Updated: Apr 11
Current events are a big part of our day, and I‘m a firm believer that they should be a part of every homeschooler's daily routine. From building critical thinking skills to connecting the past to the present, reading and discussing daily events has many benefits, but it can be tricky to find and navigate appropriate content. In this post, I‘ll break down the who, what, where, when, why, and how of effectively including current events into your homeschool day.
Who should be reading and discussing current events?
The answer is everyone! No matter what your child’s age, you can find appropriate content. Our kids are never too young to learn about the things happening in their world, both close to home and far away. They’re never too young to be inspired by all the men and women inventing, researching, collaborating, and doing good to make our world a better place.
What sort of things should we discuss?
When we think ”current events”, we often think politics, war, natural disasters, and all sorts of negativity. But current events can be technological advancements, scientific breakthroughs, and cool discoveries in nature. These stories can spark our little one’s imagination and creativity and lead to an exploration of topics we may have never even thought to bring up with them. Just last week our family learned about gene altering in mosquitos that could potentially make humans invisible to the pesky creatures. How cool is that?!?! What better way to have the most up to date information in the world of science and technology than by looking to current events? There is so much your children can learn that will never be discussed in a textbook, or at the very least, not for many, many years. In addition to these topics, don’t feel that you must shy away from tragedy because you think your child is too young. Most tragedies are wrapped in silver linings where people are using their talents or abilities to help those in need or inventing new ways to keep those tragedies from happening again. Most children pick up more information about things than we realize, and the only thing scarier than knowing something bad happened, is knowing only part of what happened and having the rest be left up to the imagination. When addressing some of the bigger things going on in the world with our kids, we get to control the narrative. And I don’t mean we get to lie to them, I mean that we get to choose what parts of the story we highlight. When we address tragic situations, we get the opportunity to focus on the positive helpers, which makes the event much more bearable, even for our youngest children.
When should I discuss current events?
There are always opportunities to weave current events into whatever you are studying at the moment. Whether it is history, social studies, science, or art; there are always connections to the present all around us. Seeking out and finiding these connections are the best way to add current events into your school day, and the connections can go both ways. If you are studying a particular area of science, you may want to search for the latest research being done in that field. On the other hand, if a major event occurs, you may want to shift your social studies or history focus to incorporate that. Sometimes you can plan ahead for that and other times you may have to adjust at the last minute. For example, when you know there is an upcoming election, you can plan ahead to build your lessons around that. Other times, news takes us a bit more by surprise, but it's too important to be ignored. The latest event out of Afghanistan led our family to pause our studies and take a look at the history of our presence there, the history of the country itself, and the effects all of those past events have had on present day circumstances. Even though this wasn't in my "lesson plan" it was the perfect time to study the topics.
Where do I get my information?
Including news occurring on the local, national, and global levels is important to help our kids see that they are part of a world that is interconnected. Many times, especially in public schools, kids start out by learning about their community. It will often be years before they are introduced to events outside the world they see around them. With that approach children miss out on so much. They miss out on getting to paint their world with the beautiful colors of diversity. We should be including the news from all these sources, simultaneously, in order for them to gain a better understanding of how impactful one can be on the other and to see where they can potentially be influential themselves.
Varying the source of your news is also important. There is no one perfect source, so the more we use, the more we can get a complete picture of events. At the end of this post, I will share the sources we use. Again, none of these sources are perfect, but I've chosen the ones I feel are the least biased, and in using several simultaneously, we are able to work out the facts and discuss the problems we see in the way a story may be presented from time to time.
Why should I be incorporating current events into our day?
There are many benefits to discussing current events with your kids. Current events are the puzzle piece that makes everything else make sense and seem relevant. They give all of our other studies purpose, and stretch our minds and hearts to see beyond theory into practicality.
Studying the daily events of the world around us, on every level, helps our children progress from awareness to appreciation to empathy to action. For our littlest children, we study to make them aware of the world in which they live. We study to make them aware of the people and cultures that exist in places they do not see everyday. As they get older, we study to make them aware of all that is being fought for and against, questioned, studied, and discovered. We study to make them aware that past events have present day consequences, both good and bad. They become aware that the world is not only bigger than the one they see but more complex as well. In turn, they stretch their intellectual muscles to make sense of things. They begin to ask questions, formulate their own beliefs, and see things as less black and white. All of this awareness turns to appreciation for the hard work of others and empathy for the struggles many people face. Hopefully, as our children set out into the world on their own, all of this will inspire them to take action to help make their world better, challenge them to find solutions to problems, or use their voice to fight for change close to home or far away.
How do we discuss current events in our home?
The most important thing is that events are discussed TOGETHER. News can not be a hands-off event. It can be hard, and it can be confusing. It's always important to discuss it together to help your kids sort out their thoughts and feelings. It's also important to help them ask the right questions, like, "Who is presenting this information? Why do they want me to know this? Are there opinions or biases in this article? Have they omitted anything that would change the narrative?"
One of the best ways to read the news together is a seemingly simple strategy that can open up a world of discussion. I call it "change one variable". You can take any story, and ask your kids "What if you changed one variable? How could that impact or change this event or these circumstances?" For example, take the recent earthquake in Haiti and change one variable: the location. "What if the Haiti earthquake happened in Paris? What if it happened in California?" Change the time. "What if the Haiti earthquake happened four weeks ago, before the Taliban take over of Afghanistan?" These simple changes in variables can lead to wonderful, deep conversations about a wide range of subjects, from class privilege, to foreign relationships, to how news agencies may choose to focus on one event over another and how that effects the world's reactions.
The world we live in is fascinating, and knowing as much about it as we can is my favorite parts of our homeschool day. It's during these times that we have the best discussions, that my kids ask the most questions, and I see their empathy and concern for others grow. It can seem scary at first to open our children up to all that goes on around us, but navigating through it together will be one of the best things you do!
Check out these news sources for information that is geared toward students of all ages:
For just a few dollars a month, you can have access to TIME Magazine's online content, including their podcast. The podcast is the same content as the morning newsletter, in audio form. It's a great way to get the news during breakfast or in the car. It's a wonderful option for late middle schoolers and high schoolers.
This free website uses academics who are experts in their fields to write articles in an explanatory news style. They are widely recognized as an unbiased news source by watchdog groups. It's a wonderful resource for teens that will not only give them daily news, but explain it as well.
A subset of The Conversation, this source has interesting articles for all ages. In keeping with The Conversation's explanatory news style, these articles cover a wide range of topics from current events topics to science, history, and more.
This is a free, short and sweet daily podcast. It's perfect for tweens and teens who haven't been interested in keeping up with current event in the past. It's a good choice for getting started with current events in your family.
TIME FOR KIDS/ TIME EDGE
Time for Kids has a range of options for kids as young as kindergarten. It comes weekly and introduces a range of topics, from current events, science and technology, literature and art. Once a month a Financial Literacy magazine is included as well. You can choose from a print option or an online version.
For older students (middle school & up) they offer an edition called Time Edge that is online only.
Scholastic News also has prints and online materials for a wide range of ages. They also offer multiple magazines on specific topics, like general news, science, and math. These are best for elementary students, and their online activities are fun and engaging.
THE WEEK JUNIOR
This weekly magazine is full of a variety of topics for your kids. I feel that it's best suited for 4th-7th graders. It is one I wouldn't use as my only source of news, but the topics introduced lead to great discussions, and my kids love the variety of subject matter as well as the weekly quizzes and book suggestions.
This daily 10 minute news video is straightforward, unbiased, and as fact-based as you're going to find. They are not in-dpeth, but offer an overview of the daily stories at home and around the world.
THE MORNING BY THE NEW YORK TIMES
The Morning is a free daily email subscription from the NYT that gives you an overview of the day's news. To read the full-length articles, you will need an online subscription. I have found it's worth it. It covers the biggest events happening at the moment as well as topics relating to art, literature, and food. This is a perfect choice for older kids (7th&up). We use this to discuss daily news events, and my kids enjoy the weekly quiz on Fridays to test their memory.