8 Jan 2014

This issue is the first issue of 2014. It’s a new year, and NCHE, like so many homeschooling parents in NC, is busy. We’ve been busy working on the organization—how we understand our work and go about it. In December, the organization approved some significant bylaws changes. In this column, I’m going to expound on some of the most significant changes, and, in particular, want to reflect on NCHE’s mission.

In my first column as president, I introduced the concept of a kluge, which is an imperfect solution to a problem using the resources at hand. Creating a kluge is sometimes necessary, especially in moments of crises. I cited as an example the history of the Apollo 13 flight, in which engineers had to quickly produce some life-saving devices using only the parts available to the astronauts. This kluging was glorious and was a testament to the strength and resourcefulness of the team. It also spoke to the reality of the human condition. We cannot plan for every contingency. We cannot predict the future. We can plan, but sometimes something unexpected occurs, and we have to kluge. But kluging is not a practice that should become the norm. Organizational health requires strategy and resource planning. The Apollo 13 crew didn’t kluge their way into space. NASA engineers had a mission that they understood, and they organized themselves and their resources to achieve the goals of the mission. Much has changed since NCHE’s founding thirty years ago. Home education practices have changed. Communication tools and strategies have changed; less than five years ago, no board member could imagine that NCHE would soon have a heavily trafficked website and a social media presence with over 8,000 fans. Associational commitments have also changed. Sociologists have noticed that people are far more fluid in their connections to organizations. For many, the concept of membership is more about consumerism. The state’s population and geography has also shifted; it has become clearer that there are significant differences in support needs in urban verses rural parts of the state. NCHE has been supporting home education in NC with an organizational structure roughly twenty years old. Yes, NCHE has made some organizational adjustments over the years; it has not been a static organization. But over the last few years, it has become increasingly clear that our mission and organizational structure were in need of some strategic revising. At the annual board retreat held in August, the board brainstormed ideas and priorities and voted to actively pursue restructuring. In the following months, the bylaws committee distilled those ideas into a significantly different organizational structure. At the November board meeting, the board voted unanimously to adopt the recommendations of the committee. These recommendations were put up for a member vote, and I am pleased that they were approved overwhelmingly.

NCHE’s Updated Vision

The bylaws vote was also an opportunity to restate and reaffirm NCHE’s commitment to serving God and our neighbor. Perhaps one of the most significant parts of the bylaws modification was the revision of NCHE’s mission, stated in Article II:

“NCHE has a vision for flourishing families and thriving generations in which people remain passionate, curious and actively engaged in their faith and in their learning. Home education is a great way to educate children, especially young children, and to nurture future generations. Home education situates a child’s development in their natural environment and encourages learning that is experiential and knowledge that is integrated. Home education fosters strong social relations, starting in the home. As a result, home education nurtures the whole child. NCHE encourages parents in their home education and advocates for a state which respects and protects the right of parents to practice home education.”

The words flourishing and thriving in the phrase “a vision for flourishing families and thriving generations” harks back to the biblical concept of shalom. Many people are familiar with the word, usually translated peace. But peace is really a poor substitute for the depth and richness of this biblical concept. The concept of peace typically communicates an end of strife in which two warring factions reluctantly agree to lay down arms mostly for the sake of avoiding mutual destruction. This kind of peace is really a strategic act, designed to temporarily thwart the enemy. But this kind of peace could not be called shalom. Shalom is really more about acting in a way that contributes to and benefits another, and also brings a benefit from the other party. Shalom is about helping, giving and receiving. Therefore, shalom is ultimately about weaving things together into something beautiful and rich. Cornelius Plantinga of Calvin College and Calvin Seminary, in his book, Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be: A Breviary of Sin, describes it thusly:

“The webbing together of God, humans and all creation in justice, fulfillment and delight is what the Hebrew prophets call shalom. We call it peace but it means far more than mere peace of mind or a cease-fire between enemies. In the Bible, shalom means universal flourishing, wholeness and delight—a rich state of affairs in which natural needs are satisfied and natural gifts fruitfully employed, a state of affairs that inspires joyful wonder as its Creator and Savior opens doors and welcomes the creatures in whom he delights. Shalom, in other words, is the way things ought to be.”

NCHE’s mission is to help families pursue the shalom of God in their families and in society through the practice of education. We believe the evidence that there are educational practices that produce shalom—a state in which families increase in their delight of each other. This delight, we believe, spills out of the home and into society. Many circumstances contributed to the modern home education movement, but the growing sense that schools were producing dysfunctional people was a large factor. When people have trouble developing and maintaining healthy relationships with others, they are dysfunctional. There is evidence that modern schooling practices often fail to contribute to healthy family relationships. Instead of encouraging children to honor their parent’s counsel, many schools disrespect parents by communicating that growing in knowledge means progressing beyond the experiential, intellectual and spiritual legacy of the home. We parents understand that we cannot program our children to share our convictions (only God can mold a child’s heart); however, we do believe that God requires parents to testify to their beliefs, and that shalom-producing education practices and systems support parents in this God-given task. But more so, we believe that the sharing of faith and heart-felt conviction is more likely to produce shalom when education occurs in the context of the family. The life of a child, a life full of relationships to others, unfolds from the home. It is my hope that Article II of NCHE’s bylaws will be an encouragement to you and will help you better understand NCHE’s vision for children, for families and for society.

Other Bylaw Changes

NCHE’s board will now be comprised of fewer voting members, but more involved people, and each will have specific domains of responsibility. We are looking for individuals in several new areas, including: community relations, fund-raising, marketing, activity planning and information technologies. In addition, we continue to need individuals with financial and administrative skills. NCHE will still have a regional connection through those interested in working with local home educators. The new bylaws modified this position, changing the name from regional director to regional liaison and making it a volunteer position, not a board position. These liaisons will no longer have to travel to quarterly board meetings. It you are interested in any of these areas, or the others mentioned in the new bylaws, and are interested in working with NCHE either as a board member or as part of a committee reporting to a board member, please carefully review the new bylaws and prayerfully consider volunteering. (You will find a copy of the bylaws on our website at nche.com. Go to the bottom of the page to click on About Us, and then click on News.) We are seeking the next generation of leadership for the organization.

I hope you will continue to support NCHE. This past year has been both challenging and exciting. A number of high profile news items have brought the issue of homeschooling oversight into the public forum. NCHE continues to advocate for freedom to home educate, but more importantly, for the shalom of the people of North Carolina. We trust you will join with us in our prayer that God will use our new organizational structure to better carry out our work.

Kevin McClain and his wife, Brea, started homeschooling in 2002. Kevin has a master’s in education, instructional technology, from the University of Virginia and a Ph.D. in educational studies from The University of North Carolina at Greensboro, where he works as an educational technologist. In 2010, he joined NCHE's board as education vice president. He served as NCHE president from 2012-2016.