Monday, July 11, 2011

Learned Some New Facts About America! {Smart Summer CHallenge - Week 2 Wrap-Up}

Well, I'm finally getting around to typing up this post! We had a really good time with this week's theme of 'government'. I know that most of the people who took part in this week's challenge are parents to younger children, I wanted to make sure to involve my 13 year-old son in the Smart Summer Challenge, too. And, really, teaching a two-year-old about government is kind of pointless. I could have done some red, white, and blue crafts and even tried to explain democracy to him, but he's just not ready to really learn this stuff yet. So, I took advantage of having an older child who, at this point, is very interested in his rights and laws anyway. Hypocrisy is a big one to him, too, and (as we know) there is a lot of that floating around our governmental establishments!

In my first post for this week, I outlined my plan: to create a kind of scavenger hunt of questions about the formation of the US government for my oldest to look up at the library.I made a little fill-in-the-blank, multiple choice, and question and answer page for him. I learned a lot of new and interesting things when I created this page!

When he first saw it, without reading it, he balked! "Mom! You said this would be fun! It looks like a test and it's JULY - I'm not in school!!!" Then he read it. He told me it would be so easy to do - he'd have it filled out after just one afternoon at the library. LOL - He came home the first day with just two questions answered. It wasn't because he couldn't find the answers, he explained. He just found it so amazing that, for instance, Thomas Jefferson was quite an interesting character and had a pretty great sense of humor. He was interested in growing things and had a ton of tomato plants, way back when people still thought they were poisonous. To freak people out, he once pulled out a tomato in the middle of a formal dinner party and ate it - it cause quite a stir! My son and I had a lot of laughs about how people may have reacted - women fainting and servants being called to summon a doctor, bring leeches to purify his blood, etc.

My son has a new hero on Benjamin Franklin now. It seems that the more he learned about the man, the greater respect he gained for him. One of the questions I asked on that paper was to write down some of the sayings that Franklin invented that my son didn't know were his. He came home with an entire paper filled with them! One of his favorites was, "A learned blockhead is a greater blockhead than an ignorant one."

In addition to the paper I created, we learned about the laws in our area and how they pertain to teens. You can read about this HERE. I am not one of those anti-government people, but I am also not a sheep who believes every word that is uttered from a governmental agency. I'm a critical thinker and am wary of anything anyone tells me is a "fact" without first checking some sources (yes, more than one source.) I want my children to grow up doing the right thing because it is right, not because someone wrote down a rule that became a law.

Some laws are just plain stupid, but we need to understand that they were written down for one reason or another. Maybe there were just so many idiots doing something stupid that the government had to create a law that would stop the idiocy. We have many dams crossing the river near our home. On the shore, on both sides of every dam, there is a sign posted that basically says it's against the law to walk on the dam. I asked my son and his friends why they thought the sign was there. "Well, duh! The river runs fast and if you fell, you could drown in the current!" As we were discussing whether the expense of the sign was worth it or not, we watched a guy in his 20's walk out onto the dam! And, guess what? He fell in, he struggled against the current, and finally made it to shore with the help of a fisherman who was standing nearby. Then, a police officer, who had seen the incident from a nearby bridge, showed up and wrote the man an big, fat ticket. How's that for proving that some laws really do need to be written out and posted, AND that breaking the law has consequences - from near-drowning to hefty fines!
On the other hand, some laws were written just to please or protect one particular sector of society. These are the laws that make absolutely no sense and make you question how they even came to pass. The kids told me they thought that these were the kind of laws that were just asking to be broken. That's when I got to "teach" them about democracy and freedom. About how, if you don't like something in the government, you have the freedom to try to change it. We talked about petitions, writing to congress, voting, etc. We talked about how long it takes to make changes and why it's important that time pass. Making rash decisions - especially the kind that affects the entire country - can be a bad thing (You may not agree with me, but I brought up the USA P.A.T.R.I.O.T. Act here.)