|(N.'s quick rendition of the Obama campaign symbol)|
N. knocked on doors with me in 2008 and this year he hung out with me at our local campaign headquarters on Election Day while I waited to drive voters to polling places. In 2008 he echoed our passion for the Presidential campaign without a deep understanding of what it was all about and this year I found it fascinating to discover through our many conversations about politics what he now understood and what he was still confused about.
Politics has been a model for me of family-based learning (which is essentially what homeschooling is) since my own childhood. My dad has worked in politics for most of my life and the two-year election cycle of the U.S. House of Representatives was the circadian rhythm of our family. I remember my dad joining us late at a rented cabin some Junes when the Minnesota DFL nominating conventions ran long; in later years our family vacations were timed to the Congress's August recess. My three siblings, my mom, and I couldn't help but learn a lot about government and politics from my dad.
Even though our national political discourse often leaves much to be desired, politics is a great learning vehicle. Whether you care about the big picture or a particular issue, there is something in politics for everyone to get passionate about and there are always opportunities to get involved locally. N. has been really interested this season in parsing the visual symbolism of the campaigns, especially as he's been learning about Raymond Loewy's visual branding techniques. We can think about international relations and national and world history though politics. We learn how to respect differences as we discover that friends and family members don't share our views. I grew up caring about politics because my family talked about it and family conversation is an excellent way to learn. I've mentioned before that I love the long learning trajectories of homeschooling, the opportunity to revisit ideas and engage more deeply; election cycles give us the chance to re-examine issues, reinforce learning, and build on knowledge every couple of years.