December 17, 2017

A Brief History of Home Education in New Zealand by Craig Smith

The following 6-part series of the history of home education in New Zealand appeared in TEACH Bulletin #72 (July 2003) through TEACH Bulletin #77 (January 2004). It was written by Craig Smith

A Brief History of Home Education in New Zealand, Part 1

(The following is offered by the Editor as a brief and incomplete sketch of many national events which helped form the home education environment we have today.  It is offered in response to a number of requests for clarification as to what home education support organisations are out there, who they are, and what their relationships are with each other and the MoE/ERO.)

 

Back in the 1970s & 80s parents approached the head of their local primary or secondary school and asked this person for an exemption certificate. This would be done differently at each school. It was discovered in 1987 that the MoE had no idea how many children were being home educated and that they had no way of keeping track of them. The Inspectors would visit those HEs they knew of, and for a while Psychological Services did the inspections.

 

Jean Hendy-Harris (author of Putting the Joy Back into Egypt, NZ’s first book on Home Schooling) and Anne Denny reluctantly became home schoolers when their gifted children were being let down by the system. This was around 1979 or 1980. They found that the only other home schoolers around at the time (in Auckland anyway) appeared to be alternative lifestylers growing and rolling their own. So, to improve the public perception of home schooling, they worked hand-in-glove with the Department of Education, being pushy at the same time to get what they wanted. They held support group meetings for other interested people and began publishing a newsletter. Because the Education Act of the day said home educators had to be “as regular and efficient” as a registered school, they called themselves “Prunes”.  They never became legally constituted because, as Jean told me, “Who needs another bureaucracy, another lot of paper work?”

 

Claire Aumonier was an early member of Prunes, but at some point she and Jean parted company. The perception of myself and others at the time was that the split developed over the two mutually exclusive views held by the two groups. Jean and Anne worked closely with the state education system, striving in fact to gain full recognition and credibility from the state. Claire on the other hand was a champion of parents’ rights, insisting the state had no business telling parents how to train up their own children. She set up the NZHSA (NZ Home Schooling Assn.) somewhere around 1983 and touted it as the only democratically elected, legally constituted body of home schoolers in the country, which was true for a few years. However, her claim that this made NZHSA the only credible voice of the home education community, that is, the only one to which the Ministry of Education should listen, was not well received by the several other home education groups which appeared on the scene.

 

When Craig & Barbara Smith of Palmerston North started home schooling unofficially in 1985, as far as they knew there was no support group anywhere.  Trevor and Laurie Morrison put on a one-day seminar for Christian home schoolers in Auckland about this time which Craig attended.  Laurie began publishing a newsletter, “The Homeschooler” in August 1985.  When the Smiths suggested that she organize another conference, Laurie asked why the Smiths didn’t do it themselves.

 

So the Smiths formed Christian Home Schoolers of NZ (CHomeS) and planned a national conference in Palmerston North for February 1987.  It drew people from Invercargill to Opononi in Northland, from Hokitika to Tokomaru Bay on the East Cape.  Many of the people there thought they were the only ones in the whole country home educating. The press releases sent out as a result led to the formation of support groups in Invercargill, Wellington and New Plymouth.

 

David Worboys of ACE (Accelerated Christian Education) in Dannevirke and Peter Butler in Tuakau were also setting up around 1985. Peter started CHESM, Christian Home Education Support Ministries, and began selling resources and giving curriculum advice.

 

In March 1987 a letter from the Department of Education went out inviting a number of home education leaders to a meeting in Auckland.  The reason for the meeting was that the Minister of Education, Russell Marshall, had discovered that the NZHSA was not the only home schooling organisation in the country as, apparently, he had been led to believe. He had been sending out two copies of every resource produced by the Department of Education to the NZHSA who would then circulate them among all the other home schoolers in the country.  Or so he thought.  When he discovered there were other groups, he invited these other groups to this meeting with the request that they not go to the press before hand. He was acutely embarrassed.

 

This meeting was held in Auckland at the house of Jean Harris of Prunes with JK Millar, Assistant Director Resources Development, Department of Education, on 9 April 1987. Also in attendance were Peter Butler of CHESM, Glenys Jackson (who had by this time taken over the newsletter from Laurie Morrison and changed its name to Keystone….it had a nation-wide circulation), someone unofficially representing ACE and Craig Smith from CHomeS.

 

Mr Millar replied in a summary of the meeting later, “I was surprised and alarmed by the number (of home schoolers in the country — he found the Dept had no way of keeping track of them at all).  It was a more major issue than I expected which could mean changes in policy beyond my control and was of a magnitude that could involve reaction from the teachers’ unions.”  Off the record he said that his own idealism had been tarnished as a new teacher when he found that public education was not just about children and learning but was also about politics and money. (Continuing.)

 

A Brief History of Home Education in New Zealand, Part 2

(The following is offered by the Editor as a brief and incomplete sketch of many national events which helped form the home education environment we have today. It is offered in response to a number of requests for clarification as to what home education support organisations are out there, who they are, and what their relationships are with each other and the MoE/ERO.)

 

David Worboys of ACE and Craig Smith of Christian Home Schoolers (CHomeS) hosted Dr Raymond Moore and his wife Dorothy for a week of speaking engagements in October 1988, flying from Auckland to Hamilton to New Plymouth to Wellington to Christchurch with them in a private plane. Sadly bad weather caused them to bypass the planned New Plymouth stopover. There were also two radio talk-back shows held in Auckland with Dr Moore who proved a master of graceful debate, usually turning his opposition around so they would eat out of his hand.

 

The NZ Home Schooling Assn. (NZHSA) had set up at least two branches, one in Tauranga and another in Hamilton. These branches wanted to start up their own local newsletters, but the parent organization wouldn’t allow it. Acrimony over this and other tactics which appeared to some to be “heavy-handed” caused the two branches to become independent support groups in their own rights. Carol (Cally) Brown of Hamilton emerged about this time as a formidable champion and supporter of home educators, known for her incredible sense of fairness, evenhandedness and willingness to work with anyone for the cause of home education. She has also put together some excellent newsletters and other home education publications over the years.

 

A crisis arose in 1989. The Department of Education, prompted by the Tomorrow’s Schools policy document, wanted all HEs to write charters, just as the schools had to do, only these charters were to be 85% pre-written by the Department itself. At the time there were five Christian organisations with national networks: CHomeS, CHESM, ACE, Keystone newsletter and Carey College Correspondence (run by Michael Drake in Panmure). We all networked well among ourselves and also with Jean and Anne of Prunes to mobilize our respective networks to lobby against the charter idea. (Well, actually, Jean Hendy-Harris and Anne Denny couldn’t understand why the rest of us were against the charter idea: to them we were at last being accepted as part of the nation’s education system. This had always been part of the dream of the Prunes group.) But none of us six groups who did communicate well could get close enough to the NZHSA to co-ordinate activities with them. At last the government dropped the charter requirement for home schoolers. (It is interesting to note that schools today are wanting to drop the charter requirement.)

 

1990 saw the introduction of the Home Schooling Supervisory Allowance, under then Minister of Education Phil Goff. This writer knows of no home educators who were lobbying for it: it appeared as a suggestion in the 1988 Picot Report and was picked up and instituted by the Tomorrow’s Schools policy document of 1989.

 

CHomeS put on two more national Christian home schooling conferences in 1988, one in Christchurch and the next one, back to back, in Auckland. Jean and Anne of Prunes and Claire Aumonier of the NZHSA were all invited to speak at the Auckland conference. The first two accepted, and while Claire did not speak, she did visit the conference for a short period. CHomeS put on another national conference in 1991 and a fifth in 1993 (both in Palmerston North). Attendances were up to 400 for the 2 ½ days of conference including a full children’s programme. At least two other conferences were held in Auckland by the NZHSA at the end of the 1980s or early 1990s. Hamilton, Christchurch and Nelson have had regular camps and there have been functions in many other places.

 

In July 1994 Lockwood Smith stopped the regular reviews of HEs by the ERO. He stated that he could not justify the expense of Review Officers travelling all over the country to review one or two children, virtually all of whom were doing excellently. All ERO annual reports have stated that HEs are a very low-risk group. Lockwood may have had another motive for dropping the reviews: the regular reviews were actually being conducted outside the parametres of the Education Act, which only provided for two occasions when reviews could take place on HEs: when a problem with a specific HE family came to the MoE’s attention; and when the MoE turned down a parent’s application for exemption, and the parent requested a review.

 

At Smith’s canceling of all Reviews, the NZHSA hit the media saying the MoE had abandoned home schoolers and that “the home schooling sector”, the term favoured by the NZHSA, wanted the MoE to re-instate the reviews right away. The idea was that home educators felt uncomfortable with no regular monitoring of them by the MoE, ERO or at least some state agency. Craig of CHomeS rang Claire of the NZHSA to enquire about the apparent policy change: the current statements by the NZHSA Varied greatly from the NZHSA’s well-known stance of total non-interference by the state. She confirmed that there had been a policy change. Press Releases from the NZHSA, now calling itself the Homeschooling Federation of New Zealand, have ever since consistently reflected the idea that home educators both need and want more robust monitoring by the state’s agencies in order to gain official affirmation and credibility in the eyes of the public.

 

In 1994 Glenys handed Keystone over to Craig & Barbara Smith. The first of the new-look Keystone Journal of Christian Home Schoolers of New Zealand came out in March 1995 as a bi-monthly. In January 1997 the political and school-oriented news was pulled out of Keystone and published monthly as the separate TEACH Bulletin. The full-colour cover format of Keystone featuring a different home education family was introduced in November 1998.  (Continuing.)

 

A Brief History of Home Education in New Zealand, Part 3

The sixth and (as at September 2003) the last national Christian Home Schoolers conference was held in Palmerston North in February 1996. Something new was added to this one: a “leadership forum” was tacked on to provide an open forum for whatever agenda items attendees came up with on the day. This was done under the secular TEACH Bulletin banner, as it was not intended for Christian home educators only. This TEACH Forum has been held annually ever since and in various parts of the country. (1996 = PN; 1997 = Wellington; 1998 = PN; 1999 = PN; 2000 = Christchurch; 2001 = Auckland; 2002 = PN; 2003 = Christchurch.)

 

The MoE was conducting a lengthy written survey among randomly selected home schoolers at this time (1996), and there was a lot of concern as to what they were up to. The Federation circulated an American article highly critical of research efforts on home educators written by Larry and Susan Kaseman. The effect of this was to scare many home educators away from answering the MoE’s questionnaire. Consequently their final survey results were terribly skewed in that the most commonly used curriculum among those who did respond was the NZ Correspondence School, nearly universally agreed to be probably the least popular option among home educators as a whole!

 

The MoE asked all HEs to write a self-evaluation report in 1996 in lieu of reviews, for the Audit Office said the MoE needed to be satisfied with the performance of HEs on an on-going basis, not just when they applied for an exemption.  CHomeS proposed a series of meetings among HE support groups to discuss our collective response to this idea of us writing self-evaluation reports, culminating in a national hui of home educators. Twenty-two support groups actually got together and wrote submissions which they sent to CHomeS. CHomeS copied them and sent them out to all the participating support groups who met a second time to review the wider responses.  It was a terrific exercise in national mobilisation and co-ordination.  However, the proposed national hui never eventuated since there was absolutely no consensus among HEs on a course of action regarding these self-evaluation reports! But it demonstrated that while home educators do not think alike or see things the same way, they can certainly work well together when they want to. Even though there were many HEs who refused to comply to this request to provide their own self-evaluation reports, some calling them “self-incrimination reports”, the MoE said they really enjoyed the reports, for it was the only time, apart from the exemption applications, that they had any direct contact with the home educators as to how they were doing.

 

By 1996 home educators in Auckland had actually become fearful of doing anything which might be construed as a move in opposition to the Federation. This fear extended to things like publishing local newsletters, holding local seminars and even to such trivia as ringing outsiders such as, or perhaps particularly, Craig Smith, who had been described by the Federation executive as a raving religious fanatic. At great personal cost, Kate Jaunay established HENA, Home Educators’ Network of Aotearoa in 1995 and did wonders to network HEs all over. Dorinda Duthie began doing one-day workshops in Auckland in 1996 which also helped alleviate the fear. Even so, the situation there had become so intolerable that the disastrous Federation AGM in September 1996 came very close to sparking fist-fights among the delegates! And no wonder! Just read the resolutions that this AGM actually passed: “1. That this meeting agrees that there should be only one organization representing the political interests of homeschooling in New Zealand, and that organization should be the Federation. 2. That this meeting agrees that the Federation should be the only homeschooling organization registered with the Ministry of Education as a national organization. 3. That this Meeting directs the Executive to write to HENA to change the ‘Aotearoa’ to ‘Auckland’ in their name in order to avoid confusion.” There also appeared at this time a nationally-circulated letter outlining what appeared to be irregularities in the Federation’s operations. At this point two Auckland members of the Federation contacted Craig, for they felt they needed some alternative perspective on home schooling, even if it did come from a religious fanatic.  Some really pleasant, helpful and informative phone conversations followed wherein both Aucklanders agreed that Craig didn’t seem like the total religious nutter they’d been led to expect.

 

In January 1997 there occurred a really historic meeting. Laying aside the fears, Rob & Kate Jaunay, Rob Ryan & Kay Christensen, Craig & Barbara Smith and others (and quite a few of their children) met together face-to-face for the first time over a Bar B Q in Cornwall Park, Auckland. We had a ball! Even the four-year-olds didn’t get bored or antsy after spending hours together in the same place. That month the Home Education Foundation also published the first TEACH Bulletin.

 

In March 1997 Christina Coward (co-founder and long-time co-ordinator of the Wellington Home School Association) and Craig Smith organised the second annual TEACH Forum in Wellington.  Kate Jaunay, Dorinda Duthie and two others came down from Auckland and horrified the rest of us with tale after tale of what had been going on in Auckland over the years.  We outlined the situation in the rest of NZ as we saw it, and they proclaimed Auckland to be at least eight years behind the rest of the country.  This TEACH Forum group also had two significant visits with officialdom while in Wellington. We squared off with Kathy Phillips and Derek Miller of the Ministry of Education who seemed somewhat ill-at-ease until our talks progressed. Once they realised that this group of home schoolers, from a wide geographical and philosophical spread, was not out for their blood, they relaxed considerably. Where did they get the idea that home schoolers would be out to get them? We thought we could guess where. There was also our first meeting with Tony Cross of the ERO in his offices.  At this time the Federation began to produce a newsletter called Updates which got more and more vitriolic in its attacks on certain people, devoting a “Hsssss….” column for that express purpose.

(Continuing.)

 

A Brief History of Home Education in New Zealand, Part 4

 The Federation, whose official name, remember, is the NZHSA, held a two-part AGM on 29 November 1997 and 14 February 1998 with a view to winding up. In a letter dated 18 October 1997, Claire Aumonier wrote: “There is a real possibility that, if it is not wound up, the NZHSA could very easily be amalgamated with ‘special interest’ or ‘extremist’ groups with whom most members would not wish to be associated.” The writer invites the reader to think about the logic of that statement for a moment: if most members would not wish to be associated with these “special interest” or “extremist” groups, how then could they possibly “very easily be amalgamated” with them?  But one must be aware that the Federation has always been fairly selective regarding its associates, as will be illustrated shortly.

 

The Federation decided not to wind up. But the February 1998 half of the AGM passed the following resolutions: “18(a). that the following people be censured by this Meeting for bringing Homeschooling into disrepute: (There follows a list of 13 names, Craig Smith being one of them). 18(b). that this AGM believes that (same list of 13 names) should be, as appropriate, either expelled and never readmitted as members of the NZHSA, or never admitted or readmitted as members of the NZHSA. 18(c). that this Meeting direct the Caretaker/Manager to forward the Minutes of the Meeting to appropriate Government departments, emphasizing that the individuals mentioned in 18(a) and (b) above have not been acting with the authority of the NZHSA.” These three resolutions were moved and seconded by six different Federation members; a real team effort.

 

Craig Smith subsequently rang a number of these six people to see if they could enlighten him on how he and the other 12 had brought home schooling “into disrepute”. Nothing specific was forthcoming. However, one of the six apologized for his actions and subsequently arranged a meeting between Craig and a senior executive of the Federation. At this meeting it appeared the Federation was somewhat concerned about possible legal repercussions upon themselves as a result of these near-libelous resolutions. Fortunately for the Federation Executive, the 13 aggrieved home educators were more profitably occupied with other pursuits.

 

When NZ First became part of the Government in coalition with National in 1997, MP Brian Donnelly actually brought to the bargaining table and actually got written into the formal coalition agreement, a provision for the re-introduction of regular ERO reviews of HEs. He even got a substantial provision written into the Budget the following July to finance these reviews of HEs. It was at this point that HEs began to recognise that regular reviews could not be conducted according to the Education Act. The Government noticed this as well, so introduced the Education Legislation Amendment Bill to give to the ERO the unfettered power to conduct reviews whenever, wherever, on whomever for whatever reason and to beef up their powers relating to how reviews are conducted with HEs. HEs lobbied hard to pare down some of the powers being promoted in this bill. Of the grand total of 177 submissions on the Bill, 125 of them were from home educators addressing clauses 59 & 60, the ones dealing with reviews! (TEACH Bulletin did a lot to inform and mobilize home educators to action, providing accurate information and possible courses of action). They certainly brought themselves to the attention of the Science and Education Select Committee, whose comments in Hansard show they were impressed with the commitment of HE parents (see these comments in TEACH Bulletin #19, August 1998).

 

At the end of 1997 Craig Smith was invited to present a submission to the (Margaret) Austin Panel who were reviewing the ERO. Christina Coward, founder of the Wellington Home School Association, accompanied me, and we both saw first hand some of the very negative attitudes some professionals and politicians have toward home educators. We also visited with Dr Judith Aitken, Chief Review Officer of the ERO for a very cordial hour that same afternoon.

 

The TEACH Forum of 1998 (which was held in Palmerston North over two days at Waitangi weekend) launched a huge initiative to lobby both the Science and Education Select Committee regarding the Education Legislation Amendment Bill and the Attorney General about the illegal way ERO reviews had been conducted over the years. This writer spent untold hours on the phone and in correspondence over these issues and writing two submissions, one for the ad hoc TEACH Forum group and one for CHomeS.

 

This TEACH Forum also instituted a steering committee to form a national group which would be an alternative to the Federation. CHomeS was always more of a service organisation, and being Christian, was off-putting to the growing number of secular HEs. The steering committee meetings revealed a multitude of concepts as to what was required. Some simply wanted to formalise the very extensive network that already existed among HEs and support groups. Others wanted a highly organised incorporated society with democratic elections, AGMs, etc., which would offer a total alternative to the Federation and in fact compete with it.  The end result, incorporated in July of 1999, was the National Council of Home Educators of NZ, Inc. (NCHENZ).             (Continuing.)

 

A Brief History of Home Education in New Zealand, Part 5

Strong support groups got started in Hamilton, Palmerston North, Wellington, Nelson and Christchurch in the mid-late 1980s which have continued strong to the present. Today there are also well-running groups in Whangarei, Auckland, Tauranga, New Plymouth, Napier/Hastings, Kapiti Coast, Masterton, Dunedin and Invercargill and maybe 95-100 groups in total all over the country.

 

There are many in Auckland of course. Auckland Home Educators, Inc. (www.home-education.org.nz), was formed in 1997 in an effort to break the fear of doing anything that might even possibly be seen as competition to, or without the permission of, the Federation — not to mention to just plain provide friendly and efficient services to more home educators. Dorinda Duthie and her team ran a very successful series of one-day workshops on the North Shore which are still going under the co-operative leadership of Mary-Anne Abplanalp and others (forgive me for leaving out names). Christine Whetton and Sharon Drinnan have also put on regular one-day workshops in Papakura. All of these folks have changed the face of Home Education in Auckland, strengthening the networks among them all in that large city.

 

Recent Auckland Area Home Education Workshops

21 June 1997                 North Shore

22 November 1997       North Shore

17 October 1998            North Shore

4 September 1999        Papakura

11 September 1999       North Shore

1 April 2000                 North Shore

9 September 2000      Papakura

5 May 2001                  North Shore

3 November 2001      Papakura

2 March 2002              Papakura

10 August 2002           North Shore

23 August 2003           Papakura

 

AHE and HENA both work well together, and in fact have recently merged. They and the Home Education Foundation have worked hard to maintain good relationships among all the groups, even though we have vastly varying world views, in order to avoid the schisms, ill-will and total non-communication problems that have arisen among various factions in the USA Home Education movement.

 

Even so, we have not been able to form even tentative communication links with a home education group based in Auckland who will remain unnamed, but whose initials are NZHSA. In a letter from this group to CHomeS dated 6 June 1995, they outlined their “policy on collaboration” as they called it, thusly: “Our operating status precludes collaboration with those other than elected representatives with a clear mandate and terms of reference. In its work, The [name of group] represents only its members, but acts in the interest of the whole home schooling sector. When required to comment on an issue our spokesperson does so with the interest of the entire home school sector firmly in mind.” Because they have had a democratically elected Executive Committee, this group consistently claimed for many years that they were the only legitimate voice of home educators in the country at a national level (see Parts 1 & 3 of this article in TEACH Bulletin Nos. 72 & 74, July & September 2003).

 

The initial meeting to form the AHE, Auckland Home Educators, Inc., in 1997 was a tense affair. But once up and running, AHE, Inc., has gone from strength to strength.

 

I have a two-inch thick pile of documents acquired from the MoE under the Official Information Act being copies of the correspondence carried on over the years by the NZHSA with the MoE. The correspondence appears to have the twin purposes of discrediting other NZ home education groups and endeavouring to convince the MoE that the NZHSA (the Federation) should be on the MoE payroll for providing the MoE with liason and review services of other home educators!

 

In November of 1998 CHomeS (Christian Home Schoolers) changed its legal name to the Home Education Foundation (HEF), its legal status being that of a charitable trust. An appeal brought in a large number of donations and pledges for support for the Foundation in order that it might contract Craig & Barbara Smith to work full-time for the Home Education community in NZ. The Foundation’s activity level has consequently increased, and they continue to rally the HE troops when needed for legislative alerts, research the issues, write submissions, organise forums, answer correspondence, lobby the MPs, publish a bi-monthly journal for Christian home educators (Keystone), publish a monthly newsletter for HEs on political, legislative and professional trends (TEACH Bulletin), moderate email discussion groups, make speaking tours of NZ, host overseas speaking tours of NZ, network with support groups all over NZ and effectively communicate with overseas HE organisations.

 

National Conferences run by Christian Home Schoolers of NZ

Feb 87 in Palmerston North

Jan 88 in Christchurch

Jan 88 in Auckland

Oct 91 in Palmerston North

Feb 93 in Palmerston North

Feb 96 in Palmerston North

 

TEACH Forums run by Home Education Foundaion

Feb 96 in Palmerston North

Mar 97 in Wellington

Feb 98 in Palmerston North

Feb 99 in Palmerston North

Mar 00 in Christchurch

Apr 01 in Auckland

Jul 02 in Palmerston North

Jun 03 in Christchurch

 

Other initiatives of the Home Education Foundation include

1. Linking with The Teaching Home magazine in the USA to write a page of NZ news every second month for a while.

2. Worked with HSLDA (Home School Legal Defense Association) near Washington, DC, and the FBI to track down obscene phone caller who plagued Christian home educators for years.

3. Established HEFnet, NZ’s first email discussion group for all NZ Home Educators

4. Initiated the annual Home Education Awareness Week.

(Continuing.)

 

A Brief History of Home Education in New Zealand, Part 6 (Final)

The Home Education Foundation was contacted in early 1999 by Bill and Diana Waring of Spearfish, South Dakota, who are also well-established veterans on the US Home School Convention circuit. They and their teenaged youngsters, Isaac, Michael and Melody, were coming out to do a YWAM course in Auckland for several months over the 1999-2000 millennium change and wondered if they could speak to some home educators while here. They ended up doing a two-part tour of about 10 weeks’ duration of Northland and Auckland before the new millennium and then of the rest of the country afterwards. They got as far north as Paihia and down south they even spent time on Stewart Island. It was a grueling tour, but they met the pace with grace and a desire to keep on giving of their wisdom and experiences. And New Zealanders up and down the country opened their homes to them night after night, in some cases using the tour as the catalyst for a first-ever gathering of local home educators. These speakers who are used to standing in front of crowds of 10,000 home educators in Orlando, Florida, shared a lounge suite and sat on the floor with five parents in Moerewa, Northland, and stood almost ignored in an Otago church hall as local home educators made contact with each other for the first time! Their final talk, on April 1, 2000, was on the North Shore to a crowd of nearly 300 home educating parents, possibly the largest gathering of this kind ever in NZ. The tour did a lot to draw NZ Home Educators together and endeared NZ so indelibly to the Warings, that they are back here again over January and February 2004.

 

On the 4th of April 2000, a number of people from different Home Education Organisations (National Council of Home Educators of NZ, Auckland Home Educators and the Home Education Foundation) met with the Minister of Education, Trevor Mallard, and later with Alliance MP Liz Gordon. Part of the purpose was to let the MoE know that there were several organisations in NZ to look after the interests of home educators and that no one could ever hope to speak for all of us. Liz Gordon’s advice and commitment to special needs children was very refreshing: indeed, she later helped a special-needs home educator get entitlements the local school wouldn’t give.

 

Then in mid-2000 the Minister of Education called for a Ministerial Working Party on Home Schooling. The letter advising us of this had the following items (among others): The Minister would not let the Working Party (WP) be captured by any person or any organization; WP membership needed to reflect the diversity of home schooling; Four national organizations – Home Educators Network of Aotearoa (HENA), National Council of Home Educators of NZ (NCHENZ), the Home Schooling Federation and the Home Education Foundation (HEF) – would each be invited to nominate two people for six places on the WP; issues for discussion would include: supervisory allowance, Special Ed 2000, access to Qualifications, access to professional guidance, professional development of parents and accountability issues with both MoE and ERO.

 

The Working Party never eventuated because the Federation refused to sit at the same table as representatives of HEF, NCHENZ and HENA. In fact an officer of the Federation circulated letters very widely, including to the MoE, in which the integrity of the MoE was denigrated and called into question. One letter also libeled Craig Smith to such an extent that Craig’s lawyer said his future financial security had just been assured should he care to pursue it (which he did not).

 

Politically, things have gone rather quiet since then. The MoE has been stretched to the limit with the transition from the old School Certificate/Sixth Form Certificate/Bursary regime to the NCEA levels 1, 2 and 3. This occupied all of 2001 through 2003. HENA merged with AHE, and the team there has been busy helping enquirers get accurate and balanced information about the home education option. The Federation and NCHENZ have both gone quiet. Canterbury Home Educators have been working with the MoE for a while now hoping to review and streamline the exemption process. There have been seminars and workshops put on by a large number of local support groups all over the country. Home Educators have become very good at organizing their own Professional Development.

 

HEF organized a World Views conference for home educators to which many others came besides. A world authority in this area, Dr David Noebel (author of Understanding the Times), and Chuck Edwards of Summit Ministries in Colorado Springs came over and revolutionized many people’s thinking for those few days in April 2002. Trustees of HEF who were traveling to the USA in 2001 and again in 2003, made personal contact with some significant people in the home education movement there: Pat & Sue Welch of The Teaching Home magazine, Jonathan Lindvall of Bold Christian Living, Susan Beatty and Philip Troutt of the California Parent Educator magazine, Bob & Linda Schneider of Rainbow Resource Centre, Harvey & Laurie Bluedorn of Teaching the Trivium, Doug & Beall Phillips of Vision Forum, James & Tracy McDonald of Home Schooling Today magazine and also Rev Haruto Yoshii of Christian Home Schoolers of Japan!

 

Home Education continues to grow quietly. Rumblings in the USA, Australia, parts of Europe and even a few small things here indicate that we home educators may be in for a renewed wave of opposition from bureaucrats. We’ll just have to ride it out as we have in the past, the majority of us working well together. We’ve got history on our side!