by Katie Julius
If asked which calendar months are patriotic, not many people would think of November. However, prior to Thanksgiving, November begins with Election Day and Veterans Day. These two days present opportunities for learning how our country functions, understanding the importance of participating in that process, and developing a respect for our veterans.
This year, Election Day is on Tuesday, November 6. While not a Presidential election, this midterm election is pivotal, especially in California as we elect a new governor and vote on several key propositions.
Traditionally, our family has been absentee ballot voters. It’s convenient to be able to take our time with our ballots, discuss our opinions and values, and ensure our vote is marked correctly. We usually end up dropping the ballot off at a polling place on Election Day since we don’t get them completed with enough time to mail, but we don’t have to wait in the line either. Since having a child, this trip to the polling place has been something my daughter really enjoys. The polling place workers are very kind and love interacting with her. She is actually very excited to go to the “voting place” each year.
Whether you vote through an absentee ballot or visit your local polling place, involving your children in the process is important so they gain an understanding of just how vital our right to vote is. If they are old enough, discuss how to select a candidate who represents your family’s values or how to research the impact of a certain proposition. You can even set up a “voting booth” and have your kids vote–either on the actual candidates/propositions or on more age appropriate topics like favorite food, favorite color, favorite subject, etc.
Election Day is also a great day to learn about the different levels of government and how they interact as well as the different branches and how the checks and balances system works. With older children, you can explore the differences between different types of government and the advantages and disadvantages of each. Younger students will enjoy learning about important American landmarks honoring former elected officials as well as the buildings from which they operate.
Veterans Day is on Sunday, November 11 (the “observed” day this year is November 12 due to it falling on a Sunday). It’s a national holiday that honors those who have served in our military. There’s often some confusion between Memorial Day, which honors and remembers those who died while serving in the armed forces and Veterans Day, which recognises all who have served. An interesting note–there is also Armed Forces Day that occurs on the third Saturday in May, which honors those who are currently serving to protect our nation.
Veterans Day was initially called Armistice Day, established in 1919 by Woodrow Wilson to commemorate the end of World War I. The armistice between the Allies and Germany ended the fighting of World War I on land, sea, and air at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918, marking the defeat of Germany, though not an official surrender. The holiday was renamed “Veterans Day” in 1954.
Like other holidays honoring and remembering those who have served in our military, Veterans Day can be commemorated both with service and learning activities. Some of our veterans who are no longer in the armed forces are part of the homeless population while others may be in hospitals due to physical and/or mental wounds they received while fighting. Making hygiene packages for the homeless or cards for those at a veterans hospital are two ways we can teach our children to honor and thank those no longer serving. Creating care packages with handmade cards to send overseas can be a blessing to our currently deployed veterans. Reach out to your local military base, veterans hospital, or VA Office to find out how you can serve the veterans in your community.
Learning about the five branches of the armed forces and what they do is an appropriate learning activity for any age. Interviewing or hearing the stories of a veteran is a great way to make a personal connection while learning of the experiences of that veteran. Additional learning ideas for Veterans Day can be found on Military.com.
In whatever way your family chooses to celebrate or experience either of these two important days, we would love to see how our CHEA families are learning. Please share your photos with CHEA on Facebook or Instagram.