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Modeling Democracy: Teaching Kids to Vote

June 8, 2010

Most who follow our blog, social media feeds, or listen to our radio show, know that I am a homeschooling mom of three. My favorite teaching days of the year come in the form of election days! In this post, I will share some ideas with those who wish to model democracy-in-action to assist in shaping our children into curious, non-apathetic critical thinkers!

Vote! The first and foremost thing you must do, is model the virtue yourself! Some of my fondest memories as a child (growing up in a liberal household!) was the kids’ area at our local polling place. They had this antique voting “doo-hickey” that they allowed the children to play with. I felt so grown up . . . like I was actually “voting!”

With the advent of permanent absentee ballots, you can still model voting by letting your children see you pouring over your voter’s pamphlets, looking at campaign websites, viewing candidates on television or online debates, and going with you to the post office or polling place to drop off your ballot.

Be involved! If there is a particular race you feel strongly about, or a ballot measure you strongly support or oppose, get involved! My children know certain candidates by name because they saw me work on their campaigns; attend fundraisers; collect , distribute and post yard signs; canvass for them; and interview candidates for our radio show.

Educate! Educate yourself on the issues, and talk to your children about what you are learning (age appropriately). Have your children research an issue (pro and con), or learn about the elections process. Around the time of the presidential election in 2008, I had my oldest learn about the electoral college. Last week, my daughter (who already had a passing knowledge of the subject), studied more about women in the suffrage movement to commemorate the 90th anniversary of women casting votes for the first time in as presidential election! We have also held mock elections using cartoon, literary, or fictional (movie) characters, complete with a replica of a voting booth and “I Voted!” stickers!

Watch election related programming: My kids have watched all of the Schoolhouse Rock segments, but we do “real world” programming, too. We watch inaugurations (whether we supported the candidate or not), and watch the election night returns, complete with snacks (a tradition dating back to my childhood, where the adults would stay up late into the night watching returns with donuts and coffee!).

There are so many websites with wonderfully rich resources to help children learn about democracy. Here are just a few, all of which, from what I know, are free of party affiliation:

The Democracy Project

Congress For Kids

Kids Voting


The United States Constitution

The U.S. Constitution and You


Stand Up For Your Rights

Women’s Suffrage Movement

Women’s Suffrage

Women and Minorities Vote:

The Right to Vote

A History of Black Voting Rights



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