Today--Friday, September 16, 2011--is Constitution Day, which marks the 224th anniversary of the signing of the US Constitution. The official name is actually "Constitution and Citizenship Day," and it is part of a legislative mandate that all public educational institutions have some programming on this event. That doesn't apply to us homeschoolers, of course, but I welcome every opportunity to teach my son and his peer about the importance of this pivotal document in American history and the role they must play to keep democracy alive.
We've studied the Constitution before, so we reviewed the history of how the document came to be, particularly the compromises required to come to agreement among all the different states, some of which have worked brilliantly (such as keeping equal state representation in the Senate and proportional representation in the House), others not so well (slavery issues). We went over the provisions briefly, discussed the branches of government, and reviewed the rights guaranteed us through the Bill of Rights (and some of the other major amendments ). Finally, we practiced the Citizenship aspect of the day by having each student identify a legislative issue that mattered to him (I was working with an all-male group) and writing a letter expressing their support or opposition on that issue to an appropriate government official.
A good source for information was the website Constitution Facts. Not only did they have a lot of good information, they had some fun quizzes, which always liven things up. We took the Constitutional I.Q. Quiz as a group, and got 9 out of 10 answers right, which won us a rating of "Constitutional Whiz Kids." There is also a What Founding Father Are You? , which was a fun personality-style test (my son got matched to Benjamin Franklin, which is definitely the one he is most like). The "Real or Fake" Quiz asks some off-beat questions about the Founding Fathers, and once again we did well enough as a group to be deemed "Honorary Founding Fathers."
So while writing the legislators was the most important part of the lesson, the quizzes were probably the most fun! But any activity on this day is important to remind our children that the Constitution and the government it designs are living and evolving entities that need ongoing involvement by citizens of all ages to function properly.