It began in the mid-’80s. There were many families who felt God calling them to teach and train their own children. Even though no one knew exactly what homeschooling was, those families began their journey trusting God to lead them, and He did! Soon, word about this fantastic form of education began to draw new families to the doors of those already homeschooling, inquiring about this thing called homeschooling. Those families were feeling the growing pains of their own homeschool schedules as the daily interruptions became too common, making it difficult to homeschool their own children with regularity.
This story was not unique to San Antonio, God was calling out parents to teach their own children all over Texas and across the Nation. Homeschooling was legal, but there was nowhere for a family to go and find out what to do or how to do it legally. From this need, a national organization called HSLDA was formed to watch federal laws on homeschooling, and a state organization called HOPE for Texas, (now Texas Home School Coalition) was formed to watch the state legislation on homeschooling.
In San Antonio, Family Educators Alliance of South Texas (FEAST) was formed as the first homeschool organization in the South Texas Region for the purpose of being a clearing-house of information for the homeschooling families. The FEAST Board held its monthly meetings in a garage. It was in that dusty garage that the organization grew, incorporated as a 501c3, planned events, and set up a homeschooling library so that those that could not afford to buy books could borrow books to teach their children. This unused office space and garage on North Flores was donated for use by the newly formed FEAST Organization, furnished with a desk and phone. A homeschooled girl was hired to take phone calls and answer questions. If the caller needed more information, she would forward them to designated moms that could give more detailed answers. Each mom would donate one day of the week to answer questions, freeing up the remainder of their week for uninterrupted homeschooling! Life was good for a short time. Although books and tests had to be mail ordered, taking up to three weeks to receive, homeschool continued to grow. With that growth came the long list of questions as to why people were homeschooling: Religious conviction, educational advantages, flexible schedules, and even problems with the school their child was attending. Because parents were having challenges with schools, families often found that the problems in the schools left them in an emergency situation where they needed to homeschool now, not in three weeks when the books arrived. FEAST then began to stock a very limited supply of curriculum, specifically for emergency situations. These were the makings of our first bookstore.
Step by step the Lord blessed and FEAST grew and prospered. We outgrew the downtown location and moved further North to Data Point Drive, another borrowed unused office space. So many new families were coming into homeschooling that they could no longer be handled on a one-on-one basis. FEAST began doing daily group orientations. A video was produced and additional staff was hired to help with the traffic flow in the office. Fellowship among homeschool families sprung into a small church and support groups. As FEAST grew dads were called on to coach sports teams for their children.
When an old bowling alley on Blanco was abandoned and left to ruin, FEAST rented it for one dollar a year with the agreement that the families would clean it out and fix it up. When the families were done, the new facility housed three workshops, a bookstore, a homeschool information center, and two basketball courts complete with sport court floors and a snack bar on the side! The owner then gifted the facility to the organization! We were very humbled by the fact that no homeschool organization across the country had their own facility, much less a bookstore, meeting space and basketball courts! Families were so grateful for the amazing facility that God had given to us. In San Antonio, the new Alamodome was built and playing off of that name we lovingly called our new facility the “Homedome”.
FEAST grew, and as beautiful as our location was, God was not finished with our story. Just down the street and around the corner our friends at the San Antonio Christian School were moving and were unable to find a buyer for their campus on Burwood Lane. FEAST could never afford to purchase a school campus, (with two gyms, football field, portable classrooms, offices and a school library that could easily become the FEAST bookstore), but as often is the case, the Lord intervened and orchestrated a property trade for our Blanco Road facility. A Christian Ministry found the Homedome fit their needs; so they took possession, and, we took the school campus on Burwood in 1999 and began utilizing the bigger campus ever since.
At our present location, we did turn the school library into the FEAST Bookstore with over 17,000 titles. Classrooms have transformed into Computer Labs, meeting spaces, Offices were organized to house an Executive Director and over 20 staff members. Classrooms became Testing centers, Co-op classes facilitating over 40 classes on any given Tuesday and Thursday. The kitchen became the homemaking and cooking lab, portables became art and music studios, the school chemistry lab and hands-on science building was quickly put to use with science for all ages extending to occasionally be one of the only locations offering Advanced Biology and Forensics! With the additional space FEAST now host its own science fairs. The old school cafeteria has become the community hub for Creation Science workshop, monthly Civics Classes, Fellowship Dinners, Summer Reading and Kick off meetings for eight different sports: Basketball, Football, Baseball, Soccer, Golf, Volleyball, Track and Field, and Cross-Country. Our fields are alive with young athletes learning the skills and disciplines of sports. For many years the whole campus was transformed to be used as one of the largest Home School convention sites in South Texas. What a difference this campus has made in the lives of the homeschooling families in this area.
From the moment you walk through the front doors at FEAST, as you walk down the halls, you sense something different, something unique. You feel the spirit of God, of family, of love, of cooperation, of staff greeting you like old friends. A place where children are welcome and a crying baby is never a bother. FEAST has grown over these past 30+ years and continues to grow. That early mission statement of being a clearinghouse for homeschooling information has grown also into a clear mandate from the Lord that our mission is to promote and support the benefits of parent-directed education.
Serving Him by serving you,
Linda S. Whiten
“O taste and see that the LORD is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in Him.”