1991 National Christian Home Educators Leadership Conference
Meeting together in the largest conference of its kind, 234 state home school leaders representing 37 states and Canada enjoyed a special time of inspiration and fellowship October 10–12, 1991, in the Washington, D.C. area. The National Center for Home Education hosted this full program, which included a White House Briefing, banquet on Capitol Hill, media consultations, and workshop sessions.
Thursday evening's “Get Acquainted” banquet launched the conference. Friday was a jam-packed day. Four speakers addressed the leaders in the morning sessions: Gary Bauer, President of Family Research Council, Brad Banks, an Iowa State Representative and home-schooling father, Michael Farris, President of Home School Legal Defense Association, and Rebecca Hagelin, Public Relations and Communications Consultant.
Following lunch, five tour buses took the leaders into Washington, DC for a special White House briefing. Jane Leonard, Associate Director for the White House Office of Public Liaison, greeted the leaders. They then had opportunity to interact with Michelle Easton, Executive Assistant to the Secretary, Office of Private Education (U.S. Department of Education), and Jack Klenk, Acting Director of the Center for Choice in Education (U.S. Department of Education). The day was closed with a dinner at the Rayburn House Office Building on Capitol Hill.
On Saturday morning Jim Logan, Minister and Counselor with the International Center for Biblical Counseling, spoke to the leaders about spiritual warfare: the necessity of recognizing the enemy’s schemes and living victoriously. Workshop sessions filled the rest of the day with a variety of topics:
- Fundraising and Financial Planning for a Healthy State Organization.
Awarding Diplomas and Administering Standardized Tests: How Can Your State Help?
- Home Schoolers Go To College
- Understanding IRS Rules That Affect Your State Organization
- Vouchers and Education Choice: The Great Debate
- Alternatives to College: What Are the Options?
- Organizing An Effective Legislative Campaign
- Hosting a Spectacular Convention and Keeping Your Sanity
- Accountability: What is a Support Group’s Role?
- Media consultation sessions with Rebecca Hagelin were also scheduled throughout this time.
The conference closed on Saturday evening with the final banquet. It was a time of fellowship, a time to enjoy new friends, a time to bask in the warmth of old acquaintances renewed, and a time to reflect. George Sarris, narrator and producer of The World's Greatest Stories TM, presented a dramatic portrayal of the life of Christ. We were reminded and challenged that it is the message of the Gospel that changes lives, and that the message of discipleship—learning to be Christlike in our thoughts, words, and actions—should be the focus of our home-schooling programs and the movement at large.
1991 Conference Speakers
President of Family Research Council, Washington, DC
“We are in the midst of the Second American Civil War. And it is a war against children!” Mr. Bauer quickly followed this declaration by defining the clashing value systems in our society as a battle between those who believe “God is” versus those who believe “God isn't.” Continuing, Mr. Bauer explained that there will be only one winner of the “Civil War,” and that the ideology which prevails will have won the right to teach our children about life and death, love and sex, and freedom and slavery. To reinforce this point, Mr. Bauer vividly contrasted the behavior and attitudes society accepts as “normal” today with the values of the 1960s.
In 1960, a promiscuous girl was scorned; in 1991, many young people are embarrassed to admit their virtue. In 1960, the family was the cornerstone of American society; in 1991, a Nightline debate explored the real definition of family, concluding that any “caring, loving relationship” would fulfill the requirement. In 1960, values taught in school clearly spelled out the difference between right and wrong; in 1991, we can't even get people to admit that values exist.
In conclusion, Mr. Bauer called the leaders to stand fast against the tide of immorality. “Read what is written on the walls in the monuments of Washington, DC, and you'll learn that liberty clearly comes from God—not man or the state. If militant secularists are to succeed, they'll have to sandblast those walls.” The promise of God is that the “gates of hell shall not prevail.” We can win! We must not give up!
Iowa State House of Representatives and Home-schooling Father
Speaking to the leaders from his experience in the Iowa legislature, Mr. Banks addressed the frustration and misunderstanding many home schoolers experience when poor home-schooling legislation is passed in their states. He bluntly stated: “The truth is that legislators will benefit more by being friends with the teachers unions.” Legislators want credibility in the eyes of those perceived to be the intellectuals of society. Their focus is always on the next campaign.
Mr. Banks then offered practical advice on building credible relationships with legislators. It is the people who keep coming back who make an impact—show that you will be there “over the long haul.” He also stressed that it is of paramount importance that home schoolers stand together when they come before the legislature. Denominational fights and philosophical issues must be settled in a home-schooling coalition so that the legislator is faced with a unified front and presented with one clear message.
Michael P. Farris,
President of Home School Legal Defense Association
Michael Farris followed Mr. Banks' stirring challenge with a practical list of steps to take in lobbying effectively. He reminded the leaders that politicians need money because funds are used to gain votes. “If you cannot offer money—and most home school groups can't—you can offer the direct commodity: the votes themselves.” Deal with the legislator in terms of people. People represent actual involvement and speak of actual support.
Mr. Farris then listed eleven steps for effective lobbying. The first is “be a home school personification.” Make the legislators in your state aware of who you are and that you are a “typical” home schooler. That way when a vote comes up, the legislator is likely to feel that he is voting in favor of you, a person he knows. It is hard for legislators to vote against a friend.
Other steps include developing a rapport with the media, striving for unity in a coalition spirit on the political side of things, stressing the concept that “home schooling is good enough to be left alone,” being organized, knowledgeable, concise, focused, getting out the troops, and continually coming back. His last piece of advice was to work for and return favors. “Use savvy in communicating and follow previous voting records so you know how and when to put pressure in the right areas.”
Following the Friday evening banquet at the Rayburn Office Building on Capitol Hill, Michael Farris again addressed the leaders. He challenged them to look at the broader issues surrounding home schooling, particularly focusing on the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, international ministries, and public education. He urged the leaders to realize that it is possible for home schoolers to take a leading role in issues of importance, but reminded them that it is of crucial that their spiritual lives and family priorities be in order if they are to succeed in leading others well. Mr. Farris appealed most strongly to the fathers in the group, challenging them to fulfill their responsibilities in consistent family devotions. “Children need clear-cut examples of leadership with integrity if they are to become mayors, senators, and officials of tomorrow.”
Public Relations and Communications Consultant
Mrs. Hagelin closed the Friday morning program with a jam-packed presentation of suggestions for making every public appearance a coup d'etat for home schooling. She described important considerations necessary to establish the right image and interview effectively. Leaders were given a thirty-five page communications manual tailored to home-schooling interests. The manual listed the “Five P's of Effective Communications” as plan, prepare, practice, pray and present. On Saturday, Mrs. Hagelin was available by appointment for individual media consultations which were videotaped for the benefit of the participant.
Minister and Counselor with the International Center for Biblical Counseling
In a session entitled “Spiritual Warfare: Families Under Attack,” Mr. Logan emphasized the importance of developing a biblically accurate world view. He pointed out that the Western worldview—which bombards us every day—interprets life by natural causes or by scientific phenomena, but ignores the spiritual realm. In contrast, the Judeo-Christian worldview acknowledges God, the believer, and the enemy and recognizes that there is constant warfare between God's host and the enemy.
Reminding the leaders that the Bible commands believers to “be not ignorant” of the enemy's devices, Mr. Logan explained that John 10:10 reveals the enemy's tactics: to steal, to kill, and to destroy. Satan tries to steal that which is valuable by preventing us from living lives of eternal significance. Although Satan cannot kill us, he does try to influence those who will listen to do it for him (the suicidal themes in rock songs, for example). Satan's destructive tactics are evident in many areas—not the least of which is infighting among Christians.
Mr. Logan concluded by encouraging believers to recognize and resist the enemy—we already have the victory! He admonished the leaders to pray that God would not allow them to be a tool in the hand of the enemy to hurt people.