Posted by: L. E. Barnes | June 8, 2010

Cracking down on Home Schoolers

Fellow Catholic blogger Sweetmums5 recently wrote a post explaining what is called “eclectic home learning.” In fact, she has write a lot about home schooling on her blog, so I recommend checking it out if you’re interested in learning more about such unconventional education.

By the way, I was home schooled for a couple of years (5th grade and 8th grade), and I can vouch that if done properly, it can certainly be far more efficient than a traditional public or private school education. Also, studies have shown that young people who are taught at home tend to perform just as well, and sometimes better, academically than their peers in ordinary schools. And there’s the added benefit of not being surrounded by all the problems–drugs, fights, cliques, etc.–that schools are typically plagued with. (In the closed, artificial environment of a school, kids apparently feed on each other’s immaturity–or so it seems to me.) I was therefore not surprised to read the remark by one father whose son was home schooled that, according to a college admissions official he talked to, colleges “look for home schoolers because they are more focused and mature.”

In some countries, however, parents don’t have the liberties that they have here in the US to resort to home schooling. A recent article by The Catholic World Report shares some disturbing news:

Of all the foreign citizens seeking political asylum in the United States—individuals trying to escape war, genocide, or torture come readily to mind—those fighting for the right to educate their children at home might seem like a low priority for an already over-burdened Department of Homeland Security.

But in February federal immigration Judge Lawrence Burman granted Uwe and Hannelore Romeike and their five children asylum. Not only did it make the Romeikes probably the first family to be granted asylum in America on the basis of a determination to homeschool, but it also highlighted the severe conditions under which many homeschooling families live in Europe.

The Romeikes are from Germany, where homeschooling is illegal in most circumstances. But the family believes that it is their fundamental right to educate their children in accordance with their Christian values, and that those values were not being taught in German schools.

When the Romeikes began homeschooling their three school-aged children, German police officers showed up at their home to escort the children to school. After accruing more than $10,000 in fines and being threatened by the state with having their children taken away from them, the Romeikes sought help from an American homeschooling organization that helped them come to the United States.

In January, after waiting a year and a half, the Romeikes were granted asylum. In a tersely-worded decision, Judge Burman denounced the German policy against homeschooling, calling it “utterly repellent to everything we believe as Americans.”

The Romeike case is only one of the most recent and high-profile cases of persecution of homeschoolers. As home education continues to establish itself as a popular and in some cases preferable alternative to traditional public and private education, it also faces hostility from governments determined to wrest from parents their right and duty to educate their children.

The article also warns parents in the US that

Article 13 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) states that parents could be subject to prosecution for any attempt to prevent their children from interacting with material they considered unacceptable. In 1995, the United Kingdom was deemed out of compliance with the convention because it allowed parents to take children out of public school sex education classes without consulting the child. And Kiska notes that the UNCRC was cited when Dominic Johansen was taken away from his family in Sweden.

Especially upsetting is the fact that

Although the US has not ratified the UNCRC, some American judges, who have shown a willingness to cite foreign law in their decisions, have ruled that it is nevertheless binding on American parents….

And one activist has remarked,

“There are activist judges on the various state courts and even on the US Supreme Court who enjoy citing international case law to support their points when they can’t find American law. So it’s a dangerous trend.”

I recommend reading the full article.

Your thoughts, anyone?

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Responses

  1. I really cannot believe you have even read the UNCRC especially Article 13. I reproduce that for clarification, and ask you to publish this:

    “Article 13

    1. The child shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of the child’s choice.
    2. The exercise of this right may be subject to certain restrictions, but these shall only be such as are provided by law and are necessary:
    (a) For respect of the rights or reputations of others; or
    (b) For the protection of national security or of public order (ordre public), or of public health or morals.”

    Where does that say parents will be prosecuted? It does say that children can be barred from receiving stuff, and that the rights of others can figure in why – that means parents.

    The attack on the UNCRC in the US revolves around the issue of whether children have a right to choose their own faith. The UNCRC says Yes, with parental guidance. The thing I am waiting to see is what rights the anti-s say children DO have? There we have a total silence, and from the context I am forced to conclude that they don’t actually believe they have. We hear only talk about ‘parental rights’ and these are never detailed, just that they should have a constitutional expression. The courts in the US ruled way back that the rights in the Constitution apply to children as appropriate to their minority. Let’s base arguments and ideas on facts not misrepresentation and distortion.

    • I simply quoted the article. The main problem seems to be not so much in the wording of the CRC but in the way it is being interpreted.

  2. Evan, thanks for your post and the link to the full Catholic World Report article. The article clearly states the Church’s position on homeschooling:

    “In Familiaris Consortio, Pope John Paul II acknowledged the right and duty of parents to provide for the education of their children, calling the right “essential,” “irreplaceable and inalienable and therefore incapable of being entirely delegated to others or usurped by others.”

    In the Declaration on Christian Education, Gravissimum Educationis, Vatican Council II reminds parents of their natural law right and obligation to educate their children. It states, “Since parents have given children their life, they are bound by the most serious obligation to educate their offspring and therefore must be recognized as the primary and principal educators.”

    Cardinal Francis Arinze has also said, “The primary educators of children are parents. The child is the child of the parent first, and the parents are the first to answer to God for their children.”

    Unfortunately, the government, especially the ones in Europe, may not always agree with Church teachings. When it comes to the issue of homeschooling, we can only remember St. Thomas More’s final words on the scaffold:

    “The King’s good servant, but God’s first.”

    I would, however, have to ask a good, well-formed priest if violating (in the words of JPII) the parents’ “essential, irreplaceable and inalienable” right to educate their children constitutes a mortal sin, the way Henry VIII’s marriage to Anne Boleyn did.

    Should homeschoolers actually give themselves up for martyrdom, the way St.Thomas did, in order to uphold this church teaching? I don’t think (at least in this country), and I would hope, that we wouldn’t have to go to that extreme in order to exercise this basic right here in the U.S. But it is worth fighting for because our children’s lives — and therefore, the future of our nation — are at stake, since children are the hope of the future.

    I am glad that the ADF has opened an office in Europe to legally defend homeschooling there and to prevent American judges from importing “really bad law to the United States.” Here in the U.S., we are thankful for the work the HSLDA does in advocating for homeschoolers.

    As the article above points out: “Throughout most of history, children were educated at home.” Several of this country’s great presidents (George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, et al) were educated at home. Studies show that homeschoolers do just as well, if not better, than their school counterparts. Homeschooling critics would do well to consider the benefits that homeschooling actually gives to families and to the nation at large.

    • I suspect that those who criticize homeshooling do so mainly because of preconceived notions (especially that homeschooled kids will not develop social skills). I’ve also known others who based their opinions of homeschooling on the handfull of kids they knew who were taught at home but then performed poorly in a regular school. (Of course, that’s coming up with a sweeping generalization based on an inadequate number of cases.)

  3. I have been following this UNCRC issue from afar for awhile. Clearly what this post quotes is not the article from the document but a legal interpretation of it. I am concerned about the rights of children, and I can see how “parental rights” could be construed as code for “lack of rights of children.” But my concern is this: it says the exercise of rights may be subject to certain restrictions. Who determines these restrictions, and which adults are going to be arguing and enforcing these restrictions in court and in the penal system? Where are the safeguards against governmental totalitarianism?

    • That is my concern as well. Another person commented on my post and even quoted Article 13 of the CRC, and it sounds like, as you remarked, the problem may not be withe language of the document but in the way the CRC is interpreted and applied.

  4. […] Cracking down on Home Schoolers […]

  5. Evan, I could not agree more, and have published numerous posts about homeschooling (just type “homeschooling” in the search on my blog, http://www.bedlamorparnassus.blogspot.com). There seems to be a growing sentiment abroad, as the case of the Romeikes has shown, that the all-wise powers-that-be must protect children from their poor, well-meaning-but-benighted parents who would teach them anything that runs counter to reigning ideology. We need to keep a close eye on this and keep it in the public eye. Some may claim a “Chicken Little” syndrome and say we are making much ado about nothing, but I would rather appear the fool now in the public eye than watch even one step take place toward a codified prevention of parents’ God-given responsibility to educate their children in His fear and admonition.

  6. Great conversation. Do you have thoughts on homeschooling an only child who also has adhd?

    • I sure don’t. I’m not a parent, though I was homeschooled for a couple of years. But I wouldn’t know anything about working with a child with adhd.


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