November 20, 2017

How Laws are Made: A Trip to Your State Capitol

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Virginia State Capitol

I recently read this article about a Green Bay mom who took her kids out of school this year to take them on a nine-month journey to explore all 50 state capitals. She and her husband will be driving to 48 of the capitals and homeschooling their threesome along the way. They’ll finish up their trip with flights to Alaska and Hawaii for visits to Juneau and Honolulu. What an amazing idea.

I live outside Washington, DC and over the summer I took the kids on a trip to the U.S. Capitol. After the visit I started to think about visiting state capitals since both Richmond (Virginia) and Annapolis (Maryland) are less than 90 minutes away. We’re hoping to visit in the fall but of course I hope to maximize our family visit, so here are five tips to get the most out of any trip to a state capital (the state capitol building, in particular).

  • Check Out Tours: Go online to find out whether your state capitol offers tours and whether it’s guided or self-guided (ask about self-guided tour booklets if this is the case). You may need to make reservations too, and it’s always best to know exactly when the tours leave since there’s nothing worse than arriving ten minutes late and having to wait (and wait) for the next hourly tour to leave.
  • Watch Laws Being Made: Try to visit on a day when the state legislature is in-session. Many states post the legislative schedule online and since the state legislators meet only at certain times throughout the year it’s best to confirm when they will be meeting so you and your family can watch proceedings from the House and Senate public galleries.
  • Visit Your Representative: Call ahead to find out if your state representatives’ offices will be open when you come to visit your state capitol. It’s a lot of fun to see where he or she works to find out more about the legislator who is helping to make the laws for your city or town.
  • Look for Kids Pages: Before you go, head online to your state’s legislature website to see if they have a page just for kids. The Oregon State Legislature has a great page that shares how an idea becomes a law in Oregon, offers frequently asked questions (and answers), and also features facts, quizzes and a children’s legislative glossary. It’s a great way to study up before you head to the capitol building.

Have you taken your kids to any state capitol buildings? Now that my kids are back in school I can’t wait to take them for a visit and tour. What a fun way to learn more about how laws are made in our state.

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