HOME SCHOOLING / INTERNATIONAL
New Zealand
New Zealand

December 9, 2011

Tribute to New Zealand Homeschool Leader

Craig Smith (Jan 26, 1951–Sept 30, 2011), together with his wife Barbara, was instrumental in the homeschooling movement in New Zealand for over 25 years. In late July 2011, Craig was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumour. (The diary he kept during this time is available at the Home Education Foundation.) Losing his battle with cancer in late September, Craig is survived by his wife and eight children.

“Craig will be sorely missed by the homeschool community,” acknowledges Michael Donnelly, director of international relations at HSLDA. “I am certain that his leadership and investment in the homeschool movement in New Zealand will impact generations to come. More importantly, he leaves behind an example of a father invested in the lives of his children. On behalf of the entire HSLDA staff, I offer my heartfelt sympathy to the Smith family.”

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David and Jenny Waldron, former trustees of the Home Education Foundation of New Zealand, prepared a brief history of the New Zealand homeschool movement as a special tribute to the Smith family:

In 1985, Craig began unofficially homeschooling his eldest child and began encouraging other parents to home educate their children through Christian Home Schooling in New Zealand (CHomeS). Homeschooling was still in its infancy with very few support groups or organizations in New Zealand. In 1987 the Smiths organized the first CHomeS conference that drew families from throughout the country. It was also in this year that homeschooling drew the attention of the Ministry of Education, whose officials had been completely unaware of the extent of the number of families who were educating their children at home. By this time, there were several homeschooling associations and support groups in the process of forming. Some wanted to be recognized by the Ministry of Education as an official alternative to schools, where others felt just as strongly that the family should be responsible for the education of their children and wanted as little interference from the state as possible.

In 1990 the Ministry of Education introduced an annual allowance for parents teaching their children at home either through the NZ Correspondence School or homeschooling. The Education Review Office (ERO) would conduct periodic visits to families to ensure they were educating their children “as regularly and as well” as a school as was required by the Ministry of Education. These visits are no longer carried out as ERO found these to be a waste of government money—the calibre of education being provided by parents was of a consistently high standard.

In 1994 Craig took over the publication of Keystone, a magazine aimed at encouraging Christian home educators in New Zealand. The magazine has usually a featured New Zealand family and many articles that encourage and help parents and children in their home education. In 1997, the TEACH bulletin was published as a separate entity to inform and alert parents of political and national developments in education.

In 1999, seeing the need for a more focused approach to help parents in the broader range of New Zealand’s population, Home Education Foundation (HEF) was born. Craig began to work full-time for the cause of homeschooling. Several email groups were formed and a national network of contact people was established. HEF organized many conferences and were instrumental in bringing key speakers to New Zealand, including Dr. Raymond Moore of The Moore Formula and homeschool pioneers Bill and Diana Waring. HEF organized a World Views conference for home educators and other interested people. A world authority in this area, Dr. David Noebel (author of Understanding the Times), and Chuck Edwards of Summit Ministries in Colorado Springs came over and revolutionized many people’s thinking for a few key days in April 2002. Craig and Barbara, who were traveling to the United States in 2001 and again in 2003, continued to make personal contact with significant people in the home education movement there: Pat and Sue Welch of The Teaching Home magazine, Jonathan Lindvall of Bold Christian Living, Susan Beatty and Philip Troutt of the California Parent Educator magazine, Bob and Linda Schneider of Rainbow Resource Centre, Harvey and Laurie Bluedorn of Teaching the Trivium, Doug and Beall Phillips of Vision Forum, James and Tracy McDonald of Home Schooling Today magazine and also Rev. Haruto Yoshii of Christian Home Schoolers of Japan!

Craig completed a bachelor of arts in social policy that was particularly helpful when dealing with government departments about homeschooling issues. Subsequently, Craig became even more convinced of the benefits of teaching children in their own homes by their own parents. Craig has worked indefatigably for homeschooling—encouraging, writing, answering phone calls and emails, leading conferences around the country and being a keynote speaker overseas. Being passionate about Christian home education, and home education in general, he spoke with clarity, experience, humour and utter conviction. The New Zealand homeschooling scene would be a very different landscape if it hadn’t been for the hard work of Craig and Barbara Smith.

Craig was a firm believer of practicing what you preach, and his eight children, ages 5 to 31, have all been or are still being solely homeschooled. They are a credit and a testimony to his convictions. We give thanks for Craig and Barbara’s many years of constant and persistent work for homeschoolers. We do not know what the future holds, but we do know that many people are now educating their children at home in New Zealand, and will continue to do so, because of Craig Smith.