What Would our Founding Fathers Think?

In most public schools today, what’s taught mirrors what’s tested. For kids in elementary school, the majority of class time centers around Math and Literacy (Reading) because these are the subjects covered on state standardized tests.  While some states add science tests at 5th or 8th grade, this narrowed curriculum is a reality of the high stakes test-driven “accountability era” that our children are educated in – even within our best schools.

Poor Social Studies.

Sadly – history, civics, geography and current events are pushed aside to make room for longer blocks of Math and Reading. Many elementary teachers are aware of this deficit but struggle to find the time to teach it. And how can you blame them? Part of their job evaluation is now based on how well their students score on standardized tests in…math and reading. While this  is well-intentioned, I cringe to think of what our childrens’ lack of knowledge in government and citizenry will do to the future of our country.

And that’s where you come in, mom and dad.

As your child’s first and most influential teacher, there is much you can do to shore up our schools’ lack of attention to civics, history, geography and current events. And Presidents’ Day marks a perfect opportunity to do that. The slow disappearance of Social Studies is also a key issue to advocate for in your child’s school.

Did you know we used to celebrate two president birthdays in February? George Washington’s on February 22nd and Abraham Lincoln’s on February 12th. Washington’s Birthday was once more celebrated in this country than the 4th of July.  In 1968, a law passed to observe both Presidents’ birthdays on the third Monday of the month, creating a three-day holiday weekend for federal employees. In 1971, Nixon declared that Presidents Day would honor all presidents.

Here are some interesting points to share with your kids on some of our most important presidents. Or better yet, play some trivia games:

    • When George Washington became our country’s first president 222 years ago, there were 13 stars on the American flag
    • The father of our country led the American colonies to victory in the Revolutionary War; his face is on the $1 bill and the quarter
    • Thomas Jefferson is credited with writing the U.S. Declaration of Independence, signed on July 4th 1776. He is on the nickel and the $2 bill.
    • Thomas Jefferson served as governor, a delegate to Congress, Secretary of State, Minister to France, Vice President and President all within 25 years
  • Abraham Lincoln was our country’s 16th president; he led the North to victory during the Civil War, from 1861-1865
  • Lincoln freed African-Americans from slavery in 1863 with the Emancipation Proclamation; He also wrote the Gettysburg Address that begins “Four Score and 7 years ago…”
  • Lincoln was assassinated in 1865; his face is on the $5 bill and the penny
  • Franklin Delano Roosevelt served four terms as President, during the Great Depression and WWII.
  • FDR is famous for his New Deal program that put millions of Americans back to work; his face is on the dime.
  • After FDR died, a two term limit for the presidency was imposed that became the 22nd amendment to the Constitution

For a little fun with your kids – try this match the president’s face game. Not as easy as I thought it would be.  Libraries showcase a lot of books on presidents this week so take some time to go and check them out. Lots of board games on the subject, too. My favorites: Scrambled States of America, Map Tangle (geography version of Twister) and Family Trivial Pursuit. For more resources on social studies – check out my resource page.

To reinforce current events and civics – be sure to take your kids with you when you go to vote. Showing them what it’s all about from a young age will have a lasting impact. Finally, have your 2nd grader or above “read” your local newspaper. Just by scanning  headlines and looking for interesting words or photos they understand, conversation will spark on what does that mean and why…and how. This is a great way to keep our kids thinking, curious and civic-minded. And when they’re old enough, here’s a great list of  APPS related to Social Studies.

Oh, what would our founding fathers think?

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