Greetings from Southern, Germany. You may have noticed that there haven’t been many pictures posted lately… or many travelogues describing where we’ve been or what we’ve seen. This is because we’re hiding… along with lots of other families who home school in Germany.
It has been difficult to get here. Trading e-mails for months while one brave family “felt us out.” Then an eager flood of families inviting us to visit them, talk to the media on their behalf, tell them what it is like to live with our children in complete freedom. They were keen to share their stories that families elsewhere might know, and care, and pray for the hearts of the German officials and for reform in the laws regarding parental rights and education. We were welcomed with open arms as extended family and have been overwhelmed by the love and generosity and faith of these families.
The first morning, camped in the back yard of a home schooling family, we woke to the sounds of children laughing and playing across the street at the local elementary school. The scene inside their house was quite different. We were met with joyful smiles and very quiet children. They sneaked around the house, talking in hushed tones, with the curtains drawn.
No one must see the children.
After breakfast we joined in bilingual family worship with our hostess on piano and our daughter on violin. Their oldest son moved around the house shutting windows in a business like manner.
No one must hear the children singing.
Our children shared in their silence and their hiding for just one day and were restless. For their children, this is their whole life. They are home schoolers and they live with the constant threat of being discovered and having their children removed from their home.
Home schooling is considered “child abuse.”
We spent a long weekend with these families. We were invited to attend their annual meeting and speak to a reporter who is sympathetic to their cause. They were so excited to have us there because we were “free” to really speak of our experience fully to the reporter, while they were not.
It was amazing to hear their stories:
- One family told us of how their children would hide in cupboards when the neighbours came to the door or the mailman delivered the mail. Sometimes hiding for two hours while some unsuspecting neighbour invited herself to tea.
- A South African mother came up and introduced herself, laughing, “I’m going to prison in three weeks for home schooling my children. The funny thing is that I’m a teacher in a private school! They’re sending a teacher to prison for teaching!”
- A mother from Tennessee, married to a German has been fined, but so far, nothing more… “The home schooling part is so great! We’re having a blast. The kids learn so fast and it is such a good fit for our family, we love it! We’re hopeful the laws will change soon.”
- The Busekros family invited us to stay at their home. They were in the media a few years ago for home schooling. Their fifteen year old daughter was removed from their home and put into foster care without her parents knowing where she was. The officials moved her around to keep her location secret. She escaped and returned home and, so far, has been allowed to remain there.
The stories go on and on. All of these families have paid heavy fines and have spent years in litigation to have the right to teach their own children. In every case, they have been denied the right.
The current educational law will be seventy years old on July 6th. It was one of the first acts of Adolf Hitler to create a state school system in order to control the minds of the youth. When democracy was established in Germany changing this law was overlooked.
Not only do families not have the right to home school their children, parents do not have the right to direct their child’s education within the school system. Teachers have the right to parent the children without the consent of the actual parents. Whatever the teacher decides to teach the parents cannot counter.
Lori, one mother we met in Mainz, an American, told us the story of her fourth grade son being forced for two weeks to watch hours of pornography, including homosexuality, in school without advance notice or permission. When they objected (strongly) they were told they could not take him out of the classes, and if they tried the police would be sent to their house and their son would be forcibly taken from their home to the police station where he would be forced to watch the movies as these were part of the educational process.
She had tears running down her face as she told us about her son crying in the night because he could not get the images out of his head. The parents have no rights. When they complain, the children are treated badly at school and held back as a result, even to the point of not being able to go to university.
It is shocking that Germany, a progressive, first world nation, is also the only democracy in the world to deny parents the right to direct the education and upbringing of their own children.
It has taken us several days to just process what it means for these families to live in constant fear of losing their children over teaching them math and spelling without the supervision and approval of the school system… even if the parent is a teacher!
Our hostess came unglued when she turned left where she should not have on the way home from church and the traffic camera took her picture, “It means I’ll lose my driver’s license, and the police will come and I’m not supposed to be here! I am supposed to be living in another country! They will see the children!” Her husband did his best to console her, but a simple traffic violation could cost them thousands of euro and maybe their children.
I can’t imagine that. Can you?
We spent a lot of time listening and asking these families what it is that we (Americans in general) could do for them. They said they appreciate the letters that have been written on their behalf to the German authorities, but they aren’t sure how much it affected the outcomes. The Germany authorities don’t seem to care much about what the rest of the world thinks in this regard.
The one thing they were unanimous in requesting was prayer. There are churches all over the world praying for these families and for the hearts of the German officials to be softened. They would like us to pray. They would like you to pray too.
We hopped on a train and moved on Monday morning. Our hostess sneaked her children down to the station to see us off. “I told them to sneak through the garage and to lay down on the floor of the van, to sneak like bad guys, but we’re not bad guys!” Both sets of children were teary. Fun was had by all and a friendship formed that I hope will last a lifetime.
This morning we’re on an American military base enjoying the freedom we have to let our kids play in the street on their bikes and yell as much as they like. I can’t help but think of our new friends, a few hours to the south, quietly shepherding their children through their illegal math and English lessons, praying that one day their kids can play in the street on a Friday morning too.
The names of the families have been changed, or omitted, except for those who have been exposed and are already in the press for home schooling.