Here is how a home school mom teaches government. My children had been in public school until quarantine began. Since we were homeschooling for the first time in middle school, and we will probably return to public school when the pandemic ends, we decided to just follow the state curriculum.
My son is in eighth grade, which means, according to the state curriculum, it’s time for Government and Economics. I printed off the state standards and worked my way down the list of objectives. It all seemed reasonable and benign. Until I started actually trying to explain these ideas in a neutral manner. My son gets plenty of liberal values at dinner conversations. I wanted him to learn just the facts during our Government lessons. I found this to be very difficult.
If I can’t teach the facts in an unbiased manner, at the age of fifty he will still picture Trump in his mind when he hears the words “Electoral College.” (Yuck!) He will confuse the past and present and think the Magna Carta was written by my favorite contemporary politician. Most importantly, my son would think he understands government when he only understands the point of view of the left side of government. I can think of many politicians who understand government only from their narrow perspective. No matter which side, that is ignorance.
Keeping the goal of intelligence and independent thinking in mind, I carefully explain each concept in neutral tones. Yet I wonder, if he was in public school, would the teacher be able to refrain from interjections? Surely the amount of time spent on an issue or class debate would be driven by the personality of the teacher and the students. I have taught middle school. I expect the teacher would be polite and subtle, but some of the students would be loud and dominating. They would confuse fact and opinion, muddling the lessons. My son probably wouldn’t learn much that way. Or, he might learn incorrect information. Then I wonder about the matter of current events. The teacher is at liberty to select what is or is not discussed. I love having my kids exposed to others’ points of view, but this time I am glad to waddle along on my own here.
Here’s an example of an objective I struggled with: Compare the similarities and differences of political parties. What can I tell him? We have halos. They are crooks. Not quite. The DNC party platform document weighs in at 91 pages. The GOP statement is a breezy 54 pages. Book report time? Do I tell him the Democrats take care of the environment and the Republicans cause all the pollution? Shall I explain the pipeline cutting across the Appalachian Trail? I admit I deviated from my commitment to neutrality that day. I used to think that home schooling was most valuable in grades K to 3 when children are presumed to be most impressionable. For content rich topics, like Government, I thought the public school would be more effective at teaching. Now I see this government course is actually crucial to shaping my child into the adult I want him to be. I am so grateful that I finally got the chance to be a homeschooler. Most people worry that their kid will pick up bad habits at school and join forces with a criminal element. I’m worried that they’ll go to school and become Republicans.