Getting Started – Understanding State Homeschool Organizations
Yvette Hampton: Tim Lambert is the President of the Texas Home School Coalition, a huge organization of homeschool leaders who come together to support homeschooling in Texas.
Over the past several months, we have become very excited about and very aware of what the different state homeschool organizations are doing around the country. It’s been a blessing to meet many of these leaders and learn about the ministries that they have, serving homeschool families in each state. In this interview, I talk with Tim Lambert about what he and his organization are doing to protect the rights of homeschoolers in Texas and to promote homeschooling in general.
Hi Tim, It’s good to talk with you. Could you introduce us to your family and tell us how many kids you have and how long you’ve been in this homeschool world.
Tim Lambert: Sure. My wife and I have been married for about 42 years and we have four children, two boys and two girls. They’re in their 40’s to 30’s and we have seven grandkids and they all are homeschooled. We’re very excited about where the Lord has us and we’re kind of laying the foundation for the next generation. So we’re happy to be where you are.
Yvette: Yes, well it is great to have you where you are because you’ve been in this for quite some time. You started homeschooling back in the ’80’s, right?
Tim: That is correct. Yeah, we homeschool dads always say, “We homeschool,” but we all know that our wives do the heavy lifting, but it’s still a cooperative effort.
Yvette: It absolutely is, and actually later on in the show I would love for you to talk to some of the dads, those homeschool dads who need encouragement as much as the moms do. Tell us why you got into homeschooling in the first place.
Tim: You know, my story’s a little bit different. A lot of the stories that I hear from dads is mom usually gets the vision and she’s the one that goes to dad, and her husband says, “I really think we ought to do this.” But I was in sales and traveling a lot and I heard a Focus on the Family program with James Dobson about homeschooling and I came home and said, “Honey, this is a great thing. We really should homeschool.” And she looked at me and she said, “We?”
So we began to look at that option. Our oldest son has a November birthday, so he was one of those kids that we struggled with. We were told, “You shouldn’t put him in a younger-” So he was academically progressed so we had a wonderful Christian woman who had taught in the public schools for 30 years and private Christian schools for 10, and a friend of ours at church got a small group, so he was in a little group of four or five kids for his kindergarten and first grade year, and so by that time he was first grade age and was doing second grade work.
So the Lord kind of backed us in because all the Christian schools basically that you either repeated the coursework with your age group or you went ahead. So because of that circumstance, I think we were open to exploring homeschooling and we began to do that and we said, “You know, we’ll just do this for a year,” and we did it for another year, and before long it was a lifestyle, and helped start our local support group back in 1984, and got associated with the state organization in 1986. I became the executive director in 1990. So it’s been a long, fun road.
Yvette: Yeah. So there already was a state organization in place when you started.
Tim: Yes, that is correct. So the state organization was established by a couple who are both attorneys and they were kind of the grand masters of homeschooling and they fought. In the early days in Texas, the Attorney General said homeschooling was illegal and people would be prosecuted, so it was a very negative environment. They led the organization in those formative years and I came in in 1990 and became the executive director. We started with a Mac computer and a phone line and our kids were our staff. We’ve grown from there.
Yvette: Nice. Did you ever get into any kind of legal trouble? How did you handle that with your family?
Tim: We were prepared. We spent almost all of our group meetings in the beginning, we talked about what the law was and how to avoid these problems. There were a lot of people in those days who didn’t let their kids go out in the yard until after 3:00. But I’ve always been kind of an assertive person so we always had a plan. Our plan in those days was if somebody came to the door, then Lindsey was to not answer the door, and after they left, she would get in the car and head to New Mexico, and when she got there, 100 miles away, she would call me. That was, of course, before cell phones and that kind of stuff.
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So we were prepared for that and I kind of led locally and talked to the local superintendent and those sorts of things. Later, as I became the executive director, we took that leadership to the state level.
Yvette: I can’t even imagine, being in the time that we’re in today with homeschooling and the freedom that we have, and not just the legal freedom that we have, but the way that it’s accepted in society, it’s hard for me to imagine living in a time like that, which was not that long ago. I mean, that was when I was a child. I’m 44 years old and so that was my childhood. We knew just a couple people homeschooling at that time, but today, I take my kids out all the time, and not only do we not get in trouble for it, I cannot believe how many times people will say, “Oh, did you have the day off of school today?” And my girls will say, “No, we’re homeschooled.” And they’ll say, “Oh, you’re so lucky.”
That is almost always the response that we get is that people say, “Wow, that’s great. If I could have homeschooled my kids, I would have,” or, “I would homeschool my kids but I don’t have the patience for it,” and that’s a whole different topic. Because then I want to say, “Oh, well, I don’t either, but God gives it to me.” But it’s amazing to think back that it was just not that long ago that it was a really different time.
Tim: Yes, and part of our mission is to help homeschoolers remember that history. One of the homeschool pioneers in Texas just passed away recently and so she’s been commemorated, but we recognize that we have a 501c3 education organization and a 501c3 for our advocacy organization and a political action committee, so we work in the political arena and the legislature because we have to protect our freedom, but we also try to help the homeschool community know our history. Because if we’re not vigilant and proactive, we could lose that freedom.
Yvette: That’s right.
Tim: There’s a lot of opposition today across the country, and so that’s part of our mission is to help cast the vision, not only for the freedom that we do have, but help people understand how we got here.
Yvette: Right. So, okay, then let’s talk to those parents who don’t know all of the history. I mean, you gave a brief explanation of it, but who don’t know all of the history and what dangers might be lurking ahead for homeschoolers today.
Tim: In the early days, the Attorney General of Texas said he didn’t believe parents were qualified to raise their kids, much less teach them at home, and we had a class action suit in Texas where we sued the state. We won, the state appealed that decision. So it was almost a 10 year legal battle in the courts. And of course, during that time, homeschoolers were prosecuted in Texas under the compulsory attendance statute. We eventually won that class action suit, but I realize, and I tell people I am slow, but I’m not stupid. Eventually, someplace along the line, I realized that we lived in a culture that did not respect parents and that if we didn’t get involved to participate in the public policy process, that people like Jim Maddox, who said he didn’t believe parents were qualified to raise their kids, would be making policy and law that would directly impact what I believed God was calling me to do, whether or not that was acceptable by the state.
So we talk to new homeschoolers like you do and the mom’s eyes are glazed over and she just wants to talk about learning styles and how you choose curriculum and how do you organize your day and those sort of things, and I like to talk to the dads and basically say, “It’s our responsibility as husbands and fathers to know what the law is, be prepared.” We’ve pretty much won the battle with the school districts and the truancy officers, but CPS is a real problem for us today.
Of course, as you probably, I’m sure, are aware, there’s been a real national movement over the last year and a half of groups that are highlighting news stories of families that abuse their kids or whatever and say, “This is why we need to regulate homeschoolers.” And I’ve been blogging about that for a year and pushing back to let some of the major newspapers in Texas last spring call for the state to regulate homeschooling, saying that we had too much freedom. I’m happy to say our legislature’s in session and nobody filed that kind of bill.
But our focus today, legislatively, is to reform CPS and protect parents. We have probably as many as two dozen families a year that are members of our association that are contacted by CPS and investigated. We have legal counsel on staff to handle those situations.
So we celebrate our freedom. God gave us a great victory and he’s given us freedom, but we recognize that we have responsibility to maintain that freedom, and that means we need to be informed, we need to know what the law is as individual families so we know how to react. If CPS comes to the door, we field lots and lots of questions that people have every year, and then to participate in electing godly leaders that will help us protect that freedom at the legislative level.
Yvette: Yeah, that’s right. Then talk to parents and tell them how can they help to support what you’re doing? Because I think oftentimes, and this was the case with myself, I didn’t really understand. We’re from California and so CHEA, the Christian Home Educators Association, they were kind of our state covering, and I didn’t even understand when we started homeschooling, I mean, several years into it, who they were, what they did, why they existed, and why they were important to me personally as a homeschool parent. So can you talk to the parent who’s listening to this who maybe just doesn’t understand what state organizations are and how they can get involved in protecting their own freedom to homeschool?
Tim: Sure. So every state, we go to some national meets every year, mostly Christian homeschool leaders, and every state has an organization and we all developed back in the 80’s. In those early days, we didn’t just have legal problems, but curriculum providers wouldn’t sell to us. So you had a problem of finding resources and that sort of thing, and so every state has an organization that was established, and in the early days we did conferences and it was a place to get information, to share information, to get resources. Also, we acted as a clearinghouse for information, so we, in our state as in most states, our organization acts as kind of the liaison with the state government.
Whether that is the education agency or the state Department of Education or the Child Protective Services or college admission or whoever it might be, we are the organization that has contacts. We know what the law is, we have people that help us. So it’s great for people to connect with their state organizations. We probably have close to 75,000 families on our mailing list in Texas and we have, obviously, blogs and YouTube channels and all that sort of thing. We try to connect people and give them information.
Then, of course, our legislature meets every other year, so we have a team of interns and staff in Austin. For the first five months of this year we’ve been following bills and testifying against bills, issuing calls to action when we’ve got bills that need to be killed. And then at the same time, we do a couple of conferences, one in the Dallas area and one in the Houston area, every summer. That’s kind of like every homeschool mom’s inspiration time. We have a children’s program and a teen program, so it’s a great time for the whole family to come and have a great time of inspiration and encouragement, and buy your curriculum for a year. It’s kind of like an in-service for public schoolteachers, but it’s also a great time for the kids.
Our mission is protection. It’s also inspiration and education and, of course, to be there when homeschoolers have issue. We have a customer relations team so we field probably 1,000 to 1,500 emails and phone calls a month and probably 60 to 70% are those of non-members. They’re people just trying to get started and they want information or questions. We kind of run the gamut.
Yvette: We were talking about conventions and just the different ways that your organization, the Texas Home School Coalition, can support Texas, those who are in your state. Of course, you’re in Texas. There’s same organizations exist in pretty much every state. Talk a little bit about your conventions because I know you’ve got conventions that are coming up pretty quickly here.
Tim: Sure. Yeah, we have two conventions in May. One is Mother’s Day weekend in Dallas and the other one is the last weekend of May in the Houston area in the Woodlands. These events all grew out of a way for the homeschool community to be connected with exhibitors and vendors, people who have great resources, people who are great speakers who inspire. That’s a great time annually for us as an organization. We try to help. This is something for the whole family. We’ll have a children’s program and a teen program. People develop relationships there that go on for years and it’s a great time of inspiration for mom and dad. We have a lot of dads that attend that. People always look for curriculum.
They come together, they get inspired, the get educated, they find out … and then of course we do workshops for leaders. We have different tracks, so we’ll have one for single parents, we’ll have one for special needs folks. We try to provide things across the gamut of the homeschool community. It’s a wonderful time. It’s very exhausting. It’s like Thursday through Saturday, but it’s a great time of encouragement. People, it’s kind of the end of school and get ready for the new year before the summer starts.
Yvette: Yeah, it’s a great time of year to have it because oftentimes this is the time of year that moms are really trying to think through what they’re going to do for next year. They’re a little overwhelmed, maybe. They’re getting to the end of the school year and they’re counting down the days faster than their kids are.
Yvette: They just need that boost of encouragement. They need to maybe explore some different options. Maybe the curriculum that they’re using this year isn’t working so well. It’s interesting to hear you talk about how, back in the day, curriculum companies wouldn’t sell curriculum to you. Now, the options-
Tim: Yeah, now we’re a major market.
Yvette: Right. The options are overwhelming and endless, but in a good way. There’s so much to choose from and so many great resources out there for families today, and praise God for that, because every child learns differently. Every mom and dad teaches differently, and so it’s great to have those resources. But it can be overwhelming to go to those things.
I remember, I think it was Janice Campbell was talking about how she remembers going to her first homeschool convention back in the ’80s and she said it was at a church and there were 100 people there and they had a few six foot tables set up with some books on them, and she was just elated. That was like a big convention for them and now you look at where they’ve gone.
I want to speak on behalf of some of the vendors that go to these conventions-
Tim: Please, please.
Yvette: … and I’m not one of them, so I’m going to just speak for them and to encourage those who go to conventions. One of the things, as a matter of fact, Jamie Erickson just read a really great article, I’ll link to it in the show notes, about this. These vendors, and again, this is something I didn’t realize until we were well into homeschooling. Most of the curriculum vendors that you see at these conventions are nothing more than moms and dads who saw a need, created a curriculum to go with whatever their need was, and developed this stuff to serve the homeschool community. They go to these conventions. It’s very expensive. You have to pay for travel and hotel and your booth and everything that goes along with it in hopes of being able to encourage the homeschool community through the sales of their different products that they have.
What a lot of people are doing today is they go and look at the products, they touch it, they feel it, they open it, and then they go find it online somewhere for $5 less or $10 less. I think I can safely say that if people don’t start taking care of the vendors and those who are coming out with these different products and serving the homeschool community this way, we’re going to lose them. Vendors will not continue to come if no one is supporting them and everyone’s just buying used curriculum and buying it form other places where it’s a whole lot less expensive.
Tim: Yvette, I couldn’t agree more, and in a lot of states, the smaller states, these conventions are dying and that is exactly the reason, folks. I understand everybody needs to do what is best for their family, but we’ve worked really closely with our vendors this year and trying to help them with some marketing ideas, do some online specials so they can order and do some of those kind of things. But the reality is you’re exactly right. If the exhibitors who essentially pay for these conventions are not supported, in other words, you don’t buy there, and eventually those conventions go away, and now you’re looking at having to travel further away to a conference or not even have a conference.
We recognize, we value our exhibitors and our vendors. They are the reason we do these conferences, and so thank you for bringing that up. I just want to put an exclamation point on that to encourage people. It’s a great time to come. It’s not uncommon for us to hear about the buy America. Buy in America. We like to say, “Buy at the convention.” We want to support those folks that are supporting us.
Yvette: That’s right, and if you think about the whole cycle of how this whole thing works, I fully understand we have to be the best stewards of what God has entrusted to us financially, as most homeschool families are … we are typically a single income family on a tight budget because most homeschool families are single income on tight budgets, so they need to be good stewards of their finances.
However, think of it this way: You’re really supporting yourself by purchasing at the conventions, because as people purchase curriculum and products and such at conventions, then those vendors will be able to continue going to conventions, which then support the state organizations, and those state organizations use those conventions to help support their organization that then supports the homeschool families.
Tim: That’s exactly right.
Yvette: It’s very, very much needed. It’s critical. It’s critical that we support our different state organizations. By spending an extra $5 or $10 to purchase products at the conventions, you’re really supporting your own freedom to homeschool in your state. Does that make sense?
Tim: That’s exactly right, exactly right, and I would go further than that and say these state organizations are the watchdogs in your state that are watching the legislature or what happens with the litigation or all those sorts of things. If we lose the state organization, now you not only don’t have a conference anymore, but you don’t have a guard dog watching for your freedom.
Yvette: Right, that’s absolutely right, and so for those listening, it is critical. Support your state organizations.
I would love to talk a little bit about your role as a father, as a Christian leader of your home. I think that so many people don’t realize it, and oftentimes dads don’t realize how very important their role is as the leader of their home. Especially when it comes to homeschooling, they think, “Well, my wife is the one who does all of the schooling, I go to work and provide so that she can do that,” which, praise God for that. I am so grateful for dads who support their wives in doing that.
But what would you say to the dad who, maybe he’s not sure about this homeschooling thing. He’s heard about it but he doesn’t think his wife is capable, he doesn’t think she’s organized enough. What would you say to that dad? How can you encourage him?
Tim: As a Christian, if you go back to Deuteronomy chapter 6 and you look at the exhortations there that God through Moses is laying out to the nation of Israel, there’s a very clear exhortation to the father to teach things to your children, when you rise up and when you sit down and when you walk in the way. As Christians, that’s discipleship. We are not moms, but dads are exhorted by the Lord to raise up our children in the nurture and the admonition of the Lord.
When we started homeschooling, Yvette, it was because we wanted to pass our faith on to our children in the course of giving them an academic education. As the years rolled on and we began to enjoy the blessings and the fruit of homeschooling, I have come now, at the end of where most people are in their homeschool journey, to say the greatest benefit of homeschooling for our family was not academic. It was the relationships that we have with each other. It was the ability for us to spend time in knowing our children and raising them in the nurture and the admonition of the Lord.
As a father, what I say to homeschool dads is one day we are going to stand before the judgment seat of Christ and we’re going to give an account of how we handled the responsibility that God gave us as husbands and fathers. Part of that, for me, is enabling my wife to homeschool. Most of us dads don’t do much of the teaching, but I used to say, “We’re the superintendent.” We have a little plaque in our house that says, “If mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.”
I think it’s the husbands who God has given us the responsibility and really the ability to help our wives homeschool. I know I tell dads that moms will generally not homeschool for the long-term if they don’t have the active and assertive support of their husbands because moms get overwhelmed. They have a hard time prioritizing and they need us as husbands to say, “Honey, you can’t do everything. You’ve got to cross some things off the list here,” or to encourage them and spend time talking about our kids and what are decisions, what curriculum we need to make, all those sort of things.
I just tell dads when I talk to them that usually homeschooling is the mom’s choice, but if we do it well, it is a dad’s legacy to raise up a godly family that can carry on that family.
Yvette: I love that, and I love that you say, “You can’t do everything,” because I think oftentimes dads expect that, well, mom’s home all day and so she should be able to do it all. She should be able to keep the house clean and have dinner on the table and homeschool the kids and have all the grocery shopping done and the doctor’s appointments gone to. It’s not possible to do everything and I think that’s definitely one of the main concerns that dads often have, is what’s going to fall apart, and they’re afraid of that. It scares them that something in their family is going to fall apart.
But instead of saying, “What’s going to fall apart,” looking at how is this going to benefit our family and how is this going to benefit the eternal security of our … I mean, not that homeschooling is the gospel. We say that all the time. Homeschooling does not save our children by any means. Jesus is the gospel.
Yvette: But allowing your wife some grace and not expecting her to have everything in order all the time, because it’s never going to happen.
Tim: Sure, well, Yvette, I think dads who have those fears, many dads see homeschooling as some academic alternative. When they begin to see that this is a spiritual decision that will help me disciple my child into maturity and a godly Christian, then they begin to say, “Okay, that’s important. So now I prioritize that and how do we have to work around all these other things? How do we do the… ” When our kids were older, they had to clean the house. You make adjustments because this is a priority, because it’s not just about academics. It’s about discipling my children and laying a foundation for them for the future and for eternity.
Yvette: Yes, yes, that’s right. That’s absolutely right. I would say, too, any of the dads who are listening right now, encourage your wives. Come home and ask her, “What can I do to encourage you? How can I serve you right now?” Whether it’s dishes or laundry or getting the kids bathed and ready for bed, or my favorite, take the kids and let your wife go out and have coffee with a friend or go walk around the mall or the park or something. Mommies need breaks, too, and so I think dads who do that are … they’re my heroes. My husband does that. He’s fantastic. He’s great at serving our family, though we’re together all the time.
Tim: Yvette, one of the things I recommend dads to do is read the book The 5 Love Languages by Dr. Chapman. That just revolutionizes, because when you talk about what you can do for your wife, we need to prioritize that, and if her love language, most of the time it is different than yours, and you’re loving her in your love language and it’s not connecting. That book was really revolutionary for me to help me understand how to love my wife in a way that she felt loved. It’s just great, a great book.
Yvette: Yes, that is a fantastic book, and we’ll put a link to that in the show notes as well. We are out of time, unfortunately, for the podcast, but tell people where they can find you. Where can they learn more about Texas Home School Coalition and your conventions that you have coming up?
Tim: Well, it’s THSC.org, so you can find us on the web. You can find a YouTube. We have a YouTube channel and a Facebook group, so we’re everywhere, so please join us and we’re glad to help you.
Yvette: Okay, and what do you have on your YouTube channel? I didn’t know that you had a YouTube channel.
Tim: We have a YouTube channel. We have all sorts of videos. We actually did a … years ago we did a documentary with some of the pioneers of homeschooling in Texas, so it’s kind of a history of homeschooling. Then we have YouTube videos of the work we’re doing in Austin at the legislative sessions, different animated videos about the history of homeschooling in Texas, so just a plethora of different videos.
Yvette: Okay, that’s great. We will link back to that for sure, as well. Thank you so much, Tim, for your time. Thank you for what you do to support homeschooling. I know that you primarily work in Texas, but I know that your work is spread. It ripples throughout the rest of the country and you are a great blessing to all of the people that you’re serving in the homeschool community.
- Website: https://thsc.org/
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TexasHomeSchoolCoalition
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/texashomeschoolcoalition/
- Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/texashomeschoolcoalition/
- Twitter: https://twitter.com/THSC
- YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/TexasHomeSchool
Book recommended by Tim: The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts by Gary Chapman
Article on homeschool conventionsby Jamie Erickson