Should homeschooling be banned in your country

Martha Dalton
An American asks why homeschooling is banned in Germany

Teach the children at home? That is forbidden in Germany. People from other countries often cannot believe that. Close-up neither of the journalist Martha Dalton from the USA. She got to the bottom of it all.

By Martha Dalton

Ignition radio contribution by Martha Dalton

The Stauffers have five children. You live in the Midwest, in Cincinnati Ohio. Myka, the mother, teaches four of the five children at home. This is called homeschooling. Many people in the USA do it like the Stauffers. It is estimated that two million children are homeschooled. This is part of a philosophy called free school choice. This allows parents to decide for themselves how and where their children learn.

Homeschooling is prohibited in Germany

Homeschooling was not always legal in America; it has only been legal in all states since 1993. Homeschooling is banned in Germany - and has been since 1919. Hans Brügelmann, former professor of educational science at the University of Siegen, gives two reasons why German law does not allow children to be schooled at home. First, he says, it was difficult to teach children from poorer backgrounds at all. The farmers would have liked to have harnessed their children in the fields. This led to "that the children only went to school very irregularly".

Compulsory schooling has ensured that children do not have to take on jobs to keep the family afloat. A second reason, according to Brügelmann, was the desire to break up and mix up the shift system, at least in the classes.

"The upper classes, the aristocrats, the upper classes, have bought the education for their children, so to speak, by having their children taught by private tutors," says Brügelmann. The Weimar Constitution would have advocated the idea that all children from all walks of life come together in school.

Homeschooling - Is It Really That Bad?

But that was a long time ago. The lawyer Mike Donelly thinks: German families who teach their children at home are punished too harshly. Especially the heavy fines and the threat of taking their children away from them. “They even send policemen to their home to take the children to school. That puts a lot of pressure on both children and parents, ”he says.

Mike Donnelly is a senior attorney with the Homeschool Legal Defense Association, a law firm that represents homeschooling families. Although the firm is based in the USA, it also represents several German families. Some are so desperate that they apply for asylum in the United States.

What bothers Mike Donnelly most is that freedom is restricted. Although it is one of the basic rights. But he also understands the objections of the German judges. For example, that children learn tolerance and social behavior when dealing with other children. However, he also says that the same applies to children who are homeschooled. Because there is the homeschooling movement in many countries, says Donnelly. Australia, Canada, USA, Mexico, Russia, Great Britain or France. “Germany just has to look to see that these children are also tolerant. That they become ordinary citizens ”.

The Wunderlich case

Donnelly also represents a homeschooling family that still lives in Germany. Dirk Wunderlich says he and his wife decided to teach their children at home for several reasons. For one thing, he doesn't want them to be indoctrinated by the state.

The Wunderlich family | Photo: © HSLDA / Dirk WunderlichAn argument that is also used by imperial citizens or sects in Germany. But Wunderlich says there are other motifs as well. “Of course we want to spend time with our children. School is something completely artificial, abnormal, ”says Wunderlich. For millennia, knowledge transfer would have taken place vertically, from parents to children, also from grandparents to grandchildren.

In 2006 the Wunderlichs had to pay a fine of several hundred euros. The family then moved to France, where homeschooling is legal. But the parents did not find a permanent job there and therefore returned to Germany.

Shortly afterwards, the police came to the Wunderlichs' home and took the four children into their care. Dirk Wunderlich says the family agreed to supervision, but the authorities would not have accepted it.

"In Germany you just don't want to shake this compulsory education and you are simply not ready to compromise," says the family man. His children were therefore sacrificed on the altar for reasons of state. The Wunderlichs still want to stay in Germany and have decided to take their case to court. Donnelly's office took over the case. The verdict is arguably a compromise. The family argued that the children were illegally deprived of them. The judges saw it differently. But the Wunderlichs get their children back. The court also saw that the children had not been harmed by homeschooling. But homeschooling remains illegal in Germany.

Mike Donnelly hopes that will eventually change. Even if there will still be restrictions. For him, homeschooling is “a human right”. He says: "Families should have a choice and decide for themselves how their children are educated".