God’s Homeschooling Tapestry
A Memoir by Susan Beatty, Co-founder, CHEA of California
“Will the cops come take me away?”
“Are you sure this is legal?”
“How will I find Christian curriculum?”
“Are my kids going to be freaks? Where will we find other Christian families who are homeschooling? Are there other Christians homeschooling in my area?”
We Needed Support
Yes, these questions were asked as early as 1982, and similar questions have been asked over and over throughout the last few decades. Maybe today they don’t sound as desperate as they did then, but we began CHEA in 1982 because we were desperate, and we needed answers. We needed support.
Karen Woodfin and I did what any enterprising mamas would do–we formed the first statewide advocacy support organization for homeschoolers, Christian Home Educators Association (CHEA) of California, advised and assisted by J. Michael Smith.
Legalities were a huge concern so the first thing we did was consult with Mike who had studied the California law, the California Constitution, and the California education code. He concluded homeschooling was perfectly legal and fell under the private education code sections.
But wasn’t it important that the California legislators, judges, education officials, and local administrators become convinced of this, too? Otherwise individual families across California would be left to battle officials on their own. Right away Karen began talking to as many officials as would give her the time of day, laying out the legalities, and convincing many of them that homeschooling was legal.
Within another year or so, Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) was established to do the heavy lifting in the legal arena, and a few years later CHEA and Roy Hanson established Family Protection Ministries (FPM) as our legislative partners. The three organizations have worked in concert for more than 30 years and are committed to continuing for as long as the Lord wishes to use them. It was the work of Karen Woodfin on behalf of CHEA and J. Michael Smith who built a firm foundation of recognition and acceptance.
But, you may ask, why Christian Home Educators Association of California? I am so glad you asked. Karen and I had struck up a friendship while we volunteered for a non-sectarian organization, because as Christians we were both looking for support in our Christian homeschooling endeavors. But in this group there was no discussion of how God and His Word shaped our family life and homeschooling. There was no discussion about Christian curriculum and resources, and no opportunity for our children to interact with other Christian homeschooled children.
Our kids loved their church friends, but because we were the only homeschooling family in our church, they felt a little isolated. Karen’s kids were teens and mine were ages seven, four, and one. Not exactly playmate ages.
So in addition to the legal footwork, we knew we needed to facilitate getting the information out about how to start a Christian homeschool and how to connect with other like-minded families.
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. By word of mouth (someone who knew someone, who knew someone else), in only a few months, the number of people around the state who were interested in receiving a newsletter about California Christian homeschooling grew within from 35 to 1,100. This was before social media, before the internet, before computers.
Out of these contacts local park days and support groups sprung up around the state, enabling folks to meet with other homeschooling families to fellowship and encourage each other. Our kids were gratified to learn we weren’t the only unusual family. A CHEA statewide network of groups, contacts, and individuals grew.
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. CHEA held the first 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.
CHEA has sponsored many local and statewide events during the last 35 years, and next summer CHEA will hold its 35th Annual Statewide Convention June 28–30 at the Pasadena Convention Center. Over the years the Exhibit Hall as expanded from 10 to 150 booths; speakers have increased from a dozen to more than forty. Several aspects have remained constant—the excitement, energy, and encouragement that comes from attending a Christ-centered event and assembling together with hundreds of other Christian homeschool families who get you. You look around and these are your “peeps.”
CHEA’s purpose and goal has always been to promote private Christian home education, provide support and information, and protect your right to homeschool. In fact these are words taken from our mission statement first drafted by our actions in 1982 and made formal in the 90s.
The need for a year-round statewide Christian advocacy and support organization is still great. If what we see in the surrounding culture is any indication of what is to come, Christians need to unite on behalf of Christian homeschooling and parental rights in order to protect ourselves. CHEA is here to help. You can stand with us by becoming a CHEA Member, donating to CHEA, (contributions are tax-deductible), attending the CHEA Convention, inviting a CHEA speaker to your local group, co-hosting a local specialty conference with CHEA, and volunteering. E-mail us at [email protected] for more information or call 562-864-2432.
The CHEA staff and board of directors look forward to many more years of Christian homeschooling ministry with you.
Praise be to the Lord.
Copyright 2017, Susan K. Beatty
Susan Beatty and her husband Larry began homeschooling their three children in 1982, graduating all three children by 1998. Susan co-founded CHEA of California in1982, working in a variety of roles until her formal retirement in August 2017. For 35 years she wrote and spoke on the subject of home education and organized conventions. As a spokesperson for the home education community during that time, she was interviewed for radio, television, and newspapers. She also participated in annual national leadership conferences on homeschooling, often as a speaker or panelist/moderator. She is a founding board member of The National Alliance for Christian Home Education Leadership. Concurrent with her other activities, Susan ran an Independent Study Program (now called private school satellite programs or PSP) 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). These days she is often asked how she’s enjoying retirement. But she really wouldn’t know about that. Her new career of writing Christian novels is keeping her too busy to think of retirement.
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, 12672 Limonite Ave., Suite 3E, #514, Eastvale, CA 92880.”