Thursday of this week, the 17th, is Constitution Day! Or more precisely, it’s Constitution Day and Citizenship Day, as enacted by Congress in 2004. It was on September 17th in 1787 that the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia approved the text of the U.S. Constitution, replacing the earlier Articles of Confederation, and sent it to the states for ratification.
The original Constitution that was signed on that day — the actual document — now resides in the U.S. National Archives on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C., one the world’s great historical libraries and an important place that every American student should know. As this new homeschool year gets underway, why not take a few minutes to (re)discover some of the great educational resources and opportunities available to homeschoolers from the National Archives — not just on the Constitution, but on a great range of other subjects in American history as well.
For Constitution Day itself, the Archives has you covered with a variety of opportunities for education and celebration, including (of course) the complete Constitutional text along with detailed images and extensive interpretive materials:
- ➢ Celebrating Constitution Day at the National Archives
- ➢ The U.S. Constitution at the National Archives
Serious history students can even examine George Washington’s annotated copy of an early draft of the Constitution — isn’t it remarkable that this still exists? — with his proposed revisions and corrections:
There are also a number of introductory videos available from the National Archives showing some of the related documents that were important in the Constitution’s development, all of them now safely stored in the Archives’ vaults:
But there’s a lot more to the National Archives than just the Constitution. They have a rich assortment of materials available specifically for educators (including homeschoolers), such as short recorded presentations, lesson plans on teaching with historical documents (the DocsTeach program), special resources on U.S. presidents, materials on veterans’ history, and much more, available for all grades from elementary through high school:
The National Archives also sponsors an outstanding “Citizen Archivist” program that allows members of the public (including history-minded homeschoolers) to help transcribe and analyze historical documents in the Archives’ collections. We recommend this program to homeschoolers as part of our own Lunar Society project in the River Houses:
When the current season of pestilence passes you can visit the National Archives yourself and see the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence on display in the rotunda. Perhaps that will be a homeschool field trip for your family someday. (I visited a number of times, quite a few years ago, when I worked across the street at the Smithsonian Institution.)
You can also find the full text of the Constitution in your River Houses almanac (riverhouses.org/books) on page 473 — why not have your students read the Preamble aloud this week, or if you have more advanced students, pick one of the Articles and discuss what it means and why it was written the way it was. At the very end of the Constitution’s text you can see why today is the anniversary day:
“Done in Convention by the Unanimous Consent of the States present the Seventeenth Day of September in the Year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and Eighty seven and of the Independence of the United States of America the Twelfth.“
What educational discoveries will you be making in your library, or in the National Archives, this Cygnus Term? 😊
❡ Dukedoms large enough: Have you found all the local libraries in your area? There may be more than you realize, and there’s no better homeschool field trip than a field trip to a new library! The WorldCat Library Finder will help you find all the libraries near you — public and private, large and small — and the WorldCat catalog itself will help you locate the closest copy of almost any book in the world. 📖
❡ Books in the running brooks: The sidebar on the River Houses website (riverhouses.org) has links to several important online library collections that we like to explore. Why not sit yourself down at a large screen for a while (rather than a phone) and give them a browse. 🔎
❡ When in doubt, go to the library: This is one of our regular Homeschool Books & Libraries posts. Add your name to our weekly mailing list (riverhouses.org/newsletter) and get great homeschool teaching ideas delivered right to your mailbox all through the year. 📚