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School: Right or Duty? Anti-Homeschooling Law and Propaganda

In my reading on parenting and children in Germany, I came across a booklet aimed at children that explains their rights to them. In general, I think it is a great idea to inform children of their rights. However, I draw the line at propaganda in support of contentious legislation.

Here is a rough translation from one section of Die Rechte der Kinder (The Rights of Children):
My Education

Eight year old Sita, a girl from India, has to spend each day making rugs. She can't go to school. Andrea, an eight year old girl from Rostock (Germany), doesn't want to go to school. She doesn't get along with her classmates and doesn't have any fun in class.

Sita cannot and Andrea does not want to go to school. But both of them should go to school. It is a requirement of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Article 28 says: One thing thing has to be free for all children and a duty: going to elementary school/primary school. It isn't always fun, but people who go to school will be able to read everything, calculate important things, and have a profession. That gives them a greater chance to earn enough money for themselves and their family.

Therefore, India has to ensure that Sita goes to elementary school/primary school and Germany has to ensure that Andrea goes to school. Sita is unfortunate: her country, India, has not yet fulfilled its requirements under Art. 28 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. This demonstrates again that the Convention on the Rights of the Child is only useful if individual countries do something to make it a reality. Because education of children and youth is a big expense for the state, they were very careful in formulating Art. 28 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. That can be seen in the time after elementary school/primary school: when Andrea is finished with elementary/primary school, she is required to continue going to school. That is in German law. But the Convention on the Rights of the Child does not include anything about a duty to go to school after elementary/primary school.

Here is the actual text of Article 28 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (relevant part bolded):
1. States Parties recognize the right of the child to education, and with a view to achieving this right progressively and on the basis of equal opportunity, they shall, in particular:

(a) Make primary education compulsory and available free to all;

(b) Encourage the development of different forms of secondary education, including general and vocational education, make them available and accessible to every child, and take appropriate measures such as the introduction of free education and offering financial assistance in case of need;

(c) Make higher education accessible to all on the basis of capacity by every appropriate means;

(d) Make educational and vocational information and guidance available and accessible to all children;

(e) Take measures to encourage regular attendance at schools and the reduction of drop-out rates.

2. States Parties shall take all appropriate measures to ensure that school discipline is administered in a manner consistent with the child's human dignity and in conformity with the present Convention.

3. States Parties shall promote and encourage international cooperation in matters relating to education, in particular with a view to contributing to the elimination of ignorance and illiteracy throughout the world and facilitating access to scientific and technical knowledge and modern teaching methods. In this regard, particular account shall be taken of the needs of developing countries.

Here is how I interpret Article 28:

  • Every child has the right to an education.

  • Every country has the duty to provide a public education system to their citizens.

  • Parents do not have a duty to send their children to school. They do, however, have a duty to ensure that their children are educated and a right to send them to a public school.

I think it is important to distinguish between an education and a school. Just because education is compulsory, doesn't mean it has to take place in a school. The requirement for children to be educated should be separate from the state's duty to ensure a free education for all (which is probably most effectively provided through a public school system).

Germany, obviously, has decided that Schulpflicht (the duty to go to school) is important. It is set out in a Nazi-era law, but one that remains still today (note: Compulsory school existed in much of Germany prior to the Nazis, but was made into a national law by the Nazis). Homeschooling is not allowed and parents can be fined, have their children taken away, and/or be jailed for refusing to send their children to school. Whether that is appropriate or not will be the discussion of another post (still collecting my thoughts), but pretending that the Convention on the Rights of the Child requires that children be educated in schools is pure propaganda in my opinion.
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Reader Comments (39)

While I don't agree that a free education is most effectively provided through a public school system (actually, that's putting it mildly because the public school system is an ineffective, coercive dinosaur), you're right that it's important to distinguish between an education and school, and between rights and duties. School is - in the minds of governing officials all over the world, not just in Germany - an effective way to warehouse children and train them in consumerism. I find it unfortunate that many progressive people tend not to understand this...and are, therefore, prone to seduction by such propaganda.

May 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterWendy Priesnitz

Let's see...a nation that has previously used its public schools as training grounds for hate has compulsory public school attendance laws leftover from that era of hate, extensive propaganda campaigns regarding that mandatory school attendance that recall the "love and obey the state" propaganda of that era of hate, and jails parents/makes children wards of the state. Oh Germany, nobody thinks that seems at all like a bad idea!

May 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSmrt Mama

So, I know this isn't necessarily what you were talking about but as a homeschool "Alumnus" and a student studying the sociology of education I have to point out that the propaganda in that first excerpt isn't limited to the portion referring to Article 28. IMHO, the idea that in order to "earn enough money for themselves and their families" German children must go to school is also a pretty biased perspective. Now I know doesn't say that in exactly so many words but by ignoring the possibility that some people might learn to read and calculate without attending school, it suggests that if young Andrea doesn't attend school she won't develop the skills necessary to succeed in life.

This type of framing is pretty typical of anti-homeschooling arguments; by focusing on a fear-based need to conform (and the dreaded, "you'll ruin your kids' lives" argument) rather than looking at the results and experiences of actual homeschooling families, they can continue arguing against it as a general practice despite overwhelming evidence that these negative future projections are simply untrue.

The second issue, lumping together the items in article 28, seems to me an extension of this issue: people feel it's wrong, they have a knee-jerk reaction to the idea, and scramble to justify that belief without really looking at the material at hand. As awful as I think it is that the pamphlet has manipulated the info, based on my experience dealing with these issues both professionally and personally, I can't really say I'm surprised.

(P.S. and how about the awful irony of a pamphlet designed to educate children about their rights lying to them and manipulating the very legislature it's trying to inform them about?)

May 24, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterchapeskie

I can't remember where I read it, but I recently saw an article on a set of German parents that were being threatened with jail time or having their children taken away because they wanted to homeschool them. I can't remember their reason for not wanting to utilize the public school, but it sounded like a valid reason to me. I believe that all children have the right to be educated, but the manner in which that education takes place will vary from family to family and child to child. I feel very lucky that where I live, we have a lot of choices available to us.

May 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKayris

Because, of course, anything created during Nazi times was bad, like the German Autobahn system? Also, because it would be much better for Germany to allow it's far right and neo-Nazi groups to homeschool their children so that those children are not exposed to education on WWII and the Holocaust, right?

It's very easy to judge a system based on limited facts. In Germany, school is half day and the parent is very involved in educating the child at home. It is not like in North America where the kids receive most of their education in school and go home and play all afternoon. A parent here needs to spend several hours working with the kids afterschool on homework or, if the parent works, the child needs to be enrolled in an afterschool tutoring program to get the home-based part of the education met. It is a very different system that is very dependent upon the parents. I see the system here as containing a significant level of compulsory homeschooling.

May 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterChristina @ AmiExpat


I didn't say anything created during Nazi times is bad. I didn't even say that the German Schulpflicht is bad. I said I was still collecting my thoughts on that.

My point here is that the government is twisting the wording of the Convention of the Rights of the Child. It does not say that school has to be compulsory. It says an education has to be compulsory.

May 25, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

Smrt Mama:

To be fair, part of the reason that the compulsory school exists is to ensure that all children are taught about things like democracy, different cultures, history (so it doesn't repeat itself), etc. But I agree on the propaganda part. If they want school to be compulsory in Germany and feel there is good reason for it, then state that reason. Don't pretend that the Convention on the Rights of the Child requires it.

May 25, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting


I'd be curious what your thoughts are on how the state should ensure that every child has access to a free education, if not through a school system. I agree on many of the inefficiencies and deficiencies of the public school system, but am not sure what other options exist given that not all parents want to or are able to educate their own children.

May 25, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

As a former high school teacher in both private and public educational systems (and so with a complex understanding of both the successes and failures of both), I have to say that I am, in the end, biased against the homeschooling model. That is not to say that I think that parents can't homeschool successfully. However, outside of a few anomalies, I really think that a school setting (of some sort) is much better than homeschooling in general.

May 25, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMandy

Love the irony of this: So that the rights of the individual child are not infringed upon we will impose and enforce a compulsory solution for all children. I think they are comparing apples with pears. I know the pamphlet is hypothetical but, but both children appear to be in need of help and both of their rights are being infringed upon. Sita more obviously with enforced labor and Andrea less obviously but not less painfully, I imagine she would be experiencing a certain amount of bullying and intimidation ( a very common reason for homeschooling) to feel the way she does. I think the assumption that all problems can be fixed with the same solution is in itself a travesty of child rights. Unfortunately this sort of blanket solution happens everywhere by well intentioned people who don't necessarily work at ground level, so to speak.

May 25, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterse7en

Awaiting having my fourth child to be enrolled in the German school system yet having personally gone through the Canadian system, I can say that although the school is only half day, to say that children are in less institutional time compared to (at least my childhood) North American schooling is slightly wrong. My kids spend from 8 am to 1 pm daily in school. There is no ONE hour lunch break in there. -- that comes to 5 hours of school.

I remember being in school from 9 am to 3 pm, with ONE hour of lunch... meaning also 5 hours of school.

Plus when I spend time with my kids overseeing their homework (and often re-teaching what should have happened in school)(and that drives me bananas -- is it school specific or kid specific? I don't know why, but my kids don't get the lessons during class), I am actually *forced* to function as an extension of the German school system and am NOT actually free to do with my kids as we wish since we have to *at least* accomplish what the school system requires for the next day of class.

Granted, I would agree that parents can be way more involved due to this set up here in Germany as parents as a rule in North America are.

May 25, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAndrea Schmitz


I'd be curious what your reasons are for thinking that. My observation so far has been more the opposite. That in general, children who are homeschooled are better off, except for a few anomalies.

May 25, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

I find this very interesting. Thank you for the post, Annie - I'm always curious to see how different places approach the home education question. Here in Australia, in most states there is very little requirement other than notification in order to home educate children; you do need to inform your relevant state authority of your intentions and have an annual check-up by the department, but there is no necessity to submit curriculum, perform extra tests or anything of that nature. It sounds like Germany takes the exact opposite approach in its mandating of formal schooling.

For what it is worth, I agree with you that the Convention on the Rights of the Child does not mandate traditional or formal schooling, but rather the right to an education. While my children are in formal schooling currently, I actually believe home education is a powerful and positive model for many families and is one I seriously considered myself. My observation with home educated children, based on the research I did in making my decision, is that, all other things being equal, their educational outcomes are as good or better than schooled children. Whether there are other tangible or intangible benefits to formal schooling is an open question, of course.

May 25, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKathy


There is one family that was granted asylum in the United States because they were German and wanted to homeschool their children. There is an article about it here:


Here is a description of their reasoning:

In 2006 the Romeikes pulled their children out of a state school in Bissingen, Germany, in protest of what they deemed an anti-Christian curriculum.

They said textbooks presented ideas and language that conflicted with their Christian beliefs, including slang terms for sex acts and images of vampires and witches, while the school offered what they described as ethics lessons from Islam, Buddhism and other religions. The eldest son got into fights in school and the eldest daughter had trouble studying.

Whether I think that is reasonable or appropriate or not are things I'll tackle in a separate blog post.

May 25, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

My husband just informed me that the Nazis building the Autobahn is actually a myth. They built part of it, primarily using Russian prisoners of war, but they didn't plan it or start it.


May 25, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

I agree. I'm not thrilled with the idea of tons of homework that the parents are required to oversee. I do send my children to school (by choice) because there are things that I think they can learn better in school (Which is not to say that other parents couldn't teach their children those things. It just isn't for me.) During the time I have with my children, I want our family to set the priorities for what we will do and what we will learn. Our free time should be used to further our interests and our values, not be an extension of the school system.

May 25, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

I agree that Andrea sounds like she is in need of help too. Her reasons for not wanting to go to school are not frivolous.

May 25, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

Regarding the booklet for children to inform them of their rights, I think it's worth remembering that it's aimed at children. It is trying to address one issue but by using examples to help explain the issue. Of course, using examples always means there could, potentially, be more complex issues involved. But, I think that would be a bad reason for avoiding using examples, as examples help children understand.
So, what is the issue. I think that has to been determined from the context.
In Germany, probably 99.9% of adults have been themselves educated in state schools and so are not thinking of providing all their child's education at home. Plus, it wouldn't be allowed anyway. Therefore, if you read the booklet in this context, the example of Andrea is not addressing the issue state school versus home-school but education versus no education.
The booklet is not going to spend pages explaining to children a possible system that isn't available to them. It is trying to explain in a simple way why education is good for you and a right and why it is sad for children who receive no education and very little attention to how they are going to be prepared for adult life. You may consider it propaganda, but I just think a booklet for children about taking advantage of education is not a place for a discussion about whether Germany should allow homeschooling.

I agree that the German (as well as, by definition all other) state school system has it's flaws and no education is ever going to be perfect. No teacher will be perfect - and perfection doesn't exist anyway. Still, Christina hits on exactly my view as to why state schooling is a good idea for Germany (as well as other countries): home schooling is going to help neo-Nazi parents reduce the contact their children have with non-neo nazi adults. And maybe, just maybe, contact with a non-neo-nazi teacher might end up with the odd question being sown in the child's mind. I think that there's a lot of value in a child coming into contact with as many different ideas, potential mentors, styles etc. as possible. Like that the child has the greatest chance of realising that there is no one way, and it can grow to make up its own mind about things. Only by seeing a few (as many as possible!) different approaches, can a child really start to question things that they have taken for granted. So, I think for any country to prevent a return of totalitarianism, state schooling is not a bad idea. Of course there are loads of parents out there who would do a great job of teaching their children and wouldn't drill them in fascism. So, we could have a system where you have to pass an exam that you have the "right" political views before you are allowed to homeschool and otherwise you have to send your children to state school?! :o)

May 25, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCatherine

Christina and Catherine have made some of the points I wanted to make vis-a-vis cultural context. The language in this brochure is meant to be as simple as possible. The simplest way of saying "primary education" in German is "Grundschule," which actually means "primary school". I understand how we can see this interpretation of the CRC as disingenuous or misleading, but with all due respect, I don't think it's entirely fair to label the publication as "Anti-Homeschooling...Propaganda." I respect you as a blogger, Annie, but the title of this post strikes me as a bit sensationalist.

It would be great to hear from some German commenters on their concept of Schulpflicht, or Pflicht in general. I get the impression that we have a very different approach to civic duty in the US (I'm not sure what it's like in Canada). We love to talk about rights, but many of us think the idea of civic duty is unfair and infringes on our rights as individuals. Annie, I look forward to hearing your thoughts on this during your time in Germany.

Finally, I believe it is extremely important keep things in perspective for my fellow USian readers. The US is the only country (other than Somalia) that has not ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child. This is partially because our government wasn't sure they could hold up their end of things with regard to ensuring that every child has health care, and also because up until 2005, juveniles could still be given the death penalty in some parts of the US.
I don't mean to diminish the issues in this post, but I think those of us in the US might want to examine the injustices in our own society more closely, before getting too carried away criticizing inconsistencies in others'.

May 25, 2010 | Unregistered Commentermaria

Hmm, while I agree that saying "right of the child to education" is quite different from "right of the child to go to school" (and I personally believe families should have the right to choose home schooling), I disagree that this document suggests home schooling is an equal option. To my reading, sections 1 a) and e) specify that this education would happen in actual, physical schools, and there is no provision for "unless the child is home schooled". I can see why the German government would interpret this article the way it has.

May 25, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAndrea

I don't want to hijack your comment section, so I sent you an email.

May 25, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMandy


I believe there are tangible and intangible benefits and tangible and intangible drawbacks to formal schooling. More on that in another post...

May 25, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting


It wasn't intended to be sensationalist. That is exactly how it struck me. I was researching the German Schulpflicht for a post I'm writing on that and came across this booklet. I understand wanting to keep things simple for kids, but I think they could have done that differently. They didn't even have to mention home schooling. They could say that the Convention on the Rights of the Child says that all children need to have an education. Period. Then, in a new sentence, they could say that in Germany, this is achieved by requiring all children to attend school.

May 25, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

At Annie's request, here is the email I sent. (I'm the same Mandy from the comments above).

With regards to homeschooling, my comments are purely anecdotal (based on my and my colleagues' observations) as I haven't done academic research on the topic. Also, as a former teacher, I am somewhat biased in favour of educational institutions, although I am by no means blinded to their faults.

The homeschooled students I saw entered into the public educational system in grade 7 (start of middle school), or, more commonly, in grade 9 (start of high school). The advantages of homeschooling that I observed were:

1. Generally more (to very) academically advanced compared with the class median.
2. Initially much more respectful to adults and authority figures.
3. Not yet exposed to drugs, alcohol and sex, which is a good thing in my opinion.
4. Parents are intimately invested in their child's success in a way that teachers are generally not.

Some of the disadvantages:

1. Rigid belief systems that are incompatible with a more inclusive educational system. This population makes up a significant percentage of children who are homeschooled in the Vancouver lower mainland. (Here I am referring to, generally, fundamental religious families who are generally intolerant of other belief systems. This intolerance extends to a lot of the literature these students have to read in the IB system, or advanced English classes once these students are in the public system. I had one student who had a nervous breakdown/ crisis when introduced to the Big Bang theory and, believe it or not, evolution in IB science classes.)

2. Real trouble adapting to the social animal that is middle school / high school life. Teens can be very good at hiding this emotional struggle from their parents.

3. Attempts to fit in often affect #2 and #3 from above. Or, students start under-achieving in an attempt to be cool, accepted, to avoid standing out.

4. Imagine having the same teacher (even a good one) through your entire elementary school. There is only ever so much a student can learn from one person given that teacher's, or in this case parent's, strengths and shortcomings, even if the kids are taken on field trips, etc. You are always only viewing the world through a particular filter.

5. Parents who homeschool often unwittingly (outside the group with fundamentalist belief systems), push their own agenda on their children without realizing it. Their passions, their proclivities are the ones subtly chosen for their kids.

I realize that homeschooling is changing. I've read of women who get together to homeschool, exchange ideas/lessons, socialize their kids, etc. I think though that this is tantamount to forming a mini private or charter school, frankly. None of this is to say that I think the shortfalls of the public educational system should be swept under the carpet. We need a better way to remove ineffective teachers, be they inept, unskilled, uninspired, burnt out, from the classroom. We need to find a way to give teachers more prep time and more resources. I hate the way the provincial gov't squeezes every last dime out of the public system and then asks, "Now, what else can we cut?" We need a better public dialogue on the skills we want our schools to provide our kids... a better way for the behemoth that is the public system to change.

I think parents who homeschool are often avid activist for their child's education. Since most people are not able to homeschool from a practical point of view (let alone of interest), I would much rather see those passionate voices invested in bettering the public system for all, rather than removing their children from it.

Finally, I think that homeschooling in situations where kids are traveling with their parents might be a much more advantageous situation than the alternatives available. But generally, I would advocate that children are educated professionally and parents can supplement in other/different ways as they desire.

May 25, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMandy


I have some questions about your comments, because as a homeschooler, I haven't had a lot of experience with families who decide to send their children to school after a life of homeschooling. I'm curious what it is like for homeschoolers in school.

1. Would you say that this difficulty in moving from a rigid belief system (for the children who were evangelists) into public school is any different than a child who is moving from a strict religious private school? If so, how does being taught a strict religious doctrine by one family vs. being taught by a whole tribe affect the adaption process in public school? Also, do kids who were not evangelistic have the same kind of difficulty?

2. How is this different than any other pre-teen, teen? From my experience with my friends who have children in school, this time is a universal time of struggle. Kids who did fabulous in elementary go bozonkers in middle or high school, kids were ostracized and belittled in elementary have an even worse time when hormones hit. The teens I see in our homeschool groups have little trouble with this, and it makes me wonder how much of the social animal of middle and high school is what causes the problems. Is there a difference between the evangelistic teens' coping skills compared to the other teens? In other words, does the evidence you have seen support causation due to a certain religious upbringing or is it homeschooling in and of itself regardless of educational and parenting approach that causes the struggle, or is it that school is just hard for pre-teens and teens?

3. This sounds like a problem with school, not with the kids. I'm not quite sure how this one is homeschool related. If school was accepting of people who were different, why would these "different" kids have more trouble fitting in than other kids? Isn't this a great test and learning experience for all the kids at school to meet someone who grew up in a different way than they did?

4. Don't all children have one (or two) main teacher(s) - their parents? How much time with other people, exactly, is required in order to get sufficient exposure to alternative filters? Do we have to be taught, in a class, with a teacher, in order to be exposed to and consider alternative viewpoints?

5. All parents do this, even if kids go to school. It's human nature, and makes sense from a logical perspective. Parents who are in the film industry are more likely to raise kids who are involved in the film industry, parents who own their own businesses are more likely to raise kids who are entrepreneurs, parents who are teachers are more likely to raise children who are teachers, parents who read are more likely to have kids who read, etc. So my question is this - why is it problematic for parents to subtly push their agenda? And, are teachers and school kids respectful if a homeschool child goes to public school and does not waver in his attachment to the beliefs he was taught in his family/tribe? Is there a different reaction if a child is Christian vs. if he is atheist?

May 25, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterTammyT

Hi Tammy,

First of all, please note that my observations are anecdotal only. The reason that I saw many homeschooled students enter into high school was because they wanted a provincial certificate upon graduation. It makes applying to college/university much easier.

1. In Canada, we provide (because it is constitutionally protected) a free, separate school Catholic education. So it is easier for children to remain in a Christian-based belief system from K to 12 without having to integrate into the public system if they don't want to. Students who come from another religious or value-based system may well disagree with many of the belief systems presented in the public education system. However, if they have been exposed to the conflict throughout their school lives, I feel they seem, in general, to be better able to deal with the contradictions.

2. I think you're misreading me to say that homeschool children are the only ones who struggle. Of course not. However, kids who come in from a homeschooling background often have a limited friend base and support system because they've not been a part of the prior networking in elementary school. Naturally, this is also true of others who move into a new school district, have learning or behavioural difficulties, etc. However, I'm just saying that the socialization piece is generally harder and longer for the homeschooled child.

3. The attempt to fit in is an extremely strong driver when you are a teenager. It's one thing to meet someone who grew up differently. It's another to be friends with them. I'm not saying it doesn't happen, because it does, but your perspective on accepting difference is one that is gained as an adult. It is not at all how tweens and teens approach their social lives.

4. I can't give you a quantitative number except maybe to argue "the more the better". Of course I believe that a guardian/parent (or the parents) are the primary influences for their children. Without delving into cognitive theories, if you don't think it's a good thing to be exposed to new and different ways of learning, ways of "seeing" the world, ways of exploring material, then I can't change that. But I do think that it's unhealthy to only have one instructor and in that view the school system supports me as students are discouraged from taking multiple courses from the same instructor whenever possible.

5. Of course parental passions can influence a child's interests or directions, but I think you're conflating two issues. If you're the sole person directing your child's education, it's bound to affect the wholeness of that education. No one teacher can teach all subjects, so they don't. Nor can one parent, but they often do (at least traditionally) in a homeschool setting.

With regards to your last question about respect, that's impossible for me to answer because it's much too broad. I think all good teachers try to treat all students with respect and as fairly as possible (recognizing that fair is not necessarily equal). Did I ever excuse someone from reading material they didn't agree with it philosophically? No. But that extended to every student, homeschooled or not, Christian, Sikh, atheist, etc. (But in answer to your question, I don't think I ever knowingly taught a homeschooled atheist.) Many students who don't waiver (as far as I could tell), generally shut down and refuse to participate in discussions which made me sad.

I'm not sure I answered your questions, but I hope I helped add some insight.

May 25, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMandy

There's a huge difference between a public school system and a public education system. The school model is irrevocably broken - as many thinkers and writers are beginning to admit - and needs to be replaced by something much more imaginative and respectful, that's non-compulsory/coercive, open to all, at least partly technology-based, and learner-oriented. (I don't believe in parents educating their own children as opposed to teachers educating others' children - learners educate themselves, whether we like to admit it or not, and whether they're attending school or being "homeschooled." And let's not kid ourselves that kids who don't want to be in school are learning much of what the adults there think they are/should be learning.) We have a few models: think libraries, for instance. They are publicly funded institutions that attract people because they have a "product" that those people want, not because their use is compulsory; think what they - and librarians - could do if they had the funds and the credibility. We have to stop thinking "school" as we know it, and we have to stop thinking "coercion." Neither of those work. There is much to read on this topic: my book Challenging Assumptions in Education, John Taylor Gatto's work, Daniel Pink's Drive, Seth Godin's Linchpin, Sir Ken Robinson, and many more....

May 25, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterWendy Priesnitz

Not all provinces in Canada have separate publicly funded education systems. I believe that is only the case in Ontario, through an anomoly of history (the BNA Act).

I'd love to know what basis you're using to claim that homeschooled kids often have a limited friend base and support system. Neither research, nor my own experience with thousands of home-educated familes disagrees with that, as does my personal family experience.

What evidence do you have that home-educated/self-educated young people aren't exposed to new and different ways of learning, and of seeing the world?

It looks to me like you may have no or limited *direct* experience of the broad diversity of homeschooling. Many life learning familes (a term I prefer to homeschooling) don't think in terms of parents "instructors." Instead, the learners are exposed to a much wider variety of people and experiences than do learners who attend school.

There is a lot of information about home-based learning at www.lifelearning.ca. This is a site I set up to help people understand home-based education in Canada, but it also provides some insight into the sort of learning experience that is possible outside school. I hope it doesn't misunderstand or attack teachers. (I was one once.)

May 25, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterWendy Priesnitz

Technically, you're right, Ontario has the biggest basis of support for Christian based education (the Catholic Separate School Board), but the separate school system exists (using public funding) in Alberta and Saskatchewan as well. I erred in saying Canada had a nationally based separate school system. My apologies.

I clearly said that my opinion was based on observation and not research. It seems like you feel attacked and I'm sorry for that. I don't think I ever claimed that there are not learning opportunities outside of school, nor that families should not take advantage of them. My "evidence" with regards to being exposed to limited ways of viewing the world, although I would again reiterate that I am offering an opinion and not research, is the very narrow (and frequently judgmental) view point with which many of the homeschooled students arrived in my classroom. Perhaps, being on the edge of BC's Bible belt, the representative sample of homeschooled children I saw was a narrow one. Again, I am offering my perspective.

Ultimately, I would rather see people who are passionate about education work as a collective to improve the current system. I disagree with the assertion that the model is irrevocably broken.

May 25, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMandy

While I believe strongly in the value of the public education system, I don't think it should be compulsory. So this material you've re-printed definitely seems like a stretch. I have many home-schooling friends, and I would hardly consider them negligent. They're making a conscious and considered choice, and doing the best they can for their children. Criminalizing that seems extreme.

May 26, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAmber


I understand what you are saying about the current school model being broken and about how life learning works. I completely agree about creating resources that attract people like libraries. However, I don't think it answers my question. Or maybe it does and I'm just not seeing it. So I'll ask another way. Perhaps my assumptions are different from yours too, so let me state them upfront before asking.

I assume:

1) All children have the right to an education
2) Not all parents are in a position to create that opportunity for their children, because they don't want to or because they can't (note: I'm not assuming here that the parents have to educate their children, but that they would have to create an environment where they can learn)

Given that scenario, how can we ensure that all children who have a right to an education, but whose parents are not willing or able to create that opportunity for them, will have access to an education. If it is not through a public school system (not necessarily the current public school system), what solution would you suggest?

May 26, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

I can see advantages and disadvantages in both home schooling and schools. Personally I would want my children to go to a _good_ school. But I fear there are lots of bad schools, considering especially my experience with Kindergarten and their non-existent knowledge of bonding and attachment parenting. Children are treated badly here.

Anyway, there is an online petition going on. They want the German government to allow home-schooling.
The comments might be worth reading (it's in German of course)

May 26, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKarin

I agree with your assumptions. Maybe this is one of semantics. I see the possibility of a publicly delivered education "system" that is free and open to all - like the present school systems around the world but different in that it is truly "open" and "free." It doesn't look like school in that it's not coercive/compulsory, not age-segregated, not based on the filling up sausages, assembly line process we now have. Some kids might choose to congregate in buildings (think about our current growing network of democratic schools around the world, or the learning co-ops homeschoolers set up), some might learn at home (presumably with parental supervision if they're young), some might be out in the community in apprenticeship types of arrangements, some might learn mostly on-line...and so on. Likely there would be a mix of situations.

We are moving in that direction. The barriers right now are the vested interests in testing, text books, standardized curriculum, and teacher unions, as well as adult desire to control kids and child/family-unfriendly workplace issues. But I think we'll end up there anyway.

Schools do not currently educate in the way we want or need them to, or that we delude ourselves into thinking they do. We tinker with the model - more tests, more accountability, more $, more computers, lower student/teacher ratio, but that doesn't work - even for those who only care about high test scores and turning out lots of people with degrees. Many kids don't want to be there because they see it's largely irrelevant. And some kids get really damaged. In short, lots of kids are not now "getting an education" in school as you seem to suggest. The emperor has no clothes on.

I guess we may never be able to deliver 100% education. We can force kids into school, like we do now, punish them/their parents if they refuse to attend, even medicate them for the damage done, but that doesn't mean we've educated them.

What we can and must do is deliver access to an education, which is what you're talking about. And maybe we can attract more kids and young people if we provide the opportunity to truly become educated.

May 26, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterWendy Priesnitz

P.S. Great conversation! I will be taking a multi-day vacation beginning later today and plan to stay away from all electronics. So I won't be able to participate much further for now, but I'd be happy to continue this at another time, on twitter, facebook, by email, or here. ;-)

May 26, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterWendy Priesnitz

No, I don't feel attacked. I have been working in this field for 35 years, and I have seen the stereotypes you wrote about mentioned many times. I have taken it as part of my work to correct or challenge them. ;-) I do believe that your geographic location has very likely coloured your perception. Unfortunately, the fundamentalist Christian style of homeschooling is the one that many people see as representative of home-based learning. It isn't.

I agree that it would be wonderful to see everyone work together to create a better way to educate our young people. We've published many articles to that end in our magazines Natural Life and Life Learning.

May 26, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterWendy Priesnitz

[...] lately. She currently lives in Germany, where homeschooling is illegal and children are under legal compulsion to attend public school. Today, she wrote a post about different schooling methods and how she views them through the lens [...]

I should also mention that the reason I have read in many places for the US not ratifying the Convention is that it believes it would take too many rights away from parents.

May 27, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

I grew up in Germany and now live in the US. I think homeschooling should be legal as it is in the US. If you are concerned, put restrictions on it, curricula or something, like it is in most states anyways.
The whole thing originated during the Nazi reign and was kept in place later on to make sure to "democratize" all Germans in school. Good intentions often can have negative outcomes. I know of several religious groups in Southern Germany who just don't believe in evolution or sex ed (I don't agree with them, but it is their right to believe in what they want to), and they don't want their kids in public school for that very reason. Not letting them homeschool is quite horrible in my eyes... But I'm also rather libertarian when it comes to parental rights.
The public school system overall in Germany does a lot better than what I have seen here in the US, however, as another person mentioned, parents have to get involved a lot. If your child attends Gymnasium (5-12th grade for a level students, requirement for college) chances are parents will have to help out a lot. Some kids won't need help, most will. At that higher school a teacher will only explain once and then move on, as it is expected from those "smarter kids" to understand everything right away. It's different at the Haupt or Realschule (5th-9th or 10th grade, prerequisite for apprenticeships). We have a whole bunch of different problems, especially because of the separation of the slower vs. faster learners after 4 years. Parental education highly determines where a kid ends up. Chances are, if your dad is a mine worker and your mom a housekeeper, even if you are really smart, you'll end up in Hauptschule. It's sad and nobody is really working on the issue. Oh well, I strayed from the topic.

June 27, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterNia

[...] [...]

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