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3 Ways To Incorporate Election Songs into your Homeschooling - Compass Classroom Blog

3 Ways To Incorporate Election Songs into your Homeschooling

It’s election season here in these United States, and the mudslinging, sound bytes, campaign ads, and robo-calls are out in full force. While this season may be frustrating in some ways, it also provides a great opportunity to teach our children about various intricacies of the election process, past and present.

A frequently untapped resource when it comes to studying American history, particularly political history, are the election songs written and distributed by various presidential candidates. In an era of TV commercials with ominous sounding music and dark colors attacking the opposing candidate, and sunshine and flowers and neon colors in ads promoting a candidate, we forget that in the past the “attack ads” candidates ran against each other were often as simple as reworking a nursery rhyme.

Here’s an example of one such attack song, written during the presidential election of 1840. 

Martin Van Buren was running against William Harrison, who had John Tyler for his vice presidential pick. This is a song attacking Harrison (Tippecanoe) and Tyler, and promoting Van Buren.

Rock-a-bye, baby, Daddy's a Whig
When he comes home, hard cider he'll swig.
When he has swug, he'll fall in a stew;
And down will come Tyler and Tippecanoe.
Rock-a-bye, baby, when you awake,
You will discover Tip is a fake.
Far from the battle, war cry, and drum,
He sits in his cabin a-drinking bad rum.
Rock-a-bye, baby, never you cry;
You need not fear ol' Tip and his Ty.
What they would ruin, Van Buren will fix:
Van's a magician; they are but tricks.

Here’s another election song, this time a bit more serious and celebratory of a candidate, rather than attacking one.

This piece was written to praise John Madison, who ran for president in 1808. (And won)

Now have the foes of freedom sought
Our happy union to divide,
For which our heroes bravely fought,
For which our patriots bravely died,
But vain their efforts all have proved,
The temple still unshaken stands,
Nor by the power of faction moved
Nor leveled by rebellion's hands,
Huzzah! for Madison, huzzah! for union and America,
Huzzah! for Madison, huzzah! for union and America.
And should the Tories all unite
And join again with British foes;
Though Satan might applaud the sight,
The heavens would soon interpose.
While Jefferson to shade retires
And Madison like morn appears
Fresh confidence and hope inspires
And light again the nation cheers.
Huzzah! for Madison, huzzah! for union and America,
Huzzah! for Madison, huzzah! for union and America.

We have these songs and many more available for free download in our resource section!

Here are some activities you can do with your children to tie in these songs with their homeschool activities.

  1. Listen to a song, and discern/research the following:
    • A: Who were the candidates referenced, B: What year did they run for president, C: What were some of the things they disagreed on or opposed each other, and D: Who ended up winning the election?
  2. Compare and contrast the songs you listen to with current political ads.
    • List some pros and cons to both approaches.
  3. Write your own political jingle!
    • You can use a preexisting tune, such as Rockabye Baby was used for the Van Buren song. Pick a candidate for president, past or present, and write a short piece either praising or attacking him.

We hope these songs make a great supplement to your history curriculum and allow you to explore other interesting subjects with your children, such as music and politics.