While the freedom to home-school in America continues to expand, the opposite is true in Europe. Since 1982, 38 U.S. states have adopted home-school statutes or regulations that have removed restrictions on home-schoolers. This year, two more states, North Dakota and Idaho, made significant progress in recognizing the value of home-schooling.
North Dakota, which was one of the most regulated states, just amended its home-school law to make it possible for more parents to home-school freely. No longer will a home-schooling parent have to hold a baccalaureate degree, be a certified teacher or be monitored by a certified teacher if they have only a high school diploma in order to home-school. All home-schooling parents in North Dakota can provide the individualized education that best fits their children.
Idaho, which has been a home-school-friendly state, got even better. A recently passed law allows parents to use people outside the immediate family to support their home-school program, and gives more flexibility to home-schoolers regarding their teaching schedule.
While home-schooling freedom and flexibility continues to improve in the U.S., it appears to be going in the opposite direction in Europe. Germany leads the way as the most oppressive European state, because it routinely fines and threatens to imprison home-schoolers.
While other European countries have not embraced the German methods, there is a move in some countries to crack down on home-schoolers. For example, in Sweden, the government released a suggestion on June 15 that all schools, including home-schools, must provide an education that is acceptable to all pupils regardless of religious or philosophical beliefs, or the beliefs of the parents. The study concludes that there is no need for the new law to recognize the possibility of home-schooling because of religious or philosophical reasons in the family. We are confident the authors are aware that this effectively would end home-schooling in Sweden as most families are home-schooling for religious or philosophical reasons.
Equally shocking are the events in Britain. A June 11 report on home education in England by Graham Badman, former managing director of Children, Families and Education in the County of Kent, makes the case that home-schooling should be extensively regulated. More troubling, the report has been accepted in full by British Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families Ed Balls.
The underlying philosophy behind Mr. Badman’s conclusion is based upon children’s rights contained in the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child, which came into force in Britain on Jan. 15, 1992. Mr. Badman contends that current home-school law, which is very similar to many home-school laws in America, does not address children’s education needs or protect the child from harm by the parents.
The U.N. Convention would give children more than 40 “fundamental” rights, including the right to express their views freely, the right to be heard in any legal or administrative matter that affects them, and the right to seek, receive and impart information and ideas. Mr. Badman is urging that England make it possible for children to form their own views and express themselves freely in all matters affecting them, including how they are being raised and what form of education they are receiving. Who will decide the conflict between the rights of the child and the responsibility of the parents? The government.
Among his suggestions for home-school law is the right of designated local authorities to enter homes and speak to each child alone. This idea of unbridled power to enter a home is abhorrent to Americans because of the Fourth Amendment, which protects our homes from unreasonable searches and seizures and recognizes the fundamental right of privacy and family integrity.
Mr. Badman also cites the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child as the justification for the state choosing the curriculum home-schoolers may use.
HSLDA has opposed the UNCRC since its formation in 1989 because we are deeply concerned about the implications this treaty would have for home-schoolers and parents in general. The interpretation of the treaty by Britain further supports our position that the UNCRC should not be ratified by our Senate.
For more information about the issues involving the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child and international home-schooling, visit www.hslda.org.
• Michael Smith is the president of the Home School Legal Defense Association. Call 540/338-5600 or send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.