July 29, 2014

A Personal Testimony about Home Education

March 2011

None of our eight children (three being adopted and one currently fostered) have ever been to school. We have always lived right here in the same house in Palmerston North. Genevieve is now 31. She worked her way to the top of Air Training Corps to Warrant Officer and was part of the Squadron’s champion marching team. She was a Manawatu Representative Softball player too. At 13 she wanted to be a lawyer, so I told her to go talk to one and find out what’s required. She did. A couple years later this lawyer set up his own practice and took Genevieve on as part-time help. Later she was full time. Then he paid for her to attend night classes. At age 19 she was a qualified Legal Executive with four years’ work experience, a glowing work reference and $20,000 in the bank. Her friends had barely finished their BAs, had no work experience, no references and a $20,000 student debt.

Genevieve then went with her brother Zach to work and travel in the USA for two years. Upon return to Palmerston North, she steadfastly turned down invitations to work for lawyers in town including a QC (although she still had luncheons with these men and their staff regularly), so that she could work for me, her father, even though I could pay her anything. In 2005 she and her sister Charmagne went back to the USA to work for four months in order to earn the money to get the rest of us over there to attend our son Zach’s wedding (October 2005) in Illinois. She was introduced to a wonderful man, Pete de Deugd from Australia in 2007 and was married on 16 February 2008. They now have two children, wee Natalie and Caleb, plus one on the way, making us very happy grandparents!

At 18 Zach (now 29) approached Massey’s admissions officer about doing a single paper (Principles of Logistics, part of the Bachelor of Defense Studies degree) on Provisional Enrolment since he had no qualifications. They let him in. He came to me with his draft of his first essay assignment claiming we’d never prepared him for this, he’ll never do any good, and that we’d completely failed him academically. We were crushed. Until I read his draft essay. It was a good one. But I didn’t tell him so; I just said I reckoned he’d do OK if he polished it up a bit more. He got an A on that one, an A+ on the next and ended up tying for first place in the class with a girl from Blenheim who turned out to be another home schooler!! All the while he was holding down a full-time job where his workmates and boss called him “awesome Zach” because of his ever-looking-for-more-to-do-and-better-ways-to-do-it work ethic. (He never had to look for jobs: he always had plenty of offers come his way.) Zach was also an officer in the Air Training Corps and part of the champion marching team. He and Genevieve did the big OE in the USA for nearly two years, gained more work experience, income and references. Zach did another two years over there, married the boss’s daughter, Megan, and produced our first grandchild, wee Cheyenh and a second named Dusti. Zach is now the Marketing Director for his father-in-law’s business (www.RainbowResource.com)! He still has no degree or even a school leaving certificate.

Alanson is now 27. At age 18 he took on a full time, full year course (intro to electronic engineering) at the local Polytech (Ucol) with no paper qualifications at all….many Polytech courses have no prerequisites. (He had just turned down an offer of an engineering apprenticeship after the workplace had watched him be the cleaner and dog’s body for two hours a day for a few months.) He finished near the top of his class at Ucol. His first exam with that course was in Physics. Now, this was also the first test or exam he had EVER taken in his whole life. He got 92%. We had never studied physics at home. My opinion is that his score reflects the academic acumen of the course content and the institution involved. Alanson was also an officer in the Air Training Corps, part of the champion marching team and a Manawatu Representative softballer for several years. He worked with Zach in the USA for a year. Their job was to load up a truck and trailer with books, drive (Zach is the driver) for up to 3 days to some other part of the USA, set up the book display (with as many as 6 cash registers!!), manage the rest of the sales team with them, advise the customers at the home schooling convention about the books and complete the sales, pack up and drive back, restock the warehouse and get ready to do it again. Zach has been to all of the 50 states plus all but two Canadian provinces and to Mexico as well. Alanson came back to NZ and sat the RNZAF (Air Force) entrance exam. He scored so high that they waived the normal academic requirements. At the end of RNZAF bootcamp at Woodbourne, he got the trophy for academic excellence. This is a guy who is not an academic and whose handwriting looks like a six-year-old’s. He is now stationed at Ohakea Air Force Base doing Avionics. In 2003 he and Zach flew to Europe and visited every country from Morocco to Sweden, from Portugal to Hungary, except for Andorra and Gibraltar. In 2007 he toured the UK with the RNZAF playing ruby. In January 2010 he got to work for a month in Antarctica.

Charmagne is 23. She is our fourth one to go through the teen years, and you know, we never got any of the mood swings, the rebellion, the disrespect, the rejection of our values and all the other stuff that so many promised we’d see in these ones “once they become teenagers”. Well, Barbara & I always rejected that concept of “teenager”; we eventually concluded that the “generation gap” was not normative, but a symptom of serious alienation probably caused by a number of things, but especially by the effects of the public schools forcibly separating children from their parents and their siblings and forcing them to socialize with whatever crowd happened to be at the local schooling institution. If you think about it, the only time people are forced to socialize with a set group is as school children and as prisoners.

Charmagne epitomizes for us heart-warming qualities I suspect can only be developed by a home-based education. These are qualities we’ve tried to promote in our children, that we’ve tried to live out ourselves, and that we tried to praise in others. These qualities are found in our older three, so keep them in mind as I describe Charmagne: She loves to be at home; she loves the company of her siblings; she loves listening to adults converse; she loves helping to baby sit or mind children whenever asked; she loves doing sewing jobs for everyone else in the house; she will leave her friends to themselves when they go teeny-bopper on her and start talking about boys and clothes and makeup and will go find some helpful jobs to do or adult conversation to join; she loves reading historical novels but will trash it if it gets too romantic, for she is committed to presenting her future husband with a bride who is emotionally as well as physically pure; she looks forward to getting married and having children she will then home educate; she openly talks about looking after her parents in their old age; she prefers to listen to classical music or recorded sermons while doing her cross-stitching project; and she consistently got awards for excellence in dress and presentation at Air Training Corps. Charmagne has had piano and singing lessons and is teaching herself to play the organ. And although she scored what is apparently an unprecedented string of 100%s in her Highland Dancing Theory exams, she has no academic aspirations. (She now has a Dip HND.) She is also becoming quite a seamstress, doing her own pattern drafting, and recently took up upholstering. She has created a number of 1830s style hoop skirts and has held a number of English Country Dancing evenings (see http://www.photoblog.com/charmagne). She learned NZ Sign Language then taught it to our wee Gracie before she could speak. Charmagne is an expert furniture upholsterer, painter and paperhanger, plasterer and does floor and wall tiles too. At Pete & Genevieve’s in Australia, Charmagne has helped build, clad, roof and floor a shed 35 x 14 meters, dropping 22 telephone poles into large holes for uprights, cementing them in, managing the project of building nine 700kg trusses (her pattern-drafting skills applied to boards 5.3 metres long as well as to lengths of cloth 53 centimetres long), driving a CAT 930 articulated dirt mover, arc welding, oxy welding, plasma cutting and a myriad of hand tools. She does gourmet cooking for us, all the shopping and budgeting, and designed and cut out the 16 dresses for Genevieve’s wedding as well as designed and baked and iced the 3-tiered wedding cake to feed 350 guests. It seems to us that if we put in the work in the early days, the fruit we are looking for should generally come forth later on…you know, the old “reap what you sow” idea.

The J Boys, Jeremiah 18 and Jedediah 13 are full siblings. Jeremiah is a classic ADHD with a string of food allergies as well, most of which he’s now out-grown. Groups of people and video action can still work him into a hyper-active state. He can do anything and is totally fearless and outwardly 100% confident when it comes to social or business situations….but he must be personally motivated to do it, which doesn’t take much! He has organized his own field trips to and through the airport by ringing the airport manager, on whom he still calls for a chat every time we visit the airport. He has had several entrepreneurial enterprises, one being a Petting Farm on our ¼ acre town section, for which he organized a free listing in the Yellow Pages plus a feature article in the local newspaper! The pets he had then were a cat, a kitten, three mice, two hens, seven chicks, a rabbit, a duck and some ducklings. He single-handedly contacted a local aero club to volunteer to clean the aircraft. They let him, and he ended up going for a number of joy rides and ended up with a brilliant work reference on the business letterhead! The job finished, but a few months later they called him back with the offer of a ½ hour flying lesson for every six planes he cleans. He’s had eight hours of flying lessons so far! He works at a dairy farm, too. He and I got our firearms licenses, and he bought a .22 with which he’s shot wild goats and possums. After doing a few months at Burger King and BP, Jeremiah took off to live with Zach & Megan in the USA for five months in March 2010. He and a friend have organized their own security-patrol in Palmerston North where they’re friends with every police officer and bouncer in town. He’s aiming to enter the NZ Police force.

Jedediah is progressing through the three Rs well and sees things spatially in both the physical and conceptual realms, already making interesting connections among facts he’s learning and asking probing questions. He loves working with tools and recently replaced a set of taps in the bathroom, needing to take them apart and re-install them three times to fix a leak, but never tiring or complaining about anything the whole time. When our vehicles need an oil change, I just ask Jed, and it’s as good as done. He’s learning all about sound systems, video work, sound mixing and radio-controlled boat building from a friend at church and currently has a fleet of radio controlled helicopters.

The next two children are two girls, Kaitlyn 10 (who we adopted) and Grace, 5 years old (who we are just fostering). Kaitlyn is a full sibling to the J boys and Grace is a half sibling to the other three adopted children. The mother of these four is a wiccan. We are Christians. But she has seen our four older children and wanted her ones to be like them, regardless of the fact that her religion is almost as far away as you can get from our religion.

Kaitlyn is an incredibly quick learner and is quickly passing Jedediah in learning to read. She actually taught herself to read and now writes all the time just for fun. Charmagne took a NZ Sign Language course and then taught Grace to sign to us. Grace was a very happy baby since she was able to communicate with us quite well from an early age, even when she could not speak more than five or six words. She now has quite an advanced vocabulary which we are sure comes from the fact that both girls and Jedediah love being read to…something we try to do every day.

We would never willingly send our children to a state primary school in New Zealand: I’ve observed the system for over 20 years, read many books about it, talked to teachers and students and read the newspapers: they are abysmal academically and socially and just plain dangerous both physically and morally. The tutoring/mentoring methodology afforded by home education has many vast advantages academically, socially, logistically and relationally. There might be a case for attending a secondary school, but it would have to be offering some pretty exciting skills by some pretty gifted teachers to overcome all the negative social aspects of NZ high schools. I offered to get places at Boys High or Girls High to my teens, but they steadfastly refused to consider it. They said they knew too many products of those institutions through Air Training Corps. Charmagne actually accompanied some friends around a “good” College for two days once. She was astounded by the time wasted every day by sheer logistical issues related to crowd control. Add to that the lack of motivation to learn or pay attention displayed by the majority of students and you understand why she changed her mind about what she’d heard me say for years in relation to schools. She thought I was exaggerating when I’d say you could learn in two hours at home what would easily take two weeks to learn at school. She now says I’ve grossly understated the case!

Craig & Barbara Smith

National Directors, Home Education Foundation
PO Box 9064, Palmerston North 4441, New Zealand, Ph. +64 6 357-4399, craig@hef.org.nz, www.hef.org.nz

Free Phone 0800 100 692

Serving, promoting, defending and publishing for Christian and secular home educators in NZ and overseas since 1986.

Unless we press the crown rights of the King in every realm, we shall not retain them in any realm. –  Cornelius Van Til.

Craig & Barbara Smith

Home Education Foundation

PO Box 9064

Palmerston North 4441

New Zealand

ph. +64 6 357-4399

fax +64 6 357-4389

www.hef.org.nz

Serving, promoting, defending and publishing for Christian and secular home educators iin NZ and overseas since 1986.

Unless we press the crown rights of the King [Jesus Christ] in every realm, we shall not retain them in any realm. — Cornelius van Til