Feature Family-Craig & Barbara Smith-November 1998


Feature Family
Craig & Barbara Smith
We met in Christchurch where we were being trained in
Christian discipleship by the Navigators, got married in
1979 and have lived in Palmerston North ever since.
Barbara grew up on a 3,500 acre high country sheep
station in the Hakataramea Valley, 10 miles down a
gravel road from Kurow which is 60 miles inland from
Oamaru. Highlights of her early days include handmilking
the cows; being isolated for weeks at a time
when the river would wash out the road, phone and
power, leaving them to cook on an open fire; and
jumping from a helicopter into freak snow drifts on the
back blocks to look for buried sheep. In Palmerston
North she became the Rawleigh products dealer which
brought her into contact with many people.
I arrived in NZ on the 1st of January 1973 as a 21-yearold
from the vineyards near Fresno, California. After 9
years with NAC and Air New Zealand I joined Barbara
in the Rawleigh business. The Lord’s blessing on that
business was such that it allowed us to devote our entire
mornings to the children. Because of this, I did most of
the formal academic training with the children while
Barbara looked after our babies and our many foster
children, so we did not fit the typical pattern of dad
away all day and mum managing EVERYTHING at
The Scriptures had convinced us of the need for
Christian education, and since there was no Christian
school in the area, we joined with others to get one
going. But when Cornerstone Christian School opened
its doors for business, we had experienced so many
benefits from teaching at home, we never did send them
to the school! The flexibility, tailoring subjects to the
children’s interests and learning styles, a closer family
unit, learning afresh ourselves, the freedom from the
school-culture peer pressure — though mixed with
weird looks and persecutions from friends, neighbours
and relatives — were all too good to give up. In fact,
we felt compelled to share the good news with others.
In early 1987 we held the first Christian Home
Schoolers of NZ National Conference. It was amazing!
People came from Invercargill, Hokitika, Tokomaru
Bay (East Cape) and Opononi in the far north as well as
points in between, many of them thinking they were the
only ones in NZ home schooling. What a thrill it was
to meet so many like-minded people! An informal
national network was established which has continued
to operate to this day.
None of our children have ever been to school, although
Genevieve and Alanson have coached and played for
state school T-ball teams. Genevieve was on the
Manawatu Rep softball team several years running and
Alanson is currently 2nd baseman for the under 15
Reps. We made the classic error of changing our home
into a school, and wondered why the children’s
attention span was only 10-15 minutes in the
“classroom” but would expand to an hour and a half
when being told stories while cuddled on the couch or
when doing something WITH us that we like doing
ourselves. Out went the workbooks, and in came an
eclectic system of delight-directed learning….directed
by what delighted one of us parents, usually Craig, and
could involve two weeks solid of doing nothing but
nuclear physics with all three of the older children
together, ignoring the different “grade” levels they were
supposed to be in.
Having six children has provided them with a good
environment for being socialised across an age range,
and has allowed the four oldest to become personally
and intimately familiar with the messy, inconvenient
and non-stop requirements of child rearing. A
statement by Raymond and Dorothy Moore guided the
balance of our curriculum: a challenging academic
programme; doing lots of hard, practical work with
their hands; and performing service for others.
The children always helped with the business. Barbara
got them to count the items of stock out of the box
when they arrived, to check them against the invoice, to
arranged them orderly and attractively on the shelf. At
shows such as the local A & P, they had the opportunity
to wait on customers, add the total, give correct change,
package and thank them with a smile….and keep a
percentage of their personal sales. Genevieve could
add the figures in her head and get the correct change
out before the customer had finished fumbling with the
crumpled up $20 note.
After 13 years, big changes in the market place meant
that the Rawleigh business could no longer support us.
We took up market research for three years, as it too
can be done from home. All this time the local support
group Barbara founded and co-ordinated for 12 years
was growing and becoming more sophisticated,
demanding more of her time and expertise. The work
and the projects that were crying out to be done for
home educators on the national scene demanded more
and more of my time. We began to realise we had
accumulated quite a store of knowledge and experience
over the years in running national conferences;
publishing periodicals and booklets; marketing
resources; giving advice and counsel on all topics to
groups and indivuduals, by phone, public speaking,
correspondence, lectures, essays and personal visits;
and in lobbying officials at all levels.
But still, at age 45 I realised that in the world’s eyes I
had no qualifications and no career prospects….it
dawned on me that I had unconsciously given those up
when I determined, at age 31, to teach the children
myself every morning. A friend shared how the
Government actually pays old buzzards like me to retool
at virtually any tertiary institution, so I took on
full-time studies at Massey. Barbara took on the full
responsibility of tutoring all the children. The work
load on top of Rawleighs, market research and
CHomeS was more stimulating for both of us but very
Keystone Page 9 November 1998
heavy. At the end of two years, we were on the verge
of total burn-out. When we shared our situation with
Keystone and TEACH subscribers in September 1998,
praise God, the responses indicated His people wanted
us to carry on serving the home education community
in a full-time capacity. What a humbling experience.
But we are so excited about being totally focused on
home education.
As the older children approached the high school years,
we felt they needed more discipline and greater
challenges. That was very ably provided through the
Carey College Correspondence Programme out of
Auckland. The work was difficult, there was a lot of it,
the standards were very high, and they graded really
hard as well. Our first year was a disaster! But through
it Genevieve and Zach learned to motivate and set
targets for themselves. Today they are not concerned
by huge tasks, for they know how to break them down
into managable bits and complete them on time and at
the required standard.
We also found ABeka great for literature and history,
Bob Jones for science, Saxon for maths and Scope for
grammar and composition. Frequent trips to the library
are a must for general knowledge. It has been good in
these latter years being able to leave Genevieve and
Zach to organise their own studies, but they were able
to do that because they had had our undivided attention
all during those early years. Alanson and Charmagne
not only need the one-to-one tutoring to keep them on
track and motivated, it would be a crime to miss out on
the once-in-a-lifetime golden opportunity to daily
personally build into them those character traits, habits,
attitudes, values, widom and knowledge we want them
to have. We went through a period where we just about
lost it, becoming so tied up with organising and doing
things for others, but by God’s grace and the generosity
of His people, we are back on track…I’m loving the two
hours I now give to Alanson each morning.
It seems to us now that until 12 or so there are basic
skills which must be MASTERED: reading and
listening comprehension; penmanship, spelling,
grammar, composition and oral communication; and
arithmetic. These seem to require intense one-to-one
time, not necessarily in a formal way, but they all
require disciplines and high degrees of exactness which
simply do not happen by themselves. History, art,
music, geography, literature, science and more can be
lumped into general knowledge and imparted to a range
of ages at once through story reading, games, projects,
etc., etc. Barbara is currently reading biographies of the
great composers to Charmagne (11) and Mitchell (6)
while they do the dishes each morning. All three are
learning a lot and enjoying the time.
Mitchell joined us when he was five months old, was
adopted into our family, and five years later his full
sibling, Patrick Jedediah James Strong Smith, came on
board. These two may well get quite a different form of
education, as we are looking into Classical Christian
Education, utilising the Trivium of Grammar, Logic
and Rhetoric. We are really excited by what we have
read about this approach thus far, and Barbara has
begun her and the children’s first lessons in Latin!
This is another thing that makes home education so
wonderful…we parents are learning and developing
as well!
Genevieve, Zach and Alanson are all members of the
Air Training Corps, the first two being senior
officers. They prepare and deliver lectures in
classrooms, at camps and even on tramps in the
snow-covered bush. You should see them bark
orders to junior cadets on the parade grounds or take
one aside for some individual tutoring,
encouragement or a dressing down, as the situation
requires. They are regularly co-oped for various
civic and military projects such as Guards of Honour
at ANZAC Day parades by Ohakea Air Force Base
and Linton Army Camp. Zach is pursuing a career
with the RNZAF.
The children sometimes have more Biblically
oriented minds than we do, not being trained in
humanistic thought in public school as we were.
Genevieve brings us books on Biblical courtship and
chaperonage and suggests we had better read them.
She was always keen on politics and law. When she
was nine years old, she wrote a scathing letter to
Finance Minister David Caygill, who was proposing
to tax the interest on bank account deposits, advising
him to “calm your greedy fingers down a little”.
Opposition Finance Spokesperson Ruth Richardson
was so excited by her copy of the letter that she got
Genevieve down to Parliament for the day and onto
that evening’s national news! At age 13 she began to
ask our lawyer for study tips for a career in law.
When he began an independent law practice, he
immediately thought of Genevieve, and she has been
full-time law clerk for him ever since, doing a Legal
Executive course at nights.
Charmagne is into Highland Dancing which provides
a good measure of training, fitness and discipline….
and old-fashioned competition for medals and
At a recent lecture Genevieve and I delivered at the
local College of Education, the temperature and
ferociousness of the students’ comments and
questions increased as we dwelt on the nonconformist
benefits of home education
socialisation….that parents would have the major
input into their children’s development of values,
attitudes, etc. Those students thought THEY and the
kids in their classrooms had a socialisation
programme better than any family. The state system
is anti-family to the core. Home education is
definitely on the right track.

Keystone November 1998

Vol IX No 3

4 Tawa Street

Palmerston North