Arguments For And Against Homeschooling In Germany

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Arguments For And Against Homeschooling In Germany, By Jennifer Stahl

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Jennifer Stahl’s blog Yeshua, Hineni. It was originally published on September 24, 2013 with the title, “German Homeschooling – Both sides of the issue.”

Today I would like to talk about the legalities of homeschooling. I would like to present the pro and contra views to the best of my abilities, as impartially as possible. I will play devil’s advocate for both sides, including putting views out there that even I do not believe, for the sake of arguing everything I’ve heard so far.

I will be quoting some news articles in this post. Do remember that these articles can be read in full in German, or you can run them through Google Translate. It’s not the best, but, it helps. I’m limited how much I am allowed to quote and translate by copyright law. In a way, this is a blessing and a curse.

To begin with the issue of home-schooling, we have to look at German Constitutional Law. You can find The Basic Rights in English here. You can find it in German here.

Secondly, we have to consider that each German state [Länder] is ruled by its own constitution, or, “Landesgesetz” and it also has to be considered.

Third for consideration, is the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, specifically Article 26:

(1) Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory. Technical and professional education shall be made generally available and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit.

(2) Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It shall promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups, and shall further the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace.

(3) Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children.

United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Here is some information on German Compulsory Schooling Law:

…Basically, religious education is a compulsory subject with exceptions for independent denominational schools for which no religious instruction is provided …

…An exemption from sex education is not justified in most cases for reasons of faith… …parental rights are taken into account and parents are informed about the content and form of sex education with the opportunity to debate them. DAS: Freistellung vom Unterricht [The discussion of Sex Ed. becoming compulsory, can be found in this older N-TV article.]

…Different measures and judgments show that we are far away from an uniform approach towards truants in Germany. Again and again the courts and experts are consulted to assess current situations of home-schooled children…
A loss of custody for parents will be considered if the child is seriously neglected, is being abused physically or psychologically. . with very great sensitivity and empathy towards devout parents… Schulverweigerung aus religiösen Gründen [School Refusal on Religious Grounds]

One previous hearing at the European Court of Human Rights on home-schooling was Leuffen v. Germany in the early 1990s.

…The applicant is of the opinion that compulsory schooling of her son would violate her right to ensure his education in conformity with her religious and philosophical convictions as guaranteed by Article 2 of Protocol No. 1 (P1-2). However, the European Court of Human Rights has held that the convictions of parents must not conflict with the fundamental right of the child to education, the whole of Article 2 (Art. 2) being dominated by its first sentence (Campbell and Cosans judgment of 25 February 1982, Series A no 48, p. 16, par. 36). This means that parents may not refuse the right to education of a child on the basis of their convictions.

Leuffen v. Germany

The most recent, hearing at the European Court of Human Rights on home-schooling in Germany was Konrad and Others v. Germany.

…the German courts pointed to the fact that the applicant parents were free to educate their children after school and at weekends. Therefore, the parents’ right to education in conformity with their religious convictions is not restricted in a disproportionate manner. Compulsory primary-school attendance does not deprive the applicant parents of their right to “exercise with regard to their children natural parental functions as educators, or to guide their children on a path in line with the parents’ own religious or philosophical convictions”
Konrad and Others v. Germany.

I did find another set of legal proceedings from the Arizona Journal of International & Comparative Law, Vol. 27, No. 1; which references some of the issues here in Germany. It is a PDF that is 58 pages long. There is simply no way I can quote that. There’s some good information therein, and there’s some poor scholarship as well.

I also find a DVD on homeschooling called “Schulfrei“, and a couple books about homeschooling in Germany (in German) that are available to purchase. The first is: Homeschooling in Deutschland: Gesetze und Praxis eines umstrittenen Begriffs. The second is: Schulfrei: Vom Lernen ohne Grenzen.  The third, is Pädagogik mit beschränkter Haftung: Kritische Schultheorie. There may be more that I have not heard of, so if you are so inclined, just drop a comment below and I can update this with that information.

You may find German Home-schooling Websites here:

You will find information and support for German Home-schooling at the following sites: HSLDA, GHEC and HEDUA.

If you know of others, I’m happy to link them up here in the spirit of free information and people making up their own minds.

*****

…”The only thing I did not find good about homeschooling was that we had to hide ourselves… Otherwise, lessons at home have advantages.”

… “Most of the other homeschoolers I know are Christians like us. Almost all get an apprenticeship because they can not do A-Levels if they do not attend school.”

…”There is an assumption that one takes refuge in a parallel society that is fundamentalist and sectarian. But we really do want to integrate ourselves.
FAZ: Eine Homeschoolerin erzählt „Wir mussten uns verstecken“
 [A Homeschooler tells us, “We have to hide”]

PUR: Can parents teach at home because even the immense wealth of current knowledge about children being readily available? Or do you need a special training?

Klemens Lichter: It is said that today we live in the information age… the information is already available. What you need is the ability to filter this enormous amount of information and to evaluate and make sense to use to complete the task in each instance. . . the Nuremberg Funnel has outlived its usefulness.
Pur: Interview mit einem Homeschool-Vater
 
[Pur: An interview with a homeschool father]

Education at home is, in general, contrary to popular opinion so it is no small matter that it is unregulated. In countries where this form of education is generally accepted, there is support and help for parents who wish to home educate. Similarly, it is a fallacy to think that home schooling parents rejected some grand plan of the state on principle.

Of course, homeschooled children must pass state tests and acquire the appropriate legal qualifications recognized…
CDU in Kiel diskutierte über Schulunterricht zuhause und die Erziehungshoheit der Eltern
  [Stephan Ehmke, councilor and school policy spokesman of the CDU faction Council Kiel discussed home schooling and the education authority of the parents]

Even the children of the Wunderlich family should have a high level of education. The Office of Education has recently made a picture of their performance level. “The children have consequently a higher than average reading skills,” says Andreas Vogt, the lawyer for the family, “they have a high scientific knowledge, may very well work independently and have a high concentration skills.”
“Unsere Kinder gehören nicht dem Staat”

[Firstly,] there is an educationally oriented parenting, that is trying to change the German school system by homeschooling. …[Secondly, there are] education-oriented parents, who feel that the school no longer provides the knowledge they need to make their children happy… a frame-work that is worth living… pleasant surroundings, closely accompanied by adults who react responsibly and humanely…

… [Thirdly, there are] religiously motivated parents who say that due to religious reasons, they do not wish certain history, sex education and so on to be expected of their children. 
“Man muss die Schulpflicht etwas lockern” Erziehungswissenschaftler plädiert für kontrollierten Hausunterricht 
[“You need to loosen compulsory education up a bit.” Education researcher pleads for controlled home schooling ]

…compulsory education … ensures that – always on the basis of our constitution – education which is not subject to an ideology is possible. (Although, there are those who think there is a specific ideology behind the public school.) Were it not for compulsory education, our society would drift apart and strengthen ideological conflicts that are already available [creating flash-points].

…to abolish compulsory education in Germany would be a significantly greater injustice.
Die allgemeine Schulpflicht muss erhalten bleiben
 [Compulsory education must be maintained]

…Home-schooling means nothing other than children or youth are learning all necessary content they otherwise receive… from their parents…

…figures from the U.S. state there are now between two and three million children and young people who are homeschooled…

In Germany, there is a trend towards home-schooling, but there is a legal issue… in that compulsory education is tied to visiting a school building until age eighteen.
Neuer Trend des Homeschooling – Ist der Weg für Homeschooling in Deutschland bald frei?
 [New trend of Homeschooling – is the way for homeschooling ready to be paved?]

Critics like to point out that the compulsory education was an achievement of the Nazis – which is not entirely true, because it existed before, but it has only actually been punishable [with fees and jail time] since 1938. In other countries, you do not find such a rigorous focus on collective learning (with the exception of Bulgaria)…
FAZ: Hausunterricht-Verbot „Wie in einer Diktatur“
 [Homeschooling ban “as in a dictatorship”]

The fact that homeschooling is legal throughout Europe, while being stringently prohibited in places such as Germany… suggests that European Union policy makers are working so fast it may not even be clear to anyone how much authority the local and national authorities have. In addition, local and national authorities haven’t even had a chance to develop a good game plan. …20% of Germany’s citizens are of non-German descent… it’s hard to understand the concern with Christian parallel cultures unless a new “unity” is in the program.
Homeschoolers vs. the European Union

As a movement, home-schooling originated in the United States in the 70s. At this time, criticism of the public school system was in the foreground. The alternatives and liberals of old have, since the 80s and especially the 90s, been replaced by Christian fundamentalists who want to educate their children as unencumbered by problematic themes such as biology, where rejected themes such as the theory of evolution is to be taught.
Heise.de: Heimunterricht schafft die christliche Avantgarde
 
[Home schooling provides the Christian vanguard]

*****

What are the typical arguments for home-schoolers not using the available school systems nearby?

  • Believe that teaching is the only option for parents, sending children to school is sinful or neglectful.
  • Bad school system
  • Child is a genius and not being allowed to flower and advance
  • Child has medical issues and requires assistance to be mainstreamed, and is not being accommodated.
  • Chronic or Temporary illness
  • Mixing with unbelievers (religious standpoint of needing a parallel society of believer/unbeliever)
  • Ecumenicalism
  • Required classes that they disagree with philosophically (sexual education, evolution, world religion, folk stories, swim classes, gym classes, meals, meditation/prayer, religious holidays)
  • Push for Vaccination (or pressure because they are not vaccinated)
  • Peer-pressure/Bad influence
  • Bullying/Sexual harassment/Stalking
  • Dating Scene
  • Television, Radio, Internet and/or Movies being available in the classroom
  • Books they disagree with being on the required reading
  • Dress Code/Modesty reasons (includes ability or inability to wear religious items)
  • “”Alternative Lifestyles””
  • Perception that the government is wholly evil and out to turn children against their parents.
  • “other”.

If parents are allowed to educate at home, children can be put to their own pace, and based on their own strengths and weaknesses and one on one attention: flourish. They must not school for a set number of hours, or wait on other students to complete their tasks to move on. Every trip away from home is a “Field trip” – imagine all the things you could do if you plan it out for the education it can bring to your child(ren).

Bad influences are left out of the equation. Children do not have to be small missionaries before they solidly have their belief system engrained in their system. They also will not question about other religious beliefs or ancient religious beliefs, unless that is something the parents wish to cover.

Children do not have to be exposed to other cultures or belief systems before the parents are ready to discuss such a thing. In contrast, children can learn as much, or as little as parents want them to learn about religious beliefs in general. They will not be forced to take a religious class or ethics when home-schooled.

Children do not have to be taught about sex until subsequent children are born and they ask out of natural curiosity, pets or farm animals are to be had, or whatever age parents choose to tell them their beliefs about sex. LGBTQ or Intersex is something that is usually left off the table until children are taught about sex — unless parents believe this is a choice, and are then taught that it sinful and people who live that lifestyle are confused.

Parents who do not want to teach certain theories, such as evolution; do not have to.

In general, there is no peer-pressure, bad influences, bullying or dating going on in home-school groups or associations.

There is no arbitrary dress code when one home-schools. Children simply do as modeled and do not question it until they are closer towards leaving the home.

Dating is handled differently from family to family or group to group. Some allow it, some forbid it. Some arrange marriages and some only allow chaperoned “visits” with no alone time until the children are paired off for marriage. Some allow children to choose on their own how they will handle it.

If a child has a temporary or chronic illness, they can school themselves on their own schedule.

If children are gifted, they can pursue their own education at their own pace. If children have mental or physical impairments, accommodations can be made and are easier due to being on a one on one situation.

Children are free to go to church services every time the doors are open, and are able to have their curriculum peppered with as much or as little religious teaching as the parents are comfortable with.

There is no set “type” or curriculum for home-schooling. Parents are free to choose however they wish to school their children.

Children are allowed to listen to/view the music, internet and television or movies that parents approve of and nothing more.

*****

What are the typical arguments that are against homeschooling?

  • Parents are often not prepared to offer the best education possible.
  • Concerns about the rights and safety of the children
  • Free-agency of the children (aka: Groupthink – are children able to think for themselves?)
  • Concerns about curriculum
  • Placement testing – will it occur? Who will administer the tests?
  • Psychological  or Emotional health
  • Religious or Philosophical issues
  • Various forms of abuse
  • Worries over whether home-schoolers will be able to advance to university/college or relegated to apprenticeships and low-wage jobs. [Most children who are home-schooled do not receive a diploma on par with their learning abilities, simply because they are home-schooled.]
  • Social issues – will the children know what individuals are talking about if they’ve only been exposed to home-schooling society and their religious circles?
  • Whether or not home educated students will be afforded physical education or other courses that are generally offered in compulsory schooling

A lot of home-schoolers tend to have an unhealthy (in very few cases, a justified) fear of Child Protective Services and build it up as an evil institution filled with individuals bent on serving Satan, forgetting that there are also Christians working within the system. — How can we repair these broken lines of communication?

A “no true Scotsman” approach is prevalent where home-schoolers are faced with well documented cases of abuse or child death at the hands of home-educating parents.

No one wants to hear of it or acknowledge that it happens. Arguments are usually “They weren’t really home-schoolers” or “They were not associated with the HSLDA [or other umbrella of protection].” (See: Homeschooling’s Invisible childrenTo Break Down a ChildWhy not Train a Child?, Abuse and the HSLDAErica Parsons, etc.)

There are issues with punitive parenting methods that certain denominations of Christianity teach as necessary to drive sin out of children. These forms of physical and emotional discipline methods are illegal in Germany. (Yet, we know they were used amongst many home educators in the United States, and the Zwölf Stämme in Germany.)

There are issues with spiritual abuse via cultish groups who advocate strictly patriarchal viewpoints that are clearly a part of the curse mentality taught in Genesis 3. This is very much against the Judeo-Christian spirit of the Grundgesetz, which clearly states that women are in equal standing with men. (Grundgesetz, Article 3,2: “Men and women shall have equal rights. The state shall promote the actual implementation of equal rights for women and men and take steps to eliminate disadvantages that now exist.”)

There are issues with individuals who wish to teach philosophies that are against the better interest of Germany or society at large, such as White Supremacist, Neo-Nazi or other anti-semitic ideals.

Not all home-schoolers believe in or teach Judeo-Christian values. Many are Athiest, Agnostic, Humanists, Pagans, or of other religious belief systems. If they are allowed to school at home, who says what is/isn’t allowed, and how can we ensure that they are adequately socialized if they are not allowed into home-school umbrellas operated or attended by Christians?

If the government allows home-schooling for one religious group, it must allow home-schooling for everyone.

There is no set curriculum for home-schooling. There are also no placement tests for children who are educated at home, unless they are finally being re-entered into compulsory education. How can we ensure that parents are giving equal educational opportunities as public, private and religious schools?

Home-education is not accredited, how can society guarantee that children have the same ability as their peers to get high paying jobs, if they so wish? Does this mean that we will need to set up “umbrella” organizations that oversee curriculum that is accredited and treat home educators like private school satellites?

Theories that are seen as incompatible with the parent’s point of view are often not taught. How will the children know, understand or be able to discuss with their intellectual peers — theories such as evolution (micro, macro and everything in between) or “Big Bang”, Intelligent Design and Creationism on intellectual levels?

What about situations where there is clearly abuse going on? (Sexual, physical, emotional or spiritual?) How do we prevent that if there is no oversight?

Some children have physical, emotional or mental delays. If they are kept at home 90% of the time, who will suggest early intervention or help stave off massive delays if there is no oversight or interaction with their peer group?

Many home-school parents have a tendency to segregate themselves from non-home educating parents. How can we ensure that parents are getting enough social interaction so that they do not burn-out or experience emotional difficulties due to this isolation?

Some of these arguments are presented in German hereherehere and here; as well as elsewhere in newspaper opinion articles or comments to newspaper editors.

Now you’ve seen both sides. What are your thoughts on home-schooling in Germany?

“Diplomas Play No Role For Us”: The Case of the Wunderlichs

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“Diplomas Play No Role For Us”: The Case of the Wunderlichs, by Jennifer Stahl

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Jennifer Stahl’s blog Yeshua, Hineni. It was originally published on September 16, 2013 with the title, “German Homeschooling Case – The Wunderlichs.”

I’ve just finished getting myself caught up with the issue of sects in Germany who try to home-school and have had run ins with the law. Generally, but not always, the HSLDA has has been meddling in Germany with these issues rather than let people hash out the Constitutional law within the courts and appealing to the Constitutional Court in Karlsruhe.

For what it is worth, I was home-schooled from the sixth grade forward under the Home School Legal Defense Association umbrella. (1993-1999)

I do not believe in breaking the law to do whatever you want. You have to lobby to have the laws changed.

You have to argue, within the court system that Constitutional law is antiquated and argue that the law must be changed so that you can work within it; if that is what you truly believe.

However, in the last decade or so, many sects of Christian home-schoolers who have been pressing the issue have been doing many things to place their children in danger; giving sub-par education, little or no medical attention; living the life of isolationists — which has caused the government to be well within rights to be breathing down their necks or taking their children into foster care.

The problem here is, Germany looks at issues like this as if it were a family matter. It’s more than looking at it as a purely domestic matter that any German allies can weigh in on. This doesn’t concern other court systems in the EU, and the European Court of Human Rights has already weighed in on German Homeschooling cases. It doesn’t concern allies, such as the United States.

You also have to remember that while Germany’s treatment of groups with cultish or extremist sectarian beliefs  sometimes amount to “discrimination” in many of our allies eyes, its laws must be seen the context of its history and the fear of political as well as religious extremism. We are finding more and more, that people who do separate themselves out of society do tend to trend towards both religious and political extremism.

This does not at all exclude or include the cases that the HSLDA has been weighing in on.

With this in mind, you have to know that there are around 400 Homeschooling families in Germany if the HSLDA is to be believed. Schuzh says it is closer to 500 families. This also counts the Romeike Family, The Wunderlichs and the families of the Zwölf Stämme, which I have discussed before.

This blog, however, states the numbers are rather questionable:

How many Germans ignore German laws on compulsory education, can not be measured as most parents simply [home-school in secret] or emigrate in secret. Stefanie Mohsennia knows about 200 free-learning German families and speculates that there are currently over 1,000 families in Germany who do not send their children to school. “There are always more.” says Stefanie Mohsennia…Leben im Untergrund – Homeschooling-Familien in Deutschland [Living underground – Home-schooling families in Germany]

As far as what the European Human Rights Court has to say:

[The German Constitutional Court in Karlsruhe] refused to admit the applicant’s constitutional complaint because it had already dealt with the decisive constitutional issues in its settled case-law.

…[The EU Human Rights Court] notes that there exists a difference of treatment between the applicant’s children and…  children [who] were physically unfit …or… [whose] parents move around the country… 
… the Court finds that the above distinctions justifies a difference of treatment.
Konrad and Others v. Germany

Konrad v. Germany also makes it clear that Germany’s “Basic Law” guarantees “the right to establish private schools.” The state does therefore not have a monopoly on education, only the right to regulate it.
Locus Standi: International Human Rights and Home schooling

Yet, when the news did break in American papers about the Wunderlich family last year, and this year – everything became sensationalized, and suddenly there is a lot of fear-mongering and lies being spread about how the compulsory schooling laws came into place, and why they came into place in Germany. [To clarify: It has been repeated quite often that these laws came into place when the NSDAP was in power and we’re very “Nazi” for not repealing them.] It’s made me physically ill that this is being said over and over through right-leaning news, and therefore disseminated to other Christians.

I literally have relatives that are terrified that I am suddenly surrounded by an up and coming Fourth Reich.

Why don’t we have a look and see why?

“The education administration in future will also not recognize so-called homeschooling and act in proportionate measure considering the individual case and circumstances.””
WND: Government declares war on homeschooling parents (2006)

“A copy of the report justifying immediate seizure of the children was obtained by HSLDA. The reasons given for the seizure were that the children were ‘socially isolated,’ not in school and that there was a ‘flight risk,’ – none of which appear to be true,” the report said.

The family fled Germany because of a series of fines imposed for homeschooling and the concern that German authorities inside Germany would take custody of the children.
WND: French police grab 4 kids on German orders (2009)

Wunderlich said the Jugendamt “told me that the children must go to school.”
“We are very saddened by the way our country treats us,” he said. “Our nerves are black and short, and we are very tired by the pressure.
“I don’t understand my own country. What are we doing wrong? We are just doing what should be allowed to anyone.”
WND: State takes custody of children over socialization (2012)

Within days of the family registering their presence in Darmstadt, authorities initiated a criminal truancy case, and just months later city’s ‘Youth Welfare Office’ was granted legal custody of the children.
The Daily Mail UK: Armed Police turn up at family home wiht a battering ram to sieze their children after they defy Germany’s ban on homeschooling

After the children were taken, authorities “invited” the parents to a meeting with social workers. They were told they were not even being allowed an immediate court hearing on the status of the children.
WND: Police storm homeschool class, take children by force

Petra Wunderlich said her heart was shattered. “We are empty,” she said. “We need help. We are fighting but we need help.”
Life Site News: ‘We are empty’: Police storm German homeschooling family’s house, seize children

In an interview in Berlin last year, Dirk Wunderlich said he was prepared to go to jail rather than send his children to school. “But I’m not afraid of this,” he said. “I’m only sad for my family. I will go (to jail) laughing. You can do what you want, but my children will not go to school.”
CBN: German Officials Abduct Homeschooled Kids from Parents

…Failing to find employment, Mr.  Wunderlich last year had to bring the family back to their home country of Germany. Within days the “Youth Welfare Office” was granted legal custody of their children on the grounds of criminal truancy.
…The Wunderlich family’s experience foreshadows an ominous future for other German homeschooling families… and … raise concerns about the freedom of families in all free nations…
CrossMap: Government Seizes German Dirk and Petra Wunderlich’s Homeschooling Children—Whose Kids Are They?

 On their return, German authorities began a criminal truancy case against them and the children were placed in the custody of the Darmstadt Youth Welfare Office. Authorities found the children to be well treated… but seized the children’s passports to prevent the family from leaving the country.
CNA: German raid on home-schooling family draws condemnation

The court order allowed the police the use of force against both parents and children; it stated that the children had “adopted the parent’s opinions” regarding homeschooling, and that “no cooperation could be expected” from either the parents or the children.
Gatestone Institute: Europe: Treating Homeschoolers Like Terrorists

The Wunderlich’s lawyers will argue their case on the basis that the current education law is too vague. They are also arguing on the basis of the international treaties Germany has signed, since they appear to be violating those treaty obligations. HSLDA is helping support the Wunderlich’s lawyers… Although the Wunderlichs are hoping for a court date in September, they are still waiting.
The American Conservative: German Children Seized From Parents for Crime of Homeschooling

HSLDA lawyer Michael Donnelly said that when child protective systems in countries such as a Germany– which “claims to be a ‘liberal democracy’ committed to pluralism and human rights – allows for police raids to take children from otherwise good families who are providing a home education, liberty is at risk everywhere.”
WND: Homeschool case focal point for hate mail

What do the Wunderlichs think about this, themselves? Well, let’s hear it in their own words:

In 2005, our first child Machsejah reached the age of compulsory school attendance. We started home schooling from then on. At that time, war with the education agency began… A civil fine was levied. Then we were sued. We were found guilty of violating the compulsory school attendance statute and a monetary penalty was imposed. That was in 2008.
Interview with Dirk Wunderlich through the HEDUA Part 1

Our complete and no-holds-barred rejection of the institution of the school is reflected by exactly this argument. Even if public schools would align themselves with our beliefs and other educational ideas at the 100% level (without compromise whatsoever), we still would not send our children to school. The reason is that we are convinced that God’s intentions and plans for us cannot be realized within the artificial setting of school.
Interview with Dirk Wunderlich through the HEDUA Part 2

HEDUA also has articles herehereherehere, here and here that explain how the Wunderlich family sees their situation.

I do agree that there are issues with how certain sects of Christianity (and even Scientology) that homeschool are handled in Germany. We’ve seen how this plays out with the court cases involving the Zwölf Stämme. There are sometimes gaps in information between the courts, or the Jugendamt is sometimes slow to enforce the Schulpflicht or fines for not sending your children to school.

As far as the Wunderlich family goes, things are clearly not on the up and up. They were told by the state and each city seat that they’ve lived in that they can not continue to homeschool. They continued irregardless.

They’ve come out openly laughing in the face of the government. They’ve said that they’re happy to go to jail and lose custody of their children so that they can create a separatist faith movement and parallel society from their own home.

They’ve moved from city to city, and when that wasn’t working; they left the country. This raises questions. I don’t know what all questions this raises, but it certainly leaves holes in information that can lead one to many conclusions, of which, I am not ready to make any.

All the news articles I’ve read in English (from Fox, The Blaze, World Net Daily, CBN, World Mag and others) so far show very clearly that the authors know next to nothing about Germany, German law, German society at large, or the German educational system and its history. Instead, they’re happy to perpetuate myths and simply assume the police is this evil entity, because surely the HSLDA would not lie.

The information that I can find says that the court has found “The welfare of children is at risk. The children have not been receiving the education that would have been age-expected.”  This is enough to create concern in a nation full of over-acheivers who look for everyone to at least meet age-expected educational goals.

This sets a whole lot of questions flying. I do not know what to make of that. Does this mean that the children are now learning above their age grade, or that they are falling behind? I do not know.

Let’s see how the German news is handling this:

… the parents refuse any school system: “There is, however, compulsory education, the parents can not escape.” It does not mean just education, but also about social interaction and involvement that allows other world views to be heard. The children have been placed in a juvenile facility after a confirmed judicial decision by the Higher Regional Court in Frankfurt am Main. All attempts at discussion to reach an amicable agreement with the parents, during the summer holidays have been unsuccessful.
Idea: Jugendamt nimmt Christen die Kinder weg [Child Protective Services take Christian children away]

 …“Diplomas play no role for us. Our goal is heaven.” “Our family belongs to no specific Christian denomination, we are simply believers.” Dirk [Wunderlich] attended the Kreis Bergstraße’s Odenwald school, and he emphasizes the importance of Jesus Christ for himself and his family…
Echo: Schulpflicht: Jugendamt verteidigt Trennung von ElternSorgerecht – Vier Kinder aus Wembach werden schrittweise auf Schulbesuch vorbereitet  [Compulsory education: Youth Office defends separation of parents from children. Custody – Four children from Wembach to be gradually prepared for school]

Side note here: The Odenwaldschule [where Dirk Wunderlich attended] was known for a huge scandal that went down where the children were being sexually abused by some of the teachers. There was also mentioned of physical discipline being carried out. (It’s mentioned here in German, but not in the English Wikipedia article. You can find more here, here and here.) 

This is not insinuating anything about the family, but giving additional information that is not readily knowable to people who do not live in this area.

I know others who went to this school and nothing ever happened to them, and they are just as shocked as the rest of us that anything happened there.  As far as the education at the school goes, it was one of the best in the area.

…Parents are of the Christian faith and have hermetically sealed off their children from the outside world. They will have also refused to let the children be taught at a state-recognized private Christian school, reports the “Hessischer Rundfunk”…

…Evangelical Christians fight especially hard for the right to homeschool. They want their children to be kept away from worldly influences and try to educate them in their strict faith-driven world view…
Spiegel:  Schulverweigerer in Hessen: Polizei holt Kinder aus streng religiöser Familie [Truants in Hessen: Police bring children from a strictly religious family]

“If and when the children return to their parents, it is still unclear,” says Frank Horneff. In fact, the family will have to wait a while until a decision on their possible reunification. The District Court of Darmstadt intends to have the parents in for a hearing at the end of September.
Die Welt: Behandelt, “als wäre ich ein Terrorist” [Treated “as if I were a terrorist”]

For the time being, this is the only news coming out, other than from Der Blaue Brief which is linked to the HSLDA and other homeschool groups in Germany.

However, I do want to point out some very integral things that are not much discussed when it concerns Christian sects that wish to homeschool here in Germany. There are passages in Scripture that suggest that Christians are to take an unassuming, blameless lifestyle wherever we find ourselves; unless that government is causing them to break commandments in the Bible. Especially concerning our witness to those who do not believe as we do.

It is my full belief that breaking the law to do something you are convicted to do — especially something that is not commanded  by G-d explicitly in the Bible — is a terribly bad idea. 

Frequently moving around to escape the law, leaving the country when the court catches up to you, and hiding your children from the world is terribly suspicious, and not something the Bible commands.

Meddling in another country’s affairs to subvert the government (speaking of the HSLDA here, which is an American Homeschool Legal Defense Association), is also not a really good idea.

Especially when the Human Rights Courts of the EU have already twice made a ruling on similar cases, and the Constitutional Court of said country you are meddling in said “No, this is not happening and here is why.”

On the heels of the Wunderlich case, we have issues with abuses that have been uncovered by the Zwölf Stämme. My question here is: what kind of parenting methods are going on in the Wunderlich home that we might maybe need know about? (Remember, Corporal Punishment is illegal in Germany and has been for over a decade.)  Also, why is the HSLDA so very invested in Germany, and constantly sending funds back and forth to keep the courts here spinning?

Why are Americans being called upon to support these families, and why is the HSLDA lying about what is happening?

What exactly are they helping to hide, besides these families squirreling away their children and teaching them that the government is out to steal and destroy their souls?  Why are these families so afraid of the readily available Christian education?

There are so many questions here, many, which I feel will not be further answered until we hear more from the different court cases as they go forward.

I’m sorry that the families have been separated, but I can see where this is something that had to take place considering how blatantly the Wunderlichs are in their defiance of German law, and how happy they are to make themselves out as martyrs.  I hope that the children can see their parents, but I pray that we do not find out that there has been any physical or psychological abuse going on as we’ve heard from a few other homeschool groups. (As mentioned in the documentary above, and in the case with the Zwölf Stämmen)

There don’t seem to be very many answers to this issue at the moment.

Alternative Narratives On Germany And Homeschooling: An Introduction

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By R.L. Stollar, HA Community Coordinator

So much of the “news” one hears these days about Germany and homeschooling comes from the same sources: Fox, The Blaze, World Net Daily, the Christian Post, and WORLD Magazine. Often times it seems like these sources merely copy and paste press releases from the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) rather than do their own research. I can also count on one hand how many times they did not bring up Adolf Hitler or the Nazi Party or the Gestapo, or encourage their readers to think in terms of xenophobic slurs.

When I wrote my essay about how American-based organizations like HSLDA and the Alliance for Defending Freedom (ADF) supported the Bavarian branch of the Twelve Tribes through the efforts and money of American Christians and homeschoolers, I was struck by the vast differences in coverage between American media and German media. I think, honestly, what I was most struck by was that — there has been an abundance of German media coverage on the homeschool question in Germany over the last decade. While that probably ought not be surprising, it was surprising for this reason: that coverage is almost universally absent in American coverage.

And here is why this is a problem: there are really, really important details in the German media coverage that get conveniently left out of the American media coverage.

Details that can make all the difference in the world in how one perceives individual situations.

I am hoping this week to provide the HA audience and a wider audience with some of this missing information. I also want to encourage Christians, homeschoolers, Americans, and so forth to think beyond the predominant narrative on what is going on in Germany — a narrative that is intimately and methodically constructed by HSLDA itself — and consider other narratives and points of view.

This week HA will not be presenting merely one narrative in opposition to HSLDA’s narrative. Rather, we will be sharing viewpoints from a diversity of sources. Some of us might actually believe Germany’s almost-ban on homeschooling is in fact silly, but at the same time believe homeschooling is not a human right. Or we might disapprove of excessive police force against German homeschoolers, but agree with Germany’s almost-ban on homeschooling. Or we might be 100% cool with homeschooling but think it is 100% not cool to use American immigration and asylum policy as a battleground for homeschool politics.

The point this week is not to force any one perspective down your throat. The point is to encourage you to consider more than HSLDA’s perspective — more than the perspective that is allowed to go unquestioned and parroted by Fox, The Blaze, WND, and so forth.

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Introducing Jennifer Stahl

As we begin this week on Germany and homeschooling, I am excited to introduce Jennifer Stahl to the Homeschoolers Anonymous audience. Jennifer was homeschooled from the sixth grade forward under the Home School Legal Defense Association umbrella — and she is currently residing in Germany. She has written a number of excellent posts about German homeschool controversies on her own blog.

As a former HSLDA kid currently living in Germany, Jennifer’s voice is a fascinating and important one to consider.

As a former HSLDA kid currently living in Germany,, Jennifer Stahl's voice is a fascinating and important one to consider.
As a former HSLDA kid currently living in Germany,, Jennifer Stahl’s voice is a fascinating and important one to consider.

Here is a little bit about her: Jennifer was raised in a US Military home where she lived in six different states and in two foreign countries before getting married and moving to Germany. She is the oldest of three children and her school background varied greatly, including six years of home-schooling. Jennifer’s faith took a different direction in the last decade, towards Messianic Judaism, which has been a source of contention with her family’s fundamentalist background. After moving overseas and having her first child, she began questioning the doctrine that children are inherently sinful beings who need to be beaten regularly, obey instantly with a happy heart and never question their religious and household authority. She has also been unpacking much of the harm of purity culture, spiritual abuse, and anti-feminism while navigating cross-cultural norms. In processing these issues, she came to realize how much doctrine had been passed off as “Gospel Truth” and began blogging about this late last year.

You can follow Jennifer on her blog at Yeshua, Hineni and on Twitter at @HadassahSukkot. She was recently interviewed about Christian feminism on From Two to One.

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Since the Bavarian Twelve Tribes were recently filmed committing child abuse and Dirk and Petra Wunderlich were recently reunited with their children, and HSLDA members have been flooding the Germany Embassy’s Facebook page, there are likely a lot of Germans wondering about this American organization called HSLDA and about homeschooling and the like. So to start this week, Kathryn Brightbill has written “a quick and dirty primer on HSLDA,” so that interested individuals can learn more.

The battle over homeschooling in Germany has raged for well over a decade. There have been many high profile cases, ranging from the Twelve Tribes (Zwölf Stämme) to the Paderborn Seven to Melissa Busekros to the Romeike, Wunderlich, and Dudek families. Most of these high profile cases involve some form of fundamentalist Christianity, with evolution and sex education as motivating factors for homeschooling. They also involve the hand of an American organization like HSLDA or ADF — or a German-based affiliate, like Schulunterricht zu Hause and Netzwerk Bildungsfreiheit.

Since it is unlikely this battle is going away any time soon, the least we can do is understand the situation and get our facts straight.

I hope that this week’s series will aid in that endeavor.