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Our History

How Did Homeschool Connections Begin?

Respectfully submitted by Jane Roberts

Each year, the Homeschool Connections' board volunteers countless hours to put together a worthy list of homeschool enrichment classes for an ever-expanding group of students – classes that don’t take the place of home learning but enrich the home learning experience in ways that wouldn’t be available without a group or are difficult to navigate alone.  Who do we have to thank for this blessing and why?  First and foremost, we give thanks to the Lord.  But let me introduce you to a few people who were acting on His behalf, who endeavored to act on His plans by responding to a need in the homeschool community.

In 1989, homeschooling had recently become legal in Washington State.  Friendships formed as families sought ways to give each other confidence and encouragement and share ideas.  Parents organized small co-ops or classes in their homes for their children and made spots available to interested friends.  While worthwhile, these extracurricular activities had an impact on weekly homeschooling progress because moms spent a lot of time running their children from here to there and back again.  Over the course of the next five years, the Lord brought together a group of women who would provide the foundation for Homeschool Connections.

A local public library occasionally offered science classes taught by a gifted teacher.  After a few months of having her children attend the classes, Cyndi O’Neill asked the teacher if he would be willing to teach science to homeschool students and he agreed.  Cyndi organized the class schedule and Brian Raven’s homeschool science classes at the library quickly filled up.  During this time, homeschooling families continued to connect with each other in various ways.  Mary Sutton had arranged creative writing classes for homeschoolers, taught by Lauren Kaushansky.  Mary Takle was teaching a science class for homeschoolers in her home.  Vivian Huff, Terrie Baisch, and Laurie Morrison were putting together a drama production for their Shakespeare co-op.  Aileen Hutt had several classes meeting in her home.  Robin Stangland had a homeschool band meeting in Everett.  Beyond these, there were many other community classes and opportunities.  Homeschooling moms were running their children all over the place.

Mary Sutton, Cyndi O’Neill, and Connie Brockerman decided during the 1993-1994 school year, to move the creative writing class and the Raven science class to a classroom at Northlake Christian Church in Bothell.  These two classes were a huge success and heralded the following events.

One summer day in 1994, a group of homeschooling moms met at Blythe Park in Bothell while their children played.  They were lamenting all the time spent running their children around.  The idea of expanding what was being offered at Northlake and thereby offering all the classes they wanted at one place on one day of the week was put forth.  Everyone was excited about the idea.  Five of the moms – Cyndi O’Neill, Mary Sutton, Liz Myers, Terrie Baisch, and Connie Brockerman, took the idea and ran with it and this was the original “Monday Co-op” Board.  For the 1994-1995 school year, they came up with a schedule of classes for half the day.  The classes were received with much enthusiasm.  Mary Takle was added to the board during this first year.

During the 1995-1996 school year, classes were scheduled for five class hours in all classrooms at Northlake.  By this time, ninety-nine families were involved.  A meeting was called and class lists were placed on tables around the room.  After a short introduction, people were told they could sign their children up for the classes they wanted on a first-come, first-served basis.  Imagine ninety-nine families vying for a position on the class rosters!  Although no fights broke out, there was definitely some aggressive behavior in that room.  Needless to say, the process was changed the next year.  Registration was processed by hand at the time, and for several years after that, and class lists were hand written.  It took practically the whole summer to organize jobs and disseminate the information.  Connections has become progressively more ‘technologically administered’ through the years, largely due to the motivation and skill of Mary Takle.

The reception of the Monday classes in one location on one day a week was phenomenal.  The board had lengthy discussions about the purpose and philosophy behind these classes.  They agreed their purpose was not to start a new school to serve the homeschooling community or start a homeschooling movement, but these moms unashamedly proclaimed to all that, first and foremost, they were homeschool moms.  Their first obligation, and calling from the Lord, was the education of their own children. These women volunteered their talents, time, and energy to the classes that were offered.  They did not receive any financial compensation, nor did they expect it.  They agreed that since their families and children were their priority and the whole reason they were coordinating the classes, the classes and teachers they selected needed to meet their needs first.  They registered their children in the classes first and eventually settled on a lottery system to register other interested students.  At the same time, though, the founding board decided that one of the priorities in selecting new board members would be to intentionally keep the board representative of all age groups of children so that the interests and desires of the general homeschooling community would be represented as they were planning.

The board wanted the classes to be family and homeschool friendly, so agreed classes would run for thirty-two Mondays per school year, from September to May, ranging from preschool to twelfth grade.  The school year began after Labor Day and ended before Memorial Day.  They agreed there needed to be a place for family members who were not in class, thus they established Monday playroom and Monday and Wednesday study halls.  Parents would have to be on-site, because they were the ones legally responsible for their children during the time they were in classes.  When they pursued insurance policies for the organization, the insurance company reiterated that parents must be on-site.  Most importantly, the board prayed fervently and only made policy decisions when there was unanimous agreement.  This continues to be the modus operandi of the Connections Board.

Wednesday classes started in 1996 when Pastor Pat Hamman shared his vision to establish homeschool classes as a ministry of Northwest Community Church in Kirkland, modeled after the Monday classes.  Cyndi O’Neill and Connie Brockerman organized classes for students desiring to be homeschooled through high school.  In September of 1996, these junior and senior high classes quickly filled.  The classes moved to Northshore Baptist Church in Bothell in November of 1997, thanks to Vicki Carlson procuring that facility for the organization.  Monday and Wednesday classes eventually merged to become Homeschool Connections.  The word “co-op” was taken out of the name because the organization does not function according to the legal definition of a cooperative.  In 1999, Jan Templin was added to the board, and in 2000, Terrie Baisch rolled off.  Homeschool Connections incorporated and became a Washington State non-profit organization in October 2000.

The Homeschool Connections board intentionally decided the organization’s sole purpose would be to offer enrichment classes for homeschoolers.  All other homeschool activities would be left for the homeschool support groups in the area to organize or for groups of parents to pursue on their own.  Nadine Smith did just this with a highly successful homeschool chapter of Youth and Government.  Mary Sutton spearheaded the beginning of H.O.M.E.’s annual spring formal and graduation.  Some of the things people were doing actually evolved into Connections classes.  Nadine was passionate about the idea of a yearbook for homeschoolers and started laying the groundwork for it.  This transitioned to a Connections class taught by Joyce Komar and Cyndi O’Neill, where the first yearbook was produced, and now the tradition continues.  The previously mentioned drama productions led by Vivian Huff, Terrie Baisch, and Laurie Morrison turned into the high school drama classes at Connections.

Homeschooling enrichment, as shown to us by the examples of these women, is limited only to the imagination and a willingness to serve.  In having their priorities in the right place, the Lord honored the desires of the hearts of the women who put their time, energy, and talents into forming Homeschool Connections.  In so doing, He has blessed our children, the families involved, and ultimately the local homeschool community.




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