Christian Home Educators Stark County Association
CHESCA’s conception bears witness of the capability of the Holy Spirit to direct yielded vessels for the fulfilling of God’s perfect will. Beth Wolsey and Marcia Mantel, co-founders of CHESCA and the state organization, CHEO, did not know one another when the year of 1983 dawned; but the Lord had already set them on a course that would change their lives, and ours, forever. The prayers of three women asking for direction about an organization to support families interested in home educating were to be answered in God’s perfect timing.
Beth, a college-trained teacher, and Marcia, already quietly home educating two children, both heard Dr. Raymond Moore on a “Focus on the Family” radio broadcast. He espoused his “better late than early” beliefs, and a Gregg Harris homeschooling workshop was announced that was to be held in Wooster in the fall of 1982. Both Marcia and Beth attended the workshop but did not meet each other at that time.
Having obtained from the workshop a list of seven families interested in homeschooling, Beth decided to arrange a meeting in Canton. Invitations were sent and announcements were made on WCRF radio, resulting in forty people attending a meeting at McDonald’s Community Room in early 1983!
At this point, Beth’s and Marcia’s lives began to touch. As decisions were made by this fledgling group, Don and Marcia volunteered to help “wherever needed”. This put them in the leadership position where no one else chose to be! Some of the decisions made in those first meetings were that the group would be a Christian organization, that the name of the group would be Christian Home Educators of Ohio (not just Stark County or Canton). This decision on the name made the next big step possible.
Marcia had a burden to organize Christian home educators on a statewide basis, an idea which was a bit overwhelming to Beth, but she offered her help. As early as July 1983, a newsletter was sent to 300 homeschoolers statewide! The first state convention was held in 1985, and has been held annually since then. Beth and the Mantels organized those first conventions.
As CHEO grew, it became necessary for some restructuring and some relief from responsibilities. Late 1987 found members of the Stark County support group meeting to pray about and discuss the direction of the group. Early 1988 brought the establishment of an Organizational Board for the Stark County group, relieving Beth and the Mantels of local responsibilities and freeing them to serve on the state level. The new board consisted of field trips coordinator, area support groups coordinator (now known as Nurture Groups Coordinator), program coordinators, secretary, treasurer, and advisory members (co-founders). Many tasks kept the new board busy, with developing policies, a statement of purpose, job descriptions, and filling remaining positions on the board. Because the Stark County group also had to be distinguished from the state group in name, the name Christian Home Educators–Stark County Association was chosen, with CHESCA being the acronym. A logo was also designed and chosen. The mandate to maintain the Christian integrity of the group was ever in mind.
July 1988 found CHESCA presenting the first annual Summer Shape-Up; in September 1989 Dennis Petersen’s Creation Science Seminar was presented to over 700 people, and
Ohio home educators rejoiced over the statewide regulations which made home education a reasonable undertaking.
January 1990 brought about the publishing of the first CHESCA directory of members; informational meetings on getting started were offered beginning in May 1990. In November 1990 a new position of political action chairman was added to the board.
January 1991 saw the beginning of “The CHESCA Children’s Chronicles”–a newsletter for children. Due to the dramatic increase in membership, it was deemed necessary to have the secretarial area divided into membership and newsletter areas to decrease the load on volunteers.
The next year brought about the development of various information sheets (Get Started; Teaching Teens; Special Needs) and the addition of a Time and Talent Survey to the membership form. It was realized that the position of board chairman should be a separate one rather than being filled by someone carrying the responsibilities of another board position. This made a total of seven board positions.
During all these developments, various activities were either continued from the original group or started as the need was observed. Field trips and classes, county-wide meetings, an annual Mayfair for displaying accomplishments, and the newsletter were continued. A parents’ dinner, Summer Shape-Up, informational meetings, a spelling exhibition and then a spelling bee, public relations work, encouragement of smaller support groups called Nurture Groups are examples of ideas that were developed.
The years of 1993 and 1994 brought some discouragement and challenges to the CHESCA leadership in the form of lower participation in county-wide activities in spite of higher membership. This resulted in prayer, discussion, investigation, and finally a development of some proposed ways to decentralize the CHESCA organization.
In January of 1995, a members’ meeting was held, so the membership could vote on how to reorganize CHESCA, to increase membership involvement and share the responsibilities of running a growing organization. A transition team was then formed to brainstorm and work out details of a re-organization. The seven committees of this team met during the months of February through June.
A statement of faith was included as a required part of membership, with a “grandfather clause” allowing those who were current members to take exemption without an explanation of their reason why. Nurture Groups were started in areas all over Stark County, and members were placed in a Nurture Group as they joined. The Nurture Group leaders were trained in the areas of responsibility necessary to effective functioning, and the central board and committee positions that had been empty were filled. At the outset of the 1995-96 “school year,” the organization stood poised for the application of all the background work which had been done. At the beginning of the 1995-1996 school year CHESCA started with 11 Nurture Groups.
During the 1995-1998 years an interim Chairman served on the Board because no one else would step up to take the position. Also, during those years, the CHESCA Board put the final details in place for re-organization, the primary being that Nurture Groups took the responsibility of handling membership renewals and new memberships.
At the end of the 1999-2000 school year, CHESCA had grown to 13 Nurture Groups spread through out Stark County. With many Nurture Groups in operation, the CHESCA Board decided in 1999 to hold quarterly leadership meetings. This idea was designed to keep communication among all CHESCA leaders open for continued growth. Also in 1999 the Board proposed minor changes in the CHESCA Bylaws and the membership approved those changes by a unanimous vote in September at the members’ meeting.
Another idea was brought to reality when the library manuals, authored by the CHESCA Board, were put into circulation by the Stark County Library. All resource materials that have been developed by CHESCA over the years, a copy of the state regulations, a copy of the notification and assessment forms, a process on how to join CHESCA and a description of the Nurture Groups are all included in the manual. The purpose of all the forms in the manual is to allow new home schooling parents to photo-copy them at the library. These manuals have been used in an effort to streamline the process of assimilating new home schooling families into CHESCA.
The year 1999 also brought a four-year goal to a close — a CHESCA Board policy manual had become a reality. Because of the diligent work of a few Board members, thirteen years of policies were collected and recorded in the manual. Also during the 1998-1999 school year an appreciation dinner was held, as well as brainstorming meetings for all CHESCA leaders. The slogan, “Becoming more like family to each other” was adopted.
In the year 2002, many volunteers had retired leaving a small number of staff to keep CHESCA operational. The CHESCA Board outlined a plan called Operation Mothball to possibly dismantle the organization if enough volunteers could not be found to maintain the operation of the support group. However, after that plan was submitted to the membership through the county newsletter, many people stepped forward and put together another restructuring plan called Operation Latitude that would, for the first time, replace the CHESCA Board with a representative Council. This would also change the CHESCA Constitution and Bylaws. The Board held an appreciation dinner for CHESCA volunteers and kept the Nurture Group leaders updated on every step in the proposal process. The Board also gave its support to the plan by setting temporary policy to make adjustments until a membership vote could be taken. Members’ meetings were set up to explain the restructuring plan and receive feedback. Members were then asked to pray and vote by sending in their ballots with their renewals. On June 15, 2002, the vote was counted at a members’ meeting and the restructuring plan was accepted. During the summer of 2002, a representative council, consisting of two members from each Nurture Group, started to take form with several sub-committees and an executive committee being created to more evenly distribute the workload of the entire organization. Today, CHESCA remains strong and vibrant for the benefit of Christian home educators around the Stark County area.
Many individuals have been instrumental in making CHESCA the organization that it is today. Only the founders’ names have been mentioned here, but appreciation is also due to many others who have given of themselves sacrificially over the years to encourage and support home educators in the name of Christ. May CHESCA continue to be yielded to the ideals upon which this group was founded that we might continue to serve Christ in this way.
“…He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.” Philippians 1:6 (NIV)