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March 30, 2013
Why Have a Mock Trial Class for Grades 3-8?

Why have a mock trial curriculum for grades 3-8?

Not that I don’t love high school students (in fact, now I have a fascinating high schooler myself, and have taught some high school mock trial classes).  But there are several reasons I enjoy teaching younger students about our judicial system, and why you might, too.

It’s how I started.

When my oldest son was in 3rd grade, he began to ask a lot of questions about what Mommy did before she became a homeschooling mommy.  He was very intrigued as I told him about being a lawyer and I began to teach him about our legal system.  I thought it would be fun to end the lessons with a mock trial, and sought out other kids around the same age—and found some that were interested.  I didn’t know how it would go, but it was a blast!  So I would occasionally teach another class, perhaps changing the trial, or changing the ages of those taking the class.

There’s not a lot of materials.

I didn’t set out to create my own curriculum.  When I decided to teach a mock trial class for my 3rd grade son and some friends, I searched high and low for an appropriate curriculum and wasn't having much luck.  While I did find a book or two about government, it was difficult finding one from a Biblical perspective, which was important to me.  In my first class, I did use material that I found on-line, but found I had to do a lot of work to supplement it…which led me to just create my own.

Their enthusiasm!

What can I say but “Wow!”  It is always thrilling to me to see the excitement that comes out of the young students once the class gets going.  Often they start out pretty quiet and not sure what the class holds, but they usually get actively engaged pretty quickly.  To the younger set, it’s fun to figure out in which court a particular case should be heard and to craft witness questions.  And it’s such fun to be there when they do!  They love playing the role of a lawyer, a judge, a witness or a member of the jury.  It is always amazing to see what they are capable of understanding—trust me, it’s more than you think.

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March 25, 2013
Glenn Beck Supports German Homeschool Family

So glad that Glenn Beck has both picked up the mantle to inform the public of this travesty and donated $50,000 to the defense of this German homeschooling family!

The Romeike family faced fines of more than $9,000--but more importantly, they faced the possible loss of custody of their children in Germany.  What wrong did they commit?  Homeschooling, which is essentially illegal in Germany.

This family came to the U.S. in 2008 and sought political asylum.  And they were granted asylum in 2010, in this, the land of the free and of religious liberty.  Such a happy ending!

Except...the Obama adminstration chose to appeal.

In 2012, the Board of Immigration Appeals overturned the administrative immigration judge's ruling.  The family has appealed and the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals will hear oral arguments on April 23rd.

If they ultimately lose, they will be deported back to Germany.  Where they could lose custody of their children.

What is the argument on the side of deportation?  Mainly that the family is not being religiously persecuted, because some people homeschool for secular reasons.  Not the Romeikes, mind you, but because there is no monolithic religious rationale behind every family’s decision to homeschooling, there’s no religious persecution if the Germany government forbids everyone to homeschool, not just those with religious motivations. 

This case is frightening, and not just to homeschoolers.  That's why Glenn Beck is involved.  This case strikes at the heart of what it means to have religious liberty, for parents to have the right to raise their children as they see fit, and for the government to have no more involvement and control than it absolutely needs to govern.  Look at what our government is arguing.  Could that same argument be used at some point to limit homeschool freedoms in the U.S.?

Please join the petition drive to show support for this family!  Find it here:

http://www.hslda.org/legal/cases/romeike.asp

There's also a link there to hear listen to the Glenn Beck interview, as well as to other articles about the case and its history.

What would you do if you were in this situation?

 

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Deborah

Mar-25 1:42pm

My 15 y.o. made the comment: "We can allow 11 million people who came here illegally and were not being persecuted in their country, to stay in the U.S., but not this family?"


March 16, 2013
Top 3 Tips For a Great Mock Trial

Top 3 Tips For a Great Mock Trial

Many variables go into organizing a mock trial, but from my experience, I have found that three have the greatest impact on whether students leave the mock trial saying, “That was great—when can we do it again?!”

Tip #1:   Find a great case.  There are many mock trial materials on the internet, but they are not all equal.  You want a case that was a close call--not a case where everyone can see who prevailed after reading the first witness statement!  As you do your research, look for Supreme Court cases that were decided 5-4 or trial cases that were appealed.

Tip #2:   Add or delete information to the case.  The number of participants in your group or the make-up of the group may necessitate changes.

If you’re trying to allow for more participation, you may have to modify the case to allow for more witnesses.  Simply move some of a witness' statement to a newly-created witness.  If you have more witnesses than participants, combine some of the information to create a new witness. 

If there’s a legal issue involved in the case that’s over the heads of your group, delete that portion.  If there are two major legal issues in a case, decide if your students would enjoy the challenge of learning about and arguing both, or if it would be less confusing if you concentrated on one issue.

Make the case work for you, not against you.

Tip #3:   Relax and have fun!  If there was only one tip, this would be it.

The more relaxed you are, the more fun your group will have.  And the more fun they have, the more information and knowledge they will retain long after the mock trial is over.  Previous students come up to me quite often recounting what they remember from their mock trial. 

Some minor things may not go according to plan.  But if your students learn something about our court system, about our laws, and about their ability to rise to the occasion, isn't that what matters?

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March 12, 2013
Sequestration and One Family

The President touts the apolcalyptic effects of the sequestration cuts; some conservatives say the cuts don't go far enough.

Our family is smack dab in the middle.

There is a great need for spending cuts.  The Heritage Foundation's "no room for sequestration cuts" series highlighted many possibilities, and there are more.

But deliberately targeting our nation's defense for the most drastic cuts?  That's short-sighted and foolish.

Some commentators are needling the President about how the dreaded March 1st deadline came and went without any horrific effects.

That's true.

However, that doesn't mean negative consequences aren't coming.

One dear friend, a SAHM with a husband who works for the Department of Defense (DOD), shared that he will be "furloughed" beginning in April--the 4-day workweek.  They will need to live on 80% of his salary.  Families with SAHMs--really, most families--generally do not have a lot of wiggle room to accommodate 20% decreases in income.

Our homeschooling family will be in the same situation, along with other friends and family.

While not apocalyptic, there will be an impact on middle class families.

Not to mention our nation's security.

I like Texas Representative Louis Gohmert's amendment to a budget bill.  According to the Huffington Post on March 5th, the Amendment reads: "None of the funds made available by a division of this act may be used to transport the president to or from a golf couse until public tours of the White House resume."  (For more information, see http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/03/05/louie-gohmert-obama-golf_n_2814332.html?utm_hp_ref=barack-obama.)

Kind of gimmicky?  Sure.  Would it make much of a financial difference?  Probably not.

But it makes a point.  It would demonstrate that the President is concerned about those who will be going without due to the sequestration.

You can see why news items like the one about the President's lavish dinner with certain Senate Republicans might grate on the nerves.

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