A Brief History

On a cold winter day outside, I was inside enjoying the warm fellowship of my new-found friend with whom I shared a then rare common bond: we both home schooled! We had been delighted to meet one another, through a mutual friend, because neither of us knew many people who were homeschooling. We, ourselves, were novices, having a kindergartner and a first grader between us. We had been discussing our desire for more contact with other homeschooling moms and perhaps for some activities for our children. The options were severely limited: we knew of only one homeschool support group, for which were ineligible because of church affiliation. "Well, we'll just have to start our own support group," my friend confidently announced. And thus the seedling of CHEN took root.

The year was 1988. She and I each had three young children and knew nothing about running a support group. But our plan was simple: we set a date, agreed that we'd both call everyone we knew who was homeschooling, invited them to come, and told them to pass the word. I only had to make one call! At our first meeting, there were eight ladies, the following month, sixteen people attended, and the third month there were about twenty-five. Our first field trip was to the Cylburn Mansion and Arboretum, and we had far more children and moms there than I had imagined!

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From the beginning, our support group was run as a co-operative, each mom planning a field trip or activity for the children as well as hosting meetings. Everyone's input was valued in the decisions made, even if coming from a newcomer that evening. That modus operandi led to an interesting turn of events during the summer of '88. We had decided that our group needed a name, and so one evening we brainstormed about possibilities. The person who suggested Christian Home Educators' Network was a first-timer, indeed a father, who made a persuasive case for using the word network. That was the only meeting he or his wife ever attended, but I'm certainly glad he was there. Although at the time we were a single support group, God in His providence intended us to become a network; so unknown to us, the name we had chosen was eminently appropriate.

My friend and I strongly felt that CHEN should always be open for new members. So long as she was willing to pitch in and contribute to the success of the group, any Christian homeschooler was welcome, a policy which led to exponential growth presenting continual challenges. That first year subgroups, based on the location of families and the ages of their children, were formed for children's activity days. We were spread out across the Baltimore metropolitan area, meeting primarily in our homes.

While moms' meetings and field trips for CHEN as a whole continued, many activities with the children, such as show & tell, arts, crafts, skits, speeches, etc., were held in the subgroups. As CHEN grew, the subgroups were changed often to accommodate new members. This worked well for that purpose, but it unfortunately defeated the purpose of allowing our children to develop long-term friendships with other homeschooled children.

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By the spring of 1990, 76 families comprised CHEN, a nearly I 0-fold growth in just two years! The consequences were numerous. We were pleased to be acquainted with so many homeschoolers, but the populous moms' meetings lacked the spontaneity and intimacy of earlier days. New folks could easily be lost in the crowd. Moreover, field trips and children's events were becoming unwieldy and difficult to orchestrate. People who wouldn't hesitate to plan a field trip for a couple dozen children were understandably intimidated by the planning needed for a couple hundred children! Additionally, administration of such a large group became increasingly time-consuming. Arrangements had to be made to use facilities other than homes, which included public libraries, senior centers, and churches. Administrative tasks took more time, with seemingly endless phone calls, and printing and distributing the "newsletter" (actually simply a list of announcements). It seemed only sensible to start telling inquirers that CHEN was full, but we could not bring ourselves to do so. Another way must be found.

Jehovah Jireh (God is my provider) had already planned for the way to continue providing support to his homeschooling children. He had raised up two women of vision and hard work who were key in transforming our struggling little support group into the structure that CHEN is today. One had had the experience of starting a preschool and felt that her giftedness lay in the area of helping organizations get up and running. The other, with a background in education, had both begun homeschooling and started leading a support group during the 1989-90 school year. With the insight of these ladies, we hatched a restructuring plan which would enable CHEN to retain the benefits of being large, while still ministering on a grass-roots level to homeschooling families. The existing subgroups would become self-contained support groups, planning most of their own children's activities, field trips, routine parents' meetings, etc. CHEN would no longer be the support group in and of itself, but rather would act as a hub to coordinate communication between and joint activities among all the CHEN support groups. It would also help direct new people into existing support groups or assist them in starting their own.

1991 brought further refinements; a logo was designed and adopted as well as a doctrinal statement. We began the long process of incorporating and applying for tax-exempt status. A board of directors was established. Because we were now receiving inquiries from way outside the Baltimore area, CHEN Regions were formed, so that homeschoolers could have a local person to contact. The New Homeschooler's Packets were put together. Two other moms began publishing and distributing our newsletter, and soon an editor was chosen Eventually the number of regions in CHEN increased to eight, so that the state of Maryland was spanned.

To minister to His homeschooling children, God has raised up many people in CHEN who truly have served one another. Conventions, special speakers, graduations, sports, field days, science fairs, retreats, plays, spelling bees -- every CHEN activity has occurred because someone saw a need and took the initiative to meet that need. At the recent CHEN Basketball Banquet, I was awed as I reflected upon what you, the members of CHEN, have done. I and the seven ladies who met with me in 1988 wouldn't in our wildest dreams have imagined all of this. To God be the glory.

by K. A., Co-Founder of CHEN