U.S. Election for Kids:  10 Fun Activities to Teach the Election Process {in less than 30 minutes a day}

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Teaching the Elections Process to Kids:  3 Things You Need to Cover

SKILL:  Critical Thinking

Voting season has begun, so what better way to introduce your homeschool kids to the U.S. presidential and gubernatorial process than to host your own mock election?  Whether you want to replicate the actual candidates and issues, or make up your own imaginative scenarios, simulating what happens in real life is a great way to learn!


Home school Government Lesson

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two-week simulation is just enough time to expose your kids to the election process.  If you want to expand learning, feel free to go deep later, and make it a full-blown unit study over several weeks or months.

Before you can teach your kids about the election process, though, you need to give them some perspective or context on three things:  (1) what government is, (2) why we need it, and (3) how it works.  If you want the teaching to stick, start with a child-centric worldview, then connect the new info to what he already knows.

What Is Government?

what-is-government

What do I mean by child-centric? Imagine the child standing in the middle of several invisible circles that emanate outward.  Get a blank piece of paper and draw a picture (or paste a photo) of your kid, then add 4 circles like my diagram to help him follow the discussion.

What does he already know about government? The circle he’s standing in represents your family and home, so start your teaching lesson with household government.

He probably understands daddy and mommy’s government and is acutely aware that he is under your authority.  Talk about what freedoms and responsibilities he has as a member of your family.  Does your family have a mission statement, household rules, an allowance system, or the like?  Pull out all that info, and use it in your discussion.

To govern is to conduct the policy, actions, and affairs of a family, state, organization, or people.

After you’ve thoroughly covered family government, move out into the next closest imaginary circle into local government.  Talk about what he already knows like public safety (police, fire, and EMS officials) and community services (public library, festivals, concert series, public schools).  If you have an opportunity to tour the municipal building, meet the mayor, or watch a city council meeting, do it.

Now that you’ve explored governing at a local level, move to the next circle out which would be broader in terms of region and people…your state government. Grab a map, and find the capital.  Go online, and look at photos. Explain what the official leadership positions are (governor, legislators, & judges) as well as the administrative support staff who help them.  Talk about the laws and perhaps even the industries that your state government support.

Finally, move to the outermost imaginary circle: federal government. Cover the authoritative documents (U.S. Constitution, Bill of Rights, 27 Amendments) and separation of powers (legislative, executive, and judicial).  Here’s a cool graphic from usa.gov to use as a teaching aid:

us-separation-of-powers

After you’ve thoroughly exhausted what government is, it’s time to jump into the harder question of why we need it.

Why Do We Need Government?

Again, start with your family.  Why does your household need rules about behavior? What would happen if there were no rules?  It might sound like a great idea, but take him down the imagination highway with real-life examples of what kinds of choices he might make and how they would affect the rest of the family. Why do you require that he wear a helmet when riding his bike?  Are these personal choices fair?  Who benefits?  Who loses?  Talk about consequences and risk.

You might want to include your family’s religious training on lawfulness and lawlessness.  For instance, Jews and Christians could both use the Ten Commandments as a great teaching tool.  Some of the Old Testament stories would also illuminate why humans need government, especially the ones where people did the wrong thing like when Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit, and justice was rendered when they were kicked out of the Garden of Eden.

Now consider your child’s community.  What would life be like if there were no laws? Not to scare him, but use an example of lawlessness that he can relate to like someone driving without a seat belt or a dog running loose in the neighborhood without a leash.  Government often protects us from our own foolish choices.

Talk about why we need division of responsibilities in city, state, and federal governments to collect taxes, build roads, and distribute financial aid to people in need.

How Does Government Work?

Now it’s time to get into the mechanics of an actual working government. [Sparknotes on U.S. Government is a free online resource if you need to refresh your own memory].  Start with the three branches (legislative, executive, & judicial) then talk about what each branch actually does…for example, you could…

  • diagram the process of drafting, debating, and passing a bill in Congress
  • outline the steps that the Secretary of State follows when granting passports
  • explain how the Supreme Court decides which cases to hear each year

Step-by-step examination of the processes of government are most helpful in understanding how any governing body works, so think in terms of visuals like flowcharts, building blocks, and bubble maps.

10 Fun Mock Election Activities for Kids

One of the things that I do for members of my Bright Moms Homeschool Planning Course & Community is host an online coaching workshop each month to show her how to teach reading, thinking, writing, and public speaking skills with actual lesson plans.  This month, I created a 2 week timeline with one mock election activity a day (less than 30 minutes) and 13 fun worksheets.

  • day 1 – job descriptions for public offices
  • day 2 – writing prompts (president, policy, White House)
  • day 3 – voter registration cards + candidate bios
  • day 4 – campaign slogans
  • day 5 – vocabulary terms + bingo cards
  • day 6 – policy issues pro/con
  • day 7 – debate points + prep
  • day 8 – official ballot + “I voted” buttons + exit poll cards
  • day 9 – electoral college
  • day 10 – acceptance speech

On the final day, you can celebrate with an election night party or inauguration ball.  Save yourself some time, and get my 41 page mock election PDF pack $ 9.99 with 10 days’ worth of learning fun!


Mock Election PDF Fun Pack (examples)

bingo
debate
electoral
jobs
vocab
voterreig

Create Election Anticipation and Excitement

Catch a few debates on TV, and show them how to take notes of the pros/cons on issues.  Pay attention to logical fallacies, and go to the fact-checking websites afterward when you’re suspicious about declarations that seem fishy or stretched. Read the newspaper biographies of local candidates, and discuss their positions on what your city or state needs.  Check out the latest interactive election forecast maps like this one called 538.

Finally, be sure to take your kids with you to the polling station when you vote.  I still remember little toddlers clinging to my legs when I was behind the voting curtain; I’m so glad that I took them.  Each time the volunteers gave them an “I voted” sticker which they wore proudly all day. Watch the election night results with them, and color in a USA map as the winners are announced.

When my kids were old enough to register, they did, and they were so excited to vote in their first presidential election four years ago.  My daughter, Meredith, will be in London on Tuesday, November 8th, 2016 when we vote for U.S. President, but thanks to early voting, she’s already participated in choosing those who govern us for the next term. All those years of teaching about the importance of government and elections impressed upon her the privilege of voting, even when she’s living abroad.

Times in the USA are pretty tense right now, but don’t let hostilities or absurdities keep you from teaching your kids about our government and the election process.  One day, they will fully participate in how their community is governed, so set the stage now so that transitioning later is not an obligation but a pleasure.

Proud to be an American,

Diane

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Diane Lockman
Diane Lockman
Articles: 37

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