Books & Reading · Homeschooling

Voting & Democracy Unit Study (with links!)

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Hey, everyone! Did you think I’d forgotten about this little space on the internet?

It’s been a wild ride the last couple of months. As if job changes and beginning to home school weren’t enough of a change, we are taking a step of faith and moving to Nashville. We close on our house of eight years in twenty-five days, and have begun to find a new rhythm that works for us just in time to have it thrown into complete chaos by moving!

But all the while, I’ve been thinking about what to share here, about what would encourage your heart, point your eyes to Jesus, and help you as you seek to live our your faith and build a strong family. Soon, I hope, I will have much more to share with you. But for today, something fun.

I know you probably have strong feelings about this year’s election. I do, too. But a presidential election is still an exciting time, and getting to participate in choosing our next leader is a privilege I refuse to be anything but grateful for. I’m hoping to shield my kids from the vitriol of this election and just introduce them to the wonder and excitement of big ideas like liberty, democracy, and the electoral process.

I had some trouble finding democracy and voting unit study plans that were both interdisciplinary and appropriate for my pre-K and first grade boys. So, with a lot of time on my library’s card catalog website, and a little bit of flexibility and willingness to take time to answer my boys’ questions, I put together my own. I’m sharing it here in case anyone else is looking for good resources to teach preschoolers and early elementary students about the upcoming election.

Please note: discussions about liberty and voting often touch on a lot of other big issues, issues like racism, war, women’s rights, and political ideology. So I would certainly recommend previewing everything, so that you can decide for yourself what’s right for your class or family before you share it with them.

Our regular curriculum has a strong literature-based slant, so I kept that in mind as I approached this unit study. The books we read aloud together covered several subjects, including language arts, social studies, math, and reading, and then we added some fun projects to work in science, art, and music.

Below, I’ve listed the resources we used by type, then broken it down into what we actually used each day. What made the most sense to me was to give each day its own theme, but you could certainly group things in lots of other ways.  Enjoy!

Resources we used

Books

Naming Liberty // Jane Yolen
Just in Time Abraham Lincoln // Patricia Polacco
When Penny Met POTUS // Rachel Ruiz
American Poetry (From the Poetry for Young People series) // Edited by John Hollander
Duck for President // Doreen Cronin
The Grizzly Gazette // Stuart J. Murphy
Sir Cumference and the Off-the-Charts Dessert // Cindy Neuschwander
Grace for President // Kelly DiPucchio
The Day Gogo Went to Vote // Elinor Batezat Sisulu
Around America to Win the Vote // Mara Rockliff
Elizabeth Started All the Trouble // Doreen Rappaport
We the Kids: The Preamble to the Constitution of the United States // David Catrow
The Buck Stops Here // Alice Provensen
One Vote, Two Votes, I Vote, You Vote // Bonnie Worth
Francis Scott Key’s Star-Spangled Banner // Monica Kulling

Videos

National anthem when Maya DiRado received her Olympic gold medal (this one makes me cry every time!)
Lady Gaga sings the National Anthem at the 2016 Super Bowl
Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood: The Neighborhood Votes/ The Class Votes
Peg + Cat: The Election Problem
PBS Kids You Choose Project

Projects

Copper oxidation science experiement (to understand why the Statue of Liberty is green)
Printable President trading cards
Design your own campaign poster
Printable electoral vote map
Research on learning database PebbleGo.com (see if your library has it!)

Daily lessons

(No lesson plan for Monday because our books and projects that day were all about Halloween.)

Tuesday: Liberty and Democracy

Read-alouds: Naming Liberty, Liberty’s Journey
Memory work: Preamble to the Constitution (using the picture book We the Kids)
Music: Star Spangled Banner & Patriotic Songs
Science: Penny experiment

Wednesday: Presidents

Read-alouds: When Penny Met POTUS, George Washington easy-reader biography, Just in Time Abraham Lincoln, The Buck Stops Here
Memory work: Preamble to the Constitution (using the picture book We the Kids)
Fine-motor activity: cutting and folding presidential trading cards
Social studies: Pebble Go articles

Thursday: Suffrage and Campainging

Read-alouds: Elizabeth Started All the Trouble, Around America to Win the Vote, The Day Gogo Went to Vote, Grace for President
Memory work: Preamble to the Constitution (using the picture book We the Kids)
Math: The Grizzly Gazette
Art: campaign posters

Friday: Voting

Read-alouds: One Vote Two Votes, Duck for President, Grace for President
Memory work: Preamble to the Constitution (using the picture book We the Kids)
Math: Sir Cumference and the Off-the-Charts Dessert
Social Studies: Daniel Tiger and Peg + Cat episodes and discussion

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If you have any suggestions to add, share them in the comments below!

Homeschooling

Why We are Homeschooling This Year (and How That’s Helping Me Live by Faith)

What does it really mean to have faith?

I’ve been wrestling with this question lately, as Jason and I have been thrust into a season that requires a lot more of it than we have ever needed before. In my head, I know that God is more than able to take care of us. But my heart is afraid of doing the brave work of stepping out before I can see the entire picture of our future.

So when God began to speak to me last spring about homeschooling Caleb, our oldest son, I mostly kept it quiet. I knew it was the voice of the Lord, and yet, I was hoping that He would also give us answers to all the other questions we were asking, like “where will we work? Where will we live? Where will we go to church?”

Truthfully, what I wanted was to avoid having to stand on faith, and admit out loud these wild, reckless ways in which God was leading us. I wanted to be able to say, “Well, Jason got this job in Timbuktu, so sorry Ozark Schools, but we won’t be back next year, and since we don’t speak Timbuktu-ese, obviously we will be homeschooling.”

Instead of simply admitting what God was doing in my heart, and seeking him for more guidance, I did what I do best when I don’t feel like I have enough control: I threw myself into researching different homeschooling methods to the point of obsession.

I did privately ask a few trusted friends for advice, and one of them invited me to come with her to a local homeschooling conference. I hoped the conference would clarify some things for me. As in, maybe there would be someone there who would just tell me exactly what to do for the next nine months.

Of course, that did not happen.

What the speakers and workshop leaders did tell me, over and over again, was to seek the wisdom that only God gives for my own children and our unique situation as a family, and then be obedient to whatever He told me to do.

Part of me was a little frustrated by this advice. Just tell me what math curriculum will make my child brilliant! But the rest of me knew these wise advisers were speaking the truth. God formed my children. He knows them better than I ever will. And only He knows our future. Who better to go to for help?

It also solidified my convictions that this was the path we were supposed to take. There are a multitude of reasons homeschooling appealed to me and made sense for our family for where we are right now, but the major reason I was drawn to it was because it was what I knew in my heart God was leading me to do.

I could not deny that still, small voice saying, “This is the way; walk in it” (Isaiah 30:21)

If for nothing else, this process of choosing to homeschool has taught me so much about listening for the Lord’s voice, and stepping out in faith based on only what He said. I want the evidence it’s going to work out before I take those first few steps, but that wouldn’t be faith. I cannot have it both ways.

He has been so gracious to me along the way. Every time I speak out about another piece of our future’s puzzle that God has revealed to us, my friends and family have been nothing but supportive. But God also keeps gently pushing me out into that territory where I must be sure of what I hope for and certain of what I do not see (Hebrews 11:1). So I’m continuing to try and do the brave work of walking by faith and not by sight. This begins by simply saying out loud, “We are homeschooling this year.” Not “we might be” or “we are considering it” like I said for so many months, even though in my heart I knew the truth.

Speaking the truth is saying, simply, “we are doing it.”

So, we are doing it.

We start today.

I am tremendously excited about it, and so are the kids. I’m sure their enthusiasm will wear off eventually, maybe even later today, but I’m grateful for it as we begin. I am also excited about what I’ve discovered in all my research. There are so many amazing resources out there for parenting, teaching your kids about the Bible, and building a strong family culture that you probably wouldn’t come across unless you were homeschooling. I cannot wait to begin sharing them with you.

But for now, I thought I’d just quickly share what resources we are planning to use this year, in case you’re curious.

Math
Singapore Math. We are beginning at the beginning, with book 1A. This will review some of what he learned in Kindergarten, but I want him to have a strong grasp of these concepts,  and get into a rhythm of doing the daily work before we cover new material.

Reading
For Caleb: Houghton-Mifflin.  I’ve tried some more interactive and phonics-based things with him at home before, and he’s never been as excited about any of them as he is about this textbook. So we’ll use it for the next several weeks, and then reevaluate his needs moving forward.
For Garrett: Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons

Social Studies
Story of the World, Volume 1.

Science
The biology plan outlined for first grade in The Well-Trained Mind

Bible
What’s in the Bible? With Buck Denver

On top of this, we intend to frequent the library, and read a lot of great books.

Garrett is also in preschool three mornings a week. There he will work on penmanship and his letters and numbers. Moreover, his being out of the house will give me more time for one-on-one teaching with Caleb. When Garrett is here, he’ll get reading instruction, and beyond that, simply listen along to what we are doing, and participate if and when he wants to.

I think it’s going to be a great year!