Thursday, October 11, 2007

Some kind of a pickle

I seem to be experiencing a bit of homeschool/life anxiety of late.

You know how sometimes as homeschoolers we go through these phases of wondering if we're doing the right thing? Wondering if indeed our kids are learning anything, if they are fulfilled, if they are keeping pace with their peers, if we're doing enough to ensure they won't grow up to be complete failures and sociopaths? Wondering if we're actually qualified enough to educate our own children?

Well, it's not that.

But what if someone came up to me tomorrow and asked me to prove that I'm qualified? Asked for my credentials, my certification, my curriculum vitae? Luckily, this is America and I'm not required to have any of that-- land of the free, home of the homeschooled, and all of that. But what if my family relocated somewhere else... let's just take a stab and say some small country in Europe. Then what? Well, that would be some kind of a pickle, because other than faith, fortitude and a creative spirit, I've got nothin'.

Homeschooling laws are exceedingly more strict on the other side of the Atlantic. In some places homeschooling is so outlawed that the authorities will fine you heavily, take your children away, and send you to prison. To prison! In Germany, they don't care about your ethical reasons, your religious faith, or your fancy teacher's certificate. Their primary concern is to prevent a parallel society, not to nurture the parental freedoms of their own individual German citizens. So if they imprison their own citizens for homeschooling, what about American citizens in Germany? They might as well begin and end their children's spelling lists with the word "deportation."

Germany aside, what exactly are the rights of American citizens homeschooling abroad? Honestly, it's not something I have ever thought about, nor a quandry I would have placed in my personal path. And yet. Here I am, pouring over websites, joining e-groups, and groping for a loophole in a foreign system that perhaps will have an issue with my lack of certification. And my curriculum? Oh yeah, that may be a problem, too.

Einstein has been invited out to interview for a very appealing job in Switzerland-- a position that would transport this very alternative American family overseas for 2 to 6 years. The last week or so I've been in a perpetual state of anxiety about it. Home education is up there at the top of our list as far as priorities go. It's a commitment we made long before any of our children became school-aged, and obviously not one I'm willing to forgo for a trip down the Rhine or a gander at the Eiffel Tower.

Don't get me wrong, the idea of spending a few years living and exploring in Europe fills me with giddy excitement. But the idea of going to prison? Not so much.


  1. Wow what a predicament. Maybe it will have to come down to what is more important, the job or homeschooling. I would never homeschool in a place like Germany of it meeant my kids would be sent to pshychiatric wards like the one family I heard of. It just isnt worth it. Sounds like you have a lot of praying to do. I'll pray with you.

  2. Whew, that is a hard one. Germany is definitely the one country in the world I would not want to take my homeschooling family! On the other hand, they probably have good Steiner schools. I myself consider homeschooling an absolute in my family, but perhaps you would be willing to negotiate on that one? Or maybe your American citizenship would mean you are still bound by the laws of your own country??

  3. You may have already found this page,
    but it gives some info on the situation in Switzerland. Wish you were coming to the UK. Home education is entirely legal here with few restrictions and virtually no reporting requirements. As a visitor or temporary resident even these would be unlikely to apply to you.
    Every blessing

  4. That's what I'm hoping for Michelle-- that the little word "temporary" would indeed count for so much! I have seen that site, but unfortunately the canton we're looking at is one of the more strict ones. I've contacted some people there, and now I'm just waiting to hear back.

    Thanks for the prayers, Mrs. D. And like you, Patience, we're committed homeschoolers. Which is why I'm hoping there is a way to make it work, legally. It certainly would be an exciting adventure!

  5. We home educate in Scandinavian Europe and the environment is almost entirely hostile to home edders. So long as we keep a low profile we can get by, but the authorities are poised to make life hell. So far we've managed to evade them, but it would be their form of monitoring and testing the kids and questioning the 'wisdom' of home education (always the big issue of 'socialization') that would drive us out of the country.

    Our deal is that we home educate so long as the authorities don't start breathing down our necks..and if they do we would have to leave the country. Which would be a shame because we quite like where we live (in the middle of a forest). Thing is, the Europeans are all about schooling. It's all so organised. We've thought about moving to America (where dh comes from) funnily enough, just to get a break from the threat of the state breathing down our necks about the lifestyle we choose to lead.

    Good luck with it anyhow, I have no idea about the laws in Switzerland, but it might follow that you could slip through loopholes if you are from another country.

  6. Anonymous9:26 PM

    I just got done living in Germany for two years with our bicultural family. My girls did attend Waldorf Kindergarten there. However, I have known of some German families (mostly in Hamburg and that area) who homeschool by finding loopholes in the laws. In fact there is a network of German families who do Montessori homeschool in that area but the keep it very under the radar.

    If I am not mistaken the arrest of the family who homeschooled their child ocurred in Bavaria. The North is far more liberal in these matters and I doubt they would have prosecuted in Hamburg or Schleswig-Holstein.

    As far as I know Germany is the only country in Europe where it is illegal to homeschool.

    Of course being an American in any country outside of the US affords you autonomy. They can't touch you really because you aren't a citizen. A German women I know who is married to an American service man homeschooled most of her 9 children and the German government had no say in the matter.

    We chose to send our kids to our local Waldorf school because we wanted the children to really learn German and experience the culture in way that wouldn't have been possible if I had homeschooled them. Germany can also be a very difficult place to integrate socially so going to the Waldorf Kindergarten was a good way for my kids to develop cultural awareness and make friends.


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