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Interview with Anna, former home-educated student

Anna with Katie Marcar
Anna with Katie Marcar

You were home educated. Can you tell us a little about your experience?

I was homeschooled the whole way through to the end of high school. For most of that, Mum cobbled a curriculum together from different sources such as Apologia, Charlotte Mason, etc. In high school I took ACE to get university entrance. Mum always tried to expose us to different perspectives and to get us thinking critically about whatever we were reading. Even when we used Christian-based curricula we would talk through what we found consistent with the Bible and what we felt less comfortable with. So I had a particularly positive experience with home education.

Why did you choose to study at Otago?

It was the closest university to my parents. Once I got there, I also found the culture very accepting; most of the students had also moved a long way from home and were still finding their feet, so everyone was in the same boat.

You can never look out of place at Otago – ties, bush shirts, cocktail dresses and hippie pants are all represented at all  times of year.

What did you study while you were at Otago?

I did a BA, with a major in Linguistics and a minor in Biblical Studies. I also took as many English papers as I could squish in around the sides, and gave up early on Anthropology because it was giving me nightmares.

Did you feel well-prepared for your course of study at Otago?

Yes. Initially I was nervous that I would find myself needing to catch up with everything I'd missed from NCEA, but actually a couple of elements from homeschooling put me at an advantage.

Firstly, ACE was pretty grammar-intensive, and a solid grasp of English grammar made it much easier to understand the grammatical features of other languages.

Secondly, homeschooling meant I had become a self-directed learner. The Biblical language papers are taught through text books, and it's vital to keep up with the chapters and work through the exercises outside of class time.

Really, I found that anyone who is willing to put in the brute hours of work is perfectly able to do well at Otago. They recommend about fourteen hours a week per paper, including class time.

Do you think that the first-year biblical Greek and Hebrew papers would be a good fit for mature home-educated students (Year 13 or equivalent)?

Absolutely! These papers are challenging, but that doesn't make them un-do-able. I found them very worth the effort.

Also, it is not hard to fit them around your schedule, you can attend lectures from home, and the lecturer Katie Marcar makes a friendly, very helpful, very approachable introduction into the theology scene.

Is there anything else you’d like to say to home-educated students thinking about study at the University of Otago?

Uni can be so exciting. You run into a great hodgepodge of new ideas and people. One important thing is to keep thinking critically; don't feel you need to accept anything just because it seems like the majority opinion within academia. Academia changes its opinions often.

Even more importantly, as a Christian I found it vital to keep investing time into my walk with the Lord, and not to let studies or my mates take precedence over that. Even when my study was around the Bible, I found that asking God's perspective on my assignments often turned them from cerebral exercises into a process of digging deeper and applying God's Word to myself.

Interview with Todd Roughton, Principal, Home School New Zealand

Todd Roughton talks about Theology study for home-educated students