S P E C I A L F E A T U R E
Another Home Schooling Statesman
Family Matters to This Federal Legislator
Congressman Don Manzullo, a Republican who represents Illinois 16th district, says that home schooling helped make it possible for him to hold national office. If we hadnt home schooled our kids, I wouldnt be a congressman, says Manzullo. I didnt want to become a stranger to my kids. Home schooling allowed us to keep our family together.
Manzullo and his wife, Freda, married and started a family later in life. When he first decided to run for office in 1989, his three children were only 3, 5, and 7 years old. With children that small, the only way my wife and I would consider getting into politics was if we were able to home school our children, he said.
As her husband started running for a seat in the United States Congress, Freda began teaching their oldest child, Neil, at home. Although Manzullo lost his first bid for a congressional seat, he decided to run again in 1992. By now Freda was teaching two school-age children at home and although the Manzullos never criticized public education, their educational choice became an issue in the race. It was not exactly easy, said Manzullo. Home schooling was relatively new back in 92. Nevertheless, Manzullo prevailed and was elected to Congress that year. He has held the seat since that time.
In spite of the difficulty he faced because of his decision to home school, Manzullo is proud of his familys role in the home schooling movement. We introduced a lot of people to home schooling when we were first running. We like to consider ourselves pioneers, he said.
The Manzullo family again faced some opposition during the congressmans 1996 bid for Congress. At that time, he ran against a woman who was the president of the school board and criticized Manzullo for teaching his kids at home. To silence the opposition, the three Manzullo children took the Iowa Test of Basic Skills and impressed the critics by scoring in the 99th, 97th, and 95th percentiles.
Home schooling has worked well for the Manzullo family, both academically and socially. When the congressman moves from Illinois to Washington, DC, while Congress is session, home schooling gives him the freedom to take his wife and children with him. Otherwise, the Manzullo children would be tied down to wherever they attended school and miss weeks or months at a time with their father.
The kids are paramount in my mind, said Manzullo, who makes an extra effort to spend time with his family during his busy schedule as a congressman. There are a lot of things I dont do that a lot of other congressmen do. Although he sits on the International Relations Committee and has opportunities to travel internationally, he travels abroad sparingly, preferring to spend time with his children. He asks to speak early at political events so that he can return home to his family more quickly.
Congressman Manzullo takes the commands of 1 Timothy 3:17 literally. That passage speaks of the qualifications for an overseer or bishop. Verse four states, He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him with proper respect. In light of this verse, Manzullo asks, How can I govern a nation unless I can govern my family?
The Manzullo children, in turn, have given a lot of time to their father, working very hard for his congressional campaigns. Neil, who is now 15, along with Noel, 13, and Katie, 10, have been in parades, passed out literature for their dad, and attended countless political events.
The experience has benefited both father and children. At an event in a small town in Illinois, the kids had their backpacks and books and sat in a corner for a couple hours while I was debating, said Manzullo. A guy noticed them and said, Anyone who has kids that well-behaved, I would trust being my congressman. He also gave a donation to the campaign.
Neil, Noel, and Katie Manzullo have been able to enjoy the benefits of traveling to Washington, DC, with their father, taking advantage of the history and culture available in our nations capital. Theyve seen the president on several occasions and attended numerous political events.
This year, Neil entered a private classical school in Burke, Virginia, for his freshman year of high school. Students study subjects like classical literature, Latin, logic, biology, and English. The students meet with teachers at the school four days a week, but parents maintain an active role in their childrens education. For example, the teachers give parents the tests to administer to their children. And when Neil Manzullo is back in Illinois, he is able to take his school lessons home with him.
Congressman Manzullo notes that Neils years at home more than adequately prepared him for his high school work. He got a 4.0 his first quarter, said Manzullo. So hes able to demonstrate in a larger academic situation that hes doing quite well.
When hes not spending time with his family, the congressman works to serve his constituents in Illinois. In addition to his work on the International Relations Committee, Manzullo is also assigned to the Small Business and Banking Committee and spends most of his time on trade issues. I come from a heavy manufacturing and heavy exports district, he said.
A champion of family issues, he entered the fight to force Title 10 health clinics to comply with state laws and to require them to give notice to parents before prescribing contraceptives to minors. Although the House passed a bill that would have enacted the parental notification requirement, the Senate failed to pass a similar bill last session. And during the H.R. 6 battle in 1994, Congressman Manzullo took an active part in the fight to protect home schooling freedoms. Congressman Dick Armey allowed Manzullo to present on the floor of the House the amendment to H.R. 6 that protected home schoolers from the Miller amendment.
We regret that Congressman Don Manzullo was inadvertently omitted from Home Schooling Statesmen in the July/August 1998 Court Report. The article was not designed to be exclusive, but to provide an encouraging overview of the rapidly growing trend of home schoolers involvement in politics. If you know of a home schooling statesman in your area, please tell us through the elected home schoolers section of our website at www.hslda.org/nationalcenter/elected or writing attn: Jeremy Nerius, HSLDA, P.O. Box 3000, Purcellville, VA 20134