Here in Texas there are not many laws against homeschoolers. We like to call it the “Land of the Free” with regards to teaching your kids. When you look into Texas homeschooling, you will find just a few simple guidelines that the State requires parents to teach: Reading, Spelling, Grammar, Math, and Good Citizenship. Looking back, I don’t seem to remember learning Good Citizenship in public school. Sure, I learned what voting was, but no one ever told me how to actively affect the political landscape of my country. A vote is just one person’s opinion… but grass-roots groundswell movements affect large amounts of people and change the tides of apathy. Those are things I didn’t learn about until homeschoolers taught me about them.
I take my charge by the State of Texas to teach my kids Good Citizenship seriously. So, with that in mind, each year we have included the children in current events, allowed them to go with us to the voting polls, discussed political issues openly at home, learned about candidates together, done a president and elections unit study, learned about the history of the United States, and most recently – we have become what I call “politically active.” Going to vote is great, don’t get me wrong… but that isn’t what I would call politically active. Joining with grass-roots teams to affect the political platform, helping out with campaigns for your favorite politicians, and going AFTER voting is over to your county precinct meeting is what I would call politically active. Mahatma Gandhi would just call it being “the change you want to see in the world”. The reason Christian conservatives need to get involved in government is because we have a duty to God and our fellow man to speak God’s truth and affect the world around us. Apathy is not Jesus’ way. He confronted the evil of his time – not with a sword, but with his Word. A Good Citizen is an active and concerned citizen – one who is intimately involved and compassionate towards his fellow man. Since laws and taxes affect us all, shouldn’t we use the freedom we have to shape those laws and taxes into something good for us all?
Now that my kids are 11 and 9, we decided it was time for them to see their parents getting involved. In the presidential elections two years ago, after voting was over, we showed up at our district precinct. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but it was not intimidating at all. They called the tiny 20-person meeting to order and they told us that they had 20 spots for any of us who were willing to go on to the county as delegates. “What does a delegate do?” some asked. They told us that the delegates get to vote on resolutions submitted by the public so that they become part of the Republican Party platform… and that the delegates get to pick state delegates for the next level. After state is national delegates… and THOSE are the ones who help shape the turn-out of the next presidential election. I decided to add our names to the list in one of those Homeschool-affected moments where mom’s eyes light up at the thought of a learning experience for the kids. Not only had we come politically active, but we met a lot of nice people who live in our community around us (that we might not have ever met otherwise). In today’s isolated suburban worlds, meeting local, like-minded friends is a real bonus.
The night before the County Republican Convention, my husband told me he really didn’t want to go. “You mean we have to get up at 6 in the morning to get there by 8?” he grumbled. We live pretty far from where the meeting was to be held, so we had a long drive ahead of us on a Saturday morning. Honestly, I didn’t want to get out of bed, either. We went to bed late and I knew it was going to be hard to get up. I prayed about it before bed. “Lord, if you want us to go, help me not be a grouch in the morning,” I whispered as I shut my eyes.
At exactly 6 o’clock the next morning, my eyes popped open. I knew God was nudging me out of bed because I am not an early bird and getting up without an alarm clock is almost physically impossible for me. Often I can even sleep through multiple snoozes and manage to work the noise into my dreams. Add that to the fact that we only got about five hours of sleep before I woke up, and you have the makings of a miracle awakening. In a matter of an hour, we were dressed and ready to go (and the kids were counting on the rare presence of donuts once we got there – or they wouldn’t have been so eager to give up their Saturday, either).
Our 20 person precinct swelled to over 500 Republican delegates once inside the convention headquarters. Each part of our county was represented there. We all had to get name-tags with our name and precinct numbers (even the kids got guest name-tags) and they instructed us on where to sit. Seating was set by county precinct so that if they called for division on a vote, your precinct chairman could ask you individually “yes” or “no” on an issue and then give the exact number to be accurate. There was a call for division at least three times on certain votes where it was too close to call by standing or sitting – or by saying “yes” or “no” out loud.
An added bonus was that we got to meet and greet our county representatives, hear a few local speakers talk about what the representatives for the county do (they explained their jobs to us), listen to state representatives speak, and get to know our fellow precinct delegates better. One of the Republican Club speakers was a Homeschool mom and she gave a plug for homeschooling. A few of us in the crowd ‘hooted and hollered’ for her to show support. The County District Attorney came and introduced herself to our kids and said it was so nice to see new faces. The female judge who led our opening prayer invoked the name of Jesus over us and praised the Lord without hesitation. I had never heard a prayer so rich and beautiful in a public place before. It was enough to bring me to tears.
Half way through the day, after saying the American and Texan pledge… the call of roll… the report of rules… the appointment of the resolution committee… and the speeches of many candidates and elected officials, we broke for lunch. They had catered in some food, but the line was snaking out into the parking lot, so we left to eat at McDonald’s. We asked the kids if they were enjoying the day. “Well, it is more interesting than I thought it would be,” our eleven year old said. While we ate, the couple in the booth in front of us introduced themselves and we talked about the convention together and got to know each other better. They happened to be from our precinct and ended up sitting next to us when we got back.
The meeting was called back to order after 1PM and we all got a copy of the resolutions from the committee. Although we weren’t making law at the county convention, we were shaping the platform of our party and hopefully speaking loud and clear to our officials so they could better uphold our collective will. Some of the things that were voted on were:
– Abolishing state departments and returning power to the people
– Repealing the Federal Reserve Act
– Cutting foreign aid to nations threatening our citizens
– Requiring all sections of a bill or law to be of the same subject as the title (no fine print)
– Doing away with the Trans Texas Corridor
– Using school funds for educational purposes
– Urging reversal of Roe v. Wade and allowing states to control their own decisions
– Restoring parental rights
– Privatizing Social Security
– Requiring school districts to post their financial data online for accountability
– Opposing restrictions on the right to bear arms and gun-free zones
– Requiring Texas government bodies to limit their size by population plus inflation
– Requiring “Truth in Taxation” so the taxpayer knows before passage the entire burden
Being present when the vote was held on these issues and more was a humbling experience. By voting at the county convention on the resolutions to the party platform, I wasn’t a private citizen any more – I was part of the process. Whether I was behind the above blanket statements or not – I’m sure glad I got to be a part of the decision-making. Interestingly another issue came up that was voted down which would have eventually changed the way Texas senators were chosen. Another proposal was made to un-bind delegates so that they could vote for whomever they wanted in the party. If there had not been so many present, they might have passed. Listening to the arguments by individuals for each proposed resolution was riveting. There were instances where I was torn between both sides. Each vote counted and an entire county was represented on some very important issues that possibly went on to be passed at the state level that June.
Although my children didn’t listen to every word or have the chance to vote, they learned a valuable lesson about being a good citizen. They learned that good citizens are passionate about what they believe in – that they are involved in the process of shaping their world. In the final moments before the meeting adjourned, a young girl stood up. She couldn’t have been more than 20 years old. She was timid as she spoke into the microphone. She wanted to suggest another resolution that she had written herself on notebook paper. The speaker gave his blessing and she read it to the audience with a trembling voice. Her resolution was to require elected officials to uphold the will of the people by not straying from the platform we have voted on. Although it was redundant and is written in the original party platform, the speaker allowed a vote. Another man stood to speak for her resolution and said (and I paraphrase), “It can’t hurt to say it again – we should never tire of telling our officials that they MUST stand for the will of the people they govern.” I heard a few ‘Amen’s. I got chills down my spine and tears in my eyes and began to think about how sad it would be to see this great country decline through socialism – or to have our freedoms taken away. I vowed as a Homeschool parent to always be involved in politics in the future – so that we are at the heart of what our country stands for. I call that Good Citizenship.
*This post originally posted at Heart of the Matter Online Magazine in 2008.