This year has had plenty of ups and downs. In some ways 2020 has reflected the classic opening of Dickens' Tale of Two Cities: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”
The polarization of politics, a global pandemic (and its accompanying crisis of isolation), and the unrest and deep pain surrounding racial issues in the United States have all been looming over us.
On the other hand, there are some wonderful things happening in this strange year as well. For example, the number of homeschoolers in the United States has skyrocketed. A Gallup poll conducted in August found that 10 percent of parents said their children would be homeschooled this year (up from 5 percent last year).
Another thing that inspires me as the Director of the HSLDA Action PAC is the number of homeschoolers who responded to the call of our country in a time when leadership is greatly needed. Homeschoolers acted on their learning and put their civics knowledge to work by throwing their hats into the political ring and running for office. Many of them have been civic-minded since their teen years and have worked within their home communities, but this year they moved their involvement to the next level.
It is not possible to name all of the homeschoolers who ran for office this year, but I'd like to mention a few who inspire me.
For years we have had homeschool dads in Congress, like Representatives Tim Walberg (Michigan’s 7th District) and Dan Webster (Florida’s 11th District). We also have the inspiring story of Jaime Herrera Beutler (Washington’s 3 rd District), who serves as a shining example of a homeschool graduate in Congress while also being a mom of a special needs youngster.
Rising to the Challenge
But this year, we also saw many new homeschool parents run for office.
- Daniel Gade ran to represent Virginia in the U.S. Senate. He is a homeschool dad who, when he first stepped up to put his name on the ballot, reached out to us seeking the HSLDA Action PAC as his first endorsement.
- Tiffany Shedd, a homeschool mom who ran for Congress in Arizona, told our Generation Joshua team of volunteers helping her, “When I got the HSLDA Action PAC endorsement, I broke down in tears—and I've been endorsed by a lot of people. But you, the homeschoolers, you're my people.”
- Jennifer Sefzik, homeschool mom and volunteer who helped on many GenJ campaigns and student action teams, ran for the statehouse in Washington.
- Sarah Fowler of Ohio, the first homeschool alum to be elected to a state board of education, won her election to serve in the state House of Representatives!
2020: Why Highlight this Moment?
I want to share with you the elation I felt on election night after having spent several days with homeschoolers who worked all hours to help elect candidates like the ones I just named.
One of my duties is to lead one of Generation Joshua’s Student Action Teams; this year we were in Cary, North Carolina.
As the results rolled in, I was surrounded by over 100 high school volunteers. These students, their parents, and my leadership team were homeschool alumni. I was amazed at the results.
Combined with a few other strategically placed teams, we contacted almost two million voters in the week leading up to Election Day. These teens rose at dawn each day and walked for hours through the weather, going door-to-door to talk to voters face-to-face. (It was a strange year for campaigning, with masks on and appropriate social distancing, but even the inconveniences of 2020 would not stop these amazing young people from making a difference!)
When the sun set, teens and parents returned to headquarters and called voters well into the evening, never stopping their campaign work before 9:00 p.m. “Relentless” is a word I would use to describe these highly motivated teens and their work ethic in putting their civic duty in play.
Most of the year, I teach high school students through various Generation Joshua programs—iGovern summer leadership camps, two-day simulation intensives, club meetings, or through lively debates on social media. Even my virtual class with HSLDA Online Academy is filled with eager students each semester.
But during election season, I see them re-orient themselves and step out with purpose. They put ideas into practice as they work for the future of our nation. When I see these students eager to grow their leadership and understanding of the principles that formed the foundations of our liberties, I can see the future.
To the White House
Simon is one young teen I think about in the trajectory of putting civics in action. Simon joined a GenJ Student Action Team in 2014. It was a snowy special election in January. He worked tirelessly, making calls and walking in the cold and through blistering weather in Sterling, Virginia.
Last year, Simon was studying government at Patrick Henry College (on the same campus as HSLDA) when I asked him to join me again in Virginia, this time as a GenJ Team Leader. He threw himself into the job, investing in the kids who were just like him a few years before and eager to learn from him. Now, less than a year later, Simon works at the White House.
In 2020, I organized Generation Joshua’s efforts to make a difference in some of the closest districts and races around the country. They worked on behalf of candidates endorsed by HSLDA Action PAC—men and women who believe in homeschool freedom and are willing to stand for those values in Washington, D.C.
All told, we deployed almost 800 Generation Joshua students and parent volunteers on 13 student action teams across the country.
2020 has a lot of people feeling anxious. Many are deeply concerned about the direction of our country. But I can tell you, there is reason for hope!
Homeschoolers are not done making a difference in this nation. The movement is producing independent-minded leaders who think outside the box and believe in freedom. Freedom in the foundational principles found in the United States Constitution, freedom in educational choice, freedom in what America stands for.
Homeschoolers are active citizens who are willing to invest in the civic process. This year many homeschoolers stepped up to the plate, and I am thankful for them because I deeply believe that their engagement in the process is critical for the future of our nation.
Take heart! The future in this country is still bright. Join this cause and support our new project, HSLDA Action. And lift up your eyes in hope! As the ever-diligent Samwise says in The Two Towers, “There's some good in this world . . . and it's worth fighting for.”