A Brief History of DeKalb Christian Home Educators
In 1981, the Roemhild family began homeschooling their children here in Georgia and were found guilty of breaking the compulsory attendance law. They appealed this decision, and in 1983 the Georgia Supreme Court overturned the decision. This paved the way for the Georgia State Legislature to work with homeschoolers to construct our current homeschooling law, SB 504, in 1984. With a framework for working within the system, homeschooling began to grow rapidly in Georgia.
In the fall of 1989, DeKalb County homeschoolers joined to form a new homeschool support group, DeKalb Christian Home Educators. Ads were placed in various local newspapers, and the word quickly spread. Patty Williard and her husband Hank headed the efforts, and the group met on the first Friday of each month at Parkwood Hills Baptist Church off Covington Highway. The group services included field trips, a lending library, and a quarterly newsletter publication. But the group had one core value "Be reverent in behavior, sound in faith, love, patience; be teachers of good things."
The summer of 1991 was a time for reflection and regrouping. New leadership wrote a statement of faith and authored the by-laws. It was decided at that time to focus on support and to meet bi-weekly for park days. This allowed the children to socialize and the parents to gain support without anyone feeling pressured to work on major undertakings. Under the leadership of Angela Paul, the group took on the endeavor of producing a homeschool conference in corporation with other homeschooling groups to bring national speakers such as Raymond Moore, Patrick Farenga, and Micki & David Colfax to Atlanta. The group thrived and offered more academic competitions including a Scripps Spelling Bee qualifier, a science fair in partnership with DeKalb County's Wesley Chapel Library, and MathFest in partnership with Clark Atlanta University.
After leading DCHE as president for two years, Angela passed the reins to Susan Plaxco. Susan held the support group meetings in her home, and during her two-year tenure, the DCHE library grew, and activities for our teenagers were organized by Deanna Cauthen. During this time, the first progressive dinner encouraged teen engagement. It was also during this time that the statement of faith was evaluated, and it was reaffirmed that DCHE would be a Christian group giving support to home-educating families.
In 1994, the leadership of the group was then passed into the hands of Sheila Bayne. During her leadership, DCHE began meeting at Crossroads Presbyterian Church. One of the functions that were solidified during Sheila's presidency was the Social Studies Fair. Near the end of Sheila's term, homeschooling freedoms were in jeopardy due to several initiatives that were before the state legislature. DCHE was very active in meeting with Georgia representatives to ensure that these efforts did not succeed and our homeschooling rights were protected. It was due to this and other potential threats that the job of the legislative liaison became important.
During these years, DCHE developed into a resource center that offers weekly diverse social engagement, academic enrichment, supportive community, and parents-as-educators training. With an increase in grant funding and donations from VELA Education Fund, Walmart Foundation, AIAA Foundation, Girl Scouts of Greater Atlanta, Publix, Kroger, and Chick-fil-A, DCHE offered more extracurricular activities including music lessons, art, and foreign language classes, Toastmasters, Science Olympiad, FIRST Lego League robotics, and karate. This center would provide mental and human services such as food pantry services and parent/ marriage support groups. Student social programming expanded to include science & history fairs, Scripps Spelling Bees, graduations, Field Day, family-centric field trips, and community service projects tailored for kids as young as 4 years old.
Our organization has remained an active voice for educational freedom and parents' rights. DCHE remains a vigilant protector of home education and serves as an affiliate of the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA), the largest home education lobbying group in the world with over 115,000 members. DCHE has also spearheaded coalitions with Home Education Information Resources (HEIR) to ensure the Georgia Board of Regents adopted a reasonable pathway for homeschool students to gain college admissions.
Our next leaders were Freeman and Kathryn Moore. Under Moore's guidance, DCHE took major survival trips. An educational trip to Washington, DC, and another to Jamaica to aid a school for the deaf were funded through the tireless efforts of the Moores. During one of the fundraising events, Kathryn invited our governor, Roy Barnes, to the event. Governor Barnes had co-authored SB 504 while in the state legislature and came to see how that law had impacted the lives of the DCHE family.
Soon another threat to homeschooling freedom arose, this time through the University System of Georgia. The Board of Regents instituted a policy that made college admissions almost impossible for Georgia homeschoolers. DCHE, along with members of Home Education Information Resources (HEIR), met with the staff of the Board of Regents for over a year to bring about change. A state-wide coalition was formed, and a proposal was submitted and eventually adopted that gave several reasonable paths to college admissions for Georgia home education students.
Every year DCHE continues to grow and change. The pandemic forced 9 million students home for remote education. According to the Census in 2019, 3.3 percent of Black families were home-schooling by the fall of 2020, the population increased to 16.1 percent. Now, a growing 16% of homeschooling families are Black. This population growth is a response to institutionalized racism, culturally insensitive curriculum, and implicit bias that marginalizes intellect. Many Black, Indigenous, & People of Color (BIPOC) parents desire to nurture their students' minds with a worldview that uses literature, STEM, history, and experiences to provide a positive and accurate image.
In September 2022, our organization created the Georgia Black Home Education Network (GBHEN), a collaboration of parents' rights advocates, families, nonprofit organizations, and educational entrepreneurs with a mission to empower Black families to realize the educational possibilities of homeschooling. Our goals include ensuring access to parents-as-educators opportunities, establishing a network of educational providers, and partnering with mission-minded partners to grow home education access in Georgia. Thus, we created the Flourish: Black Family Homeschool Conference, an annual event for families to meet educational providers from the emerging hybrid school community.
Our ecosystem expansion will increase when more veteran homeschooling parents and former teachers feel confident to offer their services to the community. GBHEN can facilitate this shift with a program series called Edu-Preneurship. This programming encouraged these budding edupreneur to complete basic business practices such as marketing, bookkeeping, and more.
Our core purpose of providing support to home-educating families has not changed. The zeal for home education has not diminished. This program expansion embodies our core value "Be reverent in behavior, sound in faith, love, patience; be teachers of good things." We are working to equip parents as "teachers of good things."