Posts Tagged 'Home schooling'

Why The German Response To Home Schooling Confuses Me

            I have some trouble understanding just what troubles German juvenile officials so much when it comes to the issue of parents taking an active, daily role in the education of their children.  They are fighting too hard for it to merely be something that they are uncomfortable allowing to happen.

            If they merely were uncomfortable it would not make sense to insist that parents do not have the right to control the education of their children to the point of moving from a position of discrimination to a position of persecution against these parents and their children.

            I do not use the word persecution lightly and I know that there are many who will take exception to its use here.  When parents face heavy fines it is discrimination in my book.  When parents are in court defending their right to control the education of their children it is discrimination to me.

            When, however, parents are serving short sentences in the local jails without the benefit of a hearing and without legal appeal it becomes persecution in my book.  When those same parents have their children taken into state custody just because they are home schooling their children it goes from discrimination to persecution.

            That is what is happening in Germany.

            The Germans gave us the Reformation.  They have long been on the forefront of cultural changes in a positive way.  There are many things we must be grateful to the Germans for, including their incredible engineering skills and their scientific work that lead to some of the greatest breakthroughs in technology and medicine that we have ever seen.

            Something has happened though.  I have a couple of photos that sum up the confusion I am experiencing much better than words ever could.

            The first photo is one I personally took during the 2009 Octoberfest in Munich, Germany.  I was there just a few days after I had experienced a moving meal with the Schimidt family in nearby Otting, Germany.  Just before we ate they offered a family prayer to bless the food and our time.

Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany

Schmidt family praying before lunch

            The confusion comes from the fact that one of these activities is highly acceptable in modern Germany.  The other has begun to lead to many problems for families in Germany—particularly those families who are trying to control the education of their children.

            Maybe the problem is that God is okay as long as we do not take Him too seriously.  That is a problem in American as well as Germany.

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Why You Should Care About Home Schooling

The short answer is that at its core, the right of parents to educate their children is a religious freedom issue.

Most people get lost in their personal feelings about home school when we discuss the issue of home schooling in Germany.  It is easy to do. It is likely that we all know a home school family and we either think they are doing a good job or that they are not doing what they should for their families.

It is important, however, that we find a way to put aside our personal feelings about home schooling when we look at the international movement.  I believe that one of the most important requirements of a Christian is to raise their children in the fear of the Lord.  We have a great moral responsibility with our children.  If they are lost there is little hope for the coming generations.

Many school systems in America and abroad are becoming more secular and more hostile to the Christian faith.  This hostility is played out in a number of ways.  It might be a resistance to any type of Christian faith being shared amongst students.  It might also be a curriculum based not just on a lack of faith, but on a hostility to faith.

Modern man is turning further and further from God.  The public education system is beholden to the government.  Governments around the world are moving further and further away from any foundation of Christian faith.  This means that their school systems will, by design and involuntarily, move further from any foundation of Christian faith.

We first saw this in America with the debate over the teaching of evolution in the public schools.  The original request by the evolutionists was to grant them equal access to the students on their theories.  They turned equal access into access only for evolution.  The system that now exists is one that denies any belief in God.

The fight that is accruing in courtrooms around the country is a battle to keep out the simple belief that maybe, just maybe, there is a creator of some type who moved the process of evolution along.  Even this is unacceptable to evolutionists.

Many schools are also teaching sex education from a purely secular point of view.  This means that any teaching regarding abstinence is not allowed, as this is considered an antiquated religious view of sexual education.

Then there is a lot of new age religious teaching.  It might be a teaching regarding spiritual matters without a Christian base—something as simple as controlling the environment in a room by the proper placement of the furniture.  Now, I believe the furniture should be arranged properly, but that does not add a spiritual power to the room.  It could be teaching regarding other occultist beliefs that might seem harmless to some.

In America we have the ability to opt our children out of these questionable teaching sessions.  In Europe most schools do not allow the parents to opt out their children from questionable teaching that contradicts the core beliefs of the family.  There is a belief that the children belong to the State when they come onto school property and the parents do not have any right to question the educational choices of the State.

There is something going on here that is much deeper than merely home schooling.  Most of the home school families I know in Europe and in America are home schooling because of a sincerely-held religious belief.  They believe God has ordained for them to teach their own children.

As to that end, the German Constitution and the European Convention on Human Rights both give parents the right to control the education of their children.

So you see, the education of children is a parental right that is often guaranteed by governments.  This battle is not merely about home schooling, it goes much deeper than that.  The battle is over whether the State or the family has the right to determine what the children will be taught.  At its core the question is are children wards of the state, or wards of their parents.

It is a much deeper right than merely the right to educate. 

It is a right that goes to the very right of parents to train their children in the ways they should go and when they are old they will not depart from it.

Germany’s Continuing Battle Against Home Schooling–the Schimdt Family Story

with Richard Guenther 

Hans and Petra Schmidt live in Bavaria, Southern Germany.  From their home, they have been teaching their children, Josua and Aaron, for 9 years, with great success.  Were they in America this would be considered an appropriate way to educate their children.  Unfortunately for the Schmidt family, they are not Americans.  Since they are Germans and are educating their own children in Germany, the Schmidt family is considered to be violating the law.

To date the Schmidts have been forced to pay nearly 13.000 Euros ($18,300) in home schooling fines.  Like most German home school families, they have a very modest income.  Needless to say, the position of the government against them pushed the Schmidts to their limits.  When the family could not pay all 26 of their fines the government placed a lien on their home.

During this time there were talks with the chief district administrator.  These talks were entered into by the Schmidts in hopes of arriving at some type of settlement that would permit them to finish educating their children at home without being forced into bankruptcy by their own government.  At the same time the children were tested by the school authorities.  Testing both children showed that they have extraordinary academic abilities.  The tests also showed the children to be social competent.  This is critical as the Germans still hold to the disproven belief that home school children are socially retarded.

The oldest son, Josua,, who is 16, was tested at a local high school and scored very high.  As a result, Josua was awarded his high school diploma.  These exams are required of all students upon completion of their last year in high school.  This shows that the Schmidts have done an excellent job of educating their children at home.  As he is through with high school, Josua is no longer subject of the compulsory school attendance.

Aaron, age 14, has just successfully completed an internship at the big Stuttgart zoo. He is still subject to the mandatory school attendance laws. The authorities are attempting to force the parents to place him in school.

At the beginning of this year, the family court set out to take the custody for Aaron from the parents.  The sole reason for this was that the Schmidts continue to home school Aaron, something that is illegal in Germany. Pursuant to this attempt to remove Aaron from the family home legal proceedings began early this year. Aaron is 14 years old.  He is looking to complete his school education in another two years.

Mr. Schmidt has a heart and passion for the disadvantaged.  So he works in a handicap workshop where the handicapped are trained in a vocation. Both parents are  devoted Christians and have it in their hearts to preserve their two boys from the secular, anti-Christian culture in Germany. They believe that sending their boys to school would be traumatic for the whole family.

Working with the IHRG, Armin and Gabriele Eckermann, both lawyers with the German Home School Association SchuzH, are helping develop the legal strategy to challenge this case in the courts.  Johannes Hildebrandt has agreed to help the Eckermanns and is taking the case as it goes into the court of first instance. He is a successful lawyer in family issues and in addition to his law degree, holds a degree in social development of children.  He saw Melissa Busekros returned to her family, defending her successfully in the courts

The International Human Rights Group is standing with these lawyers and the Schmidt family.  We are doing everything in our power to protect this family and see that they are permitted to educate their children according to the dictates of their own beliefs—something that is guaranteed by the German Constitution and the European Court on Human Rights.  We will be there all along the way to stand with them. 

Your prayers are an important part of this battle.  Without your prayers we cannot stand as strong.

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?


Books Worth Reading

C.S. LEWIS--Mere Christianity; CLAIRE BERLINSKI--Menace in Europe: Why the Continent's Crisis is America's Crisis, Too; BRUCE BAWER--While Europe Slept: How Radical islam is Destroying the West from Within; DAVID LEVERING LEWIS--God's Crucible: Islam and the Making of Europe, 570-1215; THOMAS SCHIRRMACHER--The Persecution of Christians Concerns Us All; PHILIP JENKINS--God's Continent: Christianity, Islam, and Europe's Religious Crisis
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