As we get closer to the 2016 election, we’re thinking a lot about what it means to be a citizen, what are our rights as Americans, how was our government formed, how it runs today, and how our leaders are selected through one of the most important opportunities every citizen exercises: the right to vote in free and open elections. Remember- this is your country, and, along with more than 318 million other citizens, you have reason to be proud of being an American. The road leading our country to where it is today has never been easy. Since the time of the Revolutionary War, there have been issues deeply dividing us, along with fundamental beliefs and goals that have brought us together as one people. As President Abraham Lincoln famously wrote about his strong belief during one of America’s darkest hours, “…that this nation shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.”
Now we’ve come a long way since then. But we still have leaders working hard to make sure our country—and our next generation of kids—know how the government works. Take former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. She submitted a Goal To Be Greater to the Parent Toolkit, pledging to make civic education a priority. She said, "As students and teachers return to school against the backdrop of the presidential election, we must seize this nationwide teachable moment to show young people how our government works, and to equip them with the skills they need to effectively inherit our democracy. We must urge all legislative, policy and education leaders to make civic education a priority, thereby ensuring a healthy democracy for our country."
Think back to how you were introduced to these civic terms and how you learned about them. Do you remember the first time you recited the Pledge of Allegiance or went into a voting booth to take part in a national election? Take your time to review and discuss these terms with your children, ask them what they think it means to be a citizen, what are the freedoms guaranteed to all citizens, and what role do they play in choosing our government? As you explore the terms together, you and your children will likely have even more questions and then more conversations about how this country came to be the way it is today. That is part of the learning adventure and something both of you are not likely to forget anytime soon. Yes, this is your country, now let’s get to know it better.
Here is an example of the vocabulary sheet with all of the defintions:
Download these blank vocab sheets to use with your kids!
Jocelyn Chadwick is a Parent Toolkit expert and the Vice President of the National Council of Techers of English. John Grassie is an author and education researcher and lecturer.