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Santorum (home)schools opponents

One of my friends is an impressive campaign operative. He flies across the country each week advising campaigns, from congressional races to presidential ones. He's smart and savvy and has energy to burn. And even though he's much younger than I am, he's been doing it for more than 15 years. He started as a young homeschooler. The oldest of six, he began working on campaigns as a way to get practical experience and work skills. He turned out to be really good at it. I've covered races he's been involved with and I've met many other former homeschoolers on staff. It's a real thing (and not just in the way that increasing numbers of families are turning to homeschooling in general).

So I was delighted to read Daniel Burke's piece on "Rick Santorum’s secret army: home-schoolers" via Religion News Service.

He begins by pointing to a "ragtag but politically potent army" helping out the campaign, organizing rallies, posting favorable features on social media and ringing doorbells:

"Santorum has been very aggressive in reaching out to the home-schooling community, especially in the last month," said Rebecca Keliher, the CEO and publisher of Home Educating Family Publishing.

Drawing on his experience as a home-schooling father of seven, the former Pennsylvania senator has also sought to rally enthusiasm by pledging to continue that course in the White House.

"It's a great sacrifice that my wife, Karen, and I have made to try to give what we think is the best possible opportunity for our children to be successful," Santorum said during a March 1 campaign stop in Georgia. "Not just economically, but in a whole lot of other areas that we think are important -- virtue and character and spirituality."

Rallying home-schoolers could provide a huge boost to Santorum's bare-bones campaign. The tightly knit and predominantly Christian communities are famous for furnishing favored candidates with hundreds of steadfast foot soldiers. Studies show that home-schoolers are disproportionately likely to vote, donate and volunteer for campaigns.

Well, considering that this country is predominantly Christian, it's not exactly helpful to know that homeschoolers are too. Thankfully, we get some stats:

An estimated 2 million children are home-educated in the U.S., according to Brian Ray of the National Home Education Research Institute. Nearly three-quarters have conservative Christian parents who seek to instill the moral and religious values that they believe are lacking in public schools, according to Ray and other experts.

Despite their growing diversity, home-schoolers also tend to be politically conservative.

Different friends of mine who were also home-schooled, used to intern at political offices (albeit not campaigns) at pretty young ages. They loved the chance to interact and learn from others as well as hone their office skills. The article addresses how home-school families see the benefit in what they do:

Home-schooling families often use campaigns as real-world civics lessons, with mothers taking their children along on afternoons as they make calls and volunteer at campaign headquarters, Keliher said.

"And you have triple or quadruple the effort when they bring the children," she added.

We get some info on "one of the country's most famous -- and largest -- home-schooling families" who are campaigning with Santorum.

The story also points out that some home-schoolers support Ron Paul and explains why they don't support Santorum. On that point, the story also did a good job of explaining the appeal of Santorum's social conservatism to the conservative Christian home-school families.

Just a great campaign story -- and so different than most of the on-the-trail stuff you read.

Image via Shutterstock.

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