As a freshman cadet at West Point, Caleb Eyler has already achieved many of the goals he set as far back as elementary school. Yet he remains focused on improving himself as he strives toward one of his chief aspirations—helping others.

Along with his older sister Rhiannon, Caleb was homeschooled from kindergarten through 12th grade. He graduated in 2023.

His parents, Melissa and Jason, chose to homeschool their children for several reasons. They wanted to foster close relationships, provide them a safe environment in which they could thrive while exploring their interests, and teach them their Christian beliefs.

Caleb Eyler

Homeschool graduate and West Point cadet Caleb Eyler.

“Some people say that you are sheltering your kids with homeschooling,” Melissa explained, “but it’s more like a greenhouse.”

Inspiring their children to develop personal interests quickly bore fruit.

By age 9, Caleb decided he wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps and pursue a career in the military (Jason had served in the U.S. Army for four years). Then, when Caleb reached middle school, he asked his parents to help him structure his education to reach an even more ambitious goal—getting into West Point. Only 10 percent of those who apply to West Point are accepted.

“He’s very focused,” Melissa said of her son. “Whenever he has a goal, he works toward it tirelessly.”

Into Uniform

At age 12, Caleb joined Civil Air Patrol (CAP), the civilian auxiliary of the US Air Force. A year later, he became one of the youngest CAP cadets in Maryland to enter the officer ranks, earning a promotion to 2nd lieutenant.

Achieving the rank required Caleb to pass a pair of 60-minute written tests as well as a physical fitness exam. He was placed in command of about 10 cadets.

Caleb’s duties included planning weekly meetings, assembling training materials, and delegating tasks. He soon discovered he liked working with his fellow cadets individually.

“I really enjoyed the mentoring aspect,” Caleb recalled.

When the COVID-19 pandemic struck, in-person CAP meetings were called off indefinitely. Caleb grew concerned that the lack of interaction would harm morale and delay the development of other cadets in his unit.

So, he worked with higher-ranking CAP officers to arrange face-to-face meetings during the pandemic as long as cadets followed certain health precautions.

The commitment Caleb exhibited in keeping his unit active during the pandemic contributed to further accolades. At age 16, he was named the CAP Maryland Wing’s officer of the year. He earned a promotion to major and served as an executive officer—which allowed him to expand his role as mentor.

“That was the position I enjoyed the most,” said Caleb. “I got to work with everyone.”

Mind and Body

Caleb also labored toward ensuring he could meet the physical fitness standards for entering West Point. Thanks to Pennsylvania’s law allowing homeschooled students to participate in public school extracurricular activities, Caleb was able to join the local high school’s powerlifting squad. He already knew the coach and several members of the team, so it seemed a good fit.

“I really loved the team environment,” said Caleb.

Supporting his teammates as they competed against other schools boosted Caleb’s motivation to improve his own athleticism. In four years on the team, Caleb doubled the weight he could squat and bench press.

When it came time to take the West Point fitness test as part of the application process in 11th  grade, Caleb had to prove himself in more than just strength. The exam included events intended to evaluate his endurance and agility—a timed run, push-ups, sit-ups, and even a basketball throw. The calisthenics portion was recorded on video so that Caleb’s form could be evaluated.

“It was pretty tough,” he recalled.

Though he was always a committed student, Caleb kept looking for additional ways to demonstrate his ability to cope with rigorous academics during high school. He took several AP courses through HSLDA Online Academy, as well as an in-person math class at York College of Pennsylvania.

He had another reason for taking classes guided by someone other than his parents. Homeschooling allows students a great deal of flexibility, but Caleb knew that if he made it into West Point, he would find himself pressed for time and be expected to complete difficult tasks on a schedule set by others.

By taking multiple classes from HSLDA Online Academy in 10th grade, Caleb said he learned a lot about time management.

Voluntary Service

Caleb’s passion for citizenship and community involvement is also vital to him. During his time in high school, he participated in a weeklong civics and leadership camp called Keystone Boys State in Pennsylvania. Teens at the event hold mock elections, work through the legislative process, then simulate dealing with a statewide crisis. His enthusiasm and teamwork earned Caleb the program’s Esprit de Corps award.

Caleb also volunteered with the Fawn Grove Compassion Center, a nonprofit that collects and distributes personal care and hygiene items, household goods and school supplies to crisis-stricken areas around the globe.

Taken together, Caleb’s accomplishments allowed him to compile an application that illustrated how a homeschooler could indeed thrive in the highly regimented and demanding environment of West Point.

Caleb said he felt as prepared as anyone else when he arrived on campus for six weeks of boot camp during the summer of 2023—where each day’s training began at 4:30 a.m., and cadets undertook their first lesson in leadership by learning to obey orders.

When classes started in the fall, Caleb’s schedule eased a bit. He now rises at 6:30 a.m. to prep for morning inspection, followed by classes that run as late as 4:30 p.m., then athletics, studying, and mandatory lights-out.

Never Alone

Caleb said he’s enjoyed his experience so far thanks to something he learned early on as a homeschooled student.

“My parents and teachers were always so helpful if I needed clarification or assistance,” Caleb recalled. “So I’m not shy about asking for help. I’ve noticed a lot of people are not comfortable doing that.”

Caleb added that he’s taken to heart a motto he encountered at the academy: “No one goes through West Point alone.” This ethos also prompted him to select combat infantry as his preferred career field––one of the most challenging branches of the Army.

He made his choice during a career fair early in the semester. “A lot of people representing other branches of the Army talked about the equipment,” Caleb noted. “But the people in the infantry talked about the importance of leading soldiers.”

Melissa said her son is already serving in a leadership role.

“So many people told him that, because he was homeschooled, he would never get into West Point,” she said. “I find that ironic, because I feel homeschooling helped him be a competitive candidate. Caleb’s success gives me confidence to tell other homeschooling parents and students to stay focused on their goals and not be discouraged by naysayers.”