them. I am enjoying teaching this class and it seems the students are having fun too. So far we have covered the basic structure of our government, federalism, branches of government, qualifications and responsibilities of major leaders, campaign strategies, life on the campaign trail, voting, electoral college, popular votes, how a candidate gets elected, caucuses, primaries, etc. Some day when I have extra time I will post my lessons from those days. We ended the evening watching the presidential debate as a family until one by one the kids dropped off into sleep.

This time of year we are very active as a family in campaigning and encouraging voters to vote and citizens to get involved however they can. I have friends on both sides of many issues, friends committed to various candidates, passionate opinions between family members and friends and that is all well and good. I encourage all of them to get involved no matter what candidate they support and I encourage you to do the same and to teach your children valuable civics lessons they will remember for the rest of their lives.

My kids have been involved with us politically since they were babies - we have always been active and just like many other aspects of our family life we just bring the kids along. They can't do everything with us but they have seen presidents speak, candidates debate, knocked on doors, delivered lawn signs, and just observed and learned from their parents and they participate in civics and good citizenship. I have been applauded for these choices and I have been criticized for them. I will continue to encourage families to participate in civics as families and encourage my children to be active citizens as they grow up no matter what candidates they choose to support.

My kids are now starting to show likes and dislikes and remember certain parts of their experiences from years past. Ciaran really enjoys door knocking and delivering lawn signs. Rhiannon enjoys learning about the issues and watching the debates more but doesn't like the door to door interactions but wants to be able to make phone calls. Sirah she really likes the art part of it making posters and being creative.

A few lessons along the way. They have learned patience through this, being able to sit quietly and respectfully at an office while many adults are on phones around them or wait for a long time to hear a politician speak about many things that seem boring and irrelevant to them. Their presence has made others realize that children can be present and respectful in unusual circumstances. They have learned that even as a young child they can make a difference and help even in small ways that can have an impact. They have learned about being part of something bigger than them and taking part in something with many other people for a common cause. They learn that even when we work hard we don't always win.

Now I am not going to lie and say it is always roses and what seems exciting on day one wears on anyone after 2 months especially younger ones. But overall I think they have built some positive memories and learned some life long lessons in ways they will never understand from a textbook. Some random lessons I have learned everything is easier with food, time for art, exercise and the book Duck for President.


1 comment:

  1. Anonymous7:55 AM

    Yeah, finally a new post! Your Civics class sounds interesting. Good questions from the kids. See you soon!