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 was passed 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 together to form a new homeschool support group, DeKalb Christian Home Educators. Ads were placed in various local newspapers and the word quickly spread. The efforts were headed by Patty Williard and her husband Hank and the group met on the first Friday of each month at Parkwood Hills Baptist Church off Covington Highway. The group began with great ambition and soon various functions were added to the group - field trips, lending library, newsletter - all parts of a very successful first year.
During the second year, the stress of leading the group and managing family life was too much for Patty and a new president took over. However, as new homeschoolers with three school-aged children, they decided that homeschooling was not working for them. The second year of DCHE was successful but ended with a hole in the leadership.
The summer of 1991 was a time for reflection and regrouping. Angela Paul decided to call all of the members and survey those who were still homeschooling and still in the country. While a number of families were going through various transitions a core group met to ensure that DCHE would continue on. This included Rev. Al and Ellen Marks who had written the group's statement of faith and helped with the authoring of the by-laws. It was decided at that time to focus on support and to meet by-weekly for park days. This allowed the children to socialize and the parents to gain support without anyone feeling the pressure to work on major undertakings.
Slowly, but surely, some of the functions of DCHE returned, but with a more shared workload. Angela Paul become president and during this time DCHE worked with other homeschooling groups to bring national speakers such as Raymond Moore, Patrick Farenga, and Micki & David Colfax to Atlanta. The group began to thrive with regular field trips, park days, and a newsletter. Our first science fair was held at the Wesley Chapel library. The support group meetings were moved to Thursday night and meetings were held in the homes of various members.
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 (nee Zimmerman). During this time the first progressive dinner for our teens took place. 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.
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 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.
Our next leaders were Freeman and Kathryn Moore. Under Moore's guidance, DCHE took survival major 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 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.
The Moores were instrumental in bringing about a change in the basic structure of DCHE. There had been a concern of burnout in leadership and Freeman and Kathryn transitioned the group into a more shared leadership structure with the DCHE board replacing the office of president. This auspicious move has led to more stability within the group.
Every year DCHE continues to grow and change. Our core purpose of providing support to the Christian home educating family has not changed. The zeal for home education has not diminished. The desire to see each homeschooling family thrive in their own unique way has been a constant factor over the years. Some of the children that grew up in this group now have families of their own. It is exciting to see what God has done through the efforts of His people.