Monday, December 19, 2005

History of California Home School Organizations

By Publius

Edu-ca/tion, n. [L. Educatio] The bringing up, as of a child; instruction; formation of manners. Education comprehends all the series of instruction and discipline which is intended to enlighten the understanding, correct the temper, and form the manners and habits of youth, and fit them for usefulness in their future stations. To give children a good education in manners, arts and science, is important; to give them a religious education is indispensable; and an immense responsibility rests on parents and guardians who neglect these duties.

American Dictionary of the English Language by Noah Webster, 1828

Although the concept of “homeschooling” has been around a long time, there has been a recent revival of the practice in California today. An increasing dissatisfaction in the dominant public school system led in the early and mid 1980’s to a nation-wide movement now referred to as homeschooling. Following in the footsteps of the parents of George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Charles Dickens, Andrew Carnegie, and the countless others educated at home in varied civilizations throughout history, today’s parents are reclaiming and reasserting their responsibility and capability to oversee the education of their own children. In the words of Dr. Patricia Lines, homeschool families “…have not turned their backs on the broader social contract as understood at the time of the Founding [of America]. Like the Antifederalists, these homeschoolers are asserting their historic individual rights so that they may form more meaningful bonds with family and community. In doing so, they are not abdicating from the American agreement. To the contrary, they are affirming it.”[i]

In order to clearly understand the function of major organizations in California homeschooling, one must first understand what the term homeschooling means. Homeschooling is a broad term used to describe a variety of different educational situations where all or some of the schooling is done at home, as opposed to a campus-based school. It is not a legal term in California (though it is in some other states). Homeschooling can refer both to situations where parents are themselves administrators and teachers of their own private school or where parents receive oversight from government or private school administrations.

Homeschooling can be done publicly or privately. A public school is an educational situation where the administration receives government (tax) funding, is subject the rules and regulations for public schools, regardless of who exactly is doing the teaching. A private school is an educational situation where private groups of any size provides all funding and oversight of a student’s education and must follow the rules and regulations for private schools in the state, regardless of who is doing the teaching.

Public homeschooling involves enrolling in a home-based charter school or public school independent study program (ISP). Legal private homeschooling involves enrolling in a home-based private school or private-school ISP. An ISP is a situation where the student is enrolled in a larger school of any number of students, with the parent doing the actual teaching at home. Public school ISP students are overseen by public school officials and the education is restricted by public school laws and the district overseeing it. Private school ISPs are administered by private school officials, and this may include extensive oversight and organization or it may be little more than a central record keeping.

With these understandings in mind we can go on to understand how this movement got started here in California. Although throughout the 20th century there were writing and discussions about the benefits of home-based education, the modern movement in California generally traces it’s beginning to the early 1980’s. Specifically, Christian parents were dissatisfied and fed-up with the dominant public, campus-based schools and wanted another option. The dominant reason that parents started deciding to homeschool was a religiously based conviction regarding education and the raising of children. An early leader and espouser of homeschooling, Dr. Raymond Moore gave advice at seminars and conferences in the early 80s to parents hungry for information on how to teach their children.[ii] It was such a new concept for parents to teach their children at home that many were tentative about their capability to teach. Curriculum was sparse and the general public was concerned about the effects on children if they were not sent to campus-based schools everyday. But in both the private and public sectors, the benefits have been astounding and the movement is continually growing.

Private Homeschooling

There are three main organizations that have contributed to the growth and sustained vitality of the private homeschool movement in California. These three groups could not function independent of one another, but have worked together to form the foundation of a structured movement in California. The common conviction of the three is that parents have a responsibility to train up their children with godly principles, and they can best do this privately and independently of government controls.

CHEA of California

The first of these organizations that served the homeschooling community in California was the Christian Home Educators Association of California (CHEA). Very early on in the homeschool movement in California two homeschool moms had an idea for a statewide homeschool support group that could provide information, materials, and training to the Christian homeschool community. These two moms, Susan Beatty and Karen Middleton, started CHEA in 1982. The women quickly started a newsletter mailing, organized local homeschooling support groups, and in 1984 held the first homeschooling convention in Los Angeles with over 1,000 attendees.[iii] The organization quickly grew as more and more parents realized the benefits of belonging to such an organization.

CHEA has provided many benefits to the homeschooling community. CHEA’s Support Network is a collective grouping of local homeschoolers through autonomous loose support groups and ISPs which can get just about anyone in contact with a homeschool group in their area.[iv] Homeschoolers in these very active groups have greater access to activities from field trips to holiday celebrations, shared abilities for special classes, information and support with homeschooling, and leaders of small groups can get advice in managing their diverse and busy groups.

1996 has published books essential to the beginning as well as the experienced homeschool parent like An Introduction to Home Education (1st edition in 1983, now in 8th edition) The High School Handbook (1st Edition 1989, now in 7th edition), and many other books that clearly lay out legal requirements or give a plethora of practical advice for planning, administrating, and teaching children of all needs.[v] CHEA also publishes a magazine, The Parent Educator. CHEA’s annual conferences, scattered throughout the state, provide homeschoolers with access to many curriculum vendors, informational and motivational speakers, and exposure to a variety of homeschooling styles and opportunities.[vi] These conferences are a face of homeschooling to colleges as well, as beginning in 1994 representatives from colleges around the nation began attending to attract the highly qualified and desirable high school graduates, giving further credibility to the success of homeschooling[vii]. The growth of these conferences is clearly seen from the initial 1,000 to in 1997 when over 8,400 home-educators attended representing tens of thousands of students.[viii] These are just a few of the many ways CHEA has supported the private homeschooling community.

Aside from directly benefiting homeschooling families, one of CHEA’s goals has been “to foster an accurate and favorable image of home education to the general public and the community, cooperating with other home education organizations in pursuing common goals…”[ix] In many ways CHEA has been the public voice of Christian private home education in California For a number of years CHEA’s Executive Director Phillip Troutt was the face of homeschooling in California, and many local organizations directed publicity questions and media personnel to him.

Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA)

In 1983 two Homeschool dads (both lawyers) had the vision of an organization of attorneys to assist Homeschool families fight for their rights to privately educate their children at home. The work of these two men, Michael Farris and J. Michael Smith, led to the founding of the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA), which provides families with a means of professional legal help at an affordable price[x]. Therefore, all HSLDA services are included in the benefits of membership, which without any discounts, is $115 annually. [xi]

Each year thousands of homeschool families make use of their HSLDA membership when they are contacted by a government official and need the assistance of a lawyer. Hundreds of these families are assisted by an HSLDA attorney interfacing on their behalf with the government official either by phone or by letter, which often resolves the situation early before it escalates to a court case. However each year there are dozens of homeschool families represented by HSLDA attorneys in courts across the US. HSLDA covers all legal and court costs for all the cases they handle, paying the, sometimes enormous, amounts that would normally burden or destroy the case of a lone family. [xii] The members of HSLDA by their annual fees combined with the sacrifices the HSLDA’s attorneys absorb these costs and the rippling effects of court victories benefit all homeschoolers. Two major California cases dealing with homeschooling and handled by HSLDA took place in 1986. People v. Black and People v. Darrah both upheld the right of families to homeschool by operating a private school out of their home.[xiii] In addition, HSLDA will take cases free for non-members if they believe the case will affect the legal status of homeschoolers in general.[xiv]

HSLDA is also involved in pro-homeschool lobbying efforts on the state and national levels. They work with state homeschool organizations providing legal counsel and strategy for lobbying in their states.[xv] Specifically in California they helped to establish Family Protection Ministries in 1986 and have supported CHEA in a number of ways. [xvi] They continue to support both organizations with legal counsel.

HSLDA also publishes a magazine The Court Report that gives the latest information on court cases they are handling as well as what is going on legislatively in each state. It also covers some major highlights of the homeschool community nationwide.[xvii]

Family Protection Ministries (FPM)

In 1986, as a result of a request made by CHEA and Michael Smith of HSLDA, Roy Hanson started Family Protection Ministries (FPM). Its specific goal is to “assure that California laws protect the God-given and constitutional rights of parents to determine and direct the education of their own children.” FPM maintains the task of monitoring and lobbying the California legislature. They also serve as an information clearinghouse for homeschool issues that arise anywhere in the state. FPM also works with other political action groups, especially private school groups, when events of common interest come up. [xviii]

FPM has smoothed the road over the years for many homeschooling families with the efforts of Roy Hanson, Jim Davis and many volunteers. FPM has worked to cultivate a relationship with the California Department of Education (CDE) in spite of their often-hostile attitude toward private homeschoolers. From 1993 to 2001 Carolyn Pirillo, Deputy General Counsel for the CDE, made multiple attempts to wreak havoc on the private homeschool community. She wrote letters to school district supervisors as well as home school families up and down the state informing them in various expressions “Home schooling is not authorized in California”.[xix] These letters often resulted in families being harassed by mis-informed officials. Delaine Eastin, the State Superintendent of Public Instruction, followed in the footsteps of Pirillo until finally in August of 2002, shortly before she finished her term, Eastin wrote a letter to every state legislator calling for a “legislation solution” to make it more clear that homeschoolers were operating outside of the law.[xx] FPM obtained a copy of the letter and gave it to Michael Smith of HSLDA who then wrote a rebuttal.[xxi] Fortunately no action was taken on the letter from Eastin.

In other areas FPM has protected private home schooling families both by catching proposals of anti-homeschool laws before they reach the legislative process, as well defeating actual bills in the legislature that would infringe upon the rights of parents to privately educate their own children at home. To date, FPM has directly or indirectly helped defeat many damaging parental and private school rights bills and has been critical in helping to pass legislation supporting the same.[xxii]

Public Homeschooling

Coinciding with the growth of private homeschooling has been the increased opportunities public officials offer to parents seeking alternatives to the traditional campus-based public school. Parents often chose this method for the financial aid and supplies offered by the government funding, but also must obey increasing amounts of regulations and laws regarding when and what is taught.

Public School ISPs

There is an option in California for people to homeschool using a public school independent study program, administered by the local public school district. This is the least flexible option for homeschooling in California as the district through whatever program it has constructed dictates the student’s education. These programs were traditionally used for remedial or troubled students[xxiii], though there are programs designed for more conventional homeschooling students[xxiv]. Not all districts offer this type of program.[xxv]

The program where offered must comply with all the laws that apply to the public school and restrictions required in that district. The student is often assigned a teacher and curriculum from a local public school and the teacher gives assignments and meets regularly with the student. Some parents choose this option because of the lesser amount of work on their part relative to the private school option, while others choose its rigorous accountability and access to public school extra-curricular activities.[xxvi]

Charter Schools

In 1992 California’s legislature authorized the formation of charter schools as an attempt at reforming education.[xxvii] Charter schools are formed when a group of teachers, parents, or anyone forms a charter or contract with public officials to operate a public school following the guidelines and methods laid out in the charter.[xxviii] These schools are public schools though they offer greater flexibility than conventional public schools, they are required to be nonsectarian and have many legal requirements and restrictions. The laws regarding charter schools are ever-evolving and the movement is growing rapidly. [xxix] [xxx]

Some charter schools are campus-based and some are home-based. Depending on the charter, parents choosing to homeschool this way may or may not choose their own curriculum, which must be non-religious, and function with varying amounts of oversight from school officials. Homeschooling families using the Charter School system can have many similar opportunities to those homeschooling privately as in some cases where the two communities come together for information, activities, and social events.

Other Groups and Organizations

In 1987 a group of homeschool moms from the San Francisco Bay Area got to form a private organization that would serve the homeschool community in a new way. Today this group functions under the name HomeSchool Association of California (HSC). Unlike CHEA which had focused on private Christian home education, HSC (formally known as the Northern California Homeschool Association) wanted to cater to a religiously and motivationally diverse group of homeschoolers[xxxi], such as Muslim homeschooling families or those seeking purely the academic atmosphere of homeschooling and do not want any religious association at all. HSC supports all types of homeschooling including public school programs and is active statewide offering a newsletter, support groups, conferences, campouts, and other services.[xxxii]

The California Homeschool Network (CHN) was established in 1994. It is similar to HSC in that they also service non-Christian homeschoolers. Yet CHN is different from HSC and more like CHEA in that it has a focus on private home education independent of and without regulation from the State Government or any of its subsidiaries. For example, they would strongly encourage homeschoolers to stay away from public school programs such as charter schools, and public school independent study programs. CHN’s self-promoted distinguishing characteristic is their elected board of directors and encouragement of member participation in administration particulars. [xxxiii] CHN also is active statewide with support groups, conferences, campouts, and publications.[xxxiv]

There are many other medium and small sized local homeschool support organizations in California. Two medium sized groups are Christian Family Schools of San Diego, which represents 1200 homeschooling families in the San Diego area and was started around 1981[xxxv] and the Christian Home Educators of the Fresno Area (CHEFA) founded in 1995.[xxxvi] Both of these groups are members of CHEA’s Support network. Other scattered small groups who serve the private homeschool community in California are busy in their own way providing resources, field trips, and “how to” type of support.

Homeschooling in California Today

By estimating from the roll books of private organizations there are over 100,000 being privately homeschooled in California today.[xxxvii] Although it is impossible to know the number of children in public homeschooling, the California Charter School Association estimates there are about 180,000 campus and home-based charter school students in California.[xxxviii] By any account, homeschooling is quickly becoming a well-known and mainstream option of education. CHEA is still by far the single largest California homeschool organization, and HSLDA has over 70,000 member families nationwide. FPM continues to develop relationships with those in the CDE as well as monitor all the legislation that passes through the California Legislature, a task of ever growing proportions.

The future of the homeschooling movement in California is somewhat uncertain as both the public and private sectors call to families. Many private homeschoolers see and fear the public sector, specifically charter schools, growing and shifting away families who were once operating privately. They fear an eventual loss of their hard-earned security in the current legal arena. Regardless, wherever history takes homeschooling in the future, we can be sure that it already has made a profound impact on society by the many students who are now entering the workforce in large numbers and raising children of their own, all with a worldview very different from that of their public-school counterparts. It is in the lives of these students and their choices in schooling their own children that the long-term impact of the homeschool movement will be seen.

[i] Lines, Patricia M. (1994, February). Homeschooling: Private choices and public obligations in Home School Researcher, 10(3), 9-26.

[ii] Farenga, Patrick . “A Brief History of Homeschooling,” Homeschool Association of California: A Professional’s Guide, 2002 (30 August 2005).

[iii] “It’s our birthday!” The Parent Educator, August and September, 1997, 1.

[iv] Chea of California: What is CHEA?, (29 August 2005).

[v] “It’s our birthday!” The Parent Educator, August and September, 1997, 4.

[vi] “’94 Convention Makes History,” Parent Educators News Magazine, August /September, 1994, 3.

[vii] “’94 Convention Makes History,” Parent Educators News Magazine, August /September, 1994, 3.

[viii] “CHEA Membership News”, The Parent Educator, August and September, 1997, 6-7.

[ix] “Introducing CHEA of California”, The Parent Educator, April/May 2000, 2.

[x] Home School Legal Defense Association: Our History,, 2005 (30 August 2005).

[xi] Home School Legal Defense Association: Group Discount Programs, 2005 (30 August 2005).

[xii] You can homeschool. Start here!: About HSLDA,, 2005 (29 August 2005).

[xiii] Home Schooling in the United States, A Legal Analysis by Christopher J. Klicka, JD. HSLDA 2003.

[xiv] You can homeschool. Start here!: About HSLDA,, 2005 (29 August 2005).

[xv] You can homeschool. Start here!: About HSLDA,, 2005 (29 August 2005).

[xvi] Michael Smith Letter to HSLDA member families in California August 2005.

[xvii] You can homeschool. Start here!: About HSLDA,, 2005 (29 August 2005).

[xviii] Family Protection Ministries Ministry Fact Sheet published in 2004 by FPM, available by request from Family Protection Ministries PO Box 730 Lincoln, CA 95648.

[xix] Pirillo, Carolyn. Letters to Various Individuals, 8/9/93, 10/16/96, 5/1/01.

[xx] Delaine Eastin’s August, 2002 letter to the California Legislature asking for a “legislative solution”.

[xxi] Michael Smith’s letter to the California Legislature in response to Delaine Eastin’s August 2002 letter.

[xxii] Family Protection Ministries Ministry Fact Sheet published in 2004 by FPM, available by request from Family Protection Ministries PO Box 730 Lincoln, CA 95648.

[xxiii] Schwarzer, Debbie, Conrad, Linda J., and Bryant, Elizabeth, “Public School Independent Study Programs,” Homeschool Association of California: Empowering Families, 2004 (30 August 2005).

[xxiv] Zeise, Ann. “California Public ISPs,” A to Z Home’s Cool Homeschooling, 2005 (30 August 2005).

[xxv] “Independent Study Programs,” California Department of Education, (30 August 2005).

[xxvi] Schwarzer, Debbie, Conrad, Linda J., and Bryant, Elizabeth, “Public School Independent Study Programs,” Homeschool Association of California: Empowering Families, 2004 (30 August 2005).

[xxvii] “Charter Schools Overview,” EdSourceOnline: Charters. 2005 (30 August 2005).

[xxviii] “About Charter Schools,” California Charter Schools Association, 2005 (30 August 2005).


[xxx] “About Charter Schools,” California Charter Schools Association, 2005 (30 August 2005).

[xxxi] “About HSC,” Homeschool Association of California, 2004 (29 August 2005).

[xxxii] “About HSC,” Homeschool Association of California, 2004 (29 August 2005).

[xxxiii] “Who We Are,” California Homeschool Network, 2004 (29 August 2005).

[xxxiv] “Membership Benefits,” California Homeschool Network, 2004 (29 August 2005).

[xxxv] Cooper, Todd. “In the Beginning,” Christian Family Schools of San Diego, circa 1999 (30 August 2005).

[xxxvi] Christian Home Educators of the Fresno Area, (30 August 2005).

[xxxvii] Questions and Answers About Home Education in California published by CHEA of California.

[xxxviii] “About Charter Schools,” California Charter Schools Association, 2005 (30 August 2005).

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