Have you ever been someone who had to “stand out in a crowd,” or be a non-traditionalist, or not conformed to the world’s standard (Rom. 12:1-2) or mold? I would assume most all of us have at one time or another. If we are members of the Lord’s church, then we are Christians and that is what the apostle Paul says we are suppose to do! Those who home school their children do such on a daily basis. It is true that the popularity of home schooling has increased dramatically over the last 10 - 15 years but for many years that was not the case. There are several reasons for this increased popularity of home schooling, but this is a rather recent phenomenon.
Almost thirty years ago, those who home schooled their children were looked upon as radicals, parents unconcerned about their child’s well being, both educationally and socially. I should know, because I was one of those who felt just that way! After all, children have to go to school, public or private, in order to receive an adequate education. Right? Fortunately, my wife was curious about this “new” phenomenon and encouraged me to read some of the material she had found concerning home schooling and it’s advantages. Of course, home schooling wasn’t really a new thing because several of our country’s founding fathers were home educated. Anyway, I read the materials and continued to think about the prospects of home schooling until finally I agreed that we would try it for one year, Kindergarten. Surely, we wouldn’t do irreparable damage to our five year old son, our oldest of three sons, simply by trying it for only one year. After a year of home schooling and my experience of driving a school bus for the local public school for a couple of years, which allowed me to observe the children’s conduct and hear the language they used, I was convinced!
A couple of years later, in July of 1989, two home schooling, non-traditionalist, sets of parents happened to meet at the Apologetics Press Seminar in Montgomery, AL. Little did Mark / Teah McWhorter and Keith / Cheryl Cozort know that the meeting would end in the friendship of a lifetime and the beginning of an effort to help other members of the church who home schooled their children. Mark and I knew a handful of members of the Lord’s church who home schooled but no more. It was determined that an encampment of some sort, for members of the churches of Christ only, would be beneficial since these brethren lived in several different states across the country. So, we contacted the brethren we knew and invited them to Pell City, AL for a retreat lasting a few days.
We hoped these few days would help home schooling families to get together and encourage one another in their efforts. So, in October of 1990 RoundHouse (RH) began with 11 families totaling 50 people in attendance, coming from five different states. It is with a profound sense of gratitude that we acknowledge the major amount of the work necessary to putting on an activity like RH over the first 14 years was largely accomplished by Mark and Teah McWhorter, to whom we are greatly indebted. Interestingly enough, of those first 11 families, representatives from five of those families still attend RH. We have had attendees from many of the states in the USA, even as far away as California and Alaska. Also, attendees through the years have included missionary families working in Africa, Ukraine, American Samoa, South Pacific islands, and the West Indies.
In 2004, we started meeting at the Bonclarken Conference Center in Flat Rock, NC and this year’s 30th Annual RoundHouse dates are September 29 - October 4. Registration begins at about 6:00 p.m. on June 1st. Registration can be completed electronically or you can download the registration forms and send them in “the old fashioned way,” via snail mail. You are encouraged to check out our website www.RoundHouse.us for more details.
We learned quickly that RH fulfilled at least two needs almost immediately. First, it helped the children to realize they were not the only ones in the world who were being home schooled, even though most of their friends and neighbors were not being home schooled. Many of those friendships which the children formed at RH have lasted through the years. We have had several who ended up getting married to someone they met at RH. As Bret Collier says, “The best part of RH to me is no matter how long it's been since you were there, once a RHer, always a RHer, and seeing other RHers is just like seeing family, even years later.” Mary Lehman said, “Even though we live in different places, RH friends are our best friends. We were so isolated in Delaware, but through the wonders of Skype and Facebook, we were able to be involved in each others lives. This was especially crucial as they became teens.”
Second, it helped mothers, generally the main educators in the home school, to receive necessary emotional support and encouragement. Plus, it allowed them to receive suggestions and answers to their questions about curriculum and methods for educating their children. It’s not unusual for RH to have a few mothers who come with their children but without dad. Most of the time this is because dad’s work schedule will not allow him to be away from work at this time of the year. But RH members always try to do whatever we can to help the “moms without dads.” Mkiyah Gonzalez said, “I love how when I arrived my very first year, I was made to feel welcome. I went without my husband and always had a helping hand.”
We always invite and encourage extended family to come to RH as well. In fact, since it’s beginning in 1990 there have been several times where we were privileged to have four generations of family members present at RH. Maxine Barnes states, “Though I was a grandparent of homeschooled children, I attended several years. I was impressed from the beginning and know it continues to be this way, that the emphasis is not just fun and games, but spiritual and educational efforts as well.” We try to make RH a great opportunity for families to be together!
In the early years, along with connecting families to each other, RH tried to open doors of understanding within the church at large. We invited guest speakers including, Robert Waggoner, Winford Claiborne, Wayne Coats, Robert R. Taylor, Jr., Rod Rutherford, James Boyd, Jim Dearman, Ernest S. Underwood, and others to come and speak at our mid-week evening Bible study period. This allowed these brethren to become familiar with home educated children and it also gave the children an opportunity to meet and get to know these brethren.
We realized quickly that we needed to have a Board of Directors. So, after our third RH, a board was selected which included Mark/Teah McWhorter; Keith/Cheryl Cozort; Al/Chris Parr; and Mark/Joanne Bass. Over the years board members resigned and replacements were chosen as needed. Additional board members eventually included: Dennis/Brenda Woods, Burt/Michelle Fuller, David/Debbie Heck and Larry/Lisa Kee. The current board consist of: Keith/Cheryl Cozort; William/Katrece Howard and Jeff/Cindy Madaris.
Each year we have a Bible theme and an academic theme which are chosen by the Board of Directors. The 2018 Bible theme is the Prison Epistles which are the Books of Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon; and our academic theme is Foreign Languages (including sign language). We have a Beginner’s Bible Bowl for the toddlers which uses centers to teach Bible lessons, a Junior and Senior Bible Bowl with multiple choice questions taken from the Bible theme, plus daily devotional lessons which usually come from the same place. There is also a RH Fair which is centered around the academic theme, including activity centers run by our RH volunteers (a.k.a. parents and teens), plus a treasure hunt, arts and crafts, spelling bee, sporting activities, supervised canoeing, disc golf course, 40 ft. high rock climbing wall, and a zip line. We also have access to the Youth Activities Building (YAB) where there are basketball courts, volleyball courts, a walking track, plus we have our student presentations on two nights, student displays, all evening devotionals and some morning ones as well. Volunteers even cook evening meals Tuesday - Thursday, for those who desire to purchase them which allows attendees to eat together as a group and become better acquainted.
If you know of any members of the churches of Christ who home school their children or maybe are investigating home schooling as an option, please let them know about RH and encourage them to check out our website, www.RoundHouse.us. We would like to hear from them!
Keith B. Cozort