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Critical Thinking, Social Studies, and the Election Process

 

Unless you’ve found a way to avoid the constant talk everywhere you turn — from social media to conversations with friends and neighbors — you’ve been inundated with news and opinions on the 2016 Presidential election. (By the way, if you have found a way to avoid it, let me know!) As homeschoolers, we often grab lessons straight out of life experience since it’s one of the best ways to learn. This election season has certainly given me lots to talk about and learn with my 14-year-old daughter.

Some of the major lessons include sorting out fact from opinion, history from fiction, and how the whole process works — or should work — in the first place. And, in true homeschooler fashion, we turn to reliable resources like quality living books and curriculum to sort out the answers and learn as much as we can. One of the resources we’ve been using is The Road to the White House: Electing the American President from the College of William & Mary Center for Gifted Education, published by Kendall Hunt Publishing Company.

Road to the White House: Electing the American President. Social studies, critical thinking skills, and the election process. Gifted education course for grades 6-8. heartandsoulhomeschooling.com

Disclosure: I received this product for free for the purpose of review. I was compensated for my time. I was not required to give a positive review and all opinions are my own.

Because these social studies were designed for gifted students, they are both rigorous and engaging. Don’t let that gifted label intimidate you, though. This is the kind of meaty program that many homeschoolers like to get into for the pure enjoyment of learning at a deeper level. We don’t want to merely memorize facts to pass a test; we want to understand and apply what we learn. This social studies curriculum is geared exactly for that kind of learning. It is not fluff.

political systems -- social studies

Engaging Social Studies for Grades 6-8

The Road to the White House: Electing the American President

  • What are the qualities of a good leader?
  • What is the constitutional context of the election process?
  • How are campaigns conducted?
  • What about the Electoral College?
  • How do political parties work?
  • What are the National Conventions?
  • What is the role of the media and political cartoons?

All of these are issues we explored in The Road to the White House. We learned through primary documents, such as the inaugural addresses of former presidents, and by having our own simulated campaign and debate.

social studies - democratic systems

This is not merely a dry rehashing of facts. The Road to the White House draws the student into the process and thinking it through. It encourages critical thinking skills and assessments of the information presented. Students not only read the material, they demonstrate that they comprehend it and form coherent opinions about it. This is something sorely lacking in our culture today. There are too many who don’t know how the process works, so can’t accurately assess it and use it to their benefit. I want my kids to understand the process so they will understand how to effectively participate in it. I want their voices to be heard.

The textbook includes two models for persuasive writing, which my daughter used to complete her speech for the course. It also includes a section on the elements of reasoning so that students learn how to logically support their opinions with their intellect, rather than the all-too-common personal attacks we see in politics today. I especially appreciate this course directs students in how to think critically, not what to think. It is unbiased in that regard.

reasoning web - social studies

This course has stretched my daughter as a student. Giving a speech, even just to family members, is not an everyday occurrence for us. Though she isn’t interested in joining the debate team or taking up politics anytime soon, she did gain confidence in learning a new skill and effectively expressing her opinion. This is a skill that will help her throughout life. It has encouraged me to see her do it and it also reminds me that I need to include more of these types of things in our homeschool.

I also appreciate the fact that character issues were addressed. It’s important to recognize the qualities that make a good leader — whether it’s the President of the United States, an employer, a minister, or even friends. It was clear to my daughter that social mores have changed through history and that you can’t always believe what everyone says, even if they hold a position of power. It’s essential to do your own thinking and not just go along with the crowd. At the same time, she gained respect for our Constitution and the democratic processes that we tend to take for granted in our country.

social studies -- political cartoon

political cartoons assessment -- social studies

To be honest, I learned some things by working through this study as well. There were certain details I’d forgotten and some that had never been adequately explained in my school experience. I love it when I can learn things alongside my kids, too.

The College of William & Mary Center for Gifted Education and Kendall Hunt Publishing

William & Mary Center for Gifted Education offers several selections in the social studies category for grades 2-10. There are some we would like to include in our future studies, like The Civil War, The Depression, and The American Revolution. It’s always exciting to find quality, enriching resources to use in our homeschool.

In addition to social studies, Kendall Hunt offers rigorous gifted curriculum for science, math, and language arts. You’ll want to read more about them to find the best fit for your homeschool lesson planning.

Be sure to follow Kendall Hunt on Facebook and Twitter so you can find out more about all they have to offer.

 

Sara
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One Comment

  1. That looks like a really interesting curriculum for studying the election process. All of those activities look really thought-provoking. I like seeing our young people getting beyond memorizing facts and really learning to think critically.

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