2: NCHE, the Beginning

News of Larry Cockerham’s arrest for homeschooling his children ended up in newspapers statewide, and Claudia and Ned Eldridge, in High Point, read about it in their local newspaper. Claudia got in touch with the Cockerhams to get them connected to a homeschool support group in the High Point/Winston-Salem area.

Walt and Sandi Goforth remembered that there were three groups of homeschoolers that were organizing and lobbying for homeschool rights. Sandi and Walt were in the High Point/Winston-Salem group with Ned and Claudia Eldridge, Gordon and Debbie Crandell, Mary McLaurin, Ed and Carolyn Winslow, Renee Winslow and Larry and Lavonna Cockerham. Another group in the greater Charlotte area included Ron and Judy Fitch, Jeff and Kim Golden, Terry and Ruby Manahan and Len and Linda Abercrombie There was another group in Hendersonville.

Concerns about the arrests and court rulings against homeschoolers prompted the Goldens and the Manahans to form North Carolinians for Home Education (NCHE) with the intention of encouraging and organizing homeschoolers across the state. They began with organizational meetings in public libraries in early 1984.

About that same time, Claudia Eldridge and Debbie Crandell were planning a meeting in Jamestown and working hard to locate as many homeschoolers as possible. They contacted Focus on the Family and the Moores to get names and addresses of people from North Carolina who had corresponded with questions about homeschooling. They sent out invitations, and that meeting—held at Solomon’s Porch on March 31, 1984—brought together groups of homeschoolers from all over the state under the banner of NCHE. The meeting was conducted by Mary McLaurin, a graduate education student at UNCG and a strong homeschooling advocate. Three mailing lists were developed based on geography. The families at the meeting didn’t want a list with all their names that could possibly fall into the hands of the authorities. Claudia remembers that there was a panic when, during the meeting, it was learned that a reporter from the Charlotte Observer was present. People thought they would be reported to the authorities. It turns out that this reporter was only interested in homeschooling his family.

Ron Fitch was persuaded to be president. Mary McLaurin was vice president. Jeff and Kim Golden agreed to serve as treasurer and secretary. Regional coordinators, who were designated to provide homeschooling information, were named. They were, 1) western: John McKinley, 2) south central: Terry Manahan, 3) north central: Claudia Eldridge, 4) north east: Debbie Leverette, and 5) north coast: Susan Oats.

The Goldens were also the first editors of the NCHE newsletter, the Greenhouse Report. The first issue was dated May 1984, and was sent to the 100 home educators who were brave enough to add their names to the NCHE mailing list. The Greenhouse Report was created to keep readers informed about legal actions against homeschoolers, strategies to reduce the chances of being arrested, parents’ legal rights and information on curriculum and legislation. Homeschoolers were encouraged to be politically involved, and NCHE printed brochures and educational packets for parents to use in explaining home education to a largely ignorant public.

NCHE planned a statewide meeting in Jamestown on November 10, 1984. There was a $3.00 per family registration fee. The main speaker was a Charlotte attorney Carl Horn who spoke on “Reclaiming Our Judeo-Christian Heritage.” Hewitt-Moore videos on teaching math and grammar were shown; there were cottage industry displays, and a representative from Discovery Toys displayed educational toys and games.
Here is an excerpt from The Legal Battle for Home Schooling in North Carolina, by Jackie Burkhardt.

“Two lobbying trips to Raleigh were planned for the spring of l985. The first trip was designed to get home schoolers oriented to the state capital and legislative procedures. The second trip was on May 7, l985. Each person took the names of five legislators. She or he was to visit each legislator and deliver an information packet on home education. “We were scared to death…These people are just going to chew us up and spit us out.”17 As they spoke with legislators, they grew more courageous.

May 7, l985, proved to be a fateful day. The North Carolina Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Delcontes. Under the current law, Chapter 115C, Article 39 of the North Carolina Code, known unofficially as the Private School Law, home schooling would be allowed. “I remember…it was so exciting…we were all on the porch of the legislative building when we found out, and we all just cheered.”18 “We were euphoric, but we knew it was just the beginning of the fight.” 19

17 Interview #002, 3 March 1989. Home schooling parent who wishes to remain anonymous.
18 Interview #011.
19 Interview #002.