So did you know September 17th is Constitution Day?
If you didn’t, don’t feel too bad: Most Americans have no idea this is the birthday of the U.S. Constitution. Even more troubling: A frightening number of Americans can’t outline any of the seven articles of the Constitution, name a single freedom guaranteed us in the Bill of Rights, or identify any of the 39 delegates who signed the document.
Sigh. That’s hardly encouraging. There’s little question the U. S. Constitution is one of the longest neglected and therefore least understood documents in American history.
But more and more homeschoolers are trying to change that. There is a drive among homeschoolers, (and even outside the homeschooling movement,) to devote greater time and attention to this foundational document as both the basis of our government and the guarantor of our freedoms.
Ratified on September 17, 1787, our constitution, at 228 years old, is the oldest working constitution in the entire world, which means the brilliant men who drafted, debated, and eventually approved it created one of the best-functioning government systems in history. And yet by including the Bill of Rights, these men also helped limit the power of the very federal government they were creating by defining and seeking to protect the freedoms of individual citizens.
Would you believe our constitution is also the shortest national constitution in the world? At a mere 4,400 words, it’s brief in comparison to others, which should encourage us all to spend more time in its study.
But sometimes that can be easier said than done! Let’s face it: The U. S. Constitution is hardly what you’d call an easy or gripping read. But that should never deter us from seeking to understand it and teaching our children about it.
So if you’re interested in a Constitution Day celebration of your own on September 17, let me share a few resources and some fun ideas to make this a special day.
Of course you should start with some reading. The National Archives online offers the full text of the Constitution. What better place to start than there?
While there are hundreds of books on the market about the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, there are disappointingly few written exclusively for middle and high school students. Here are a few I can share:
*And just a note: Political bias becomes a sticky subject in the interpretation of the Constitution, so keep in mind any or all of these books may not “lean” in your preferred direction. Check them over carefully first, but keep in mind you can often take away good even from a book that disagrees with your own political/social views.
For older students:
Our Constitution Rocks by Juliette Turner (Written by a homeschooler!)
The Constitution of the United States of America by Sam Fink (This is a beautifully illustrated book.)
The United States Constitution: A Graphic Adaptation by Jonathan Hennessey(Written in graphic novel form, some moms will love this one. Others may be offended I included it here…)
In Defense of Liberty: The Story of America’s Bill of Rights by Russell Freedman
For younger students, check out these titles:
We the People: The Constitution of the United States by Peter Spier
Writing the U. S. Constitution by Lori Mortensen
Shh! We’re Writing the Constitution by Jean Fritz
We the People: The Story of Our Constitution by Lynne Cheney
The U. S. Constitution and You by Syl Sobel
If You Were There When They Signed the Constitution by Elizabeth Levy
A More Perfect Union: The Story of Our Constitution by Betsy Maestro
A lapbook about the Constitution may be the perfect activity for your student on Constitution Day. If so, check out this free U. S. Constitution Lapbook from Homeschool Helper Online.
Homeschool Creations offers some great free printables for Constitution Day, including games, copywork, and other fun activities.
In All You Do has a great mini puzzle unit for Constitution Day with more than 25 pages of free printables.
The National Constitution Center in Philadelphia offers some wonderful Constitution Day resources on their website, including suggestions for age/grade-appropriate activities and crafts. They offer some very informative videos as well as part of their Constitution Hall Pass series.
Of course, I’m not sure any study of the Constitution is complete without viewing Schoolhouse Rock’s Constitution Preamble Song. My own kids can rock this song!
I also love this idea for drafting a family constitution. What better way for kids to learn about the Constitution than by learning to form their own? I would even suggest adding a Bill of Family Rights to the project.
And I’m dying to try this project for making your own quill pen and ink. We have a pond near our house often frequented by geese. Looks like I have some quill-hunting to do…
There aren’t many of us who are delighted with the daily operation of our government, and yet every time we have free elections and see a peaceful transition of power from one party or leader to another, I am so thankful to be living here, under our Constitution. We are blessed! There is nowhere in the world I would rather be and no other constitution I would rather be living under.
And that is certainly something to celebrate!
Are you planning a Constitution Day celebration? What plans and activities do you have in the works for this special day?