by Katie Julius
“If you want to understand today you have to search yesterday.” – Pearl S. Buck
To many, it is a surprise that private home education is not highly regulated by the government in California. After all, most everything else is. However, this is no accident. It is by design, secured by the homeschool pioneers of the last four decades, who fought hard for the freedom we enjoy as homeschoolers today.
Like many of you who currently homeschool, in 1982, I was a baby. Maybe you were in grade school, a precocious preschooler, learning to walk, or maybe you weren’t even born yet! However, that same year, two moms sat around a dining room table to craft a vision, not only for an organization, but also for a movement that has influenced hundreds of thousands of families like yours across the country. It is because of those two moms, and those who came alongside them in the early years, that we can teach our children at home.
Despite having worked for CHEA since 2018 and having siblings and close friends who were homeschooled in the 90s, I have to admit that until we started preparing for the 40th anniversary celebration, I knew little of CHEA’s history and the impact the organization has had on the homeschool landscape, both here in California and across the nation. What I’ve learned over these last few months is that it is vitally important that the modern homeschooler take the time to learn and understand the history of homeschooling and how it has shaped homeschooling today. This is so we can continue to stand up to protect and preserve private home education today and for future generations.
CHEA was founded in August 1982 by Karen Woodfin, who had been homeschooling her kids for a few years already, and Susan K. Beatty, who was just getting started. Neither could have ever imagined the impact their new organization would have on so many families and the foundation of home education in one of the largest states in the nation.
The first few years, CHEA’s co-founder Karen Woodfin spent the majority of her time traveling the state and talking to legislators, educators, and policymakers, promoting private Christian home education as an excellent and legal alternative form of education. Much of CHEA’s success in the early days was due to her tireless efforts in this arena. After four years serving with the ministry, she left to pursue other opportunities. Karen entered her eternal home February 12, 2021.
While still a young organization, in 1983, CHEA member Mike Smith, part of the original Advisory Board, helped to establish the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA). Then again in 1986, CHEA was integral in the formation of Family Protection Ministries (FPM). CHEA was one of seven state organization charter members of the National Alliance of Christian Home Education Leadership (NACHEL) in 2002 and was the first to begin a state-specific research project in 2020, results of which were shared at the 2022 Convention and may be found on our website.
Not only was CHEA at the forefront, promoting homeschooling in the early days and supporting homeschool families, but they’ve had a hand in every major legal threat (and victory) that has secured the often surprising homeschool freedoms in California.
The first threat came in 1986 when a proposal was made by legislators that would have made homeschooling illegal and jailed parents who were doing it. Roy Hanson was sent to Sacramento at the behest of CHEA and HSLDA to coordinate legislative efforts between the various homeschool organizations in California. It was through his work that the bill was resolved “behind the scenes.”
The next major threat was in 2008 in the form of a court case, In re Jonathan L. This landmark decision securely placed private “homeschooling“ under the private school umbrella in California, an important protection for home educators then and now. CHEA was part of a group of homeschool organizations who filed a friend of the court brief while building confidence and unity through the Support Network as the case worked its way through the court system.
In 2018, the most recent threat came in a duo of bills that would have greatly restricted home education by requiring home inspections, proposing curriculum standards, and teacher certification. CHEA informed and mobilized thousands of homeschool families in opposition to the bills, resulting in their defeat.
As Nathan Pierce, Executive Director of FPM shared, “CHEA has made a huge impact on major legislative battles in addition to the more peripheral issues. Every year since CHEA began, CHEA has informed and educated parents on what the current status of homeschooling was in California and how parents can make a difference.”
CHEA was a pioneer in the early days of homeschooling, and for 40 years has been influential in shaping private home education in California, while offering resources and support to families across the state. We are thankful that God has sustained us over the last four decades and are eagerly anticipating what He has in store for CHEA in the future.
Be a part of the legacy and join CHEA today.
Learn more about the battles fought over homeschool freedoms in California in Mike Smith’s book, The Battle for Homeschool Freedom in California, available from HSLDA.
Stay tuned all summer long for all the ways we are celebrating God’s faithfulness over these last 40 years.
Thank you for sharing this story and the stories of these amazing pioneers who have taken the brave steps on behalf of then future and now current homeschoolers! We wouldn’t be here today otherwise and we praise the Lord for Chea, FPM and HSLDA!
For more information about the history of modern homeschooling read “Homeschool History” on the CHEA website https://www.cheaofca.org/2020/05/28/homeschool-history-by-susan-k-stewart/
Thank you to Karen and Susan for their forward thinking about the needs of California homeschoolers.