Politics and the gentle art of learning
- 2004 19 May
I don't think Charlotte Mason ever did a section on political involvement... She should have.
Civic involvement is an easy one for a homeschool family. A few weeks ago, my kids and I parked our folding chairs at our local precinct, complete with stickers and pamphlets for our candidate of choice. We are almost the Lone Republicans in our precinct. I don't know how many voted that day, but they were only anticipating 60 votes all day. When we left at noon, they had had 36 voters.
But even with the small turnout, we know our neighbors, and I've gotten to know our poll workers from previous elections. The kids took turns opening the door for the voters who did come, and they told each voter on the way in, "Thank you for voting." As each voter left, they told him or her, "Have a nice day."
It doesn't sound like a lot but it's a new experience and with the slow pace and a beautiful day, we just enjoyed sitting together talking about nothing - and everything - and watching for when the next voter would arrive. We looked at the different yard signs at the polling place, and I told the kids what job each candidate was running for and what it involved. We also talked about the difference between a primary and an election.
My kids are shy by nature. I was too at their age. But working the polls is such a great experience - they got to talk to the different poll workers who came out for breaks, etc. And the kids got low-key practice in smiling, making eye contact, and talking to new people. It's a great experience for kids - and lots of fun to do together.
The senior citizens especially perked at the young faces and kids eagerly opening doors for them. And the kids feel like an important part of the process.
My hope - and dream - is that one day, the time we have spent together working those polls will breed in them a respect for their civic duty.
That night when I returned home late from work, both kids were still up, thrilled and excited about the primary election. And they were watching the news with a real interest because they felt they were part of the democratic process.
I still remember spending the night with one of my mother's friends in 1976, during the Democratic primary. Mom's friend created a chart for us to complete on which states gave their delegates to which candidates. Carter won the primary. It was my first exposure to anything like that. It was simple. It didn't take a long time. And it happened in the simple course of election events.
This November, find a candidate who inspires your heart. Encourage your kids to get involved. Make the process come alive. It doesn't take a lot, and it doesn't take dozens of hours. But the exposure can light a fire for a lifetime.
The results of one primary election aren't nearly as important as the fruits of our labors with our children - the Joshua generation.
Mary Biever, a homeschool mother of two, serves as the secretary for Southwestern Indiana Home Educators. Check out http://www.swihe.org