Arthur family have enough for small orchestra

By Lin Ferguson -
Meet the Arthurs of Marton, a Kiwi family whose nine children are a talented bunch, all home schooled and dedicated to their family.
The Arthur family from left: Shantae, Marie, Brontie, Kayla, Hayley Smith, (Nick's fiancée) Nick, Caleb, Brianna, Josiah and Sophia. Missing is dad Blair and eldest daughter Caitlin.
PHOTO/LIN FERGUSON
The Arthur family from left: Shantae, Marie, Brontie, Kayla, Hayley Smith, (Nick's fiancée) Nick, Caleb, Brianna, Josiah and Sophia. Missing is dad Blair and eldest daughter Caitlin. PHOTO/LIN FERGUSON

In a long dining room the windows and french doors open onto farm land and an orchard where labrador escapee Jack is snuffling against the fence.

Pigs shuffle round a paddock and sheep wander under the trees; the Arthur family's day is underway.

Marie and Blair Arthur's nine children range from 25 to 6 years-old, they all live at home, are all home schooled and are passionate about their home, their parents and each other.

Three go off to work, so that leaves six at home on the farm in Marton, situated in the Manawatu-Wanganui region.

Described in the Marton community as a "musical prodigy", eldest Caitlin is a violin and piano tutor and also teaches at Nga Tawa Diocesan School. She also instructs her younger brothers and sisters in music.

Next in line is 24 year old Nicholas, a builder. He and fiancee Hayley Smith are organising their wedding, much to the delight of all his young sisters.

Nick also plays piano.

Brianna, 21, is a keen triathlete, swimmer and part-time barista as well as an advanced and accomplished violist.

Caleb,18 - advanced piano and cello - is also a champion stacker and has already competed in Germany and Australia.

To make each trip overseas he buys and raises day-old chicks to 18 weeks old laying hens, and sells them.

"I did really well.

"But raising all those chooks was hard work I'm not sure I'd do it again . The worst was when they were still little and had to be kept warm and safe in the breeder pen in the shed. One night we had a power cut and the warmer lights went off. It was terrible because the chicks got cold and 25 of them died ... it was so upsetting."

Josiah, 16, plays piano but is thinking about becoming an architect.

Shantae, 14, is already working her advanced grades in piano and violin. Her lessons with Donald Armstrong in Wellington are mostly weekly Skype sessions because travelling to and from Wellington each week was too expensive.

Sophia,12, is following close behind and is so far being taught by older sister Caitlin.

Of the youngest two Brontie, 8, is playing piano and violin and Kayla, 6 the piano. They're both big sister Caitlin's pupils. Marie said practice times have to be staggered.

"We can't possibly have two pianos either, the house isn't big enough. And for people to try and concentrate it would be hopeless."

So music practice times have to be either in the mornings for some and at nights for the others.

Everyone does everything in the Arthur household, Marie said.

"In the mornings there's breakfast then a general clean up of the house, dishes done, floors swept, things put away. And all of this ideally by 8.30am in time to gather around the dining room table and begin our day. We don't always make it quite on time."

Home education is a wonderful journey, she said.

"I love it because it fosters individuality. There is no one right way and all the children are so different."

Marie believes her time in administration at the Police and Ministry of Transport before having a family has meant she is very organised.

The little girls are currently practising their knitting.

Sophia has advanced to knitting complicated toys that even have a complete wardrobe of different clothes including smart leg warmers and stylish berets with slits for ears.

The little girls are whizzing away on the electric sewing machine in the corner and making impressive pencil cases with separate pocket for pens and pencils.

School books and resources from the Home Schooling New Zealand trust are piled around the room and on the book shelves.

Obviously English, maths and science are staple subjects, but beyond that the children are encouraged to pick their individual interests, Marie said.

As well as their daily household tasks they help with the chickens, the pigs and milking their one cow.

"We had an electric milking machine but milking by hand is much easier," Caleb said.

Dad Blair is a builder, handyman, plasterer and painter and is on the go everyday, Marie said.

"We were a bit worried when he first went out in business on his own but it's worked well.

"But then Blair is a really nice person and everyone likes him."

Cooking is another ace subject in the Arthur family because Marie freely admits she hates cooking.

"I can cook but I don't enjoy it and we've got some super cooks in the family now."

The family cooking skills have meant that Brianna and Caleb have even set up a local catering service and have had a few bookings in Marton.

And every Wednesday night the elder Arthur children toss everything to the wind and throw each other round at the Wanganui Rock n'Roll Club.

It's a regular mission for Josiah, Caleb, Caitlin, Hayley and Nicholas.

The younger ones are lining up to go.

Brontie said young kids should be allowed in too. "We're good, we practice and we really want to dance."

Marie said at times it was like having a small symphony orchestra in the house, together with a team of cooks, crafters and artists.

"Every one is good at something and no, we didn't plan to have nine children.

"Blair wanted five children, I wanted four so I 'spose we just added it up and now here we are ... nine."

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