Elections 2020 was designed as a month-long unit study with daily lessons. It differs from other elections unit studies in two major ways. First, lessons are presented at two levels, so Elections 2020 is easier to use with a broad range of grades. And secondly, it is written from a Christian perspective and includes scripture verses.
Lesson activities are presented for the lower levels of grades (grades two through six) and the upper level (grades seven through twelve). Even with this division into two levels of difficulty, you will need to select or assign activities appropriate for each student. For instance, you might assign a second-grader fewer spelling and vocabulary words than you would a fourth-grader.
Students will learn about topics such as the history of elections, the structure of government, the election process, election campaigns, and some of our presidents. The study recommends that students try to get personally involved in an election by visiting a local campaign office, attending a political debate, meeting candidates, or volunteering to help a particular candidate’s election campaign. A field trip to Washington D.C. or your state capitol is also suggested.
Each student will keep a journal for the written assignments. They might also add memorabilia for this year’s election, although the author suggests the option of creating one “Elections Memories Album” for the entire family.
Elections 2020 relies heavily upon internet sites as the sources of information, so this PDF-only course includes links to these sites within the lessons. Even within each level, the linked websites vary in the amount of information provided, so parents and teachers might need to preview the websites and help direct students to the most appropriate ones.
Each day’s lesson is presented with two options: one for the lower level and one for the upper level. Each lesson has four sections:
- a quotation to be read, copied, and (in some cases) memorized
- spelling words and definitions to be written and studied
- investigations of people and places
- research questions to be explored and answered
The bulk of each lesson is in the last two sections: investigations and research. To illustrate the way this works for both levels, I'll use the first lesson which introduces George Washington. The lower level lesson poses some basic comprehension questions: “Who was he, and why is he important?”, “When was he born, and where was he from?”, and “Did he have any children?” Students are instructed to write their answers in their journals and include a sketch of Washington. (Second and third graders might do an oral narration.) The lesson also presents “Read and Discover” questions which will require more research. Students are instructed to write their answers in their journal, but with younger students, you might research and read together, discuss the material, and have the student do either an oral or written narration.
The upper-level lesson on George Washington delves more deeply into his life with comprehension questions such as, "What was his religious affiliation?” and “Describe his life and contributions to American history in your journal.” The upper-level “Read and Discover” questions require deeper research with questions such as “Describe the American elections of 1788 and 1792,” “Who was chosen as president and how was he chosen?”, and “What type of government do we have in the United States?”
The upper-level lessons often expand beyond what you would expect in a study on elections in the U.S. For example, on page 30 the research section asks students to investigate questions such as, “Do other countries have a constitution?” and “What type of government does Saudi Arabia have, and do they have a constitution?”
While students can use books for the research, the internet is probably the most efficient source for finding answers to such wide-ranging questions. Furthermore, this internet-research approach helps students learn how to glean information from websites and present their results in writing. Keep in mind that parents need to supervise and guide internet research to a certain extent.
Some additional internet resources are included for each lesson. In the lower level for the first lesson, there is a link to a site with more biographical information, and there are also links for information about visiting Mount Vernon and Mount Rushmore. The upper level includes a link to the text of Washington’s “First Inaugural Address.”
The final lesson each week allots time for review. At the end of each week’s lessons, there is a list of more linked websites for optional research and pages for students to write their “Favorite Findings of the Week.” There’s also a lengthy section of annotated book recommendations at the end of the PDF for those who want to research through books.
Given the title of this book, I was surprised to discover that there were no mentions of current presidential candidates or the current president. While there are lessons for students to learn about some of the more recent presidents─Presidents Kennedy, Reagan, and Obama─the other presidents since Kennedy are skipped. This helps the study avoid a partisan slant, but it leaves you on your own to find information particular to the 2020 elections. But that also means you can use this study beyond 2020.
The Elections 2020 book is 106 pages long, but the website links connect to a huge trove of information. There is so much that you cannot use every link included in the lessons, much less all of the supplemental links. You could easily expand this study beyond a month by using more of the links, assigning books to be read, having students complete more projects or written work, watching debates for the upcoming presidential or local elections, taking some of the suggested field trips, or actually participating in a candidate’s campaign.
The Elections 2020 unit study comes with the Elections 2020 Companion Lapbook that can be used if you want a more hands-on approach. This 16-page lapbook guide includes a small number of items that students will create and insert in a lapbook─items such as a mini-book on the election process, a small visual aid on which students describe the three branches of government, and a stack of cutouts that list the freedoms and rights guaranteed by the Bill of Rights. There are no instructions in this book concerning how to create the lapbook, but there are internet links to general information on constructing lapbooks. This is a relatively simple lapbook with only a few items for students to create, so the finished product might fit within a single file folder.
Elections 2020 enables homeschoolers to cover a surprisingly large amount of material for both U.S. history and U.S. government. The flexibility of this unit study allows parents and older students to tailor the study to suit the time available as well as the needs of each student.