As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God.
– Psalm 42:1
1997 – IT BEGAN WITH AN IDEA
One autumn morning in 1997, a group of moms gathered at the Durham home of Jane Adams to consider whether local homeschooling families felt a need for supplemental classes for their children. Some of these women were seasoned homeschoolers with a clear vision of what would be helpful. Others were newer and more tentative, unsure about what would enable them to homeschool with confidence. But all agreed that a learning center for young students would be a welcome addition to classes already available to homeschoolers in the Triangle area.
The group met again a few weeks later to think more specifically about curriculum. By morning’s end, all were excited about a unit studies approach that would offer young students a rich sampling of science topics within the context of Christian faith. The interdisciplinary format would include read-aloud literature, music, poetry, Scripture, and picture studies relating to targeted science topics. Classes would be hands-on and engaging, helping to foster a lifelong love of learning. Six moms then agreed to participate on a steering committee to explore the possibility of forming a learning center for homeschool students.
1998 – THAT IDEA COMES TO LIFE
Jane Adams, Tita Arky, Nikki Bojanski, Debbie Cusick, Kim Echstenkamper, and Cameryn Smith met faithfully around Jane’s dining room table to pray for direction and to address the logistics that might bring Deerstream Learning Center into existence. Tita secured Grace Church as a likely meeting place, and by the spring of 1998, only two things remained to make Deerstream a viable educational entity: forming a corporation and securing nonprofit status. And a big decision loomed: Could any of the steering committee members continue on as members of a board to oversee this process, hire teachers, select curricula, and enroll students? The time commitment would be huge; these busy moms had already given numerous hours. Jane and Nikki agreed to be the nucleus of a board of trustees, and so the decision was made to press on.
With many thanks to the former steering committee members, the two trustees (along with a kind and knowledgeable attorney) whizzed through the process of incorporation. Applying for nonprofit status was daunting. Fortunately, Jane and Nikki were joined by Tom Bojanski, who knew how to navigate IRS forms. Encouraged by the example of Nikki’s husband, Rick Adams decided that he, too, would offer his support; and so, the trustees of Deerstream Learning Center became four strong. With the added help of Debbie Cusick, teachers were hired and curriculum specifics hammered out. It was an exciting time of diligent prayer and delight in God’s leading.
Sure enough, Grace Church in Chapel Hill opened its doors to Deerstream students in September 1998. Fourteen kindergarteners and first graders were taught by two pioneering teachers; one of these teachers, Mrs. Lilianne Smith, stayed with Deerstream for 16 years. Friendships were formed and life enlarged, as students and educators came together twice weekly to learn and marvel at the workings of God’s world.
1999 – EXPANSION
The following September 1999, Deerstream expanded to offer English and science classes to seventh and eighth grade students, through a Junior Division, whose families were seeking writing instruction and lab-based studies. The trustees hoped to launch classes for third, fourth, fifth, and sixth graders in years to come, as space and resources allowed. Gradually, once-a-week science classes were added to the Elementary Division, and, with a move to the more spacious Chapel Hill Bible Church, a second day of humanities study was offered for elementary students.
2001 – FINDING A LEADER
In the early years, Deerstream was directed by the volunteer efforts of trustees. A milestone occurred in January 2001 with the hiring of Deerstream’s first executive director. Inspiring and capable, Mrs. Amy Chauncey provided oversight for the organization’s growth and move to the Chapel Hill Bible Church. At times teacher and director, she supervised the smooth running of the organization while offering support to Deerstream teachers, students, and families. After 16 years of service to Deerstream, Amy Chauncey moved on to other opportunities in the spring of 2016. Lilianne Smith, beloved and experienced Deerstream teacher, stepped in as interim director to provide a seamless transition for the 2016-2017 school year. In the summer of 2017, Kelly Kirk was hired as the new executive director. A former Deerstream teacher and current Deerstream parent, Kelly is an educator with a love for the homeschooling community.
Deerstream is still governed by a board of trustees whose members fellowship at various churches. Over the years, numerous generous individuals have donated their time and talents as Deestream board members.
TODAY – MY, HOW WE’VE GROWN
Currently, Deerstream employs over 20 teachers and serves nearly 250 students, ages 4-11th grade, from all across the Triangle area.
It is a delight to revisit the history of Deerstream ― a lovely testimony to God’s faithfulness and provision in bringing about this learning center to augment and support the efforts of homeschooling parents.
This is our story. We invite you to make it part of yours.