While stuck at home, I have seen Facebook posts galore of parents trying to engage their kids in a variety of ways during this slow time of no school and self-quarantine. Some have taken the route of teaching their children important non-academic life skills, while others have prioritized just getting them up and moving. Many have attempted to continue some kind of homeschooling, with sometimes hilariously varying degrees of success. But as this isolated time continues on and ideas for new things to do become scarce, I present a suggestion: introduce them to civics.
There are several reasons why now is the perfect time to focus on civics with your kids. First, and most importantly for some parents, it doesn’t have to be particularly labor intensive (at least on the adult end). Second, it isn’t always consistently covered in school—especially not in elementary and middle school, and maybe not even in high school depending on your course selection. Third, an understanding of civics not only is a life skill in general but also provides a timely lens through which they can understand COVID-19 (coronavirus) politically, economically, and socially. Fourth, crucially, it can be enjoyable and interesting for the kids themselves; an understanding of this subject matter is empowering, mind-opening, and, at minimum, boredom-reducing.
What this civic engagement entails is up to what you find important and what your children already know – and there are plenty of options to explore online. But I do have some suggestions as to the framework for studying civics at home from my perspective as a student.
Keep in mind: You don’t have to teach your kids all the information on your own. Let them (or force them to 😊) do research on their own, thereby reducing your own workload and teaching them important research skills.
A solid foundation for civics awareness is an understanding of the broad functions of government. What are the purposes of the three branches? What are the different levels of government (local, state, federal) and what are their powers? How do elections work? General information like this provides the key to understanding more specific information later. What other broad information do you feel they should know?
Next, you can focus more on specific information relevant to them. Who are their representatives at different levels of government and what are the representatives’ stances on various issues? What are some of the important pieces of legislation that have passed recently? What are resources your children can use to stay up to date on governmental affairs? How do the decisions being made by those in the legislative and executive branches impact various stakeholders?
What about the judicial branch? This category is the most wide-ranging, but is also arguably the most critical. It shows the direct connection between the government and them. In my opinion, it is worth taking some time to fully flesh out this knowledge.
Now that they have a more detailed understanding of government, if desired you can take it a step further: consider how they can get involved. What can they do about issues they are passionate about? What are different ways to share their opinion with their representatives? There are tons of different ways to get involved, ranging from writing a note to a legislator to testifying in Olympia during legislative session to volunteering for a campaign. What other ways can they get involved?
We are stuck inside, but the world goes on—especially politics. So take advantage of this time, briefly yank your kids off of TikTok (an app I admit is a weakness of mine), and have them learn a bit about this country and how they can make a lasting impact.
Kellen Hoard, EEN’s intern for school year 2019-20, is a sophomore at Inglemoor High School in the Northshore School District.