The pros and cons of homeschooling

We are not happy to have our photo associated with this somewhat negative article. The Canvas Magazine, the weekend magazine of the NZHerald, took this photo about 18 months ago and didn’t use it then.

We would like to see some positive comments about Home Education on this NZHerald blog.

Original article at:

I have to say that the day my fairly conservative husband came home and wondered out loud if homeschooling was a good idea made me stop dead in my tracks.

It’s one of those options that I have always thought of as extreme. An extreme lifestyle choice, and a total career 180 degree turn for a woman in her most competitive years.

Heck, putting your foot on the pedal for 3-5 years while the kids are little is hard enough. But devoting potentially 12 years to their education at home, having them underfoot 24-7? I couldn’t imagine it for my own part – and I swiftly told my dearly beloved this – and wondered aloud back to him if it was in some way detrimental to have the kids cooped up with me for longer than strictly necessary.

Ali had cottoned onto the benefits of homeschooling when he’d done this story about a group of local home-schooled kids who had made an award winning robot and were about to go to America to compete in an extremely prestigious robotics competition.

These guys’ families were part of a well established, tight-knit group of home schoolers currently operating outside the New Zealand school system. Then I came across this article from written recently by a husband whose unconventional-sounding wife has made the decision to homeschool the couple’s twins because they felt it unnecessary for the children to come into line with the regular school day (week and year) at their relatively tender age of 5.

The family in this article are teaching two of some 1.5 million US home-schooled kids, and interestingly, statistics on the matter – such as they are – suggest only a third embark on homeschooling for religious grounds (there are some religious groups that consider state schooling morally bankrupt).

The rest just do it because they think it’s better. This is the reason given in the Salon case:

“We’re not ready to surrender our kids, and ourselves, to a 10-month-a-year, all-day institution whose primary goal, at least at this age, seems to be teaching kids how to function within a 10-month-a-year, all-day institution. Our kids are learning plenty – not exactly the same things other kindergarteners learn, I suppose, but plenty. They’re making friends and having fun. They can go to the beach on gorgeous fall afternoons, or hit zoos and museums on crisp winter mornings, when other kids are sitting at desks doing worksheets about the letter B.”

“Hell , I wish I could do it”,” writes the father.

The subject always attracts lots of debate where ever it pops up. Hell, this article in Salon got a whopping 538 letters in response. And you can certainly point to many successes of the home schooled, in various competitions that see them pitted against conventionally-schooled pupils (see not just Ali’s piece but also this admittedly older piece, also from Salon)

I still can’t see myself doing it, although like most people I think the benefits of good home schooling are pretty convincing.

For one, I am not a teacher, certainly not one with much patience. I am the daughter of a teacher who spent many years honing her craft and I find it difficult to see how this skill might simply be aped by the untrained (an ex-teacher would be a different story, of course).

And then there is the issue of socialisation… My children don’t have cousins nearby, and are unlikely to be part of a huge family. Already their options for playdates during the day are ever-decreasing as more and more children get sent off to daycare and kindy. I would worry that they would become insular, and not come into contact with the various types of people they need to – I believe – to develop empathy and understanding.

If you could somehow fill your children’s minds with wonder, teach them everything they need to know to both pass exams and live informed lives, arrange for them to have lots of stimulation from both friends and other “teachers”, then I can see home schooling might work.

But boy it seems like a lot of work – and work that not many of us would really be that well cut out for.

Pictured above: To home school, or not to home school? Photo / Mark Mitchell

Dita De Boni

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Teacher axed for wanting sex with student

Pull your children out of school and home educate them

Teacher axed for wanting sex with student


Last updated 05:00 22/09/2009

A teacher with 15 years experience asked a pupil for sex, telling her she was “a sexy beast”.

The teacher has been deregistered and has left the country.

The pupil says she was snubbed by the teacher’s colleagues, who refused to shake her hand at a school prizegiving.

The case was revealed in a decision by the Teachers Council, which does not reveal the names and location of the people involved.

The decision said the teacher had developed a relationship with a Year 13 pupil while they were on an overseas sports trip in 2007.

“Her evidence was that for a time, at least, she had been with him alone in his room, talking until early in the morning, and that there had been some discussion about her remaining there for the night, though there was no suggestion of a physical relationship on this occasion,” the decision said.

When they got back to New Zealand, the two carried on a relationship through text messages and lunch-time meetings.

“Hey babe in all our rambling today I forgot to say how amazing it was yesterday and talking to you was an uplifting experience … I want us to do so much more … Love you XX,” one text message said.

The pupil told the council that she had felt confused about the relationship. The teacher had talked to her about his partner and his former girlfriends.

“I said I had to choose either him or God because what I was doing would end up not being in God’s will for me, if it had not already gone there,” she said.

She visited him at his home during school hours and he gave her a massage on one occasion.

“As we were driving back from his house that day, at around 3pm, he said to me that he wanted to make love to me. I kept saying ‘What?’ He kept repeating it,” she said.

The pupil said the teacher, who was a head of department, suggested that at the forthcoming school social they could get a room together.

“[She] told us that by this time she was upset and, when she was approached by another member of the school’s staff, disclosed the relationship, which led to the matter being referred to the principal,” the council decision said.

The pupil said the investigation that followed caused her stress, which may have led to a physical illness.

“And she was, to one extent or another, affected by some of the other teachers refusing to shake her hand at the end-of-year prizegiving, apparently because of what had taken place during the course of the year,” the decision said.

The teacher told the council that the relationship developed when he tried to help the pupil with issues in her home life while he was also facing problems at home.

The council said the teacher seemed to “more or less” accept the details of the pupil’s evidence.

“The [disciplinary] tribunal was inclined to the view that the relationship only fell short of a full sexual one because of the reluctance on the part of the student to allow that to happen,” the decision said.

The council censured the teacher for serious misconduct, deregistered him and ordered him to pay costs of $4000.

The man now lived overseas with his partner and their baby.

Legal option after School bullying

27 March 2009 7:28 p.m.

Dear Everyone,

I’ve pasted below a news article that exemplifies many of the vast multitude of things wrong with the state’s schooling institutions. I’m letting off a bit of steam because I am so angry at this rotten system that systematically practises institutionalised child abuse by teachers and administrators who are so desensitised to it, they will round on parents and bully them if they dare question what goes on. Many of these lousy schools are in blatant denial, refusing to admit they have a problem. The most amazing thing is that parents and even doctors and nurses will often side with the school against the victimised child, even in the face of bruises, cuts, crying themselves to sleep at night and having vomiting fits the next morning at the thought of returning to the place of torture.

This week has been amazing. I’ve had so many phone calls and emails from parents wanting to start home education because of the bullying their children have suffered for months, sometimes for years. One mum felt she didn’t want to send the child to school since he was so tender at age 5. She considered home schooling, but decided it was too radical a step. Now, at age 6, her son is toughed up and so much more sophisticated as everyone typically said he needed to become…and he is also defiled because of the sexual abuse he suffered at school. She now forever regrets the day she ever trusted him to the state. Another mum’s 10-year-old has significant physical disabilities which require a full-time aide. But the boy has had enough of the school-supplied aides and the constant teasing, as the nature of his disability is somewhat personal. He would prefer his mum, but the several schools approached will not have it as they not only dislike parents observing the reality of the classroom, they say it causes children to become too dependent upon their parents! And besides, they say, the boy stinks (due to his disability), and they’d prefer it if she would find another school. And so the boy refuses to enter the school grounds, the parent is begging them to let her instead of aides attend to her son’s needs, but they won’t let her, and she is now being threatened by a Group Special Education person with police and CYFPS and truancy officers if the child is not in school immediately!

It’s a flamin’ madhouse!

This article below has a typical school response to bullying. “Oh, it’s only girls being girls, boys being boys. It’ll blow over.” So when the girl spirals downhill and hits bottom, it turns out she has parents willing to do something: sue the school. Good on them, I say! Man, has it sobered up the school! The principal all of a sudden comes out of denial and makes a statement most principals would confess to only once they’d been stretched on the rack: “It does not matter what a school does, it can never be resolved completely.” This woman admitted that it is a permanent, on-going, unstoppable problem. We got a straight honest answer at last. I mean, this girl was bullied even after she left the school…by text messages!

The very threat of a legal suit also flushed out the fascinating, yet totally unknown fact, that “it is a statutory requirement for schools to take all reasonable steps to prevent bullying from occurring while pupils are at school,” and that “Failure to take such steps could result in criminal prosecution and hefty fines.” If all parents of school-abused children would simply threaten to sue the school, bullying would be slashed. A few successful suits, some bullies taken down, and the problem would recede way out onto the horizon.

But worst of all is the so-called Children’s Commissar, Cindy Kiro, criticising the parents for considering such an option, but uselessly offering no course of action in its place.

If you don’t know what is going on in these institutions of systematic child abuse called state schools, you need to find out. And then tell your friends and rellies to get their children OUT of those places as soon as possible. All I have to do is read the education column of…it’s enough to make your toenails curl. But I’ve been reading it and other sources for over 20 years…I have stacks of clippings and e-articles of the most horrendous goings on, that just don’t stop, no matter how hard the schools try to cover up…and don’t fool yourself…they go to great lengths to slam the lid on any negative publicity.

Get yourself a subscription to TEACH Bulletin  It’s only $9 lousy bucks for 6 issues a year and almost always has a good sampling of the latest in state school violence, as well as other political and statist trends in relation to schools, home education and parenting. Get your friends and neighbours a subscription, too, for it will open their eyes. We’ve got to be informed and stop pretending everything is all right. We’ve got to get children out of the schools, and we’ve got to embolden parents to speak up when their children are being abused by the system.

TEACH Bulletin is available from us at:

Craig & Barbara Smith

Home Education Foundation

PO Box 9064

Palmerston North 4441

New Zealand

Ph. +64 6 357-4399

Legal option after bullying

By NATHAN BEAUMONT – The Dominion Post

Last updated 05:00 21/03/2009

A family is considering legal action against a school after a girl was bullied for so long that she lost 12 kilograms, spent three weeks in hospital and had to move to another school.

The children’s commissioner has described the case as “completely unacceptable” and said she would be prepared to investigate.

And a lawyer is warning school boards that they could be prosecuted by parents whose children suffer emotional harm as a result of bullying.

The parents of the 15-year-old victim said St Mary’s College in Wellington did not do enough to stop the ordeal, which started in August 2007.

Though the bully had written an apology letter to the victim, her family said it was still seeking answers from the school board.

The victim informed the school counsellor when the bullying started, but was told it was just “girls being girls” and would “blow over”, her mother says.

But it did not blow over. Instead the victim said she endured taunts and rumours for a further seven months at school.

The girl’s mother said her daughter developed an eating disorder, lost 12 kilograms and spent three weeks in hospital recovering. The claim was backed up in a letter from a clinical psychologist that was sent to the school.

“After assessment it was clear that [her] weight loss was not due to concerns about her appearance but rather was as a tool to help her maintain control of herself during an episode of bullying by girls at school.”

The parents removed their daughter from the school, but said the taunts continued, with bullying text messages.

St Mary’s principal Mary Cook said the school did everything in its power to deal with the situation.

“The issue with bullying is that it is very difficult to deal with and isolate. It does not matter what a school does, it can never be resolved completely. We do everything we possibly can.”

Meanwhile, a lawyer has warned that it is a statutory requirement for schools to take all reasonable steps to prevent bullying from occurring while pupils are at school.

“Failure to take such steps could result in criminal prosecution and hefty fines,” John Miller said.

Children’s Commissioner Cindy Kiro said it would be a “sad day” if bullying victims started taking legal action.

“It’s not a route we want to go down, that’s the American way. It is an option, but it is the least constructive option.”

The victim’s mother said the family was keen to explore legal action. “Definitely, we would be keen to look into that area.

“All schools have different approaches to bullying, but St Mary’s seems to be: keep it quiet and deny, deny, deny.”


Letter from the bully to the 15-year-old victim after she left St Mary’s School.

“I don’t want you to have to leave all your friends because of all this shit. I am so sorry for everything. You have no idea how bad I feel. I would do anything to take back what’s happened and everything I have said and done, not only to you, but your friends.

“I know that we will never be friends, but I want us to be anything but enemies. I am so sorry for everything that has happened in the past year. I hope you get better soon and that this letter means even a little something to you.”

Teacher conduct cases hit high

Teacher conduct cases hit high

By LANE NICHOLS – The Dominion Post | Thursday, 08 January 2009

Nearly 1300 teachers have faced allegations of serious misconduct, violence, viewing pornography, sexual misconduct, dishonesty, alcohol and drug use, or incompetency since 2002.

Last year was the worst on record, with 233 formal complaints lodged against teachers with the Teachers Council nearly a third for alcohol and drugs.

But unions say teachers are easy targets for “spurious and vexatious” complaints by aggrieved parents, who are free to make formal allegations often groundless to employers and police.

“There are some parents who won’t be happy unless they see somebody getting punished,” Educational Institute president Frances Nelson said.

“And it doesn’t matter how guilty that teacher is, they still want a pound of flesh.”

There are 90,000 registered teachers, but since 2005, just 40 have been referred to the council’s disciplinary tribunal for formal proceedings over the most serious misconduct allegations.

Nearly all those cases resulted in censure and 26 teachers were struck off for misbehaviour mostly for sexual misconduct or viewing pornography.

The cases included:

Former Wairarapa College drama teacher Luke McIndoe eloped with a 16-year-old pupil after they developed a sexual relationship.

A teacher in her 30s had sex with a secondary school pupil, later saying a breakup with her fiance left her “emotionally vulnerable”.

Retired Havelock North principal Ian James Wilson was convicted on child pornography charges after 9000 illegal images were found on his home computer.

Figures made available under the Official Information Act show misconduct, including inappropriate communications with pupils or parents, was the most common allegation against teachers. Then came incompetency, violence, alcohol and drugs, dishonesty, sexual misconduct and pornography.

Since 2004, misconduct complaints have been investigated by the council’s complaints assessment committee.

It can dismiss complaints if groundless or vexatious, recommend a teacher’s suspension for reasons of safety, impose conditions or refer the most serious cases to the disciplinary tribunal for possible deregistration.

Post Primary Teachers Association president-elect Kate Gainsford said teaching was a public job and there had always been spurious complaints.

“Sometimes they’re just not substantiated enough to take further. There is a concern if there is a lack of natural justice, if people are criticised or attacked unfairly. But that’s why the process is so important.”

Teachers supported having an independent body to assess complaints and discipline wayward colleagues, provided the process was fair and robust.

Teachers fight to save Shakespeare

Teachers fight to save Shakespeare

By LANE NICHOLS – The Dominion Post | Saturday, 15 November 2008

Shakespeare’s plays and other great works of literature considered too difficult for some pupils will disappear from classrooms under proposed changes to the curriculum, alarmed principals say.

There are also fears that basic content in maths, history and business studies will be axed in a drive to make subjects easier, “dumbing down” schoolchildren and further undermining NCEA.

Education officials are reviewing the way secondary-school subjects are assessed in preparation for the new curriculum, to be introduced from 2010.

English teachers say some papers, such as level 3 Shakespeare, could disappear. They will discuss their concerns at a meeting in Wellington next week.

The Qualifications Authority says the world’s greatest playwright is not compulsory but stresses that the bard’s works will still be taught in most schools.

Macleans College principal Byron Bentley said reference to basic content, such as Shakespeare, appeared to have been axed under the proposals.

It meant some schools would ignore important subject material if pupils found it too hard – offering lightweight courses that deprived pupils of key knowledge.

Mr Bentley, who heads the lobby group Education Forum, said other subjects such as history had no proposed syllabus, leaving content decisions entirely to individual teachers. There was also a drive for more internal assessment at the expense of nationally administered exams. He said the changes were being bulldozed through by officials, and he called for a government moratorium.

Lower Hutt’s Sacred Heart College principal, Lisl Prendergast, feared changes that could sideline Shakespeare were already a fait accompli.

Other concerns raised include:

The study of blogs earning the same credits as literature papers

The elimination of essays in some subjects

No mention of accounting or business studies in the curriculum

“All the challenge and in-depth analysis and skills required at each level are being modified, and in my opinion, made easier,” a senior teacher said. “Is the implication that we should not dare to challenge students, or heaven forbid, ask them to engage with texts that really speak to the human condition in a superbly crafted form? Dumbing down again.”

Education Ministry curriculum group manager Mary Chamberlain said knowledge in key subjects remained important as ever, but it was no longer good enough to have pupils faithfully reproducing content.

They needed to apply their knowledge to problem-solving in the real world.

Ministry officials and national subject associations were reviewing all NCEA subject areas to ensure standards were rigorous and that pupils continued achieving well internationally, she said. Consultation was now under way.

“Schools have the professional responsibility for designing learning programmes which contain appropriate knowledge that are relevant for their particular students.

“A teacher may choose to teach students to respond critically to a Shakespearean drama, or another piece of drama depending on which is most relevant for students.”