After sifting through dozens of essays apiece, the judges have chosen three winners from each category in Home School Legal Defense Association's first essay contest.
HSLDA President J. Michael Smith congratulated the winners for their hard work. "Seeing essays of this caliber is encouraging. God is using the homeschool movement to prepare young people who know what they believe and can articulate those beliefs." He thanked all of the students who took time to write an essay and submit it.
In Category I, students ages 12 to 15 wrote on the topic, "Who is your hero and why?" First place in this category went to Grace Lichlyter of Alabaster, Alabama, for her essay on the Scottish missionary and Olympic runner Eric Liddell. Grace told HSLDA that this was the first formal essay she has ever written. Evidently she has a talent for it!
For Category II, students ages 16 and 18 discussed "Why is homeschooling good for America?" Susan Smoots of Renton, Washington, won first place with her account of a conversation with her grandparents about her choice to homeschool through the high school years. Susan loves acting, music, and writing, and is interested in finding a career that would combine all three.
First place in each category was $500. Second was $250. Third was $100. Any proceeds from the contest entry fees will be given to the Home School Foundation Special Needs Fund.
Second place for Category I went to Ruth Miller, who chose civil rights leader Rosa Parks for her hero. Andrew Colbert was awarded third place. His hero is the famed English Prime Minister Winston Churchill.
In Category II, second place was awarded to Heather Roach, who focused on the type of people needed to make America great, and how homeschooling produces those people. In third place was Jonathan Kanary, who discussed the many benefits of homeschooling.
CATEGORY I: The higher calling
"I'm not running;" the young Scottish athlete announced. No one had ever heard of such a thing! The papers ridiculed him. His enemies sneered openly. His friends looked on in open-mouthed astonishment. Could he possibly be serious? Yes, Eric Liddell was certainly serious. His Olympic race was on a Sunday, and he was not going to run. What thoughts were scrambling through his head when he made that decision? Disappointment? Regret? Maybe, but these thoughts were short-lived; his standard for honoring God's Sabbath was not to be lowered for a mere gold medal.
Taking first place in Category I with her first formal essay, Grace, 14, hails from Alabaster, Alabama.
Eric Henry Liddell, born on January 16, 1902, in Tientsin, China, was the son of Scottish missionaries. He attended a Christian grade school before finishing his education at Edinburgh University in Scotland with the goal in mind of one day returning to China as a missionary like his parents. Only God had given him a gift. Speed.
Many laughed when they thought of Eric Liddell as a runner. He had received very little training, and his unique running style made most instructors raise their eyebrows and shake their heads. Nevertheless, he was chosen to be on the British 1924 Olympic team and to run in the 100- and 200-meter races.
Months, even years, of hard work and preparation had gone into these races, and despite his critics' incessant "tongue-clicking," the odds were highly favorable that Eric Liddell would be the first to win a 100-meter gold medal for Britain since 1896, when the Olympic races were finally uncovered from their ancient dust.
Spring was creeping across the British Isles when the timetable for the races was finally released into the hands of the expectant runner. Liddell's eyes skipped quickly over the other races and fell upon the date for the 100-meter. A Sunday.
After Eric Liddell voiced his decision not to run, the embarrassed officials requested that he run in the 400-meter races instead, and Eric consented. The public was disgusted. Eric Liddell was a short-distance runner! Why, he had not even trained for that event! The probability that the British would bring home a gold metal plummeted.
The July sun still streamed down on the heads of the six finalists on the evening of the 400-meter race. While the nervous audience tried to fan away the sultry heat, the British tried to fan away discouragement. Eric Liddell had placed third in the 200-meter race. Not bad, but he had barely made it through qualifying heats for the 400-meter and even a bronze medal was beginning to seem like a fading dream.
When the gun sounded, all six contestants leaped into action, Eric Liddell running in the outside lane. He could not see how his opponents were faring from that lane, but even if he could see them, he wouldn't have looked. His eyes were focused on heaven.
Psalm 121:1-2 says, "I will lift up mine eyes to the hills; from whence cometh my help? My help cometh from the Lord, who made heaven and earth."
Liddell knew where his help came from, and it showed--not just at church or just when he saw his parents, but it shone through his athletic life as well. God came first in his life. Running, Olympics, and even his missionary work, came after God.
In today's society, we have so much going on that God gets pushed further and further from reality. All of his rules and commands seem to have become irrelevant as our own personal agendas take first seat. We spend our whole life striving for earthly crowns and medals that will one day be destroyed!
Eric Liddell won that race--a full five meters ahead of the second place, setting a new world record. Shortly afterwards, he returned to China as a missionary. He left behind him friends, fame, and fortune, the things the world values most, to gain a crown whose glory could never be diminished.
This is why Eric Liddell is one of my heroes. Not because he was one of the greatest runners ever, but because he sacrificed his greatness to answer to God's higher calling for his life.
-- Grace A. Lichlyter, 14
Birthdate: May 1988
CATEGORY II: A root issue
"So, Susan, are you going to go to public high school this fall?"
Winner of Category II, Susan, 17, is interested in acting, music, and writing. She lives in Renton, Washington.
Startled, I glanced up from my bowl of ice cream. Grandmom's keen, hazel eyes pinned me to the back of my chair. The comforting clink of silverware halted as my uncles and aunts paused with their forks half raised. All eyes darted towards me. Carefully, I blotted my mouth with my napkin to stall for time. "Dear God," I silently prayed, "Help!"
I raised my eyes to meet Grandmom's. "Actually, Grandmom, we've decided that I'm going to homeschool through high school."
"Hmph!" Uncle Rob rolled his eyes and shook his head. Grandmom emitted a sigh and jabbed her fork into her salad.
Not knowing what to say next, I gazed thoughtfully out the window. A flicker of red and white stripes drew my attention. It was the flag that Grandmom and Granddad ritually displayed from their front porch. Next, I shifted my eyes to the dining room walls. Among old family documents and rustic pictures of farmhouses, Grandmom and Granddad's DAR and SAR certificates were proudly exhibited. A lovely painting of the Liberty Tree surmounted the arrangement. The warm, glowing oils captured the regal, sturdy trunk, and dark, olive foliage. "I know that America and the freedoms we enjoy in this nation are very important to you," I addressed Granddad.
"If they were important to you as well," Granddad replied gravely, "the least you could do would be to show support to your nation by enrolling in public school."
"I believe that by homeschooling I am being a good citizen," I countered.
"And how's that?" Granddad cocked his head to one side.
"Homeschoolers have the opportunity to incorporate biblical truth in their education." I replied.
"What difference does that make for America?" Grandmom shifted in her chair.
"I think the Psalmist answered that question when he described a righteous man.
His delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers. (Psalm 1:2-3)
"By learning to love and obey God and his decrees, homeschool children will not only be blessed, but bless their nation."
I pointed to the painting of the Liberty Tree. "One of my favorite images is of America as a giant tree with strong branches and numerous green leaves. A healthy tree absorbs sunlight through its leaves and minerals through deep roots to produce its nutritious food. However, not everything in the soil is beneficial for a tree to consume. When the roots of a tree soak up spores of Verticillum wilt, the pestilent fungus spreads to the leaves. Rapidly, the once vibrant foliage becomes wrinkled and yellow. The tree will slowly die because the chlorophyll in its leaves is destroyed.
"In my mind, each leaf on that Liberty Tree represents an American citizen. Americans contribute to the strength and nourishment of our nation when they absorb light from the Son and wisdom from our biblically inspired roots. Today, because prayer and Bible reading is no longer allowed in public schools, the very roots of America are bared to the attack of pernicious worldviews. With prolonged exposure to evil, and not enough of the Son, many children's spiritual lives are crippled.
"Our entire nation will benefit from the influence of godly, homeschooled youth. By being taught to protect our biblically inspired laws; a whole generation of homeschooled kids are following in the footsteps of the godly men and patriots who founded our nation. We will preserve American liberty because we will understand its origin: Jesus Christ. I can't think of any better support for America than that!"
Granddad folded his napkin and placed it on his empty plate. "Well, Susan, we may not agree with you on some issues, but there is one that can't be contended."
"What?" I asked hesitantly.
"You'll have to drink your ice cream if we don't give you a chance to eat it." His face relaxed into a half smile.
-- Susan M. Smoots, 17
Birthdate: September 1985