by Susan K. Beatty
It was the early 1980s and a new-old idea burst upon the scene. Homeschooling!
One of the greatest influencers behind the California movement was Karen Woodfin Middleton, my CHEA of California co-founder. It is with deep sadness I report Karen went home to be with the Lord on February 12, 2021. She was seventy-five years old.
When I write we were co-founders, I must honestly say Karen was the driving force. In 1982, she’d been homeschooling five children for two years. We met while helping organize a local secular homeschool conference (where we became acquainted with Dr. Raymond Moore and J. Michael Smith). Not entirely satisfied with the secular nature of the conference, we talked about the need for something specifically for Christians.
One day Karen called me and said, “How would you like to start a Christian homeschool organization with me?” I jumped at the chance, but, again, Karen had the ideas and the drive.
It wasn’t long before we decided the organization needed to be statewide and act as an advocate to establish the rights in California to homeschool, as well as create a network for information and a community for fellowship. Attorney Mike Smith encouraged and assisted us along the way.
Our first step was to gather names for a newsletter. Remember, this was before social media. People responded quickly, adding names of their friends and acquaintances.
While we were establishing the newsletter, Karen set out to visit state educators and legislators to educate them on what the education code and the state constitution said about education. This was where the real action was taking place to set homeschool on a sure foundation in California. Not that it was without challenges over the years.
We fielded so many phone calls that first year; we knew we had to write everything into a book to help families get started. Again, Karen was the impetus, writing the first draft. Our first version, An Introduction to Home Education, was distributed in a duo-tang folder. It is in the thirteenth edition and is now titled The California Homeschool Manual.
While Karen left the organization after about five years to pursue other ministry opportunities, her influence and philosophy has guided the organization—just shy of celebrating forty years. CHEA wouldn’t have made it this far without Karen’s strong leadership and investment in its founding years.
Karen’s daughter, Julie, described her last days. “She fought the good fight and loved the Lord to her dying day. She was diagnosed with secondary adrenal insufficiency, most likely due to a seemingly minor head injury many, many years ago. Although she had health problems since her youth, as have I, her cause of death was considered cardiac arrest.
“She passed away at home, in her own bed, like she requested … We enjoyed music, Bible verses, and many good memories … God truly blessed all of us in giving us warning so we could have some time with her to share her memories and rejoice with her in her home-going; the completion of this leg of her journey.”
Our prayers go up for Julie and her siblings as they mourn their mother’s loss but celebrate a life well-lived.
I’m sure Karen arrived in heaven hearing, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”