In the middle of January, for the first time in her life, 13-year-old Elizabeth Kilpatrick boarded an airliner and flew—not to some balmy resort—but to frigid Washington, DC.
The teen accompanied her parents Danny and Marie Kilpatrick on a mission to connect with federal lawmakers in order to promote and protect homeschooling.
The Kilpatricks joined two dozen families in a renewal of a project first organized by Home School Legal Defense Association decades ago.
These volunteers gathered on January 19 in a conference room at the US Capitol Visitor Center for brief training, then dispersed to meet with US senators, representatives, and their staff.
The message the families delivered didn’t deal much with specific bills and regulations. Instead, homeschoolers shared their passion for providing the best learning experience for their children—and helping them develop into responsible, community-minded adults.
Mitch Hibbard, who homeschools with his wife Kelly on a cattle ranch in New Mexico, explained it this way. “Most of our elected officials want to talk to us,” he said. “They want to meet our kids and hear about the great things they are doing.”
Joined in DC by his daughter, Amanda, Mitch highlighted many great things, including one son serving in the US Air Force. HSLDA helped the graduate when he enlisted by showing a recruiter that federal regulations recognized the validity of his homeschool diploma and that there was no need for him to obtain a GED.
And if any lawmakers doubted the potential of homeschoolers to achieve academic success, they would have been impressed to meet Melissa Glanowski, who was visiting the Capitol with her mother Kim.
“The day after I turned 16, I dual-enrolled in an online college program,” Melissa said.
Now, at age 22, she has earned a master’s degree and is working toward a doctorate in adolescent psychology. She is also writing several books aimed at assisting her career goal: helping young people overcome trauma.
The delegation demonstrated that homeschooling doesn’t necessarily look the same from household to household. Each family has its own unique history and its own method of helping children strive for their best.
A good example is Cynthai Guerrier, who came to Washington with her daughters: Giovanni, 14, and Jene, 12. Cynthai, who is originally from the Bahamas, now homeschools with her husband Jean in Georgia. He was born in Haiti and raised in New York.
This innate diversity was another attribute of homeschooling that families said they were eager to share with legislators—along with the fact that home education must stay flexible and customizable in order to remain effective.
As Kim Glanowski summarized, “We’ve had the ability to choose what is right for our kids. We were able to tailor their education to where they wanted to be.”
It is these key aspects of parenting—providing safe and nurturing homes, fostering a love of learning, and guiding children as they explore their own potential—that the volunteers said they want lawmakers to defend.
“We’re basically protecting our rights,” Mitch Hibbard concluded. “We’re not asking for anything more.”