Monday, July 6, 2009

The Homeschool Graduate

At the end of this month, my son will celebrate his 17th birthday; officially he is in year 11 and a high school student but he has already embarked on his University education and is undertaking a Bachelor of Technology degree in Computer Studies via the Open Universities of Australia (OUA). If he completes all the required 24 units he will be awarded the degree by the University ( RMIT). That day may be some years away but I've never been to Melbourne and I've told my son I'm looking forward to visiting this city and attending his graduation ceremony!

My son is paying for his own education. As a New Zealander living in Australia, he is not eligible for any government assistance, no youth allowance, training benefits or 'HECS' grants. In many ways this is an advantage, when he finishes his course he will not be burdened with a huge debt. Rather he will go and thank the cows in the neighbouring fields.... for these lovely girls produced the milk which paid the farmer who has employed my son since the age of 12! He started off helping to feed calves, a before school job which fitted in well with our schedule and moved onto milking and running the dairy shed, a job he still does, except that he now has an assistant... his 14 year old sister, who is proving to be as just as competent, though I do not think she relishes the 4.45am starts!

There are many advantages to a home education and the opportunity to combine work and study is just one. My son saved his wages, not frittering them away on trivial items but when he wanted something such as his own computer and a better surfboard, he was able to purchase them himself. He also buys his own clothes and the occasional bag of licorice! As he grew older, he developed a sense of maturity which extended to finances. He was sorely tempted to buy an iphone when they first came out (and had the money to do so) but in the end he read the reviews, considered his needs and opted for a stylish mobile that cost a lot less; it wasn't even a touch screen! We were pleasantly surprised!

Working for someone else has also enabled him to develop his interpersonal skills; good communication with his employer is vital and over the years my son has proved himself to be a trustworthy, reliable employee. Developing a good work ethic in his formative years will benefit him both now and in the future, in the career he has chosen to pursue. We thought he might have chosen agriculture, for the skills he has already attained would have set him up to be an excellent herd manager but technology was always his passion and as his interest grew in this subject, I gave him the permission to study what interested him the most. We encouraged him to keep his farm job, as we told him one day it could pay his way through college and that is exactly what it is doing!

When you study via the Open Uni all your study is done at home online. Tutors are available and you can talk to other students doing the same course as you via the forums. It tends to attract mature students who are serious about studying, who want the flexibility of a course that enables them to combine study with work and family commitments. Assignments are uploaded and although I am no longer my son's teacher I am his constant encourager... I read his assignments when he asks me to, I offer suggestions about grammar and wording but as for the actual content... it might as well be a foreign language! I just had to accept that what he had written would meet the requirements. It did... his first assignment mark came back - full marks, 100 %. He achieved the same for all three required assignments.

My son's desk and study station. Amazingly, he is a tidy teenager. He cleans his own room and does his own laundry. He can't stand a messy house and somehow puts up with sharing his room with a younger brother who does not share these traits!

In June, he sat his first formal exam... ever! We had booked a room at the local library and organized the librarian to be the invigilator. The University send the exam paper to the invigilator who ensures it is sat under exam conditions. It was ready and waiting for my son on the appointed exam day and he emerged two hours later smiling! I had been a little nervous for him, after all, this was a university exam paper and he had never taken any form of test, (apart from the Learner Driver's exam at the RTA in order to obtain his Learner Driver plates! ) If he had been to a conventional school, he would not be sitting his HSC until the end of next year! I'm still trying to convince people that he is actually doing a degree and that he does not have to leave home or gain the HSC in order to go to university. I would offer this advice to home educators who are constantly receiving questions about college and higher education. Remember, there are alternative pathways to University. It does help to be a self- motivated learner, my son certainly is and this is what home education can produce!

He received his exam result last week and was very pleased with his mark of 94%. His first unit is over and he has already commenced his second unit. As his mum and 'once upon a time' teacher, I am justifiably proud but in sharing my son's achievements I am more than aware that there is so much more to home education that academic success, yet it is the one area that so many people become focused on... at homeschool support meetings the discussions centre on curriculum choices; the questions I am asked most often about homeschooling are about future educational options - how will he get into uni? I remember being asked this when my son was ten and I told them 'We will cross that bridge when we come to it'... six years later we did exactly that!

If there is one book I would encourage parents of Christian teenagers to give to their children to read, it is this book 'Do Hard Things' by Alex and Brett Harris. I gave this book to my son on his 16th birthday and it had a big impact on him. The fact that the authors were also teenage homeschooled boys added to its appeal. When your son comes and reads excerpts to you, you know its message is hitting home!

My focus has never been solely on academics; I didn't start homeschooling my son in order to accelerate him and if someone had told me he would be ready to tackle university learning at age 16, I simply would not have believed it! Especially in those days when I questioned my own competency.... 'How will I ever get this child to read?'... I did, with patience and a solid foundation in phonics. 'How will I teach him algebra when it remains a mystery to me?'.... He taught himself with a good maths text book and tried to explain it to me!
Other fears and doubts came to plague me, sometimes in the night!...'I didn't give him enough writing practice, how will he cope with writing academic papers?'... He's coping just fine! 'He never learned a language' ... but he understands the intricacies of writing computer languages.

This photograph was taken ages ago, the Bible is open in the book of Isaiah and a verse has leaped from the page which is so relevant to this post... this is amazing and I'm certain it is meant to encourage someone who is reading this.

'Lord, you will grant us peace; all we have accomplished is really from you'
chapter 26 v12 NIV

The NKJ says ' Lord you will establish peace for us' ( as you set out on and continue your homeschool journey) 'For You have also done all our works in us' ( God is at work in you as you teach your children!)

In the midst of all this self-questioning, one little phrase kept me going ... 'Christ and Character first, Skills and Schooling second' or now I would prefer to say 'Enterprise and Education second', as my son was never 'schooled' in the way most of us understand school. I allowed him to shout out times tables as he came down the slide. When he wanted to race outside to observe a magpie in the garden I said 'Go!' And I stood by in the backyard and watched in amazement, as he successfully replicated the experiment of making water powered rockets from lemonade bottles which had featured on 'Rough Science' the previous evening (a brilliant British programme which aired on SBS for a while). I think we were meant to do history that day but home education offers so many opportunities for spontaneous learning!
These are just some of the activities I encouraged as part of our home education programme but remember there is no 'one size fits all' solution, each family is different, each child is different and learns in different ways and at different rates. Another advantage of home education is that you can tailor-make your programme to suit the needs of each individual child.

And I had to tell myself, if my son chose to be a janitor but honoured God with his life, that I would be just as happy... for in the big picture, it is not about what we do but who we are. We will not have to pass a spelling test to enter heaven or recite Shakespeare word perfect. God's expectations are so different to our own.

The beauty of home education is that you do not need to neglect those vital educational foundations... teaching a child to read means he can now read the Word of God and a whole world of learning opens up to him. Having my children at home has afforded me the time to instill lessons which in the long run, may be of far greater value.
Alongside maths and science, my son learned about patience and perseverance, hard work and diligence. Kindness and compassion and most importantly of all, the love of God.
He was exposed to good books and biographies of men who were also educated at home, who read and taught themselves from books, men he identified with, such as Abraham Lincoln.
It's not always about books and study!
Learning to kayak in the South Island of NZ on a homeschooler's support day outing
It was not easy or always plain sailing. I gave away the coffee mornings, the craft groups, the visits to friends' homes and the ladies ministry in which I was actively involved but truth be told, all these activities outside of the home were more about 'me' and my own self- fulfillment. I truly learned what it means to serve through serving my family and teaching my children in my own home and I do not have any regrets. My son also made sacrifices; he gave up the opportunity to have a wider social network and saw friends return to school. He missed out on woodwork and metalwork lessons and never made a bookshelf but he did learn to use all sorts of tools as he helped his dad build the extension onto our home. He can change a tyre which is very reassuring for me and he taught me how to upload photos to Blogger and tinker with the HTML which I think he now regrets!

Looking back over the past 11 years, I have to say I am so pleased I chose to home educate and never gave into the temptation to return my son to school for friends, sports, lab facilities or woodworking classes, despite having some people question our educational choice when there was 'a perfectly good Christian school' in the region. We simply could not afford this option and it would have plunged us into debt if we had chosen this path. We also believed that God was on our side, He had called us to do this and He kept providing the strength to continue the journey. When I felt weary and would say 'I'm not up to this, I can't go on' He would whisper, 'Yes you can.... I walk with you, I'm with you, just call on me, I'm right here.' He reassured me that he has great plans for this young man; when he was a baby in the womb He told me that my son would be a light in his world and I did not know I was having a boy at that stage. Later on, towards the end of my pregnancy He protected both me and my unborn son in a very dramatic way from being the potential victims of a murderer (It's quite a story so I will save that for a future post).

Right now my son is enjoying a break from his work and his studies. Whilst we shiver in the cold he is enjoying warmth and sunshine but he's not on holiday. He is in Thailand on his first missions trip with four other young men from our church. They are helping to build houses in a leper colony as part of an established missions project that our church has supported for many years. He left on Saturday and is there for two weeks. I know its going to be life impacting, life changing and I'm so pleased he had the chance to go.

We received a text message last evening from him. He was working on the walls and a roof of a home for a mother and her child. I was thrilled to read those those last four words... 'for a mother and a child.' When our son was set to work and given tasks by his father to complete on our home extension, there were times when he indicated that he was less than thrilled with 'all this work', but we told him 'You never know, you might get to build your own home one day... it's not his own home but the experience of helping to build a home has come around a lot sooner than we ever imagined. And what a difference it is going to make for one family.

I really hope that what I have shared has inspired you, especially if you have started out on this journey and are facing those same questions, worrying about how you will teach this subject or that subject and wondering how you will motivate that son to learn! I could have told you all about how we started out, what influenced us to home educate, the materials we used, the books we read but I wanted to encourage you by introducing you to a young man who only went to school for one year, who was homeschooled through high school, who according to convention should still be at school. He's intelligent, well educated, sociable, hard working... a wage earner, a friend, a brother, a son and grandson, a defender of the faith and a servant of God. His journey into manhood is continuing and I've realized I was never raising a child... I was raising an adult. Home education has been part of his story and I pray that the foundation it provided and the solid foot stools it offered along the way will be one he never forgets! And I want to let him know..... The sky is your limit!.... Keep going, all the way to the top! .... Do hard things, shatter those low expectations people have for your generation! .... Hold onto God, He will never let you down! .... And don't forget to honour your parents, love those sisters and teach that brother of yours how to keep his room tidy!

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With love and joy,


Chookie said...

I'm happy with the local public school for my kids, but if I were not, home-schooling would be my next option. The only wrinkle for me is that homeschooling doesn't seem to allow much time for either parent or child to evangelise. How have you dealt with that? I was converted in my teens and spent my high school years debating with my atheist friends; a great way to toughen up!

I'm not impressed with what I've seen of the results from our local 'perfectly good Christian school': the 'good' kids do well (as they would anywhere), but strugglers don't get much help; they teach everyone's parents' theological quirks as equally valid, even when mutually exclusive; the way the kids don't want to answer in Sunday School in case they get it Wrong. Not helpful!

Farming On Faith said...

I so enjoyed this post! Hats off to you~Mom.
Great job and to God be the glory!
I need to look into something like this for my Hannah!

Ann at eightacresofeden said...

Interestingly, my son is a very good debater. He has met people from all walks of life on the technology forums he visits. He is not afraid to stand up for what he believes in but what I do notice is that he is always willing to help people out... he helps guys in India solve problems with their websites and he has earned the respect of many people through these acts. This gives him the opportunity to speak into their lives!
When it comes to evangelism ... the home is a wonderful place for evangelism! People relax and open up especially when we share a meal together.Over the years, we have had many people enter our home (not just Christians! sometimes complete strangers) and each person we have met, been able to help or formed a relationship with has been affected in some way by our children. They notice something different about our family and ask questions... I have had more opportunities to share our faith, as a result of homeschooling, than in all the time I spent running 'ministries'in the church building. That said, of course, I believe in the Great Commission! I've sought to raise missions minded children and was thrilled to send my son to Thailand. My daughter has a heart for Asia! She's even learning Mandarin! I believe though, in our quest to evangelise, that it is vital, not to neglect our family life. I was very affected by the story of Bob Pierce, founder of World Vision, as told by his daughter in the book 'Man of Vision'. A huge price was paid by his family,it's a heartbreaking story. And even Billy Graham said in his biography, if he had his time over, he would have spent more time at home with his family.

Dalinz said...

I love your post. Your love for your Son, your admiration of him and what he has become with God's help. You are one amazing lady, Ann.

Cheers Damaris

Chookie said...

I was really asking about personal evangelism, not e-evangelism or evangelism as job (my personal evangelism isn't quite in the same league as Billy Graham's, so I don't think the same danger to family life applies!). How did you connect with non-Christians in person, given you are both homeschooling and rural?

A Bite of Country Cupcakes said...

Moving and soooo touching of a post Ann.
Sometimes we truly need the leap of faith to do these Big things.
But as Parents teaching our kids means we can teach whilst truly nuturing the Child attached to the learning!
Well done and continued success to your Brave and Independant Lad!
He sounds like a gem!

Dan said...

I was happy to discover your blog today. Congrats on your son's graduation!

I was unable to find a contact link. I hope it's OK that I'm contacting you through a public comment. I've developed an educational program for Windows called SpellQuizzer that helps children learn their spelling and vocabulary words without the battle that parents often have getting them to sit down and write them out while the parents dictate to them. The parent enters the child's spelling words into the software making a sound recording of each word. Then the software helps the child practice his or her words. It really helped my children with their weekly spelling lists.

I would appreciate your reviewing SpellQuizzer in Eight Acres of Eden. If you are interested in hosting a giveaway of a SpellQuizzer license I'd be happy to supply a free license to the winner. You can learn more about the program at There's a video demo you can watch at Finally, there's a page targeted to homeschooling families at I'd be happy to send you a complimentary license for the software. Please let me know if you are interested.

Thank you very much!

Dan Hite
TedCo Software

Ann at eightacresofeden said...

We may live in the country but we do have neighbours! When we moved here no one came to call on us to say welcome... so we went to them and introduced ourselves! We became such good friends with our neighbours who are older people. My daughter is always taking over cakes for our closest neighbour who is a widow, my husband is always ready to go and help her if she needs assistance with anything. Our neighbours have joined us for meals and family celebrations. They love our children and we connect with people as a family... that really does have an impact and this is what the world desperately needs in a time when families are falling apart. Strong families are a powerful witness. And its not just neighbours we connect with... all the people we come into contact with. My family are known by many of the stallholders at the farmers markets... they know us on a first name basis and it is my children who have won their hearts. I have befriended the lady at the local winery and when she needed help with the harvest I took along the family, she was just amazed as the kids filled buckets with grapes for over two hours. She thought the kids would be be just running around getting in the way. When her ex- husband died I asked her if I could pray for her and she was more than happy for me to do so. And of course we have had her over for a meal. We love to offer hospitality. My children also make the one on one connections with people. My son has had long talks with his boss about Christianity. The other farm worker came by yesterday, he wants to bring his wife over to meet our family. These are just some of the ways in which we connect with people.... there are many more... my husband's work colleagues and the women who come to the Christmas decorating seminars I run each year. Our vision is to raise outstanding children who reflect the Character of Christ, have a passion for people, love life and a wholehearted desire for learning. What a joy it is to see this being fulfilled .... it's a life that is far from the misconception of the reclusive, sheltered, homeschooling family!

AngelRhoden said...

Wow! This is why I so enjoy this blogging thing and am so thankful the Lord allowed me to find out about it. I just happened to click on your link from a comment you made on Carrie's site and I suppose the Lord did the rest. What encouragement for me! My son is also 17 and homeschooled. We are preparing to enter his final year with hopes of some college courses during this time. He just recently returned from 2 weeks in Honduras for missions. He has been so touched by the opportunity that he always has another trip on the horizon. When you said Christ and character come first, I felt like I heard myself speaking, that has been our goal also. I was told about the book Do Hard Things just this week when speaking to our pastor about books my son should read. Having seen your comments now, I will definitely be getting it. Thank you so much for sharing about your experience with homeschooling. It really encouraged me.

alecat said...

Hello Ann! :)
I was referred here by a fellow homeschooler on the Rockpool forum.
Your post was most encouraging. Thank you so much for sharing your son's (and yours!) achievements. It's great to know of the options we do have and, as you said, we'll cross that bridge when we come to it. (My eldest is 10yrs atm.)
Thanks, also, for recommending ".. Do Hard Things .." I'll try and get hold of a copy. :)
Kind regards,

Suzanne said...

Ann, I loved reading about your son, congratulations to him and to you and your dh on raising such a fine , Godly young man!

Becca said...

Thank you so much for this post. I don't think I've ever cried whilst reading someone's blog before, but you put into words everything that I've been feeling. My oldest son is nearly 16 and I worry that I haven't done enough to prepare him for higher studies, especially when I hear the workload that his school friends have. He seems to have a good head on his shoulders though and has Godly grandparents and parents praying for him. Thank you once again for this post.

Ann at eightacresofeden said...

I am so pleased that this post was such an encouragement to you. A Godly heritage is such a wonderful thing for any young person. I too, used to fret when I heard about the amount of homework the local Christian school gives to its students. One parent told me, their child had so much, it interfered with family life, they didn't hardly see their child in the evening because he had to complete several hours of homework after dinner every evening. I do not worry these days... If your son is diligent in studying what actually delights him I'm sure he will do well in whatever he chooses to do!

SF said...

Wow, God really brings things along right when we need them, doesn't He?! I found you through Renata's blog and have just relished every word of this post. :) Thank you.
I too am an Aussie, we're up north in Maryborough. I have recently begun the homeschooling journey with my daughter (6) and son (4), and little William (1) is my other sweet blessing. :0 I know people are doubting my ability to do this, but i KNOW it's what God has lead us to do- so I'm going for it! It just feels like the biggest privilege to me, to have my children home with me. :) Your son's story has really inspired me. :)
Your chicken soup recipe sounds amazing... that whole post inspired me too actually!! We too love to grow our own vegies, we have chooks and like to eat as healthily as possible.
So nice to find you- I'll be back!
Love, Saminda.


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