The Washington Times
June 29, 2009

Washington Times Op-ed—Homeschooling: Under Pressure all over Europe

by J. Michael Smith
HSLDA President

While the freedom to homeschool in America continues to expand, the opposite is true in Europe. Since 1982, 38 U.S. states have adopted homeschool statutes or regulations that have removed restrictions on homeschoolers. This year, two more states, North Dakota and Idaho, made significant progress in recognizing the value of homeschooling.

North Dakota, which was one of the most regulated states, just amended its homeschool law to make it possible for more parents to homeschool freely. No longer will a homeschooling parent have to hold a baccalaureate degree, be a certified teacher or be monitored by a certified teacher if they have only a high school diploma in order to homeschool. All homeschooling parents in North Dakota can provide the individualized education that best fits their children.

Idaho, which has been a homeschool-friendly state, got even better. A recently passed law allows parents to use people outside the immediate family to support their homeschool program, and gives more flexibility to homeschoolers regarding their teaching schedule.

While homeschooling freedom and flexibility continues to improve in the U.S., it appears to be going in the opposite direction in Europe. Germany leads the way as the most oppressive European state, because it routinely fines and threatens to imprison homeschoolers.

While other European countries have not embraced the German methods, there is a move in some countries to crack down on homeschoolers. For example, in Sweden, the government released a suggestion on June 15 that all schools, including homeschools, must provide an education that is acceptable to all pupils regardless of religious or philosophical beliefs, or the beliefs of the parents. The study concludes that there is no need for the new law to recognize the possibility of homeschooling because of religious or philosophical reasons in the family. We are confident the authors are aware that this effectively would end homeschooling in Sweden as most families are homeschooling for religious or philosophical reasons.

Equally shocking are the events in Britain. A June 11 report on home education in England by Graham Badman, former managing director of Children, Families and Education in the County of Kent, makes the case that homeschooling should be extensively regulated. More troubling, the report has been accepted in full by British Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families Ed Balls.

The underlying philosophy behind Mr. Badman’s conclusion is based upon children’s rights contained in the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child, which came into force in Britain on Jan. 15, 1992. Mr. Badman contends that current homeschool law, which is very similar to many homeschool laws in America, does not address children’s education needs or protect the child from harm by the parents.

The U.N. Convention would give children more than 40 “fundamental” rights, including the right to express their views freely, the right to be heard in any legal or administrative matter that affects them, and the right to seek, receive and impart information and ideas. Mr. Badman is urging that England make it possible for children to form their own views and express themselves freely in all matters affecting them, including how they are being raised and what form of education they are receiving. Who will decide the conflict between the rights of the child and the responsibility of the parents? The government.

Among his suggestions for homeschool law is the right of designated local authorities to enter homes and speak to each child alone. This idea of unbridled power to enter a home is abhorrent to Americans because of the Fourth Amendment, which protects our homes from unreasonable searches and seizures and recognizes the fundamental right of privacy and family integrity.

Mr. Badman also cites the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child as the justification for the state choosing the curriculum homeschoolers may use.

HSLDA has opposed the UNCRC since its formation in 1989 because we are deeply concerned about the implications this treaty would have for homeschoolers and parents in general. The interpretation of the treaty by Britain further supports our position that the UNCRC should not be ratified by our Senate.

For more information about the issues involving the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child and international homeschooling, visit our issues page.

Michael Smith is the president of the Home School Legal Defense Association. He may be contacted at (540)338-5600; or send email to media@hslda.org.

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