Law Study: Hands on Democratic Rule

Having had a highly successful demonstration of what an autocratic rule is, we attempted to replicate the democratic rule.  We had already learnt about how the House of Lords and the House of Commons was first formed.  I found a couple of clips from YouTube for both, primarily to show the difference between the two, one being far more raucous than the other (!).

Between us we came up with three issues to discuss, argue and vote upon.  These would become ‘rules’ in our household and would form the basis of our own Magna Charta.  I told the children they could be as rude and vilifying as they liked to each other and to have fun with it.  I was to be chair man and would call order to the meeting should I feel the need (or if things were getting a bit out of hand).

Here we are in our very own 'House of Commons'
Here we are in our very own ‘House of Commons’.  The children are very much looking ready for the business in hand

First to be discussed was whether or not children should be given chores in the house.  Initially they deemed this to be ‘preposterous’ and if we had taken a vote there and then they would have whole heartedly voted against it.  Seeing that we were not going to have any kind of discussion I encouraged them to think about the reasons for chores and to look at both sides of the argument.  That was my only input and they were away.  It was interesting to see the pendulum gradually swing in favour of all children having some sort of chores, as they pondered on the usefulness of the skills, the fact it frees up Daddy and Mummy’s time (especially if you are a home-school family) and T12 even made the comment that it was good for them to not sit around.  He said that children were members of a family and should be expected to have both the benefits and the responsibilities that went with it.  C11 brought up her concerns that non-home-schooled children might not have the time to do chores, given they were in lessons all day and then had homework to do afterwards.  She therefore felt it was fair for home-schooled children to help out but not schooled children.  Here they are discussing it:

C11 explaining her thoughts
C11 explaining her thoughts
T12 responding
T12 responding

And then they took a vote.  T12 and L11 voted in favour of chores, with C11 voting against children doing chores (she said there should be a proviso against schooled children doing them!):

The 'in favour' of chores votes
The ‘in favour’ of chores votes
And the lone 'against' chores vote
And the lone ‘against’ chores vote

The second issue on the agenda was whether every person in the family should be allowed as much screen time as they wanted.  This is an issue we are navigating our way through at the moment.  All three children looked horrified and said absolutely not!  They had been allowed unfettered usage when I was working my way through the home school / unschool debacle and bit by bit we had seen bickering, tiredness, grumpiness, lethargy and a distinct lack of enthusiasm towards anything which may pertain to work.  No, it didn’t work at all for the members of our family, who historically (at least on my side) tend towards being ‘all or nothing’ type people.  Moderation has never been a strong point of mine or indeed any other member of my immediate family, so the children had learnt very quickly, without any interference from me, that unlimited screen time would be abused by all in our house.

All of them gave their opinion, agreeing with each other wholeheartedly!
All of them gave their opinion, agreeing with each other wholeheartedly!
The vote was unanimous against the members of our household being allowed unlimited screen time.
The vote was unanimous against the members of our household being allowed unlimited screen time.

The next item on the agenda was the issue of whether children in this household would be allowed to date before the age of sixteen.  Just to state from the outset that Gary and I don’t want our children to date until at least the age of sixty let alone sixteen.  However, as that is unlikely to be taken seriously as a realistic age for dating, and given the issue has come up just recently among some of the girls’ acquaintances, I felt it would be wise to let the children have a say and set their own bar.  This was an interesting debate for me, because I could see the girls wanted to fit in with some of the other girls they knew who already had boyfriends (at 11!), but they could also see the wisdom of waiting.  However, living so close to London I think there is a lot of pressure to conform, even for home schoolers.

As I say it was interesting.  I sat back, without giving my opinion.  They talked through safety issues, what the bible says, what dating actually meant to them (not it seems what it means to me, thank goodness) and there really was much to discuss on the table:

DSC_0223dem

In the end I was questioning whether they were old enough to go to nursery, let alone start dating!
In the end I was questioning whether they were old enough to go to nursery, let alone start dating!

They were, by the end, very definitely against dating before the age of 16 and between the ages of 16 and 18, dating together or as a group, rather than as a couple alone, to ensure accountability.  This was a sensible conclusion, and one I hope they will stick with as they get older.  A year or so ago, the girls didn’t want to date at all so things change all the time in this household.  Here they are voting:

DSC_0228dem

This activity had two purposes.  The first was to introduce them to the democratic rule, showing them that everyone can have a say, but not everyone gets their own way.  Democracy isn’t a free for all, but more an opinion for all followed by a vote.  The side with the most votes wins.  The second purpose was personal to our family.  The three issues I chose were pertinent to our household.  The children have always had chores and have never really been given the opportunity to question them.  I wanted them to be able to do that in a safe environment and to be able to speak freely concerning their thoughts.  Likewise screen time and the question of dating.  I absolutely don’t want my children to bring themselves up and be given too much responsibility and freedoms before they are ready, but I do want them to know they have a voice, a strong one and one which, as their parents, we want to hear.  All three issues affect their present lives and will have an effect on their future lives.  It is important to us they feel they have a say in anything pertaining to themselves.

Again this was a highly successful activity, meeting each of my goals.  It sparked many conversations at and away from the table, and hopefully will work towards keeping the lines of communication open between us all during the next decade or so.

Afterwards we finally got round to writing our own angelicscalliwags Magna Charta (although based on the size it should probably be called Mini Charta….)

  Homeschooling the Middle & High School Years

15 comments

  1. I love this activity. You were very brave to allow this! What would you have done if all the votes had gone the other way?

    1. We’re used to discussing everything in our house, and I knew the children wouldn’t veer a huge way away from how they had been brought up, so I wasn’t too worried. Dating at 16 is not my own ideal, I’d rather they waited, but we will cross that bridge when it comes to it.
      Thing is communication, real and true, can only be healthy and a good thing. I’d rather we butted heads occasionally yet openly than have deceit. I’d find that much harder to deal with.

  2. What a great exercise – and it’s clear you have raised some very thoughtful children. What would you have done if the votes had gone the other way? I am certain they would have in our house! And so Autocratic rule continues… (the dating vote photo and caption about the nursery had me laughing out loud)

    1. See my answer above re if votes had gone differently.
      I daren’t come down too autocratically with them otherwise they might form a children’s revolt and try to dethrone me off my parenting pedestal!

  3. Very nice contrast to yesterday’s post. It is an honor to be able to cast your vote and know you have done your part in a democratic society. I love how you used this lesson to understand how the children feel about certain topics. I also think it is great that they know they have a voice and it does count. Of course, as parents, sometimes we have to make the hard decisions for their best.
    Thank you, Claire, for all your work in preparing these posts for us to enjoy and from which to glean ideas. You are an inspiration to all of us who choose to home school our children.
    Have a wonderful day.

    1. I didn’t think of the outcome or any related bravery on my behalf, until I started getting messages from you lot!! Now I’m beginning to worry!
      Oh, and it would more likely be me voting for icecream for breakfast with my son telling me how unbalanced it would be!

  4. Considering I just voted in the primaries yesterday and was disappointed by the outcome in some of the votes, I’m quite feeling L11’s pain at losing the vote.

    Interesting outcomes and discussion.

    Oh, and I quite laughed out loud as I read this post, I could just picture the entire thing.

  5. I have enjoyed reading these posts and I’m sure these activities will be remembered by your children in years to come. Scary to think of 11 year olds having girlfriends/boyfriends. 60 might be a tad old, but I remember what I was like at 16 and it doesn’t fill me with confidence 🙂 Cathy

    1. It’s funny, I had no parameters placed around me growing up and I was a model daughter during my teens (or so my mum tells me). I’m much stricter on my children, I just hope they don’t rebel!!
      And I agree dating at 11 is far too young and scary to even think about!

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