Marlborough parents feel home schooling suits their children

Marlborough mother says she has nothing against traditional schooling, but at home her children are free to learn “what they want, when they want”.

Niki Boon said her children learned primarily through books and observing the world, and her son Kurt would decide whether he wanted to go to high school.

Boon had home schooled all four of her children, aged between 6 and 12-years-old.

Boon and husband Rob Simcic decided home schooling suited their children better, she said.

“We just preferred our kids at home.”

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They had a lot of freedom in how they structured their children’s day, Boon said.

“They have to learn ‘as much and as often’ as they would at school, but it’s really vague.”

The number of home schooled children in Marlborough climbed to 62 last year.

Fifty children were educated at home in 2014, although in previous years the numbers had reached 100.

The number of children enrolled in schools in Marlborough last year was more than 6600.

Boon knew of some home schooling parents who kept to a rigid timetable, but she did not dictate what her children had to learn and when.

The children had plenty of opportunities to socialise, sometimes with workers from all over the world who stayed on their Spring Creek property, Boon said.

To home school their children, parents had to apply for a certificate of exemption from the Ministry of Education.

Parents had to provide information to the ministry including a statement of their philosophy, what subjects they intended to teach, and a description of intended environmental, social and community contact.

Children who were home schooled could take NCEA exams through the Correspondence School or through a “link school”.

Twice a year parents had to make a declaration to the Ministry of Education that the home schooling was continuing. Students were allowed to “trial” a school for up to 10 weeks, without losing their home schooling status.

Fellow home schooling mother Veronika Merkle, originally from Germany, made the decision to home school her son Corbinian, 6, because she wanted him to grow up bilingual.

She also felt he was too young to be separated from the family.

While she hoped to home school him all the way through primary school, she would have to wait and see whether it suited him, she said.

“As they grow up they might have different needs, that we might struggle to meet,” she said.

Marlborough Boys’ College principal Wayne Hegarty said occasionally students who were home schooled would come to Marlborough Boys’ to do their NCEA exams.

“Some will do very well. It just varies, really.”

Two years ago, William Irwin-Harris, who was home schooled for most of his life, became proxime accessit to the dux.

“He was a very bright boy, and it was nice to see him grow in confidence,” Hegarty said.

William’s mother Jacqui Harris said he had just won a prize for mathematics at Victoria University.

Parent Smyth Brydon said her son attended Grovetown School, but her 8-year-old daughter Brooke was educated at home. She tried school for two years but decided she wanted to try learning at home.

“She’s a real free spirit, and I’m a real fan of following the children’s lead,” Brydon said.

“She [experienced school], and it was good, but at the end of the day she said ‘no, I still want to give this a go’,” Brydon said.

Brooke’s preschool teacher first suggested home schooling after Brydon said she was concerned Brooke was not ready for school. Initially Brydon was reluctant, but after she did some research into it she thought it would suit the family.

Brydon said she hoped Brooke would choose to keep learning at home, as she did not want her to feel the pressure to fit in as she got older.

Brooke was very self-motivated, Brydon said.

“If she wants to become a doctor, she’ll become a doctor. If she wants to become an artist, she’ll become an artist.”

Each year about 5500 New Zealand children were home schooled.

 – The Marlborough Express

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