Thursday, January 9, 2014

Student Government, Homeschool-style

Participating in student government can be difficult for a homeschooler. "Vote for me for Class President!" Congratulations to the decisive winner in a 1-0 landslide.

Several months ago, our town advertised for youth delegates to the actual city government. Most committees and the city council itself were accepting high school juniors and seniors to join them for the upcoming year.

Our 16-year-old son decided to pursue a slot on the Advisory Cultural committee. After completing his application essay, he wanted to submit it to the email address listed. I received the full eye-roll from him when I explained it would be better to drop it off in person at the city office building. Matching his eye-roll with my steady gaze, I added that he would drop it off wearing decent clothing. Not jeans. A shirt with a collar. His heavy sigh lost out to my, "I will brook no argument on this" raised eyebrow. Off we trotted.

Long story short, and as you probably already expected, the kid ended up meeting the mayor while dropping off his application. No eye-roll or sigh when I told my son that now it was time to run home and email the application as well with a cover letter telling the mayor how much he enjoyed meeting him today.

If this had been the only experience connected to our foray into city government, I would have been well-satisfied with the lessons learned.

Much to our delight, the kid landed a spot on the committee. Not only did he sit through the initial meeting, but he was given real work to do. This committee has 91 applications before it with requests for $3.2 million in funding. The committee actually has $2 million to disperse.

Watching our teen evaluate every application and hearing some of his thoughts about them fascinated me. He railed against vague assertions in some of the written grant proposals. He recognized and flagged some concerns for project aspects that conflicted with his Christian beliefs. No, none of those hot-button issues, something more surprising. I could not have been more proud to see him forego a simple response and honestly wrestle with what it means to be a representative who is a Christian and one who also believes in diversity of viewpoints.

After many hours of work, he completed all 91 proposals. To his dismay, he was also a half-million dollars over budget. I watched and continue to watch his cutting procedures and priorities. His criteria definitely gain sharpness and focus with each round of cuts and each corresponding result of still coming in over-budget. This, I tell him, is how fiscal conservatives are born. This, he tells me, is agonizing. Welcome to the real world, young man.

The last committee meeting in the spring will allow public comment on the board's funding decisions. The kid will hear from some disappointed people.

One common argument against homeschooling is that it keeps our kids in a bubble, locked away from the real world. I don't know about that, but I do know that without the efficiency of our homeschool, our son would not have the time to serve on such a committee. Traditional student government in a high school certainly offers kids a meaningful experience. I have a hard time envisioning how it could be more real than what we found to fill the niche of student government, homeschool-style.


  1. You are my parenting/homeschooling mom hero. =)

  2. I am a relentless nag and probably prime research subject #1 on that extreme parenting book you have coming out soon.