Honouring our Home Education Heroes

The year was 1997. We were living in South Africa, and my husband and I were parents to three children aged 7, 4 and 3. Realising that our oldest was struggling in school, we were doing our best to get support for her, not being aware of other options. It seemed like sheer serendipity to us when my husband, standing in a checkout queue, picked up a magazine and looked through its pages as he waited. There, he came across an article about a homeschooling (preferred term in South Africa) family, which got him somewhat excited, as this was not an option we had been aware of until that time! It just so happened that we could attend an event happening that very week to find out more – and so we went along, eager to understand what this phenomena was all about.

Through that initial event, we were fortunate to find out how we could locate other families who had already chosen this route, as rare as they were back then. With the internet still on dial-up and something of a novelty, and the primary function of mobile phones to be used as, surprisingly, phones (even texting was not really “a thing” back then!), enquiries were made over the phone or by postal communication. Somehow I managed to get contact details for the Wagner family and I excitedly called and made arrangements to visit Sally-Ann at her home, where I hoped to get all my questions answered.

I can’t say that I remember every detail of that first meeting with Sally-Ann and her 4 children so many years ago, but I do remember the impression they made on me. The atmosphere was relaxed, warm and reassuring, the children active and curious. Sally-Ann’s breezy confidence and care-free approach left me feeling a little dizzy at the thought that maybe this home education thing would not only work, but even be something exciting and liberating! That first encounter with a “real, live” home educator was to leave a positive and lasting mark on our lives and our approach to educating our own children.

It wasn’t long before Sally-Ann, her husband, Derek, and their children, became firm family friends. Many happy hours were spent at each other’s houses in Durban, South Africa, with children running around or playing happily in gardens. We bonded over pregnancies, homebirths, attachment parenting, and breastfeeding, as well as the everyday challenges of life, supporting and encouraging one another. Even though we now live in the UK, thanks to modern technology we can continue to be a part of each other’s lives and reach out when we need to. When Sally-Ann and Derek were planning to visit the UK in May 2014, it was an easy decision to ask them to speak at the Learn Free Home Educators Conference, where Sally-Ann thrilled attendees with her lively story about the Black Mamba snake they had encountered. We have also had the privilege of seeing some of the Wagner children as adults – delightful, strong, confident young people who are a joy to be around.

“Honour” is one of our key values at Streams, and today, I honour Sally-Ann as one of my “home education heroes”. Meeting and getting to know her before we’d even started our journey has left an indelible mark on us as a family, shaping our attitude and approach from the very beginning. Our lives would have been the poorer if we had not encountered her! I know that Sally-Ann and her family have done the same for many others too, and are still a positive voice and example in respect of home education today. There are so many amazing people out there who are impacting our lives and providing strong role models, affirming, inspiring, and encouraging us in our home educating journey. What about you? Who stands out for you as someone who has been a key part of your decision to home educate or your philosophical approach? Who has inspired and motivated you? Why don’t you let them know what they have meant to you? Who knows – you may be a voice of encouragement in their lives at a time when they need that recognition! Let’s not be shy about applauding those who have made a difference in our lives. Honour your home education heroes today!

Juliet English is one of our team members here at Streams. Find out more about Juliet here.

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