Tuesday, September 19, 2000

Home schooling is rapidly expanding worldwide as families abroad search for options to guide their children’s education amid growing concerns over lax educational standards and increasing violence in government-run schools.
Christopher J. Klicka, senior lawyer at the Home School Legal Defense Association, says his Purcellville, Va.-based organization has had contact with home educators in 25 nations around the world over the past couple of years.
“There seems to be a thirst for this by parents everywhere,” says Mr. Klicka, who traveled to Germany and Japan this summer to help families in those nations organize to get home schooling protected and legalized.
“What is exciting for us is they are contacting us for the answers for finding out what worked here in United States as far as legal strategies and grass-roots efforts,” said Mr. Klicka, whose organization has worked for years to help home schooling become legal in all 50 states.
He said the cultural problems parents faced here in the United States when the home-school movement began “are not unlike many in these other countries, particularly the European and industrialized countries. Parents are looking for options and they should have the rights to choose and to direct the education of their kids.”
The home schooling movement has grown in the United States to an estimated 1.7 million students. In fact, the movement here has gained enough credibility that Internet media giant www.Amazon.com this week announced the creation of an online store for home-school families.
Brian Ray, a former professor of education and classroom teacher who runs the National Home Education Research Institute in Salem, Ore., said he, too, has observed a strong surge in international interest. He has spoken about home schooling at international conferences in Switzerland and Great Britain.
“It’s clearly growing,” said Mr. Ray of the global appeal. In the last week, he has fielded calls from Kuwait, Korea and from a Pakistani living in London, all seeking more information on how they can support home schooling in their countries.
In Japan, says Mr. Klicka, home schooling is becoming all the rage, and is being supported by several leaders in the corporate business community. The country has experienced a 300,000-student per year dropout rate in junior and senior high schools over the past several years, and is seeking solutions that might give children who have left school a reason to return to their studies.
“The business community is driving the home-school community in Japan,” he said. “They want kids to be educated.”
Home schooling, while not yet officially approved by the Japanese government, continues to garner the support of many education officials, Mr. Klicka said. They include a professor of education at Hyogo University, Shigeru Narita, who is the president of a newly formed home educators group called HOSA (Home School Support Association of Japan). Japanese educators say the freedom and creativity home schooling gives students may be an effective alternative for those who are disenchanted with the country’s rigid system of public education.
In Germany, a new national home-school organization, Schulunterricht zu Hause (School Instruction at Home), formed in July. While home schooling has yet to be approved by the government in Germany, home education continues to grow across the country.
In June, U.S. home schoolers protested the treatment of a German father of 10 who had his home ransacked and was arrested for teaching his children at home. They barraged the German Embassy with e-mail, letters and phone calls. The man’s case has since been dropped.
“We have a lot of hope that Germany will begin to turn” in its acceptance of home education, Mr. Klicka said.
However, home schooling suffered a blow this year in the Canadian province of Manitoba, where lawmakers passed a bill that allows the government to control curriculum and define standards for home-school families.
Mr. Klicka’s group is working with lawyers from the Canadian Home School Legal Defense Association to have the law declared void on the grounds that it is overly vague.
If negotiations fail, Canadian lawyers will file suit, he said.
“The standards are very elusive, and there are no clear-cut guidelines for parents as to how to even meet the standards, so it’s left to the government officials to make determinations based on what their whims might be. It’s put the home schoolers there in a very precarious position,” Mr. Klicka said.

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