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omeschooling children separated from family

Homeschoolers in Germany should get out while they still can

A homeschool family has been invaded, their homeschooled kids kidnapped by the state and court and their basic human rights trampled beyond recognition. Why? They were home schooling.

omeschooling children separated from family

With all the sensitivity of an elephant trampling through a nursery, the German Police invaded the Wunderlich home school classroom (not kidding, we’re talking battering ram, here) and forcibly took away their four homeschooled children between the ages of 7 and 14, informing the parents that they would never see them again. The homeschooled children were forcibly enrolled in a public school and allowed to return only when the desperate father agreed to continue sending them to school.

But Family Court Judge Marcus Malkmus has recently refused them custody anyway. Here is the shocker:

Lawyers for the family had asked the judge to allow the parents to have custody because they had met all court demands for their children to go to public schools, and they wished to move to France, where homeschooling is legal.

The judge, in his ruling, said that even though the Wunderlich children were academically proficient, well-adjusted socially and without educational deficiencies, he was horrified by homeschooling.

Malkmus compared homeschooling to having the children wear a straitjacket and said he had to make sure the children remained in Germany so they would be integrated into society.

He feared “the children would grow up in a parallel society without having learned to be integrated or to have a dialogue with those who think differently and facing them in the sense of practicing tolerance.”

Such treatment, he warned would be “concrete endangerment to the wellbeing of the child.”

Kidding you not. A Family Court judge acknowledges that the homeschooled children were well educated, but his horror is good enough reason to hold homeschooled kids hostage against a homeschooling family that won’t conform.

Worse, the right of the homeschooling family to migrate to a place where they can homeschool legally in France has been stonewalled for no clear reason beyond “concrete endangerment to the wellbeing of the child”. While I am not one to ever dispute that parents have tremendous nuisance potential when it comes to endangering the well being of the child, it is not explained why the judge is saying this about homeschooled children who are “academically proficient, well-adjusted socially and without educational deficiencies” in his own estimation.

It appears to be that the judge is prejudiced about this family. Worse, it is a judge in a court of law passing a judgment that holds a family separated and denied of the right to migrate to a place they wish to go to.

Let this be a lesson to homeschool families in Germany. Get out of that place while you still can.

Clearly the Nazis may have gone, but the intellectual fascists are thriving.

Reactions by homeschoolers to article by Jandhyala Tilak opposing homeschooling

Right to homeschooling versus right to education” is an old article by Jandhyala Tilak, but worth responding to, because it reflects a lot of the prejudice against homeschooling that influences our government. It isn’t long after this article by Jandhyala Tilak was published in the Economic and Political Weekly that the government backtracked on their affidavit stating

“parents who voluntarily opt for systems of homeschooling and such alternative forms of schooling may continue to do so. The RTE Act does not come in the way of such alternative schooling methodologies or declare such form of education as illegal”


“the Act is with regard to the rights of children and does not compel children to go to a neighbourhood school…The compulsion therefore is not on the child but on
that Government”

In the absence of proper recognition of homeschooling, this was at least some reassurance (not unlike what is currently being assured to the LGBT community) that they would not be persecuted. I fail to see what is achieved by denying this to homeschoolers.

This article contains a strong bias against homeschooling, which I have come to see as education fascism, which essentially denies the rights of parents and children in favor of regimentation of children under specific influences that are crafted and controlled by a few. While a complete rebuttal of this article by Jandhyala Tilak will follow, this is a reaction by a homeschooling parent when the article was shared in our community.


I came across that EPW article by Jandhyala Tilak as well.  I suspect on the whole that this a case of the left hand not quite being aware of what the right hand is doing.  An anti-homeschooling stand is also partly an anti-NIOS/anti-openschooling stand (though open schooling accompanied by certification and homeschooling are NOT the same thing). I think this can be a useful tool for us though. The NIOS is as official as you can get. Their   website clearly states that to apply for the 10th board exam, you need to submit EITHER a birth certificate OR a transfer certificate from the school you have studied in.  So far as you have attained the age of 14 and you have a birth certificate, you can take the exam. I spoke to the Chennai regional director of the NIOS recently and he told me that they never ask about the route taken by the candidate prior to approaching them.  He was very clear that it does not matter to them whether  you have taken the homeschooling route or the formal schooling one. But NIOS has discontinued their OBE exam (primary/middle school certification) for private candidates and I think this is thanks to the RTE regulation. Right now, you can only take their secondary (10th)  and senior secondary exams (12th).  It is homeschooled children between the ages of 8 and 14 who are stuck in this grey area.  Interestingly, NIOS has also launched a virtual open school for vocational training and so on. So we seem to be moving out of the brick and mortar school room building on the one hand and on the other, we are insisting on a formal school room setting.  There is an inherent idealism and open-mindedness to the NIOS which is admirable – even though it may have its own share of bureaucracy and issues.  

My feeling is that this being in the grey area will continue for some time to come. So far, homeschooling has been left alone but I think we are moving towards greater regimentation in all areas of our lives.  If it comes to it, we must use the argument that if we can have MOOCS and correspondence courses for university students (this implies that students are “studying” at home), there is no reason why students can’t study at home and eventually take the NIOS/IGCSE/some other exam whenever they are ready for it.  This is of course assuming that all homeschooled children and their parents want to take the formal certification route (and I know that this may not always be the case).  I feel we should really put our weight behind the NIOS which too, after all, is a government agency and is as valid a board as the CBSE and the ICSE.

The other issue is with children who have special needs.  The NIOS is a life-saver for all “special” and “non-formal” schools, not to mention homeschoolers. It may be useful for homeschoolers to have conversations  with other non-formal centres of education such as those for children with special needs and with alternate schools.  They share some of the same problems as us.

The Universal declaration of human rights clearly states that parents have the right to determine what their children should learn.  And what about the rights of children who find school difficult or unpleasant and who don’t wish to go for very good reasons (not because they are lazy or do not wish to learn or work or whatever)?  These, perhaps, are the best arguments to use but I am not sure they it will get through.



Another homeschooling parent had this to add:


Vidyut, I feel Any right given to citizens needs to be decided by the citizen, how he or she wants to use it or not. If I have a fundamental right to education, then I also have the fundamental right to choose the way I wish to educate myself and my children. Talking down to citizens as to ‘how children should be educated’ is fundamentally flawed as a citizen here is counted only as above 14 years it seems. below that it seems the RTE does not consider children to have any intelligence or feelings or choices of their own. So is RTE contesting the fact that children are not citizen with cognitive wisdom? If we were to argue that children have a right to go to school, then that itself is flawed, as who decides that the child should go to school. The child or the parent. It is based on the premise that children have no intelligence or wisdom to choose what is good or bad for them…Are we allowing our children to decide for themselves what they want, are we willing to wait till a certain time so that children can be given the choice of school or no school, and see what they choose?
I have the fundamental right to follow and practice any religion, but whether I choose to follow any or none is my freedom of choice..No one can force me. Which is the fundamental basis of the Constitution of India? Freedom of Choice.
I do not think RTE is about forcing anyone to go to school. It is really about ensuring that anyone who wishes to get a school education is not denied..That I feel is the spirit, as far as I have read the Act and interpreted it.
But NIOS has to stay, learning center of all kinds need to stay, schools cannot be defined by the act to fit into ONE MONO CATEGORY…Diversity has to be included, of need, demand, choices of all individuals by honoring each and every human being..One cannot be a teacher only on the basis of B. Ed..or M. Ed…It is for the student/disciple to choose and decide who he or she wants for a teacher…
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What learning looks like

When I lived in Borivali, my maid’s daughter once asked me if a magnifying glass could really burn paper. She knew the correct answer, but was having trouble believing it. I didn’t have a magnifying glass, so I showed her a video on youtube of how it happens. I told her it was true. That I had burned paper before.

She asked if paper would burn if she held a magnifying glass over it too. That vulnerable wondering if she was worthy of the miracle. If she was clever enough to make it happen.

I had a murderous moment over how teachers are able to reduce science to blind faith with making children memorize what they can easily find out. Learning is like a chain reaction. Thoughts spark new thoughts, data keeps coming in, connecting with other things, leading to new things to find out or know. The amount of learning experience can bring cannot be duplicated with mere information. And it was such a small thing!

It was absurd. A magnifying glass doesn’t care who holds it and holding it correctly is hardly rocket science.

We spent the entire afternoon watching all sorts of videos of magnifying glasses burning paper on youtube and other things till I felt her physically relax. Then she knew that paper burns when you focus light on it with a magnifying glass. Till then she only knew the correct answer.

We went one better. I got her a magnifying glass in a couple of days, and sent it home with the maid, who reported a few days later that she was burning everything she could lay hands on, including a broken mug (which didn’t burn, thankfully) and just like that, she had found out that some materials burn, and others don’t. I wasn’t even around.

U.S. Justice Department refuses asylum to German Home Schooling family

U.S. Justice Department court filing rejected a German home schooling family’s application for asylum in the US is in trouble after initially being accepted. The Romeikes, a home schooling family with five home schooled children are being represented by the Home School Legal Defense Association, while the Obama administration want them to be sent back to Germany.

Germany has a national law requiring children to either attend public school or a government-approved private school.

The Romeikes had already been fined and German police once forcibly escorted their five children to school. They were notified that they could ultimately lose custody if they continued to home school. […]

While this is not India, it is worrisome snapshot of the world, because it is an example of how the interest of children and home schooling families is fragile if the country’s law makes it tougher for them. Immigration appeals or asylum laws both seem indifferent to alternative education programmes, leaving home schooling families and other special education initiatives entirely at the mercy of the national education machine. Without the support of organizations like Home School Legal Defense Association, it can be overwhelming for individual families to ensure their rights.

With the RTE Act, India is well on the road of the absurd “free and compulsory” – whatever that means. Home schooling families in India are already wary of the directive for every child to be in school and seeking alternatives, while special education organizations working among marginalized communities are scrambling to save themselves when their highly educated post-graduate volunteers are not enough to rescue their organization from a short sighted Act that requires qualified teachers who are not available in the numbers dictated by the act.

I doubt if that definition of “free and compulsory” is going to include the freedom to learn that home schooling nurtures or indeed any freedom of education other than the lack of educational fees. While at the moment, the government is hardly applying it, home schoolers are already vulnerable to malicious accusations of abuse or deprivation of education that could get them into trouble with the law. Because a carelessly crafted law does not recognize home schooling families or special education or alternative education programmes as any different from depriving children of opportunities to learn.

There are initiatives like “Swashikshan” (self-learning/teaching) which, while not Home School Legal Defense Association, have seen home schooling families connected and organizing to share resources. I hope we are able to suggest some framework for home schooling eventually, ideally with as much credibility as the Home School Legal Defense Association, or at least a recognized body, before the law strangles diversity of learning here as well.

A Map of the Legality of Home schooling around...

A Map of the Legality of Home schooling around the world. Based off of Image:BlankMap-World6.svg. Green is legal, yellow is legal in most political subdivisions but not all or is practiced, but legality is disputed. Red is illegal or unlawful. Orange is generally considered illegal, but untested legally. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It is unbelievable to imagine that a country like Germany (which gave enough and uprecedented votes to a Pirate Party – that extraordinary political endorsement of freeing knowledge, and going beyond regimented structures to find what works) persecutes home schooling families to the point where a family must worry about losing its children is very worrying for a country like India, where enforcement of laws is arbitrary and human rights are not an issue.

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