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May 9, 2017

Rep. David Eastman and his family.

From West Point to Points West: Alaska’s First Homeschooled State Rep.

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In a state known for fostering a frontier spirit, David Eastman is doing some trailblazing of his own.

The former soldier, high school debater, and self-described over-socialized-Southern-Californian-turned-Alaskan is carving a path as the first homeschool graduate (so far as he can tell) elected to the Alaska State Legislature.

Yet in serving his first term representing District 10 in the state house, Eastman says he’s also standing on familiar ground. He’s encouraging legislation that reflects the values instilled in him from his earliest days of learning at home.

“I grew up in and around an entrepreneurial environment,” Eastman says. His father started a number of businesses and carried that self-starter ethos into education. Consequently, Eastman and his four siblings were encouraged to participate in a variety of activities suited to their interests and abilities.

Staying Active

As part of the resurgent homeschool movement of the 1990s, “California had a lot of opportunities,” Eastman recalls. “We tried to take advantage of everything. We didn’t have a mold we tried to fit into.”

Enjoying the great Alaskan outdoors.

Though Eastman’s online high school program followed the classical model, his peripheral activities were more eclectic. A partial list includes academic competitions, water polo, swim team, Boy Scouts—even a state championship in the National Christian Forensics and Communications Association debate league.

His parents also made sure he could focus on what fascinated him the most: the story of how our nation was founded and the events that shaped it.

“I got to study American history every year growing up,” Eastman says. Particularly drawn to military studies, Eastman applied to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.

As a cadet there, he encountered some surprising challenges. Eastman recalls, for instance, a professor who openly disparaged some of the standard works he referenced in a history paper. The professor told him: “These are the books we are trying to keep you from reading.”

Ultimately, Eastman says, this sort of opposition simply bolstered his resolve to reach a place where he could champion conservative values.

Heading West

Upon graduating from West Point, he asked to be stationed at an Army post in Alaska. He made this choice not only based on his love for the outdoors, but because of the freedoms he said he felt the state’s culture engenders. These include the right to life, the freedom to own and use firearms, and religious freedom, “which dovetails with homeschool freedom.”

After working as a military police officer, Eastman transitioned to civilian law enforcement, and finally to his current job as a paid firefighter.

However, his disgust at the Alaska political corruption probe of the early 2000s prompted Eastman to join the efforts to bring reform to state government and the Republican Party.

“Growing up studying American history and constitutional law, how our nation was founded, and contrasting that with what we have today—there’s quite a gap there,” Eastman says, reflecting on his decision to run for office. He adds that he hopes his efforts contribute to “making sure that truth prevails and that corruption encounters resistance.”

One specific issue Eastman says he wants to address is state rules that make it hard for graduates of private homeschools to get hired as law enforcement officers.

He understands the situation because of his own background, having earned a homeschool diploma through a program tied to a Christian school. California law recognizes such a program as a private school. But under current rules, Alaska high school graduates must have a diploma from an institution that is “accredited” or “certified” in order to get a police job.

“I think our law enforcement requirements are unnecessarily restrictive,” says Eastman. “I’d like to see homeschoolers not discriminated against.”

HSLDA agrees, and we hope to work with Eastman and other Alaska legislators to resolve the problem.

Meanwhile, Eastman urges homeschooling families to reach out to graduates like himself who have entered the difficult field of politics: “They could use prayer and encouragement. Find one in your legislature you can adopt and support.”