Bureaucrats Wrapping Home Schooling in Red Tape
HESSEN, Germany -- At the same time that home schooling continues to grow in popularity around the world, many politicians and governments would still like to stamp it out.
One of the recent recommendations of the Connecticut governor's panel investigating the 2012 Sandy Hook school massacre was for greater government oversight of home schooling, even though the killer, Adam Lanza, spent most of his youth in public school and was only home-schooled briefly at age 16.
Critics say Lanza's problem was severe mental illness, not home education.
The announcement by the Sandy Hook panel set off alarm bells, and reinforced a suspicion by home-school advocates that officials will look for almost any excuse to regulate home education.
Worldwide Red Tape
Only a handful of nations in the world allow home schooling without some sort of restriction or regulation. The impulse to clamp down on home schooling is a "transnational mindset" among bureaucrats, according to Mike Donnelly of the Home School Legal Defense Association.
"When you look around the world, you can see there is a common mindset in a lot of government bureaucracies which want to control what children learn and how they learn," Donnelly said.
"They want to put them [children] in state schools where they can control the curriculum because they want to have more control over parents," he added.
In Ireland, a home schooling mother of six was recently jailed for failing to pay a home schooling fine. The laws in Sweden are so tough the leader of Sweden's home-school movement had to escape to Finland.
But Germany is most notorious for what some call its "persecution" of homeschoolers.
Snatching Children from Parents
In the German state of Hessen, home schooling parents Dirk and Petra Wunderlich lost custody of their children in a police raid last year.
It didn't matter to authorities that the Wunderlichs created an idyllic setting for their children to learn in, or that the Wunderlich kids are obviously happy and well-adjusted.
Police came to their door and threatened to knock it down, then took their children for three weeks. They then returned them but only after a court hearing that brought international protests, and under the condition that the Wunderlich children would have to go to school.
The state retained custody of the children so that if the family tried to flee Germany, they would be hunted down like kidnappers. Dirk was defiant.
"You have no right to do this," he said of the raid. "You snatch my children and bring them into foster care and that is good for my family? You destroy a family and that is good for the welfare of children?"
A 'Waste of Time'
The Wunderlich children described their time in public school as a waste of time, with a classroom environment that was out of control.
"When there are so many children and they are talking about all kinds of things it's really loud," 14-year-old Joshua said."
"In home schooling I felt like we were able to learn a lot more in shorter time; in school they always make it so long and still you learn less than in home-school," his sister, 15-year-old Machsejah, added.
"They don't learn anything [in public school]. They get a brainwashing about reality and they also learn bad behavior," Dirk said.
After a court appeal this year, Dirk and Petra regained custody. They have decided to home-school their children again, and face criminal charges.
"There's no question that the family is going to be prosecuted criminally for home schooling," the HSLDA's Donnelly said.
If they wanted to, the Wunderlichs could flee Germany. But they've decided to stay and fight the country's home schooling laws.
"I know this way we are going, we have to go, and for this there is nothing to regret or anything, and God has promised us He will bless us more than before," Wunderlich said.
But the Wunderlich's could also lose custody of their children, again.