Thursday, June 11, 2009

HOMESCHOOLING: VERBOTEN IN GERMANY STILL IN 2009

HOMESCHOOLING: VERBOTEN IN GERMANY STILL IN 2009

By Kevin Stoda, Wiesbaden, Germany


Two decades my cousin and his wife, Kim and Mark Stoda lived in Neu Isenburg south of Frankfurt. My cousin, Mark, had given up his career as a reconnaissance pilot in the air force in the mid 1980s in Germany after a decade of serving the US Air Force. Kim and Mark and their four children then started working full-time with a Christian organization called THE NAVIGATORS. Their goal was to help U.S. military families raise stronger Christian family’s. Many Americans living outside the USA are in a constant state of anomie and loss. They sought to serve and direct these many U.S. couples. Mark and Kim Stoda first worked in Scotland. After a few years they finally determined to return to Germany, where Mark had served a few years earlier.

http://www.navigators.org/us/

That was the late 1980s, the Cold War was still on and many U.S. troops were stationed in and around Frankfurt, Hessen with their families and children. The Stoda’s ministry with the Navigators and local military families went well in Neu Isenburg. Meanwhile, their two girls, twins (and the oldest of the Stoda kids), entered a German school in Neu Isenburg. One of the girls did quite well in the German language while the other did not.

After a full year of this, Mark and Kim invited the children’s grandmother, Dianne Stoda, to come over and home school the twins. Dianne had nearly 40 years of teaching experience in the state of Illinois. The girls really took off with homeschooling—learning more in a year than their German counterparts did in two. As the oldest Stoda boy was now ready to start school, Dianne and Kim taught him alongside the older girls, too.

VERBOTEN

Suddenly, after about six months of successful homeschooling for the kids, Mark and Kim were contacted by the local school in Neu Isenburg and were informed that home-schooling is against-the-law in Germany. In short, without knowing it, Mark and Kim had broken a German law. A discussion continued between Mark and Kim and the authorities through the spring, when they decided to send the kids back to the USA.

Well, to make a long story short, it was inconsequential to German authorities that one of the daughters had suffered significantly academically and socially in the German school system the year before. German law forbade any parent from taking a child out of school and trying to home school the child themselves—regardless of the years of teaching experience the homeschooling team might have.

Soon, the Stoda and their Navigators program for military personnel in and around Frankfurt was shut down by this intervention of the Hessen state due to the Stoda family’s homeschooling program of their kids. By April 1989, the Stoda clan were back stateside and starting over in California.

I share this story because home-schooling is still forbidden in Germany as of 2009.

Just recently, I came across an article from Birgitta von Lehm called THE FLEEING CLASSROOM (in German: DAS FLIEHENDE KLASSENZIMMER). Originally, vom Lehm’s article was published in the newspaper WELT AM SONNTAG on April 5, 2009. By the article, there is a huge photo of Juergen Dudek of Hessen alongside his seven children and spouse. The couple had been sentenced last year to three months jail for—you guessed it!!!—homeschooling their children.

http://www.welt.de/wams_print/article3505082/Das-fliehende-Klassenzimmer.html

Here is an excerpt of an article about homeschooling in Germany and America:
“Not long ago in America , the general public looked on home-schooling with distrust. These days, parents' rights to teach their own children have become so widely respected that a multitude of counties across the United States (not all, but many) offer flexible support to home-school families. Students might attend chemistry or physics classes at the high school and do the rest of their coursework at home. Only a handful of states have high regulation requirements for home-schoolers, and co-ops have cropped up in areas where homeschooling is popular. The same cannot be said of Germany. While the Berlin Wall came down 19 years ago this month, some old ideas about the state-management of children yet linger. German families who choose to home-school do so at their own risk. Rosemary and Jürgen Dudek were sentenced to 90 days in prison this July because they home-schooled their children. Other families have faced huge fines or have had their children taken from them.German parents Johannes and Cornelia Gorber finally won back full custody of their children earlier this month after welfare workers showed up in vans and took the children away to orphanages in January. It was a traumatic 10 months for the family as they fought to be together again.”
http://educatinggermany.7doves.com/?cat=104

Meanwhile, another German family from Swaben has fled to the USA in the past year and is seeking asylum. The family of Uwe Romeike, a strongly religious German, plans to continue to live in the Smokey Mountains of Tennessee if the U.S. government allows the family to obtain asylum. Romeike claims that good values are not being taught in the German school system. “Uwe, a music teacher, says his choice to home school in Germany cost them expensive fines, months of harassment from the government and having their children taken.”

Uwe indirectly reminds the readers that over the centuries historically religious groups have had to flee various lands in order to achieve religious or educational freedom. In Uwe’s case his children had been taken. "’They took the children by force. They were very rude,’ Uwe says. [It's currently illegal to home school in Germany.] If the family had remained in the country, Romeike says the government could have tried to place his children in foster care.”




NO BIG FAN OF HOMESCHOOLING, BUT PEOPLE SHOULD HAVE CHOICE

Those who have read some of my blog articles in the past know that I am not the strongest fan of home schooling. I was educated to teach in public schools and think that public schools have more to offer than private schools. On the other hand, my cousins, Matt and June Hobson in the state of Washington, have raised two wonderful kids. The Hobsons have done so “mostly” by successfully homeschooling over the past two decades.

I say “mostly” because for the Hobsons (and for many other children and parents in America these days), the decision to home-school or to have children attend other forms of schooling has been a question of choice for several decades. Now, up to 1.5 million Americans are choosing homeschooling over private and public school education. In the case of the Hobson kids, both the boy and the girl chose on their own to enter the public school arena full-time during their high school years—and were encouraged in their choice by their parents. In short, homeschooling can be part of an education program for children. [It need not be a permanent state of affairs for children or family.]

Only one political party in Germany, the Free Democrats (FDP), supports home schooling. The FDP are currently in opposition to the German national government, but the FDP has done twice as well as usual in recent local- and European elections, so the FDP may be on the governing coalition by autumn 2009.

Patrick Meinhardt, education speaker for the FDP notes, “I don’t want to start writing up a lot of new rules for homeschooling. I imagine that as long as some state control over the curriculum and teacher training remains, home schooling should not be restricted any more.” In short, the FDP advocates using the laws on the books for private schools, in order to finally open the door to home-schooling in Germany.

The other German parties, however, generally oppose homeschooling more out of tradition and fear that the teachers and their materials will be substandard. However, another valid worry is the fear that Christian-, Muslim-, fascist-, or other fundamentalist groups will repress the children, especially female children. One Christian Democratic Union (one of the parties of the current German government) notes, “Imagine what Islamic fundamentalists could do here in German! The parents would run the home schools and the girls would never even learn to speak a word of German.”

In some ways, such an argument is a red herring as many of Germany’s youth and parents are not all that happy with the German education system, which has not been keeping up with the times in changes in demographics and work place needs. Home schooling could certainly be a free market means of forcing reforms in the system that Germany has yet to undergo in this millennium in terms of raising youth for the future.

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