To start with… Rowan Fortune-Wood’s video that first introduced me to the struggle of home educators in Germany…
Homeschooling is illegal in Germany as well as China, Greece, Hong Kong and Brazil and ‘generally’ illegal in Sweden, Spain, Japan and the Netherlands.
In Germany children cannot be exempted from formal school attendance on religious grounds. The requirement for children from an age of about 6 years through the age of 18 to attend school has been upheld, on challenge from parents, by the Federal Constitutional Court of Germany. Penalties against parents who force their children to break the mandatory attendance laws may include fines (around €5,000), actions to revoke the parents’ custody of their children, and jail time. In many of these court cases families are refused legal aid.
Families are facing fines, frozen bank accounts and court-ordered state custody of their children for resisting Germany’s mandatory public school requirements, because by government admission are assigned to counter “the rise of parallel societies that are based on religion or motivated by different world views.”
I’m sure most of us will have heard the Neubronner family’s story, it has been very well publicised and supported by home educators all over the world but it’s well worth retelling…
The Neubronner’s story begins with what may be familiar to many home educators. Their eldest son, Moritz, began school along with his peers. For two years his parents, Tilman and Dagmar, watched their son struggle mentally, emotionally, and physically with his new life style. His enthusiasm for life and learning drained away and his health began to suffer. Although they tried to find a solution for his unhappiness within the system, Tilman and Dagmar felt as defeated as Moritz clearly was. When their younger son, Thomas, began school, it looked as though he was to repeat his brother’s negative experiences. Within days he was telling his parents that he would prefer to stay at home, complaining that he had headaches and that school “smelled funny.”
At the end of 2005 the family decided that they could struggle on no longer. Moritz and Thomas could not be asked to continue enduring a life style so detrimental to their well being and their parents removed them from school. In giving up one battle, the Neubronners took on another. There can be few new comers to home education who do not feel some degree of trepidation, but in Germany an extra deep breath is needed. There, home education is a criminal activity which the authorities are determined to stamp out no matter what might be the cost of such zeal.
In the initial legal action taken against them the Neubronners argued that school was making their children ill. The court found that this was not a sufficient reason to keep them at home and when Thomas and Moritz subsequently failed to turn up at school a fine of 1,500 Euros was levied. This, the Neubronner’s refused to pay.
Their fines were then raised to 4,500 Euros and bailiffs have visited their home in a fruitless search to impound property that might realise this sum. The Neubronners have been determined not to pay (and in any case don’t have the money) and they were also determined not to follow the route of several other German home educators who, with their backs against the wall, decided to move to more liberal countries.
This is an extremely courageous family, willing to risk prison sentences to defend their right to home educate.
Compulsory school attendance is the law since Hitler made it so, and the grounds on which it is still so stringently upheld are statist and prejudicial. The authorities particularly fear religious extremism or the creation of “parallel” societies, and are unwilling to tolerate any deviation from state control. Arguments about the children’s educational progress can hold no sway; by the school’s own measures they are doing well (they have been regularly tested by teachers from the school). The bulldozer reactions of the authorities look much more like a crass show of strength – do it our way or else – than a considered approach to child welfare.
Threatened with losing parental control, the Neubronner’s have had to leave behind their home and are currently touring to decide where they will settle.
Another horrific story is that of Melissa Busekros who was institutionalised in a psychiatric ward before being placed with a foster family after being expelled from school for having an outside tutor to help her catch up on maths and Latin…http://www.wnd.com/news/article.asp?ARTICLE_ID=55730
Wolfgang Drautz, consul general for the Federal Republic of Germany, has commented on the issue on a blog, noting the government “has a legitimate interest in countering the rise of parallel societies that are based on religion or motivated by different world views and in integrating minorities into the population as a whole.” Drautz said homeschool students’ test results may be as good as for those in school, but “school teaches not only knowledge but also social conduct, encourages dialogue among people of different beliefs and cultures, and helps students to become responsible citizens.”
The German government’s defense of its “social” teachings and mandatory public school attendance was clarified when a German family wrote to officials objecting to police officers picking their child up at home and delivering him to a public school. “The minister of education does not share your attitudes toward so-called homeschooling,” said a government letter in response. “… You complain about the forced school escort of primary school children by the responsible local police officers. … In order to avoid this in future, the education authority is in conversation with the affected family in order to look for possibilities to bring the religious convictions of the family into line with the unalterable school attendance requirement.”
There are so many other stories and letters from families in countries where home education is either illegal or frowned upon to such an extent that it is made impossible, I wish I had the space to put them all on here… I’ll add a few linkies later.
Please support our fellow home educators who are fighting for their parental rights and the rights of their children for freedom in education.
If you are on Facebook, join the cause “Stop persecution of Home Schoolers by German Government“. It can be found under causes for Education.