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.
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.
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.
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:
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)
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)
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)
Perception that the government is wholly evil and out to turn children against their parents.
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 children, To Break Down a Child, Why not Train a Child?, Abuse and the HSLDA, Erica 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?