U.S. Government for High School Students: A Constitutional Literacy Review

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Politics is a hot-button topic in our country right now. {I’ll pause to allow you to say, “Thank you, Captain Obvious.”} It’s a topic I avoid on my blog and in social media. Because, you know, I’m the non-confrontational type and political arguments raise my stress level to panic attack danger zone.

So, I’m stepping out in faith and hoping I won’t open Pandora’s box when I say that I think one of the reasons our country is in such a mess is that the majority of adults do not have a working understanding of the Constitution. Because we (myself included) don’t have that understanding, we’re not holding our leaders accountable for supporting and defending it as they have sworn to do.

U.S. Government for High School Students: A Constitutional Literacy Review

When I first heard of Constitutional Literacy from Apologia a couple of years ago, I knew that it was a course I wanted my kids to take. I decided to bide my time until Josh and Megan were both in high school so that they could take the course for U.S. Government credit.

This was our year. (It could be YOUR year, too. Keep reading for giveaway details.)

What is Constitutional Literacy?

Constitutional Literacy is a 25-part, high school level course on the history and application of the United States Constitution. It was developed by Home School Legal Defense chairman, Dr. Michael Farris, and published by Apologia. Dr. Farris is a constitutional attorney who has argued cases before the U.S. Supreme Court, U.S. Circuit Courts of Appeal, and state supreme courts.

The course includes a DVD set featuring 25 episodes of video instruction and a student workbook that includes vocabulary for and a synopsis of each episode, study questions, and questions for further research. Most episodes are 20-30 minutes in length.

Each lesson is comprised of six sections:

  • Purpose – an overview of the chapter
  • Parlance – the vocabulary words for the upcoming chapter (There is a glossary in the back to look up the definitions.)
  • Preamble – an introduction to the chapter
  • Ponder – a synopsis of the video lesson that tests student comprehension with study questions
  • Payoff – a summary of the issues and arguments
  • Probe – suggestions for further research

How do you use Constitutional Literacy?

The Constitutional Literacy course is self-directed with no teacher prep. Students could easily complete it independently, or it could be used in a co-op setting. Each student will need his own workbook.

Constitutional Literacy by Michael Farris

I was a bit worried about using Constitutional Literacy because curriculum from Apologia tends to lean toward the rigorous side which is a good thing, but it sometimes proves quite challenging for my dyslexic learners. Because I worried that the course might be too challenging and, well, possibly boring (like the government classes I took in high school), I decided that we’d see if a couple of the kids’ friends were up for a small co-op. Everything is better with a friend, right?

Josh’s BFF and Megan’s agreed to join us for the class. We meet on Friday afternoons for about an hour and a half (including the time we’re just chatting) to watch the video and answer the questions together. Each student workbook comes with a password for a website with the answers to the questions. One of the moms usually pulls the page up on her phone so that we can check answers as we go.

The kids define the vocabulary words in their workbooks prior to the class. We use the questions in the Probe section as homework (when we remember!). There are usually 3 or 4 questions, so we encourage the kids to each take a different question to research so that we can cover all of them at our next meeting.

U.S. Government for Homeschool

Sometimes the questions are more complex, or one or two are more interesting than the others. When that happens, the kids pair up to answer them. That’s cool because they’ll work together over FaceTime or Skype during the week.

One of the kids has found that the video lectures are easier to understand when you read the Ponder section before watching the lesson, using the video to reinforce the lesson rather than the other way around, but you can do it either way.

What do we think of Constitutional Literacy?

The course is not boring at all. Michael Farris is an engaging, well-spoken instructor who manages to make sometimes complex ideas easy to understand without dumbing them down. We have all thoroughly enjoyed it – and by all, I mean the teens and the moms, and any other parents and siblings who happen to be home at the host house that week.

Review of Constitutional Literacy

(Teens have a sixth sense for when a camera is on them and never manage to look unposed.)

One week, Josh’s BFF’s dad and brother were home when we met for our ConLit class. Not only did they watch the DVD lecture with us, but they jumped into a lively discussion with us afterward.

All the moms have agreed that we’ve learned as much as the kids and I’ve probably commented at least half a dozen times that Michael Farris should run for president.

The teens said:

“It’s not so bad that it makes you want to die.” (That was Megan and it’s actually a high compliment. She’s a little dramatic.)

“It’s interesting.”

“Sometimes it’s over detailed, but I have learned some things, and I do think that it should be a required course for school.”

“It’s very informative, and I think it should be taught in schools as a required course. I feel like they ramble a bit sometimes, but overall it’s a good course.”

U.S. Government for High School Students: A Constitutional Literacy Review

Too many students from all educational backgrounds are graduating without a solid understanding of the Constitution and its importance as the foundation of our government. This has likely been the case for decades because I know that, as an adult, I don’t have that understanding.

How can we hold our political leaders accountable for supporting and defending the Constitution, an oath taken by Senators and Congressmen as well as the President, if we don’t know enough about the Constitution to recognize when they are failing to do so?

I think this course is vital for all high school student to complete before graduation. Visit Apologia to purchase Constitutional Literacy. The workbook and DVD set retails for $99, and additional workbooks can be purchased for $33.


The folks at Apologia are giving away a DVD+workbook set to one WUHS reader! Follow the directions on the RaffleCopter widget below to enter.

Rules: This giveaway is open to United States residents, ages 18 years and older only. Giveaway ends at 11:59 PM (ET) on Wednesday, February 8, 2017. The winner will be selected at random using Random.org via RaffleCopter.

The winner will be notified via email and given 72 hours to respond. You must enter a valid email address to win. In the event that the winner cannot be contacted by email or does not respond within 72 hours, the prize will be forfeited and an alternate winner selected.

Click to read the complete rules. By entering this giveaway, you indicate that you have read and agreed to abide by these rules.

This post is linked to the Hip Homeschool Hop.

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  1. So is this a complete American Government curriculum? Meaning, I can give my children a 1/2 credit and I will not have to use any other source to supplement with? I am wondering because we had planned to use Notgrass Exploring Government next year, but I want to make sure this is going to be sufficient and that I don’t need anything else. Thanks!

    1. I’m not sure who you’re answerable to in your state, but the umbrella school to which I refer for guidance counts this course as 1/2 credit for U.S. Government. It may be different where you live.

      1. I am with HomeLife Academy. I guess I should have asked my question a bit different. In your opinion, does the curriculum cover everything that a typical government curriculum would? Thanks so much!

        1. I really don’t have a point of reference for comparison since this is all we’ve used. I’m not sure what would constitute a typical government curriculum. We had planned to do Zeezok’s A Noble Experiment in conjunction with ConLit, but the kids really didn’t enjoy it, so we dropped it after just a few weeks. You could probably visit Apologia’s site and compare the contents of Constitutional Literacy with the other course you’re considering. They list the table of contents on their site. Hope that helps.

  2. This looks amazing! I would love to try this. Thank you for the review and giveaway. I hope to use this next year.

  3. How could you make this fit into a semester course, since there are 25 lessons. Could you get through a few lessons a week if a student were working on the curriculum 4-5 days a week? Thanks! We are strongly considering it for next school year with a sophomore and a senior.

  4. We LOVED this course! We also used it as our government course. Every week, kids in our study group were amazed at how much we don’t follow the Constitution!

  5. Does the Constitutional Literacy course you reviewed include testing materials? Also, can it be used to earn a high school credit in “American Government and Civics?”

    1. Yes, it can be used for high school credit. The umbrella school we use counts it as 0.5 credit hours. If I recall correctly, it does have materials for assessment.

  6. I know this post is old but I was wondering how you broke it down. I’m typing up my sons assignment sheets for the year and I’m not sure how to break this down in to a 36 week school year. I didn’t read anywhere that it has lesson plans beyond telling you what they cover in each section. Any help would be appreciated!!

    1. I don’t quite remember what we did. I think I had the kids do the vocabulary on Monday and work on the other sections through the week. I know we watched the DVD with friends on Friday and they answered the questions as a group. Then, they would choose one of the questions at the end to work on as homework. Each kid took a different question so they could research it and share what they discovered with the group the following week.

        1. From the apologia site, he states it is ONE FULL YEAR CREDIT FOR HIGH SCHOOL and if you watch the promo video on this page, MrFarris states this is actually taught in college!
          Here is verbatim:
           Frequently Asked Questions About Constitutional Literacy
          Does this provide enough work for a full year class for high school students?
          Yes! The DVD series in conjunction with curriculum workbook constitutes a full credit. This means the student would need to do the Probe assignments at the end of each episode. The length of the episodes vary from 15 to 23 minutes.

          Michael Farris discusses Constitutional Literacy as a high school credit. (You may use this video in any of your promotional posts for the Constitutional Literacy workbook by Michael Farris.)

          The DVDs can definitely be used in a group or co-op setting, with each student purchasing their own Student Workbook but not their own DVD.  The length of the episodes vary from 15 to 23 minutes. Teachers can access the answers to the questions found within each chapter on the Apologia Book Extras site. Information for accessing this site are in the introdution section of the Student Workbook.

          1. Yes, that is what is stated on the site. However, our umbrella school only allows half a credit for the course. So, if you use an umbrella school that’s something to keep in mind.

  7. We used this course and loved it! I added memorization of the preamble to the constitution, reading through the constitution 5 times and memorization of all the ammendments.

    1. There are study questions that can be used as test questions. You may also assign grades for completing lessons in the workbook, and/or allow your students to do the “probe” assignments for grades. You may even want to have your students dive deeper into topics they’re interested in and do short reports or oral presentations, etc. There are lots of ways you can assign grades. 🙂

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