By Ruth Else
Baldivis, Western Australia
My education was slightly unusual as my missionary parents loved music (except 70s pop!) and reading. There were plenty of books in our house and an eclectic record collection of everything from opera to brass bands. There were always interesting visitors to our desert locations in outback Australia who introduced us to linguistics, archaeology, anthropology, and the art of a good robust argument.
During a longer than usual furlough, we were in public schools. My junior high was during the rather ‘interesting’ mid-70s of Vietnam War protests, pop festivals, communist-backed strikes, and “end of the world” scenarios. My father was strongly anti-communist and well read on the subject, and one of my teachers had fled Russia as a 3-year-old. And one of my teachers loved Latin, had studied at Cambridge University, and wanted to try the new Cambridge Latin course. I loved Latin and was so disappointed not to be able to continue with it when we returned to the desert.
I added theology and education to my study as I got older and met my husband in the city of Perth. He had progressed through the state school system, paid more attention to sport than English, but began to read seriously when he became a Christian at 19. He started with James Packer’s ‘Knowing God’ and progressed to serious reformed writers by the time I met him. I was warned that he’d want to name his firstborn “Cornelius”! He was also a regular reader of the Chalcedon Report, and I soon became just as enthusiastic. Here was someone talking about education as the role of the parents.
We waited 9 years for God to bless us with our first son. By then, I had read everything I could find on the subject of homeschooling! We patiently waited until he was about 3 years old, but we started officially in 2002. I taught him using intensive phonics from the beginning, added in lots of music and art, geography and some maths, and of course, lots of books. So, without consciously doing so, we used a fairly classical approach.
Then I got a Veritas Press catalogue and suffered from extreme covetousness! I wanted every book in the catalogue, but the exchange rate into US dollars at the time put them far out of reach. I did use the catalogue as a wish list, scouring second-hand bookstores whenever I happened to be in the city. Other books we found through mail order places around Australia.
We moved to Perth city in 2003 and began to make a wider circle of fellow homeschoolers than the four families in our northwest town. Now I met families who were seriously using a classical approach and got involved in the fledgling classical Christian college when it opened in 2008. This meant that I finally got my hands on all those lovely books!
I tutored there myself for 3 years, so I had the opportunity to see much of the program up close. I loved the Phonics Museum (although I did have to adapt it for Australian linguistic differences), the literature guides (we had such fun with Little House on the Prairie, for instance), Shurley English is brilliant, and the Bible course excellent. The boys also took art and music classes and still use these foundational skills.
My boys have also done some of the Omnibus course, the older one doing 3 years and the younger one about half of each. Because my older son was being tutored through the books and had IEW and logic training, he gained excellent writing and analytical skills, which have stood him in good stead through his university studies. I was not able to provide that level for my younger son, and he is more science-oriented, though his English skills are more than adequate. Maybe an online class might have been of help for Omnibus, but we don’t have the best internet access here on the edge of the city, so online classes are not really an option.
We also used Apologia Science the whole way through, finishing with Marine Biology in Year 11 for my youngest son. The junior books are important references on our bookshelves, still regularly being accessed. And I’ve many friends who love those books as much as I do and won’t part with them either.
The only program that did not work for us here was Song School Latin. I tutored it for 2 years and found that the children struggled to remember the vocabulary from one lesson to the next. They had totally forgotten most of their vocabulary over the summer break. I changed to Minimus Latin (Cambridge University), which is more story-driven. I found the students totally engaged, able to remember not just vocabulary but enthusiastically quote in Latin much of the book's text. Even correcting for bias, Minimus suits better here, and I have now had about 25 students through the years as I’ve continued to tutor. That is the only program I didn’t like.
My youngest did a couple of the self-paced Bible courses while we were living in the suburbs, but we had to stop when we moved further out as we couldn’t get enough internet signal for the course to run. We were very disappointed to stop them, as we loved them a lot. Even though sometimes it was a bit American, we forgave you, and the exposure to a different way of thinking is good.
I’d personally like to thank Veritas Press for my good education! I have learned my grammar well, read some amazing books, learned my times tables (finally!), and enjoyed the opportunities afforded me. And I’m sure my sons will one day say the same (they’re still moaning about all the hard work they had to put in when their peers were learning to explore their gender identity or climate activism). It’s been a 20-year journey that I have no regrets taking and I feel blessed beyond measure. Thank you for being a big part of our homeschool journey, and may God bless you for many years to come.
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