The German Question
The other day, while searching for details on Germany’s homeschooling laws, I stumbled upon a blog post entitled “Homeschooling is Not Illegal in Germany.” I’m not going to give you the link because I don’t want to give him anymore clicks than he’s already gotten, but it’s out there if you really want to see it.
Suffice it to say I was upset by it.
Not angry. Just annoyed.
I may have rolled my eyes quite a bit.
First of all, he pulled a little bait-and-switch thing on the unsuspecting reader. If you Googled and found the article, you would be expecting some information about how Germans really do allow you to educate your children at home, but no. That’s not what this guy is talking about. He got you there under false pretenses. What he actually means when he says homeschooling is legal is that you can teach your kid whatever you want, as long as you also allow a “real school” (one with “real teachers” who actually “know stuff”) to do the “real education” because you, the idiot homeschooling parent, can’t possibly have the ability.
Do you see my eyes rolling again?
We’ll come back to that argument later, though. First I have to tell you that this guy thinks that all homeschoolers believe that our children are our property and no one should interfere with our use of them. Really. He said that.
I wonder… How many homeschooling parents does this guy know? I mean, he lives in Germany, right? Homeschooling is illegal there. How, pray tell, does he know what all homeschoolers believe?
I can tell you right now. I know a LOT of homeschoolers. I homeschooled myself. I knew some from church. I knew some from our homeschool support groups (one of which had 200 members), and then I knew thousands from my days participating in, and running, online homeschool discussion forums…and I don’t know any who would say that their children are their property to be used as they wish. NONE.
Then he goes on to quote John Locke, who “insists that parents are not the owners of their children, but their wardens. They must not do whatever they want with them, but have to act in the best interest of their children.”
Yes, Mr. German Blogger. That’s EXACTLY what every homeschooler I’ve ever known believed. Really.
Every. Single. Homeschool Parent I’ve ever met wanted what was best for their children, most of them because they believe children are a gift from God, and that He will hold us responsible for their well-being.
Now, I’m not nearly naive enough to say that there aren’t some out there somewhere who feel that their children are their property to be used for their purposes. Of course there are bad parents who have children and commit terrible abuses, but those are BY FAR the exception to the rule. Most people who take on this challenge know that it is hard work, but they are willing to invest time and money into it precisely because they believe it is best for their children. They’ve seen problems in the schools, or they’ve seen a need in their child that they want to address, or they just want to do their best to provide the kind of education they think will give their child the best future possible.
But Mr. GB wasn’t done. He said his biggest concern is that homeschooling parents will cause mental stunting by not being able to provide adequate instruction in “subjects where you should acquire at least some basic knowledge.”
Mental stunting. Really?
He said that parents who want to homeschool their children make the claim that they are proficient to teach all subjects.
Sigh. My eyes are really getting tired.
Of course not, Mr. GB.
We homeschooling parents don’t say we’re proficient to teach all subjects. We know that we are not. While there are many subjects we are perfectly able to teach without being experts, we can easily find help for those other subjects we wish to supplement. For instance, I took piano lessons when I was a child, but I couldn’t teach much beyond the very basic stuff, so I signed my daughter up for piano lessons. Come to think of it, that’s what I would have done even if she had been in public school for eight hours during the day anyway. The school may teach a bit of music, but they don’t provide one-on-one instruction for some things. Sometimes after-school tutors are necessary, so parents hire one. Sometimes the student wishes to explore something in more depth than the school does, so parents hire someone for that, too.
See there? Even the schools aren’t always “proficient to teach all subjects,” Mr. GB.
Homeschooling parents, in my experience, are usually well enough educated to provide a more-than-adequate elementary and even high school education. They did, after all, graduate high school (and sometimes college) themselves, presumably. For those subjects with which they are less than familiar, a motivated homeschool parent either learns alongside the child (like I did with Latin when my daughter was young) or hires a tutor or outside help. What they don’t do is ignore it completely and pass students along to the next grade when they don’t know anything, as sometimes happens in public schools.
What does the school do about gaps in what they teach? Are we naive enough to believe that the public schools teach every subject proficiently? Please.
Mr. GB, I don’t need to be a genius to teach my child. What I needed was the desire to learn with her if necessary, and some good curriculum and books as resources. She really only needed to know enough to graduate from an American high school and get into college, and she had zero trouble with that. However, the main thing she needed to know – the vital thing all of us need to know – is how to LEARN. She needed to know what to do when she didn’t know something, and that I could easily show her. We learned together. We researched. We explored. We discussed. That, Mr. GB, is the thing that the schools, in my experience, don’t always teach you, and it’s the most important thing of all. Nobody knows it all, but everybody can learn.
But here’s where Mr. GB really can’t stand homeschooling. It’s really about the Big S.
He says, “Homeschooling is apparently also meant to keep your children away from any other influences that you cannot control.”
And, “One obvious point how this leads to stunting is the social development of your children.”
Because homeschoolers “indoctrinate their children any way they want because they are their property.”
Well, sure, if you look at religious instruction as “indoctrination,” then most (but not all) homeschoolers are probably guilty. But so are the brick-and-mortar religious schools that are just fine in Germany.
And let’s be honest. There’s a lot of “indoctrination” going on in the schools, too (because they, too, have a point of view to push), but they influence a lot more than just the kids from one family. They indoctrinate thousands at a time. It’s the ultimate place to influence large numbers of vulnerable little minds. (That’s why the Nazis outlawed homeschooling in the first place, but I digress.)
We here at The Homeschool Library will be dealing with some more of these questions, including the “Big S,” in much more detail later, so I’ll stop for now, but I want to leave you with one more thought, Mr. GB.
Who has the best interests of the child at heart – the parent who chose to have them, fed and clothed them, loves them dearly, and will be there for them long after their school years are over, or the government who doesn’t even know their name? Even the best, most loving school teacher will only have them for nine months out of their life. Does she care more than the parent who is willing to stay at home and dedicate themselves to educating their child, probably giving up a career in the process?