Sunday, December 7, 2008

This year’s election was meaningful to me, not only for the election of our first mixed-race president, but also for the enormous turnout of new voters. Many of the people standing in line with me on Election Day were in their 40s, 50s or 60s — and had never voted before. I was saddened to realize that this was the first time they felt it was important to cast a ballot.

As a home-schooling parent, I feel one of our major educational goals is to help our children become contributing citizens and real patriots. Patriotism seems to be a bit old-fashioned, I know, but all of my studies of history — and all of my experience as I have traveled the world — have led me back to a solid appreciation of the rights that we, as Americans, possess.

America’s Revolution was against the idea that government is the seat of power and rights. The Declaration of Independence and Constitution asserted that people are the givers of authority to their government.

Americans’ freedom was won, not only in physical wars, but also in battles for civil liberties, to abolish ignorance, to fight poverty, to build prosperity. There is a debt owed to the many who sacrificed so much.

I feel we parents should use an election as a teachable moment, to impart the responsibilities of citizenship. I always have brought my children to the polling place, where they stood on line, saw the sample voting machine and pressed the levers to cast a mock vote. We would discuss the issues and candidates, and later watch the results.

We focused on civic responsibility and personal ethics, however, not political labels. At the heart of democracy isn’t “majority wins” but “individual conscience.” We discussed the value of taking a stand for what’s right, even when it may not be popular.

As home-schoolers, we value independent choice and personal conscience in our educational lives. However, we can demonstrate those same values on a larger level in our communities and our nation. If we sacrifice proactively, we can avert the harder job of repairing consequences later.

There are challenges facing America and the entire world now that will require all of our efforts to resolve: war, economic woes and domestic troubles. This is when true patriotism is needed. We, the American people, can overcome anything when we work together, sacrifice for a greater good and direct our steps to truly lasting purposes.

Show children that even one person can develop solutions to problems that affect many. Don’t just study about inventors or great statesmen, take an existing issue, brainstorm ways to solve it and then implement that, as a family. Whether the issues dear to you are the environment, fiscal responsibility, human value or technical development, try to find ways to be active in that area right now.

I encourage home-schoolers to become active on every level of public life, to give back to the nation. Let’s teach our children more than the dates and events of the past, or who is in office today. Let’s help them experience the heart of being a patriot, through consistent public service.

Kate Tsubata, a home-schooling mother of three, is a freelance writer who lives in Maryland.

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