German Home Schooling: The Long Journey Back Into Night!

Herr “Schmidt” (names cannot be revealed for fear of reprisals) and his family are facing the loss of everything.  They are German citizens and love their country.  Their only crime is that they are home schooling in a country that refuses to allow parents to make educational choices for their own children.  When Herr Schmidt insisted on home schooling his children, German officials began fining him.  Without a trial the government levied fines against Herr Schmidt and his family that he could not pay.  Government officials then began to take money from their bank account—money that was dedicated to feeding their family and maintaining their home. When there was not enough money in Herr Schmidt’s bank account, government officials began to evaluate the value of his house with the intent to put it up for auction.


            Though Herr Schmidt and his family have paid $15,000 in fines, they are now being levied with another $7,500 in fines.  He has had all of his income garnished by the government to cover the fines.  He and his family now have a decision to make; one that they never previously considered. Herr Schmidt told me last year that he would not leave Germany; his wife was tired and they would not pack up and leave the country.


            Unfortunately for Herr Schmidt and his family, in Germany “the times they are a changing.”  A new federal law makes it much easier for government officials to take children from their parents.  When Melissa Busekros was taken from her parents in the Bavarian town of Erlangen, one of the legal issues that helped us keep Melissa home after she finally fled state custody was the need for a qualified psychological evaluation and a certificate meeting an exacting legal standard.  These had to be in place before government officials could take a child permanently from their parents’ custody.


            Germany has now removed this legal protection.  That means that families, particularly children, are open game once they are targeted by government officials.  This new law will leave all families extremely vulnerable—particularly if they are Christians and home school their children. The government has free access to all children, and under threat of fines, imprisonment, and loss of custody of their children parents are told by social workers what to do with their children.


            The only choice Herr Schmidt has is to flee Germany with his family.  If government officials learn that he is leaving the country with his children, they will hide behind a recent German court decision that prohibits parents from exiting the country with their children if the state believes the parents are not acting in the best interest of their children.  Parents are still free to leave the country, but their children will be forcibly put into state custody.


            One of the most accepted forms of parents not acting in the best interest of their children is to home school them. The new law gives social workers a free hand to determine what is best for the children. There is virtually no room for argument before the courts anymore; the child has the right to what a social worker thinks is the best society has to offer—to go to a German public school.


            This does not mean that we will no longer fight in the courts.  It is critical that we continue to work within the legal system.  Now we must work in other areas; political, social, the media, and at the grass roots, to protect the rights of parents and their children.  We must change the nature of the educational system—something the International Human Rights Group will be addressing through a serious of upcoming initiatives.  These focused efforts include alternative school choices for Germans families and a German language curriculum to be utilized by German families—of course, this curriculum would be Christian based.


            Unfortunately for Herr Schmidt, government officials have taken every Euro the family has.  Somehow they have to find the funds to secretly leave the country before government officials learn they are leaving and take their children from them.


            This is not a fictitious account. Herr Schmidt and his family are very real people.  I have literally broken bread with them.  I have sat in their home, eating goulash and fried bread, praying before a communal meal, learning to love and respect this family.


            This account is all too real in the new German war on home schooling.  There was a time when we were making great progress in home schooling in Germany.  There was a time when Richard and Ingrid Guenther were working with families and government officials to resolve issues without parents going to jail, without children being taken from their parents.  For a variety of reasons, some natural and some the direct result of the financial difficulties faced when working in a foreign country, the Guenthers were not able to continue fighting for home school rights in Germany. It is obvious that Schuzh, the legal organization they co-founded with German attorneys, has lost its driving force.


            Since the Guenthers have come back to the States, the situation of home school families in Germany has deteriorated.  Government officials have become more emboldened.  Families, Christian families, are under attack like never before.  There are people who are still fighting for the rights of German home school families; the Guenthers, however, were the key.  No one understands the needs of German families like they do.  None of us understand the nature of German government officials the way the Guenthers do. This is what I heard recently when I was in Germany. They have worked as a German/American team with the ingenuity of both nations, their home educated children being their great witness. We do not understand how to communicate and win the hearts of the German public like the Guenther family.  And most importantly, we do not have the time to catch up. 


The rest of us might be able to hold back the tide for a short time, but like the Dutch boy with his finger in the dyke, we cannot hold back the German government and its concerted effort to destroy home schooling in Germany—destroy home schooling regardless of the cost to families.  After all, these families are Christians and this is a post-Christian Europe.


            While government officials are bearing down on German families, we have been able to win an important victory on behalf of an American missionary family.  This family came to Germany to help pastor a church.  They have always home schooled their children, and when they came to Germany they continued to do so.  When German officials discovered they were home schooling, they immediately refused to grant the family a residence visa unless they put their children in the local government school.  When the Robinsons refused to bend to the pressure they were given a deportation date—be out of Germany voluntarily or be forced out of the country.


Because they are Americans, we have been able to use public pressure, political pressure, and solid legal work to force government officials to agree to permit the Robinson family to stay in Germany and fulfill their mission through the end of the year.


            The fight to protect the Robinson family lasted nearly a year.  It was a fight that began in an administrative setting and ended in court.  Armin and Gabriele Eckermann, both attorneys for Schuzh, handled the administrative hearings.  These hearings permitted the Robinson family to remain in the country.


            Dr. Ronald Reichert, European Counsel for the International Human Rights Group, handled the court hearings and was finally able to negotiate a settlement that resolved all of the issues facing the Robinsons.  The final result is that the Robinsons will legally remain in Germany—and they are being permitted to home school.


            Then they intend to move to another country in Europe and continue their ministry by pastoring a church in Europe.


            The fight for religious freedom and parental rights in Germany, including the right to home school, will continue.  We must stand with these families and do everything in our power to help them.


            That means we must give money to help continue the fight.  We must give to help some families escape before overzealous German government officials destroy them. Herr Schmidt did not ask us for financial help to flee with his family even though he is destitute. He trusts that God will provide for them by moving the hearts of his fellow Christians to help—that means us.


            Equally important, we must pray! Pray for these families who are facing their darkest hour.  German government officials are once again using the law to separate children from their parents—their only crime?  Home schooling.


            The next knock on Herr Schmidt’s door could be the police pushing into their home and taking their children to an undisclosed location without due process of law—just like Melissa Busekros.  Can we really afford to have their pain on our conscience?


2 Responses to “German Home Schooling: The Long Journey Back Into Night!”

  1. 1 David 9 October 2008 at 3:41 pm

    We have successfully home schooled our 2 of our children here in Germany using the Abeka system,
    our youngest goes to German school. So we are well able to judge the quality’s and education offered and there is no comparison, Keep on fighting,
    Oh yes, We have not done this out of a religious ground just for the quality of education,
    “oldest son has just entered UCF to study med.,

  1. 1 The Long Journey Back Into Night! | Home Education Foundation Trackback on 9 September 2008 at 5:38 am

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