The idea of ECHO was started in the spring of 1991 when several homeschooling moms were enjoying a lunch together. The topic of desiring a Driver’s Ed class for homeschoolers was discussed. The idea of pooling together resources to provide activities for homeschoolers in a Christian setting was born! The ball rolling, friends were called, a meeting was set up for 6-9 couples to come together and discuss the feasibility of organizing something together and above all to see if God wanted them to proceed. Prayer was a large part of the beginnings of ECHO as they gingerly explored the thought that there was a need in our homeschooling community for something like this. The direction to proceed was decided on with several 4-8 hour sessions determining the vision and mission statement that would direct the path ECHO would take for the next 30+ years. The hope was that this would be a blessing to families by coming alongside homeschooling moms and dads as they directed their children’s education to the glory of God. At that time, there were no outside homeschooling activities in the area. The opportunity to participate in group activities and specialties that most families didn’t have the means to provide on an individual basis was provided. One of the fantastic aspects of ECHO’s founding was the extensive involvement of the fathers in the forming of our mission statement determining the direction ECHO would go.
The first church that welcomed us to meet was the Assembly of God Church on Bombing Range Road in West Richland. At the first sign up, we were immediately too big for the facility and started the search for a place that would be large enough for us. We found a home at Columbia Community Church in Richland and they were gracious in allowing us to meet in their building for over 20 years. We have since moved on to another church in Richland.
Registration during the first couple of years consisted of a Parents Meeting 3 times a year, after which parents would stand in line in front of various tables with the different classes available, and sign up. This was very time consuming and led to the realization that we needed to simplify things. I believe we initially went to a semester system but that was soon replaced by the once a year system we have now. There was no website, no online downloading of registration info. To know what classes were available parents would pick up a registration packet from various board member’s homes on certain days and hours after receiving a letter informing them when this would be taking place.
One of the realities we always kept in mind was that we were serving, for the most part, single income families. The goal was to keep everything as economical as we possibly could while trying to provide a great product. We’ve always considered the money parents spend at ECHO a stewardship issue and have taken that trust seriously.
2014 marked a new beginning for us at a new location. As ECHO has grown, the way we’ve done things has changed, but the Vision/Mission has stayed the same in that our desire has been to serve homeschooling families as they educate their children. ECHO is to be a fun day at the end of the homeschooling week as kids participate in activities not easily available for individual families to do on their own. Through the years and different boards serving ECHO, our heart has been for these activities to be done for the Glory of God and to be of service to the homeschooling community. We are excited to see how the Lord will continue to use ECHO to encourage and support homeschooling families of the Tri-Cities.