Thursday, February 16, 2012

First Stop: Our Roots

One of the first places we are going to visit on our journey is our roots.  Why do we need a government?  What types of government are there that function in different parts of the world?  How did we choose this one?  Why?  More importantly, what exactly should the government be doing for us and what should it not be doing?

These are all important questions and some of these are very hard to teach a child.  One of the key things about home school is that I have read too many stories of parents that got caught up in molding their own agenda into their children.  Their children are little robots that mimic mommy and daddy's thoughts.   They may or may not have been told why they think this way, but they have been told to think that way by someone.  So remaining impartial to the issues was extremely important to us.

Luckily, his father and I rarely agree on the proper way to fold a towel so our views on the government are often at odds with the other's opinion.   We tease each other but really, we do both think differently.  He thinks like those aliens on Mars while I bathe in the pools of bubble baths, laze on the rocks of pedicures, and stroll the streets of fashion in downtown Venus.   Very little of that is true but it paints the idea, right?

So I chose two exercises to introduce the topic of government.  The first one I presented him with a blank canvas situation and asked him how he would have created the government.  What type of government would he choose?  Being a boy he went straight for the dictatorship and tyrant ruling.  Ah, well, he will learn as we progress how well that doesn't work out.   As we have gone on to look at our rights, I already see his mind working out his previous choice and why he's not so sure that was a grand plan.

This next exercise proved to be a lot of fun for all of us.  It really should be illegal to have that much fun when you are teaching and learning about the government.  How boring is history? Not very boring at all if you can engage their minds and tickle their sense of humor.

For this exercise my husband was actually working from home and was able to participate.  We started with a sheet of paper and the question posed was:  What does society or the individuals within it complain about?  What makes them unhappy?

Any answer was allowed.  It didn't matter how ridiculous it was to an adult.  And despite the silly answers, I was pretty impressed with the list my twelve year old made.  He was pretty in touch to what he had overheard adults saying.  He knew the economy was in the crapper.   He'd seen the adults complaining about the lack of job opportunities.  He even chose to address health care.

The next task was for him to define who was responsible to handle that complaint.  The government? The individual?  The non profit agency?  Or the profit/business companies?  Who can fix those things?

After he thought he had his answers, we went over them as a family.  And we all threw in our two cents on exactly what defines the government's job and role in each complaint.  We laughed.  We debated.  We used logic and reasoning.  We learned that while we all differed on some things, there were basic things that were cut and dry.  The government can't fix your attitude.  You have to do that.  Duh! But the point was we learned a lot of things in one lesson.

He learned the government's job isn't always clearly defined in each individual's mind.  This is why the world has divided into political parties.   He learned some things aren't the government's job to fix at all.  They should be the individual's responsibility and that they needed to take their responsibility into account when they complain.   He also learned about civic responsibility and the role it plays in creating a happier environment for the people.  Why food banks can be important to our society.  Why we need organizations to help fund important research.

Of course, this is not our entire government lesson plan.  This was just the brief exercises we used to introduce the concepts we would be reading, discussing, and learning about in the upcoming weeks.  And it was fun.  It opened his mind.  He would get so caught up explaining his choices that he forgot he was learning something.   He was engaged in this process.  On the way to Grandma's that evening, he started complaining about the comfort of his seat belt.  Soon it evolved into a discussion of who bore responsibility for seat belt laws.  Why we needed safety laws.  And he generated this discussion process.  Not the parents.  It was so much fun to see him learn.  I'm so proud of him.  

It will be interesting to see how his mind develops as he realizes what is great about democracy.  Why it's important enough to defend our freedoms.  As our ancestors have done for years.  Why we have to sometimes protect ourselves, even from our own government when it begins to over step it's own role.  Thus, the need for the election process. simple little piece of paper and it is going to open so many doors to learn.  Which door should we open first?

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