Homeschoolers thrive when they find a way to connect—for encouragement, training, and some good old-fashioned facetime. That’s the conclusion of several young couples who recently joined the leadership of a state homeschool organization in Utah to help revitalize its mission.
They started by bringing back the group’s statewide homeschool conference, which had last been held in 2018. Homeschool mom Sarah Winn coordinated the Utah Christian Homeschool Association (UTCH) event held in April.
“It’s vital for the homeschool community to grow and build confidence,” she said. “It lets you know that you’re not doing it alone.”
In some ways, Sarah and other new UTCH leaders present a cross-section of homeschooling in the Beehive State.
Elyssa and Kevin Fuchikami were both homeschooled. Elyssa (who works as an editor for Home School Legal Defense Association) grew up in Utah. After marrying, she and her husband returned to the state, taking up residence near Elyssa’s extended family.
They have a toddler and a newborn, but joined the board of UTCH last year to lay the groundwork for an educational method they intend to pursue.
“We wouldn’t have gotten involved if we weren’t really set on homeschooling,” Elyssa said.
Ashley and Aaron Johnson have three children, including two who are school age. They moved to Utah from California in 2021 and joined the UTCH board last year. They are part of an influx of Californians who bring a slightly different dynamic to the homeschool movement in their adopted home.
California’s large population translated into big homeschool groups that offered a wide range of opportunities and activities for Ashley when she was growing up—from field trips to sports leagues.
“I met my best friends through homeschooling,” she said. “I wanted the same things for my kids.”
A Chance to Serve
These couples saw an opportunity to serve the broader homeschool community by volunteering to take positions in the UTCH leadership. Many of the previous board members had already graduated their children when they decided to serve.
Then came the COVID-19 pandemic, which made arranging in-person events extremely challenging for a few years. Up came the next generation of homeschool parents, accustomed to mobile devices, social media, and Zoom calls. But when considering how best to connect with the movement they were committed to, they saw many positives in the idea of reviving the traditional homeschool conference.
“People need these kinds of hands-on experiences, and to have fellowship with like-minded people,” Sarah said.
To that end, conference organizers stuck with the conventional format. They invited speakers, lined up workshops on how to homeschool, asked vendors to display curriculum and other educational tools—and just provided time and space for families from across the state to connect face-to-face.
Elyssa said she was happy to see the familiar event return. “I grew up watching my mom run the conference for 15 years,” she said.
The event brought 300 attendees, maxing out the venue space. “We were bursting at the seams,” Elyssa said.
Engaging the Next Generation
As for the next conference in 2024, Sarah said that UTCH has already booked a larger venue. And Aaron added that the organization’s leadership will consider making changes based on feedback from this year’s event. They held a raffle, and the only way to be in the drawing for the final prize was to hand in a survey form at the end of the conference.
Aaron also said they’ve committed to upgrading the UTCH website, as well as creating a separate domain with specific information about the conference. “Modernizing technology is one way to engage the next generation of homeschoolers,” he said.
Passing the Baton
Elyssa hopes to incorporate other aspects of her upbringing into the homeschool program she eventually develops for her own children. These include crafting a flexible, personalized education for each child, augmented with extracurriculars that together help inculcate values rooted in their Christian faith.
“Overall, I think what my parents did was really great,” she said, noting some of the experiences she especially appreciated doing as a student: studying the Bible, playing varsity tennis, and performing in a youth orchestra. “We were able to get involved with just about anything we were passionate about.”
All told, these efforts have helped triple UTCH membership since October.
Aaron said this growth is especially encouraging as the organization works toward reviving another program—engaging lawmakers at the state capitol. They are already planning a day for homeschool families to visit legislators next year, and are assembling a team that will cultivate relationships with friendly representatives and senators.
The goal is to defend freedom by showing lawmakers how homeschooling contributes to producing engaged, capable, civically minded youth.
Sarah said she’s excited to see how building on campaigns of the past is delivering benefits that also meet the needs of the current generation.“I think we’re in a different time in history,” she said. “There’s been an explosion in homeschooling, and we want to grow and be an encouragement, and a support system to homeschoolers.”