Growing up, I knew that elections took place. I understood the basics as we were briefly taught about the voting process in school. Sadly, that was the extent of my education when it came to politics, government, and voting. Politics were not discussed in my home. I never saw either of my parents vote. I’m honestly not sure that they did. Once, I asked my grandparents who they voted for and well, that conversation didn’t end well.
So it shouldn’t be a surprise that I didn’t cast my first vote until my late 20s. I don’t even think I really knew who I was voting for as I just listened to the media reports and based my decision on that. *insert cringe* In recent years, I have taken the time to gain a better understanding of the candidates and how the voting process works. I’m becoming more informed with each election, big and small. Oh, and the kids ALWAYS come with us to vote so they can see and experience the process.
Make It Part of the Curriculum
This year, my oldest is studying American History and we are incorporating the election into our curriculum as much as possible. We have been talking about all aspects of elections, from how to become a candidate on the ballot to debates, as well as political rallies to inspire current supporters and gain new allies. We’ve talked about the party system and that, most often, your beliefs are shared by various candidates over multiple parties. We’ve talked about voting rights and how it has improved only in recent decades. The boys and I have watched YouTube videos, scoured candidate websites, and read the literature that is delivered to our mailbox. It’s important that both my boys learn the significance of voting early in their life.
Learning Through Experience
What better way to teach politics and elections than to become a part of it? Recently, Jacob and I drove an hour to show support for a candidate who is NOT in our district. You read that right. I can’t even vote for him but I support him. So why did we make the drive?
– To teach and understand that just because someone doesn’t “represent” us doesn’t mean their decisions at the statehouse won’t ever reach us. They will.
– To teach and understand the importance of showing up, when able, to support your candidate.
– We learned what a debate is, how they are run, and why they are important. We even listened to the debate on the drive home.
I have my 9-year-old read each candidate’s website prior to any event we are attending. Jacob tells me what he thinks of each person, who he would consider voting for and why. It has sparked a lot of great conversation. My boys have even had the opportunity to meet a candidate and ask questions.
Teach Politics and Voting from a Young Age
Politics are always ruffling some feathers and I know some people do not care to see parents involving their children in the process. But let’s be clear about a few things. Jacob and Lucas hear, repeatedly, that my views and their views never need to match. They can oppose and that’s okay. What matters is we stand for what we believe in and respect each other’s position. We need to be talking about politics and government affairs on a regular basis so when our children turn 18, they can become confident, informed voters who may even run for office one day.