Ask the Grad
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Ask the Grad – Samalah Gray

This week’s homeschool graduage is a new friend of mine from across the globe in New Zealand.  Though Samalah and I just met a few weeks ago through a mutual friend, we have quickly found many shared interests.  I enjoy visiting with her and have been greatly encouraged by her, as I am sure you will be, too. Samalah is currently busy completing website design and development packages for her business, Website Creation NZ.  You can reach her by email.

Like many families, our arrival at home education was neither smooth, nor immediate. Yet through it all, the Lord was faithfully leading us.

Samalah Gray

Samalah Gray

Having spent a large portion of their own lives in a worldly education system, my parents were eager for my brother and I to have a better foundation. Thus, they were delighted to have a Christian Primary School close by. As far as they knew, Christian schooling was the wisest possible option. They had done their utmost to start my education – teaching me the alphabet at home, and basic reading and writing. When I turned 5, I was sent to school with a clear conscience.

Unfortunately my parents were in for a rude awakening. Within the first month, I came into contact with profanity, bullying, and other hallmarks of fallen humanity. This wasn’t supposed to happen in a Christian school!

Other problems soon materialized – because I was ahead of my classmates in reading, I was labeled a “prodigy”, and thus didn’t fit the expected mold. The curriculum was fairly rigid in its teaching style, and required a lot of read-and-fill-in-the-blanks work. This was stifling to me, and not the way I liked to learn. In hindsight we can see that (in my case at least) it taught laziness; I would only scan the material for answers, not absorbing what I was reading. We persisted with this school for 4 more years, before relocating to a public school.

Homeschooling was not even in our vocabulary at this point, and again my parents felt they had made the best choice, given the limited options. I needn’t expound the many ills of public school. Suffice to say, it is not an environment which fosters a love for God, His Word, or His precepts. After attending for 4 years, and arriving at High School age, my parents were at a loss to know what to do. The local High School curriculum was utterly distasteful to them, yet they could see no alternatives.

During a chance meeting with an elderly friend, we were introduced to the homeschooling coordinator for our area. Through this divine appointment, a whole new world was opened to us! We eagerly learned all we could about this new way of life (for it is all encompassing), and immediately applied for our exemption, a legal requirement in New Zealand. Though teaching High School is often seen as the toughest section of homeschooling, my parents approached it with can-do attitude.

To start with, we developed a comparatively rigid schedule of reading and report writing, but soon found that learning also involves verbal communication, and sharing of knowledge. By taking a  mixed “unschooling” approach (including some reading, written and oral reports, and much hands-on “life experience”) we arrived at a happy medium. My parents’ goal was to prepare me to be a wife and homemaker, Lord willing. They realized that a love of learning was the best “education” they could give their children, as this would be a life long asset, enabling us to teach our own children in turn. Thus, academic achievement was encouraged, but not aggressively focused upon.

In my brother’s case, a more structured approach to education was attempted, as his learning style differs from my own. He used the same curriculum as the Christian School, and persisted with this for 3 years. Although it worked a little better in Daniel’s case, it wasn’t intellectually stimulating, and we eventually found that as a growing boy, he needed physical work, coupled with hands-on learning.

We were both allowed to incorporate personal interests and hobbies into our school work, where possible. By

Winning Design Competition in 2005

happy accident I discovered a fascination with creating websites. Both the design and coding aspects appealed to me, and my family encouraged me to teach myself, giving me a free hand to oversee this aspect of my education. The more I learned, the more deeply I became interested, and after 18 months of part time “hobby” learning, I began to study web development as my primary “subject”.

At the age of 16, I finished my home education, to become Dad’s office assistant. This required a greater level of time management and efficiency, as I learned the ropes, whilst continuing to study about web development, and begin a small business proffering my services.

As a family, home education has united us – we love living and working alongside each other! The last few years since “graduation” have seen a continuation of this, as we work in various  family endeavours, while I slowly grow my own business. The flexibility, and family focus of homeschooling, has been a great help in fostering an entrepreneurial spirit.

Despite the fact we didn’t achieve academic renown, this journey has prepared us for life in the real world. We are able to relate to a variety of ages, and use the values instilled in us to continue our own education. The blessings of growing and learning as a cohesive family unit, and not isolated individuals, are invaluable, and completely incompatible with the public school model. Our years of home education, though few in comparison to our private and public schooling, could more correctly be termed “life education”. They did more to prepare us for God glorifying adulthood, than public schooling could ever have done. Walking the journey together, as a family team, was the key for us.

Since “graduating” 5 years ago, life has become increasingly busy! Weekdays are spent at our family timber mill, keeping the office ticking as we work on our next project together – designing, and building a solid wood home. Web development, business tasks and further education are scheduled for early mornings and evenings, while Saturdays provide a much cherished segment of “home time”, and a return to domesticity. The Lord has used this season of being much away from the home, to greatly deepen my appreciation for it, and for the role it plays in family dynamics. Life is overflowingly full, but overwhelmingly blessed! To God be the glory!

Did homeschooling have its tough times? Occasionally, yes. Especially for my brother, preparing to one day be a provider, and the leader of a family. There is the fear of being a “failure” in the world’s eyes, or that the lack of recognized academic achievement will reduce job opportunities. The Lord is faithful however, and helped us to see that Godly character is the ultimate measure of success – not a diploma. Our experience with homeschooling was overwhelmingly favourable, and has left us with a strong conviction to pass the blessing to the next generation.

And for this week’s question, Sarah from Michigan asks:

What do you believe is the greatest advantage to being homeschooled?

Samalah responds:

Strangely enough, it’s not the academic freedom, or liberty to arrange your own schedule that comes to mind. While these are real bonuses, I feel the greatest advantage is simply being mentored day by day, in a “real life” setting by your parents. The ultimate goal – beyond academic achievement – is to raise children who will honor God, honor their parents, and grow to be responsible members of society. Homeschooling provides the perfect opportunity for “book learning” and character training to take place simultaneously. The formation of character is too important a matter to entrust to an institution!

Do you have a question for a homeschool graduate? Would you like to know what it is like to grow up home-taught? Please submit your questions below for upcoming editions of “Ask the Grad!”

4 Comments

  1. “Our years of home education, though few in comparison to our private and public schooling, could more correctly be termed ‘life education’. They did more to prepare us for God glorifying adulthood, than public schooling could ever have done. Walking the journey together, as a family team, was the key for us.”

    That’s so right Samalah! I too had very few “real” homeschooling years (although my parents were continually instructing us during our time at home, in all areas, during our years in government school.) And although we are very fallen, and half the time, didn’t have a clue about what we were doing, the Lord graciously led us through it all. The beautiful thing about God’s grace is how He is able to take non-perfect beginnings and turn them to his glory through simple obedience. 🙂

    PS: You never told me about winning that design competition in 2005, I must find out more about it!

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    • Erin, I love your conclusion:

      “He is able to take non-perfect beginnings and turn them to His glory through simple obedience.” That pretty much sums up my entire relationship with Our Father.

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  2. Pingback: Tweets that mention Ask the Grad – Samalah Gray | Whatever State I Am -- Topsy.com

  3. Well said, Samalah. Perhaps I should just adapt the autobiographical parts and then say, “Ditto”. 🙂

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