15 March 2013


I have said to people that we home-schooled our children - at least, we home-schooled the boys until Fifth Form (approximately US 11th grade), when they went to college (= US high school); Adele went off to College at Third Form; and Helen went straight from home to University.

I have said this, but it is misleading.  We did not home-school them; Susan did.  At least, all the work, and most of the inspiration, was her doing.  I was very enthusiastic.  Considering that I did not have to bear the burden of struggling with the children, with the authorities, with self-doubt, one may well conclude that my enthusiasm was not dearly bought.

When we returned to New Zealand in May, 1984, Johnny was not quite 9, Helen not quite 7.  Eddie was four, Adele only 17 months.  Formal schooling only applied to Johnny and Helen.  May is about one-third through the New Zealand school year, which begins in early February, and ends in mid- to late-December.  Johnny and Helen were certainly required by law to be in school.  What did we do about this?  I do not recall.

We certainly applied for - and received - Education Department permission to teach them at home.  In fact, the Education Department was very helpful and cooperative in the matter.  We had the invaluable help of Peter Butler in finding out about the requirements.  The requirements involved annual visits from the Department - which, Susan found, were less matters of checking up on you than of having someone help her in doing her job.

But I don't think we actually applied for and received this permission until the end of 1984 or early 1985.

I suppose we were simply in breach of the law for half of 1984.

It is, I suppose, natural that schooling constitutes a central focus for families with children and it was not different for us.  Our friendships were often made with home-schooling in mind.  Susan, with a number of other mothers (mostly; a few fathers were involved), began a home-schoolers group - Pukekohe families, for the most part, but some from Waiuku and Tuakau which met fornightly (and, for what I know, still does).  Quite soon we discovered that we were eligible for free teaching materials from the New Zealand Correspondence School.  Originally intended for the children of families living in remote locations, too far from a regular school, these included supervision by Correspondence School staff as well, and were very good - and free.

It soon became apparent that the choice to home-school was financially even more attractive.  Whereas we had to pay for materials from Christian Liberty Academy, the Education Department gave us some sort of stipend for expenses - in addition to the materials from the Correspondence School.

I do not think things are like that today.  It is still possible to home-school.  I do not think there is a stipend any longer, and I believe home-schoolers are no longer eligible for the Correspondence School.  Things were made very easy for us when our children were young.

Formal schooling is only a part of a child's life.  New Zealand, after Yap, offered an enormous variety of possibilities for recreational activities.  We needed to choose.

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