Civics is one of those classes that we all take in school, but only once or twice. Kind of like Health or Driver’s Ed, it just gets tossed in, almost elective-style, when there is a break in our schedules. I think I took it for a semester in 8th grade, and then I took a year of Government in 12th grade.
I loved these classes. Especially plain old Civics. I loved learning how the government was set up, about the checks and balances, about the different governmental departments, and I remember especially liking the organizational charts. Yeah, I’m weird. So what. And I remember one scary day in my Civics class when we talked about Muammar al-Gaddafi’s attacks in Libya. I was terrified we would end up with World War III. But I digress.
My girl is in 7th grade in our little homeschool here, and we’ve just started her on Civics. It’s hard to get your hands on any kind of good homeschool civics textbook, but the internet is magic. A while back I found a website that serves as an interesting and often fun way to learn Civics.
iCivics.org is a non-profit organization that was started by Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. It is designed for classrooms, but is quite easy to use for homeschooling. It is filled with printable lesson plans, research quests, and extremely well done games. And not games where the learning is secondary to the game play. The games include activities such as deciding how to set up the federal budget, or which side to decide for in a Supreme Court case. Real stuff.
Aligned to Common Core standards (which I have issue with but I won’t go into that here), the curriculum is divided up into topics which you can cover in sequence. Starting with the Foundations of Government and continuing until you get to Persuasive Writing, the curriculum teaches you all about government in general, our government in specific, and how to use and relate to our government. Additionally on the iCivics site is another track called Drafting Board. It extends the persuasive writing and evidence showing exercises.
My guess is that it will take us a year or a year and a half to get through it all, depending. But we’re not tied to any schedule, so we’ll just take our time.
While the games are in their own section of the website in addition to being included in the lesson plans, for the full learning effect it’s best to not play the games on their own, unless you already have a good basis of how government works. There isn’t a great deal of context within some of the games, but playing them within the context of a related lesson would have a great impact.
If you have an actual classroom, you can set up classes with students’ names, give assignments, make announcements, and give assignments. Since I’m homeschooling two kids, and doing Civics with them separately (my son is just in the 4th grade now and not ready for it), I’m just using my one teacher account.
All in all, I highly recommend the iCivics site for a pretty comprehensive Civics curriculum, or for filling in gaps in students’ knowledge. And the rest of us might learn a thing or two as we play along.
Check out all of my Useful Resources posts. They are fantastic resources for homeschooling, self-education, or research.