A Course of Study in Good Citizenship: Lower Elementary

One of the few requirements for homeschooling in Texas is to have a curriculum that provides for a course of study in good citizenship. For high schoolers, this seems relatively clear since most public high school students take a one semester government class. However, there isn’t any such designated class for middle or elementary school. Citizenship and government are listed as TEKS items under social studies for elementary and middle school.

Furthermore, if you review the Texas Education Knowledge and Skills listings for high school, you will find a “citizenship” category listed under a number of subjects in history and social studies. That’s because good citizenship isn’t the same thing as taking a government class. You can learn about all kinds of governments in such a class; good citizenship is about being a good citizen in a very specific kind of government.

In 2010, Texas revised its Social Studies TEKS. At the lower elementary school levels, there aren’t many changes in the requirements but there are a few interesting differences. “Good citizenship” now includes “participation in government by educating oneself about the issues, respectfully holding public officials to their word, and voting” which was not in the old standards. So good citizenship now requires more than just participating in the community, it means participating actively in government.

Another change is that they dropped the phrase “exhibit a love of individualism and ‘inventiveness’” for identifying ordinary people who exemplified good citizenship. I always wondered about the “inventiveness” part. Did it mean technically invent things? Then what about the poor people with no engineering aptitude? And under a more generic understanding “inventiveness” could cover everything from devising new taxes to lying.

A course in good citizenship does not have to be it’s own separate course from other subjects since it’s not treated that way by the schools. And it obviously is not the same thing as government. As far as I can tell, the goal of good citizenship referenced in the following education code:

The State Board of Education and each school district shall foster the continuation of the tradition of teaching United States and Texas history and the free enterprise system in regular subject matter and in reading courses and in the adoption of textbooks. A primary purpose of the public school curriculum is to prepare thoughtful, active citizens who understand the importance of patriotism and can function productively in a free enterprise society with appreciation for the basic democratic values of our state and national heritage.                    Texas Education Code, §28.002(h)

The requirements for achieving such goals at the lower elementary school grades are pretty basic. Students are required to

  • identify and explain the meaning of the American and Texas flags;
  • recite the Pledge of Allegiance and the Pledge to the Texas Flag;
  • know Patriotic Songs;
  • identify symbols, patriotic and other;
  • explain the use of voting for group decision making;
  • identify characteristics of good citizenship, including truthfulness, justice, equality, respect for oneself and others, responsibility in daily life, and participation in government by educating oneself about the issues, respectfully holding public officials to their word, and voting;
  • identify historic figures who exemplified good citizenship; and
  •  explain how selected customs, symbols, and celebrations reflect an American love of individualism and freedom.

Without evaluating whether or not the above TEKS elements constitute a meaningful course of study on good citizenship, you can pretty much cover all these areas using the free Law Focused Education website.

Start with A Salute to Our Flag Curriculum Guide. This is a 60 page pdf file that includes a variety of activities. According to the guide: The flag of the United States of America symbolizes freedom and represents the efforts of countless generations who have protected and preserved the liberty that citizens of the United States and other countries enjoy today. The purpose of “A Salute to Our Flag” is to acquaint young children, in kindergarten through the third grade, with the significance of the flag. Children will be introduced to the purpose, symbolism, and history of the flag. They will also learn how to demonstrate respect for the flag and will have many opportunities to communicate what they have learned with others. It is hoped that this curriculum will help prepare young children to become more responsible, active citizens who appreciate and respect the flag.

Then visit their lesson plan archives. Here you will find a variety of lesson plans including “Learning the Pledge to the Texas Flag,” “Stephen F Austin, The Father of Texas,”  “Honoring Outstanding Americans,” and many more.

If you find you’re interested in some more specific symbols or actually how Texas Government works, visit the Texas House of Representatives Kids’ House and the Texas Senate Kids. Kids can color their own symbols at the Representative site and do a word find at the Senate site. If you are able to visit the state capitol, be sure to check out their Educator Tour Guide available online.

Finally, if you need resources to on government to provide the basic frame work for citizenship, visit Ben’s Guide to US Government for Kids. It provides a nice simple overview of government including an ABC listing of government related terms.

Given the rather scattered shot nature of the public school requirements, I suggest you look at getting a subscription to BrainPop. They have an extensive collection on short, animated movies that cover all the usual school subjects. You can even search for matching state standards by state, grade, and subject. I used these with my son and he found Tim and Moby very entertaining while learning about subjects ranging from isotopes to the blues.