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).
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:
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 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.
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:
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:
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….)