*This article originally appeared in the SCOPE Newsletter in July, 2017.
Home Education was more of an experiment or an idea rather than a philosophy for many families in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s. Seen by many as social misfits, these parents were trying to educate their children without the age segregated environment found in public schools and the strict structure of a classroom. These families were primarily secular and used the “Un-schooling” approach of having their homes full of books and learning resources to stimulate learning naturally with little or no set classroom time.
In 1972 Dr. Raymond and Dorothy Moore brought home education into the Christian arena. They wrote the book, Better Late than Early which was born from an article first published in Harper’s magazine. The California state legislature was considering a law to lower the compulsory age for children to attend school to 2 years, 9 months and in response to that legislative idea Dr. Moore wrote the article based on his research that children actually did better if they waited to begin formal education. The article was republished in Reader’s Digest and was so well received the publishers requested the book be written. Thus modern Christian Home Education was born.
It would take nearly a decade for the seeds that were planted in 1972 to sprout. There were a few cutting edge Christian families who embraced the Moore’s ideas and began to homeschool during that decade but the fullness of time had not occurred for most. Dr. Brian Ray and his wife, Betsy began both to home educate and to research home education in the late 70’s. Dr. Ray meant for his research to be part of his doctorial thesis but was turned down. Instead it became his life’s work and was used in his thesis which then became about the public school system.
In the early 1980’s Dr. James Dobson invited Dr. Raymond Moore to be a guest speaker on his Focus on the Family radio program. In those days Dr. Dobson was who the young Christian family looked to daily for encouragement in parenting their children.
In Los Angeles County a husband and wife heard the now famous radio program and knew it was an answer to their prayers for their young son, they were Michael & Elizabeth Smith. In Orange County two families heard it also and felt the same answer to their prayers for their children, the mothers of these families were Karen (Woodfin) Middleton and Susan Beatty. These women were soon overwhelmed with the numbers of phone calls and letters asking for help to begin home education because hundreds, perhaps thousands, of families heard that broadcast and felt lead of the Lord to try homeschooling. Susan and Karen began writing a newsletter but it was soon apparent that their work needed to be offered to a wider audience and on a statewide basis rather than just a local county one and the new organization, Christian Home Educators Association of California (CHEA) was born. The first organizational meeting for this association was held in the home of Mike & Elizabeth Smith culminating in forming a small advisory Board consisting of Mike Smith, Dr. Raymond Moore, and Jonathan Lindvall. The year was 1982.
Although groups were cropping up all over California, they were still small in numbers. An average support group might consist of a half dozen families. Many families did not even have school aged children yet. They had heard that wonderful radio program and wanted to gather with others who planned to homeschool their children when the time came.
The legalities of homeschooling became a major issue in the beginning days and Mike Smith was asked to step in and help families who had issues. At a conference in Sacramento Mike met another homeschooling father, Michael Farris who was essentially doing the same kind of help for homeschooling families in Washington state. In March of 1982 these two men founded the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) with 250 members. CHEA and HSLDA would continue to work hand in hand on issues here in California indefinitely.
The first state wide homeschool convention was chaired by Michael Smith and held in downtown Los Angeles at the Church of the Open Door in 1984. The Keynote speakers were Dr. Tim & Beverly La Haye and other speakers included: James Rose, Gregg Harris, Karen (Woodfin) Middleton, Susan Beatty, and Cathy Duffy. A whopping 900 people attended.
In February of 1985 Dr. Raymond & Dorothy Moore sponsored a How to Homeschool Conference in Pasadena. All attendees sat in their seats and speakers came and went. There were about 1000 attendees with both Dr. and Mrs. Moore speaking, Phyllis Schlafly of Eagle Forum, the creator of Math It, Elmer Brooks, and the creator of Winston Grammar, Paul H. Irwin. Not to disappoint the masses, Dr. Dobson also made a guest appearance.
In March of 1987 HSLDA moved to the Washington D.C. area and set up offices there taking Mike Smith away from the state and the position of legislative liaison. Roy Hanson who already homeschooled his own children and worked closely with CHEA and HSLDA officially became the new legislative liaison and the 3 groups of Family Protection Ministries (FPM), HSLDA, & CHEA began its long run of watching out for home education and homeschooling families in California.
By 1985 the small little support groups multiplied immensely. Groups went from 5 or 6 families to 25 to 30 families and continued to grow steadily with each consecutive year. Dr. & Mrs. Moore visited different cities throughout the state giving seminars on home education. Gregg Harris also made the rounds throughout California giving 2 day seminars and being a featured speaker at homeschool conventions. Jonathan Lindvall first gave one day Priorities workshops and then his two day Bold Christian Youth and Bold Christian Living workshops.
The 1980’s brought lots of books to the forefront. Susan Beatty and Karen Woodfin Middleton co-authored An Introduction to Home Education which regularly sold out at conventions almost immediately. Dr. Moore added Home Grown Kids and Home Style Teaching to his growing list of books. For the Children’s Sake by Susan Schaeffer Macaulay was the first glimpse for many into the Charlotte Mason philosophy of education. Mary Pride gave us The Way Home which advocated our children being our mission field and the idea of passing on a godly heritage. She also gave us The Big Book of Home Learning which quickly expanded to several books to hold all of her curriculum reviews. Cathy Duffy also wrote her Christian Curriculum Manuals (both elementary & Jr. & Sr. High School) and stayed on top of what was out there and which curriculum worked best for Christian homeschoolers. A Survivor’s Guide to Home Schooling by Luanne Shackleford and Susan White gave us our first book by a couple of homeschooling moms about how to make it work day in and day out. Ruth Beechik’s You Can Teach your Child Successfully and her The Three R’s are still foundational “how to” books that every homeschool teacher should read. Encyclopedia of Bible Truths for School Subjects by Ruth C. Haycock was a must have for every homeschoolers book shelf. Mary Schofield introduced her first edition of The High School Handbook and a little known book by Debbie Castaneda and Pam Geib titled Help! I’m Homeschooling had its modest debut.
The major periodical of the day was The Teaching Home. It went from a simple black and white format to a beautiful full color edition during that first decade of homeschooling (it is still available for free on-line and in an email format). The Court Report by HSLDA was also a foundational magazine that home educating parents waited for every other month. Home School Digest also made its debut with its above quality articles and fewer advertisements.
In the early days of the 1980’s A Beka was not sure how they felt about homeschooling so they announced that it was not profitable to offer their books to homeschoolers and gave them a deadline as to when they would quit selling to families individually. The outpour of orders from families buying complete K-12 curriculum was so overwhelming the company re-thought their decision and never did stop selling to homeschoolers. Bob Jones University Press (now known as BJU Press), Rod & Staff, Christian Light, Alpha Omega, Christian Liberty Press, all made their presence known and became familiar sites at local homeschool conferences and fairs. Exhibit Halls were generally smaller in those days and those few periodicals were thinner.
Park Days were foundational to the early homeschool family. Not only were they a time of socializing but they were also a time of learning from each other about curriculum and teaching styles and philosophies. Group field trips, parties, service opportunities were all shared and enjoyed. There were almost no computers (oh a few here and there but used mostly for games), no cell phones, very few answering machines, and families sharing their resources, babysitting swapping, rides to and from, and gleaning from each other what worked and what did not. Community was essential.
Thus was the first real decade of Private Christian Home Education. Next time we will share some of the history making moments of the past 30 years and how God providentially met each need and concern as it came up.