HESSEN, Germany — As homeschooling continues to grow in popularity around the world, many politicians and governments would like to phase it out.
One of the recent recommendations from 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 the public school and was homeschooled only briefly at age 16.
Critics say Lanza’s problem was severe mental illness, not home education.
The Sandy Hook panel’s announcement set off alarm bells and reinforced suspicion by home schooling advocates that officials will look for almost any excuse to regulate home schooling.
Only a handful of nations in the world allow homeschooling without some sort of restriction or regulation. The urge to crack down on homeschooling 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 that there is a common mindset in many government bureaucracies that they want to control what children learn and how they learn,” Donnelly said.
« They want to put them (the kids) in state schools where they can control the curriculum because they want to have more control over the parents, » he added.
In Ireland, a school mother at home of six were recently jailed for failing to pay a homeschooling fine. The laws in Sweden are so harsh leader of the Swedish home-school movement had to flee to Finland.
But Germany is most notorious for what some call its « persecution » of homeschoolers.
Take the children away from their parents
In the German state of Hesse, homeschooled parents Dirk and Petra Wunderlich lost custody of their children in a police raid last year.
The authorities didn’t care that the Wunderlichs created an idyllic environment for their children to learn, or that the Wunderlich children were obviously happy and well adjusted.
Police came to their door and threatened to tear it down, then took their children for three weeks. They then returned them, but only after a court hearing that sparked international outcry and on the condition that the Wunderlich children had to go to school.
The state retained custody of the children so that if the family attempted to flee Germany, they would be hunted down as kidnappers. Dirk was defiant.
« You have no right to do this, » he said of the raid. « You kidnap my children and take them into foster care and that’s good for my family? You destroy a family and that’s good for the well-being of the children? »
A waste of time’
The Wunderlich children described their time in public school as a waste of time, with an out-of-control school environment.
« When there are so many kids and they’re talking about all kinds of things, it’s really loud, » said 14-year-old Joshua.
« In home schooling I felt like we were able to learn so much more in less time; in school they always make it so long and you learn less than at home anyway, » added her sister, 15-year-old Machsejah. .
« They learn nothing (in public school). They get brainwashed about reality and they also learn to misbehave, » Dirk said.
After a court appeal this year, Dirk and Petra have resumed custody. They have decided to homeschool their children again and face criminal charges.
« There is no doubt that the family will face prosecution for homeschooling, » HSLDA’s Donnelly said.
If they wanted to, the Wunderlichs could flee Germany. But they’ve decided to stay put and fight the nation’s homeschooling laws.
« I know this way we’re going, we have to go, and for that there’s nothing to regret or anything, and God has promised us that he’s going to bless us more than before, » Wunderlich said.
But the Wunderliches could also lose custody of their children again.