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Homeschooling in Germany – A Movement Whose Time Has Come

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The following article was sent to American Vision from Thomas Schirrmacher in Germany. It offers some encouraging words about what is taking place in Germany regarding homeschooling. Christians in America have a great deal of freedom in the area of education. We should thank God and also pray for Christians in other parts of the world who are just beginning to make inroads in education.

Even though I am the major spokesman for Christian schools in Germany (my father started one of the first and biggest in the 1970s and still is its president at 85 years of age). For two decades I was the only evangelical leader and the only academic in Germany openly writing in favor of homeschooling, even though there was no chance to actually do it, since the strictest school laws in the world from 1938 are still enforced. In 2000 I published a small book in favor of homeschooling. In 2003 I edited a volume with reports and translated articles etc., but all this was more of an academic exercise with no results. Now the situation concerning homeschooling in Germany has dramatically changed since 2003.

On the Negative Side

Several German states have begun searching for "secret" homeschoolers (I calculated at least 3000 children, which correlates to the number of 500-1000 families counted by the active German branch of the HLDA) and sending the police to bring them to court (even though we have 250,000 students quit school each day without consequence). There have been 5 cases lost in court in the last two weeks alone, and the authorities seem to be scrutinizing Baptist families whose children do not show up in school, and the penalty process is speeded up beginning with the first letter. We have three cases (2 Christian and 1 Muslim family), where the parents were fined and went to prison because they would not pay. The children had missed certain lessons in school: The christian children missed a one day visit to a theater in the city, and the Muslim child had not attended a swimming class in a public bath.

On the Positive Side

Because of this the press is full of reports as never before, and half of the articles are neutral or positive. I have been invited to appear on national TV and participate in radio debates, and several evangelical magazines for the first time have printed my articles on homeschooling.

The institute of education of the University of Bonn (my home-town) asked me to provide an academic statement of 100 pages in favor of homeschooling for a book with essays on the history of homeschooling in Germany. For some weeks my coworkers and I worked day and night and finished the text (with 900 entries in the footnotes), which meanwhile has been accepted without changes. I prove in detail, that the strict school laws in Germany were introduced by the Nazis in 1938 and never taken back. This is a number one chance, as homeschooling would be for the first time presented through a major publisher for education literature and for the first time would reach the universities. I think it would be wise to buy a bulk of copies to send to ministers etc., as well to show the publisher that the book sells.

When IDEA (the German Christianity Today) heard about it, they asked the university if they could publish my chapter as a book by itself under the name of the “Evangelical Alliance”—which until now never showed any interest in homeschooling. On Monday (May 9, 2005), this book was published by our own publishing house and, by the end of the week, we sold 1150 copies! I cannot believe it! Ten years ago I still debated with my friends from IDEA, because all their news on evangelical schools was negative. And now they are willing to back up this massive statement for homeschooling. They expect the biggest public fight they ever had in 25 years as a press service!

Seeing that the small essay I originally wanted to write has grown into a major attack, I have started a new round of research and several of my coworkers suddenly have to leave their work aside and do homework for homeschooling. We have checked hundreds of books and scientific articles. I investigated into the history of Hitler’s school law of 1938—this in itself will assure that my book will stir up a lot of debate! I prove that the German constitution purposely does not mention compulsory schooling, but the States purposely used the law of 1938 instead.

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