God's Homeschooling Tapestry: A Memoir
This article was first printed in the Summer 2007 issue of The California Parent Educator magazine on the occasion of CHEA's 25th anniversary.
By Susan Beatty
Co-founder, CHEA of California
I didn't see it coming.
One is seldom privy to a prophetic glance into the future, and that's probably wise.
This was as ordinary a morning as they come for a young family. It started with the early morning hustle to get the husband off to work and the eldest son off to first grade at the local public school. The pace slowed down slightly mid-morning with the four-month-old now napping and the three-year-old quietly playing at my feet while I folded laundry.
I turned on the radio. This simple act changed the course of my life and my family's life. It was also one slender thread in the tapestry of history that God was weaving.
It was February 1982. The program was Dr. James Dobson's "Focus on the Family," and the subject was early childhood education. Dr. Raymond Moore, author of Better Late Than Early and School Can Wait, was describing a typical third grade child who, because he'd been attending formal education from age two or three, was suffering from educational burnout. Dr. Moore was describing my first grade son.
Only the Beginning
Resonating in my heart and head, the idea of keeping children out of formal education until their minds and bodies were mature enough to handle it, took hold of me as I shared it with my husband and as I read Dr. Moore's books. But this was only the beginning.
During a period of research, we discovered ideas far beyond just keeping our kids home a little longer. We discovered the philosophy of homeschooling because God's Word assigns the responsibility of educating children to the parents.
Education at Home
We discovered God expects this education and training to be based upon His Word. We discovered how the truths and practices of public education contradict God's Word.
We discovered that if my husband and I wanted a truly Christian education for our children, we would need to provide it at home.
By this time, since it was almost June, we decided to take our son out of school at the end of the school year and begin homeschooling in September. In the meantime, Dr. Moore had put me in touch with a woman named Cathy in my area of Orange County who had a secular homeschooling group. She provided me with as much information on homeschooling as she had (a collection of articles from magazines and newspapers, as well as highlighted sections of California's Education Code) and an opportunity to get involved with a few other homeschoolers
One of these homeschoolers was a woman who had been home educating five teenagers for two years already. I was in awe of Karen Woodfin. We struck up a friendship as we worked with Cathy to develop a newsletter and a local conference featuring Dr. Moore and an attorney from Santa Monica named J.Michael Smith. Karen and I talked a great deal about our needs as Christian homeschoolers and how they were different than the needs of secular homeschoolers.
Twenty-five years later, I don't remember which came first: meeting Mike Smith or the idea of a specifically Christian organization. But I do know one day Karen called me to say she wanted to start a Christian organization and would I like to join her? My answer was a resounding "Yes," and Mike, along with his wife Elizabeth, encouraged us to move forward.
Our vision was for a statewide organization, not only to share information and for encouragement, but to unify homeschoolers in the face of possible governmental opposition. Mike had been advising parents about the legalities of homeschooling for some time already, so it was natural that he became our advisor.
In August of 1982 Christian Home Educators Association (CHEA) was born. The "of California" was added a short while later when we were contacted by a group called CHEA in Texas. It was the only other homeschooling group we found at the time, although we learned later that a couple of other groups were forming in other states.
Joining Mike Smith as our inaugural advisors were Dr. Moore, Jonathan Lindvall (now a well-known speaker and author on behalf of his Bold Parenting Ministry), and Gerald Murphy (pastor and son-in-law to Dr. Tim LaHaye).
During that first month our names and phone numbers began to circulate, and the calls started coming. They usually went something like, "You don't know me, but I heard about homeschooling and I understand you know all there is to know about it." Gulp. I hadn't even begun teaching my own children yet. God was gracious and we mostly gave out the correct information.
Within a short time, the number of names and addresses of families around the state who were interested in receiving a newsletter on the subject of homeschooling in California had grown from 35 to 1100.
During that time we held an introductory meeting in Orange County, connecting with many who would become local contacts, future board members, and long-time leaders of the California homeschooling community: Cathy Duffy, Philip and Evella Troutt, Luanne Shackelford, Julie Horn, Janet McTaggart, and Roy Hanson, among others.
Local park days were established, enabling us to meet with other homeschooling families to play and encourage each other. Our kids were gratified to learn we weren't the only unusual family.
It wasn't long before Karen and I realized the many phone calls asking for help in getting started were keeping us from actually teaching our own children. The plan for a getting started book was born.
Karen wrote the first draft and I edited, a natural division of labor with Karen's longer history with homeschooling and my degree in journalism and professional editing experience. The result was An Introduction to Home Education, copied, collated, and duo-tang inserted, on my kitchen table.
Board of Directors
Believing in finding wisdom in many counselors, and with the majority of our original advisory board living outside of the L. A./Orange County area, we decided to select a more formal, local board of directors, keeping Mike Smith as an advisor.
About mid-1983 we collectively began talking about providing an opportunity for all of the homeschoolers we knew to get together in one spot for encouragement and information. Mike and Elizabeth became our first Convention coordinators, and CHEA held a statewide homeschooling Convention at the Los Angeles Church of the Open Door in April 1984. Keynote speakers were Tim and Beverly LaHaye and Dr. Kienel of the Association of Christian Schools International. The exhibit hall consisted of about 10 local book and resource sellers. Amazingly, 900 people attended. We were flabbergasted.
This summer CHEA held its 24th Annual Statewide Convention and last spring its 21st Annual Bay Area Convention. Over the years we've sponsored many other local events. We are already looking forward to our 25th Annual Convention July 10 - 12, 2008 in Long Beach and our 22nd Annual Bay Area Convention April 11 and 12, 2008 at the Santa Clara Convention Center.
After our first Convention, it became apparent it was time to formalize the organization. We formed a new board of directors, becoming incorporated and non-profit in May of 1985. Our second Convention was held about that same time at Melodyland Christian Center in Anaheim.
Roy and Debra Hanson, who had been on the original board of directors before incorporation and who continued to be our contacts for their area, San Bernardino, were the hospitality host and hostess for that Convention. But God was moving CHEA and the Hansons into a much different role.
The CHEA Board began feeling the need for someone to come alongside of us, perhaps someone who lived near the action in Sacramento, to monitor legislation on our behalf, relieving us of that time-consuming task. At the same time, God was moving in the heart of Roy Hanson to take his public policy background to work in the legislative arena on behalf of homeschoolers.
A wedding of goals was made in June 1986: CHEA committing to funding the operation for a time and Roy committing to the full-time work, even moving his family to Sacramento. Eventually, the organization we now know as Family Protection Ministries (FPM) was established.
Somewhere in this time frame (the exact dates are a little fuzzy in our records), I had the desire to drop back in my commitment as the administrative director. Karen had left the organization sometime in 1984, leaving me as the sole director. The time commitment was again keeping me from homeschooling. I believed it was time for a man, perhaps a man with his own business who could devote the time, to become the director. I didn't know at the time, but this was God's prompting and His providence.
Philip Troutt became our part-time executive director; in 1987 he became our full-time director.
In May 1988, CHEA took another huge step. We moved from the kitchen table to a one-room office in a real, honest-to-goodness office building in Norwalk. Over the years, the office space has moved and expanded until, today, we are in an eight-room suite (albeit a small eight-room suite).
Also in May of 1988, we held our first multi-day Convention at the Disneyland Hotel. Conventions in 1986 and 1987 had been held in Sacramento and Pasadena, respectively.
Many of the original homeschoolers and many new, brave homeschoolers began teaching their children in high school, so in 1989 Mary Schofield's High School Handbook was added to our list of published books (bringing it to two).
The homeschooling community was mushrooming. Was the time right to move from a newsletter to a magazine? Was the homeschooling community in need of a weekly radio program?
In 1990 we ambitiously began publishing a bi-monthly magazine (now a quarterly publication) and began providing a weekly radio program on KBRT, an Orange County radio station. As the producer and host, I alternated between live, call-in programs and recorded shows from edited versions of taped Convention workshops.
That radio program, while it had a short expansion to a second station, ended about 14 months later. It had become too expensive for our limited budget. Then, in 1995, we tried radio again, sponsoring a radio program in the Sacramento area for about 18 months.
To serve California better, we formed the Regional Advisory Board in July of 1991. We chose leaders from selected geographical areas to give us feedback and to represent CHEA in their localities. The Regional Advisory Board members (or RABs as they are known) currently number eight couples and have become an integral part of CHEA's leadership team. Each couple has a presence in this magazine through their Regional Advisory Board Reports (or RABbits) and, more importantly, can be seen working hard at each Convention. They also hold leadership meetings in their local areas to form relationships with leaders.
CHEA had been distributing others' literature and publishing a couple of our own books for many years, but our next step was to get more into homeschooling publishing by forming a division called Christian Home Educators Press in 1996. It is this imprint that appears on our four books: An Introduction to Home Education, The High School Handbook, The Parent Educator's Ready Reference, and Preschool at Home.
A few years ago we launched our website that we are working to expand and improve daily. Eventually, we plan to host forums and Members-only features through this website.
We currently have five board members (Harry Beeson, John Eastis, Steve Murphy, Mary Schofield, and me), eight in-office staff members (some full, some part-time), eight Regional Advisory Board couples, and three off-site staff members (Mary Schofield, support network coordinator; Debbie Feely, home education consultant; and Susan Stewart, web content manager) and many, many essential volunteers around the state. You are probably one of them.
Twenty-five years. In the meantime, I've graduated all of my children from high school at home and have been a full-time staff member for some time. Since we no longer have an executive director, I'm somewhat of the general manager, working in concert with the rest of the board of directors.
Now you may understand, just a little, why it was probably a good thing God didn't let me see what would come of turning on that radio. I might have been scared into reluctance or obstinacy and missed being part of the homeschooling tapestry God was weaving, which now includes threads representing millions of people from all over the world.
Praise be to the Lord.
Copyright 2007, Susan K. Beatty
This article was first printed in the Summer, 2007 The California Parent Educator magazine on the occasion of CHEA's 25th Anniversary.
Susan Beatty and her husband Larry began homeschooling their three children in 1982, and have now graduated all three children from at home. Susan writes and speaks at workshops, conventions, and meetings on the subject of home education and, as a spokesperson for the home education com-:n interviewed for radio, television, and newspapers. She also participates in annual national leadership conferences on homeschooling, often as a speaker or panelist/moderator. She is a founding board member of an organization called The National Alliance for Christian Home Education Leadership. Concurrent with her other activities, Susan ran an Independent Study Program from 1985 to 1998. Susan is a professional writer/journalist with a BA degree (1971) from Cal State University Los Angeles and a graduate of CLASS (Christian Leaders and Speakers Seminars].
Permission granted to reprint this article in its entirety in your newsletter, provided you print the following credit: "Reprinted with permission from www.cheaofca.org by permission of Christian Home Educators Association (CHEA) of California, P.O. Box 2009, Norwalk, CA 90651-2009." Downloadable Word document