With homeschooling numbers surging over recent years, our 'New Eden' is being borne to accomodate the demand. Teachers operating 'online classrooms' is a growing trend. Anna Stolk-Noall is one science teacher leading the charge to 'build back better'.
The homeschooling community in New Zealand is now nearing on 10,000 students and is essentially the largest school in the country.
Parents are being driven to homeschooling because of the perceived risk of Covid, the political climate in schools, class sizes, the lack of religious education and insight into failings in mainstream schooling (discovered by many parents in lockdown) including differences of opinion between parents and schools re sex education and violence allowed.
Stolk-Noall is a Christian of Dutch origin and her teaching career spans thirty one years. She has a masters in Genetics as well as ten papers in Chemistry. In a former life she was a research scientist until transferring to high school teaching initially at Rangiora High School but she has taught over the years in a variety of schools with different socio-economic backgrounds and cultural perspectives. Rangiora for example had 1200 high school students at the time but Mangakino Area School, where she taught later in her career, only 40. One of the schools at which she taught also had a large proportion of ex home schoolers, with parents who had taught primary but in their college years sent them to mainstream.
Now living on a sixty acre farm south of Whangarei, Stolk-Noall retired from teaching on 1st October 2021, ironically a few days before vaccine mandates were announced for teachers.
"It was nice that I had a great send off for my retirement from teaching prior to that and so I left mainstream schooling on a positive note" she says.
In January 2022 though, after realising how much she missed teaching and seeing the need for teachers in the homeschooling community, she established her 'zoom room'.
She offers year 9 and 10 students a one hour zoom call every Thursday, with follow up work due on the Friday and new work assigned every Monday. Her current class is made up of 12-16 year olds from across the country and has a maximum class size of fifteen - half the size of mainstream schools. Payment is by koha.This term her focus is on Electromagnetic waves and light.
Anyone is welcome to trial an online class by DMing Anna via her facebook page https://www.facebook.com/anna.stolk.9
Says Stolk-Noall "It is important that homeschooling provide 'disciplined freedom with reponsibility' for children. It is especially beneficial because it allows flexibility to cater for the individual learning needs and style of your child. Education never can be one size fits all and homeschooling can provide a safe learning environment, especially considering the current climate and issues presenting"
Her goal as a teacher is to provide a fun learning environment for her pupils.
"I know I'm doing a great job when kids respond with enthusiasm to science, even if its not their favourite subject. Parental feedback, the smiles on kids faces and word of mouth referrals also tells me I'm on the right track" she says.
Online schooling is definitely a burgeoning trend that, in conjunction with homeschooling, might just be putting our schooling system back on track.
"It certainly seems to be working for children and is finally addressing some of the issues that parents have discussed with me over many years" says Stolk-Noall.