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April 2016

Homeschool Civics for Elementary Years:
Inspiration in Tumultuous Times

Vicki Bentley, HSLDA Toddlers to Tweens Consultant


Vicki Bentley
Vicki Bentley

A parent recently shared with me that her family has been studying American history this year and has enjoyed learning about the Pilgrims, the battles of the American Revolution, and other stories of our nation’s Founding Fathers and their incredible faith.

However, her family is dismayed by the accounts of atrocities in our history. This, coupled with discouragement over current events, makes her wonder, “How do I continue to teach my children both the good and the bad in the history of America, but not have the bad overwhelm them? How do I give them hope for their future and a positive attitude that they can be the ones to stand up for good in this country?”

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What a great question.

We can focus on the purposes for and principles on which our country was founded.

No country is without blemish, as all are populated by imperfect people—but what has set the United States apart these many years is its founding heritage and the way that legacy creates freedom to effect positive change. The key to conveying this truth to your children is a combination of history and civics studies.


Civics for Toddlers to Tweens

Civics is the branch of political science that deals with the duties and rights of citizenship. Academically, it often includes government studies, so students can learn how our political and economic systems are supposed to work.

For elementary students, it is usually most effective to introduce civics or government studies in the context of early American history. You can use biographies, autobiographies, and original documents such as the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution, examining them in a context of biblical principles or foundational references.

As your students come to understand the colonists’ grievances and their struggle to obtain liberty, they can more rationally observe the current operations of our governmental system.

A study of the history of various patriotic holidays, such as Independence Day and Constitution Week, can be a fun way to kick off your studies. By reading and discussing the Declaration of Independence, students can gain an understanding of why the Founding Fathers chose to risk their lives by defying the king and army of Great Britain.

Our Generation Joshua program is one of the resources available to help train and encourage young people to stand up for what is right and to make a difference. Not only can your student participate in Generation Joshua’s civics clubs, summer camps, and student action teams, but GenJ now offers iCitizen: Civic Literacy for Young Americans, an online civics course for high schoolers and advanced middle schoolers.

If you have several children, you may wish to cover civics with a multi-level approach, teaching to the level of your oldest student and modifying assignments for the others. The younger students will absorb what they can and then get off the “mental bus” at their own “mental bus stop.”


Let Them Participate

As your children grow, you’ll have opportunities to show them how they can impact the culture, the government, and their local community through involvement and service.

Constitutional lawyer and HSLDA Chairman Dr. Michael Farris suggests:

Take your children on field trips to government offices so that they can see first-hand what functions each level of government performs. Visit court trials at different levels. Watch your city council in operation. Visit your state legislature. And if possible, watch Congress in action. The practical lessons your children will receive from such excursions will far outweigh any textbook instruction—especially if you follow it up with thoughtful discussion.

The more our children know about their government, the more they will be able to change the way our government operates, to make it more efficient, and to hold their representatives responsible for their actions.

In his article “Teaching Government Right,” Dr. Arthur Robinson comments, “The last and best hope for the long-term preservation of American freedom and the remarkable legacy of the constitutional republic created by our Founding Fathers is in the education of young Americans to think and learn for themselves the truth about government as it ought to be.”


Hope for the Future

Joel Grewe, Generation Joshua’s director, sums it up admirably: “Generation Joshua wants America to be a beacon of biblical hope to the world around us.  We seek to inspire every one of our members with faith in God and a hope of what America can become as we equip Christian citizens and leaders to impact our nation for Christ and for His glory.”


RESOURCES:

  • Civics for Preschool through Middle School
  • The Childhood of Famous Americans series (children’s book series found in many public libraries)
  • The Light and the Glory for Children by Peter Marshall
  • From Sea to Shining Sea for Children by Peter Marshall
  • Homeschooling on a Shoestring: Spotlight on Social Studies” (especially note the sidebar)
  • The Principle Approach to home education
  • All-American History
  • Diana Waring’s History Revealed series
  • God Has Big Plans for You, Esther! By Kay Arthur and Janna Arndt (Discover 4 Yourself inductive Bible study series; ages 9–12). Readers ages 9 to 12 join young investigators Max, Molly, and Sam for a great adventure in Washington D.C. While they explore the exciting dynamics of the Capitol, they uncover an amazing Bible story of a young girl named Esther whom God used to change the course of her nation.
  • The Land of Fair Play (Christian Liberty Press) is now in its third edition. This updated introduction to civics presents middle schoolers with an overview of Christian duties of citizenship, the relationship between local, state, and national government, and much more. (I was fascinated that the original was written long enough ago to refer to The Great War, instead of—as we now call it—World War I!)
  • Uncle Sam and You: From Notgrass Publishing, a one-year civics and government course for students in grades 5–8. Daily lessons about the foundations of American government, the elections process, and how federal, state, and local governments work.
  • Constitutional Literacy DVD program by Dr. Michael Farris

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