I believe in teaching children in an active way whenever possible. When studying the Civil War, we toured a real battlefield. When studying science, we built models and carried out experiments. When studying local history, we went to see historical reenactments at a nearby state landmark. Children learn so much more when they are active participants in an experience than when they only read a book. That is why, when studying government, I want to do everything I can to include experiences from real life in my children's education.
Exercising our vote
Voting is an essential part of government. It is the one opportunity that every citizen has to truly make their voice heard. As such, my husband and I make every effort to vote in each election, from the county clerk to the President of the United States. We also do our best to be informed about the candidates.
As we study the candidates running for office, we share what we learn with our kids. We answer their questions honestly, and look up voting records and such if we are unsure of where a candidate stands. When it is time to vote, we take our kids to the polls so that they are familiar with the process. They are anxious for the day they, too, will be able to make their voices heard.
Taking part in the system
It is important for kids to understand exactly how government works, and there is no better way to learn than to see it firsthand. That is why I took my older children to a city council meeting. City government at work can be boring, but sometimes it is exciting and volatile, especially when an emotionally charged issue is on the table.
A few months after we moved into our home, there was a question on the agenda about putting up No Parking signs across the street from our back yard. We'd had trouble ever since we moved in with college kids throwing big parties down the block and parking dozens of cars in the grassy area next to the street. With the opportunity to speak in support of the No Parking signs, I knew this city council meeting was a great chance for my kids to see me take part in local government and fight for a positive change.
Talking with others
Parents magazine recently featured an article on teaching kids civic responsibility. They encouraged kids to talk with their families about current events and to talk with other people about their own experiences with government. Talking with others can expose kids to many points of view and give them more reasons to care about what is going on in their country and their community.
A young family, for instance, may be less concerned with possible changes in Medicare than they are with tax increases that will affect them for years to come. There are many, many issues to consider in every level of government, and talking with other people will help kids to understand why some issues are more important to some people than others.
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