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Using a Presidential Election to Teach Civics

As a homeschooling mom, I want my children to love God, have a good work ethic, have healthy relationships with each other and with their dad and me, and be happy, responsible citizens. However, one area I’ve felt like I’ve fallen short in is teaching them about our government (civics). If they don’t understand the history of our country, the way our government was created, why it was created the way it was, and on what principles the government was founded, how can they understand how to be good citizens, good neighbors, and active teens (and future adults) who are willing and able to stand up for what’s right and to work to change those things that aren’t? Since this year is a presidential election year, I vowed THIS was the year they were going to be taught government/civics.

using a presidential election to teach civics

Of course it is important to teach our children about the political process, but I believe it is more important to understand what the Constitution intended for our nation. But which interpretation of the Constitution? One side believes the Constitution is a “living breathing document” that should evolve with society. The other side believes the Constitution should be understood and interpreted as the founders intended. But what did the founders mean when they wrote it? How do the three branches of Constitution_We_the_People government work together to form the perfect checks and balances to protect the Constitution? What happens when one fails to do so? And with so many constitutional issues screaming for our attention from the headlines these days, it is so easy to get caught up in the emotion of the argument. But we need to teach our children to always remember to look at each issue from a constitutional standpoint and to evaluate how our forefathers intended for each situation to be handled. And if they were silent on the issue (as is common on many of our modern day challenges), how should it be handled? We need to help them think through these issues as if they are directly involved (because they will be).

That leads us to why it’s so important for all of us to be informed about those who are running for office, where they stand on issues, and if the candidates are actually looking out for the good of the citizens. If we don’t teach our children these things, we certainly can’t rely on the government to do it for us!

With this being an election year, it’s a perfect opportunity to jump into this critical conversation and to discuss how to determine which candidate is better at protecting the rights of the people and acting in a way that is true to the Constitution. If we truly Seal_of_the_President_of_the_United_States.svg understand these issues, we’ll be more likely to not just own our right to vote but to exercise it! We’ll better understand our duties as citizens and not just our rights. After all, if we aren’t willing to fulfill our duties as informed citizens, it’s not very likely that we’ll even know what our rights are … much less that we’ll fight to uphold them!

These are such important topics, yet I don’t remember ever being taught about them when I was a student in public school or even college. Up to this point, I truly had no idea how important these issues are, and I’m thankful to have been exposed to this information while my children are still at home under my care!

A year or two ago, I began to realize the need to teach my son these things because I knew he would be getting ready to graduate. (He graduated from our homeschool 2 weeks ago! He’s my second homeschool graduate.) For the first time, I began to realize how much I hadn’t taught him about government, voting, how to choose between candidates in an election, how to know which government officials were upholding the Constitution and which government leaders did things their own way without regard for his or her duties and obligations to the citizens he or she represents. So I started looking for a great curriculum! I found several, but the one that I loved was Constitutional Literacy, by Michael Farris. I’ve always loved Apologia’s resources and curriculums, and after finding this curriculum on their website, I knew immediately this was just what I was looking for.

This post is sponsored by Apologia. Be sure to scroll all the way to the bottom of the post to enter their giveaway for the Constitutional Literacy curriculum!

After completing this study, it is my sincere belief that all citizens of the United States would be much better off after taking this course! To help explain why I believe that’s the case, I’ll use a quote from Michael Farris–who wrote the Constitutional Literacy curriculum.

This course will give you the opportunity to become truly Constitutionally literate and thereby become the kind of citizen that’s effective and enlightened–a citizen that’s capable of stopping the advances of tyranny and restoring the freedoms and liberties that our founding fathers intended for all of us to have.

One of the important facts we learned from this curriculum is this:

The greatest threat to American liberty is not a persistent violation of the Bill of Rights. Rather, every time that Congress and the federal government acts beyond the scope of its enumerated power, American liberty is put at risk. If we want to preserve our liberty, it’s up to us to know what’s going on, to know the Constitution, to know these limitations on the power of Congress, and to insist that our leaders obey.

After taking this course along with my children (my son who was a high school senior and my daughter who was in 8th grade), I have a much better understanding of what my rights and those of other United States citizens actually are, how to know when those rights are being upheld or violated, and what to do about it if our rights are being violated. I also believe it’s just as important to know when our rights are being upheld and which government officials are doing a good job of protecting us and our rights. Otherwise, how will we know which people to vote for or against?

If you’ll take a look at the cover of the Constitutional Literacy workbook, you’ll see that it says right on the cover, “The history you never knew. The training you need to reclaim liberty.” I think you’ll find exactly that in this curriculum!

And if you’re worried that the curriculum may be…well… less than engaging, I don’t think you have to worry! My children and I actually enjoyed it! Michael Farris uses a combination of video clips, lecture, graphics, and even excerpts from old television shows to teach each point and make it understandable and enjoyable. In fact, you can try two videos and two chapters of the curriculum for free by clicking here.

Here are some fun hands-on activities you can do with your children to help them better understand the voting process and other issues related to elections.

Analyze the campaign ads of presidential candidates

Test their knowledge of the three branches of government game 

Learn election vocabulary

Run for President an iCivics game

Teach about the electoral college with The Presidential Board Game

Teach about getting elected as President via Election Board Game

Review your knowledge of the constitution with Constitution Quest Board Game

Compare and contrast the candidates free chart

Read the Constitution and other primary source documents

So let’s use this election year to raise up an army of informed citizens. Voters. Young men and women who will stand up, who will not be afraid to speak up, and who will show up to take part in the political process. Who will get involved. If all of us work together, we can do something extraordinary… return this nation to a constitutional government!

NOTE: For those who have high school students who need a certain number of credits to finish high school or to enter college, the Constitutional Literacy curriculum is worth 1 high school government credit.

For a Chance to Win:

Apologia Con Lit Spon Content Giveaway

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  1. This sounds great! Do you think it’s appropriate for younger students? I have two boys, 11 & 6. The 11 year old is very interested in politics, and is a visual/auditory learner.

  2. My children are 9 and 12. If the curriculum is too advanced for them, I would modify and just use part of it now, then use it again later! I’ve had politics/civics/the election on my agenda to teach them this year, and this sounds like a fabulous resource to do so!

  3. This looks great! I have a rising senior and then 5th and 6th graders that could use some of this next year.

  4. This is awesome! I am planning to hopefully teach a HS group about Presidential elections and this would be super!!!

  5. My children are 11 and 12. I would love to win this for them. I think it is important fo rthem to know about politics.

  6. I would use this primarily with my 15 year old and I am sure my 12 year old would learn a lot from it as well. This would be great for government this year as I haven’t decided what to use yet.

  7. This is an amazing resource –having someone who has argued before the Supreme Court teaching about the Constitution! I know that this is something that we could watch as a family, something that we could use as a prism through which to view the political events unfolding around us. My eldest daughter is home for the summer. She attends a very liberal, public university. She often feels alone in her political views. She is not confrontational, although she often asks thought-provoking questions of her classmates. This could help her in addition to the children still at home.

  8. I have a High-Schooler and 2 Middle-Schoolers. I would love to utilize this set to impart Constitutional literacy.

  9. We have just finished studying Government and realize that there is still so much more to learn and understand! This looks like a great resource.

  10. I have three girls 17, 15, and 12. I would love this curriculum because I want to instill in then the knowledge and understanding of our Constitution.

  11. My children are 14 and 10, and I would love for all of us to learn more about the Constitution. Thank you!

  12. I’d be using this with a 9 and 13 year old. I’d love to win it because I want for them to understand everything that goes into a candidate’s path to the white house, as well as how and why our constitution was formed, and why it’s so important that it still stands today.

  13. I would be using this with a 9 and 12 year old. I have been looking for a good curriculum to help us better understand our government.

  14. Would love to use this with my 11 year old. This political season has let me know how little I know about our government and how it works. I can’t teach my children what I don’t know myself. This resource would be a huge blessing!

  15. I’d use this with a 14 and 2 12 year olds. I’d love to win it so they could have a better understanding of our government and our constitution. If you understand the process you are equipped to be a better citizen

  16. This looks like a piece we’ve been missing!! I’ll be able to learn a lot of things I should have been taught in school, while making sure my kids learn it right the first time!

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