Homeschooling Family in the New York Times
The homeschooling family I wrote about here and here is now featured in the New York Times. The article recounts the events that led the family to leave Germany and seek political asylum in the United States:
Working with a curriculum from a private Christian correspondence school — one not recognized by the German government — they expected to be punished with moderate fines and otherwise left alone.
But they soon discovered differently, he said, facing fines eventually totaling over $11,000, threats that they would lose custody of their children and, one morning, a visit by the police, who took the children to school in a police van. Those were among the fines and potential penalties that Judge Burman said rose to the level of persecution.
Reading these details of their story reminds me how fortunate homeschooling families in the United States are today. Some states impose more regulations than others; depending on where they live, parents may need to hold college degrees, to submit their curriculum for approval, or to agree for their children to take standardized tests. But it’s unheard of for the government to remove children from their homes forcibly and send them to school.
A sign of U.S. homeschoolers’ freedom is that when legislation is introduced that would affect them, the right to homeschool is usually not at question. And, secure in their ability to homeschool, parents can ask states for more than the right to be left alone. For example, homeschooling parents in Utah are currently lobbying for public schools to include homeschoolers in extracurricular activities. In Germany, parents fight to take their children out of the public schools; permission to bring them back for activities is the least of their concerns.
Supporters of homeschooling might point out that homeschooling can become an issue in divorce cases like this one in Missouri that Caitlin Hartsell discussed. It’s true; divorce courts do sometimes order a parent to send his or her children to school instead of teaching them at home. However, these decisions are not comparable to the harassment homeschoolers face in Germany and other countries. If divorced parents disagree about their children’s education, whatever the court ruling is, one parent will end up better satisfied and the other unhappy. Parents who want to send their children to public or private schools can be disappointed by these orders, and parents who want to homeschool are not immune from unfavorable divorce court rulings. What matters for homeschoolers in general is that divorce decisions apply only to individual families, and do not create new policies for everyone else.