2012-13 School Year–Learning About Elections

We had most of the week off this week, but we did have school on Tuesday, so that we could look more closely at how elections work. We finished reading Presidential Elections and Other Cool Facts (we had started it last week after we learned about how the U.S. government works), which is a good introduction the election process (although you have to overlook the fact that it constantly refers to America as a democracy and/or explain what kind of government our country actually has). It even does a pretty good job of explaining the electoral college, and the rare, but not unheard of situation of the electoral vote overriding the popular vote.

The children had a field trip to the polling place on Election Day, as well. They have come with me to vote before, but not in the last year, and I don’t think Turkey and Bunny have been with me for a presidential election since 2004, when Turkey was 1 1/2 and Bunny was just a baby. They were very interested by the whole process…getting signed in, getting the ballot, what the voting booth is like, what the ballot looks like and how you fill it in, and what you do with it when you’re done. They really wanted to cast my ballot for me, but I explained to them that that is a privilege they will have to wait until they are over 18 for (and, as long as we were talking about it, we figured out in which year they will get to vote in their first presidential election, and how old they will be then). An election judge did give them all “I Voted” stickers, though, which amused them.

We also had our own family election. I created ballots, made a ballot box, set up a voting “booth” for everyone to utilize, and acted as election judge, to make sure there was no campaigning or influencing of votes at the poll. In the end, pie had a landslide victory over cake, by a 5-1 margin. On Wednesday, I made a pie for dessert, not just because it’s delicious, but because I really wanted to drive home the point that everyone’s vote counts, and you can make change happen by voting. I’ve also promised the children that I will attempt to make more pies in the future since they’re so popular–again, voting matters, even in the case of desserts!

If I had really planned ahead, we could have done even more with our family election. We could have started a few weeks out with a primary, choosing specific types of cake and pie to be on the ballot. After choosing the two candidates, there could have been campaigning, either assigned or by choice, on behalf of the desserts. We did talk about how one could have campaigned for each, what selling points there are for the desserts, how to make them sound appealing, etc., but we could have taken it further by making posters and speeches if I had been more organized. I could have also slipped a third-party candidate (say, ice cream), onto the ballot at the last minute…I think that by doing so, I could have approximated the lack of information out there about other candidates, and the surprise a lot of people feel at seeing more than two choices on their ballot on election day. But I can save all of these ideas for next time!

We also took advantage of this week’s Dover Sampler. There were coloring sheets and puzzles for presidents past and present, and the children really enjoyed them. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again–if you haven’t signed up to receive the weekly Dover Sampler in your e-mail, you’re missing out. The samples are always timely and relevant, and there’s usually a broad range of activities, from simple coloring pages to puzzles to paper doll outlines. It’s a fun way to add enrichment to seasonal lessons!

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