"We . . know of [several families] who are in hiding…It is becoming clear how the Jews must have felt under Hitler." -- Richard Guenther, Schulunterricht zu Hause

Educational Issues in Germany Put American Homeschooling in Perspective
After facing negative reports by CBS News and The New York Times, many homeschooling parents feel that they are under attack. By suggesting that there is a link between home education and child abuse, the recent stories have planted a dangerous seed in public opinion, and anonymous tip procedures are expected to rise against home educators in America. According to Michael Smith, President of the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA), "Child Protective Services are obligated to follow-up these reports and homeschool families will face unwarranted harassment."

Across the globe, however, American homeschoolers are viewed with respect and perhaps a touch of envy. The freedom they experience is immense compared to the current educational situation in Germany. As a research paper by Amanda Petrie of the Department of Education at the University of Liverpool, England states, "Home education is permitted in some form or other in all the European countries studied except Germany."

All school-aged German citizens are required by law to be instructed by a certified school or teacher. Specifics vary according to each German state with a few provisions allowing for religious convictions, but even those provisions involve lengthy certifications and extensive testing. Even when home education is allowed, it can be revoked at the whim of almost any local school or government official. In the case of one German family, school board officials demanded that the children take a state authorized test. Then, when the children passed with top grades, the officials ruled that they should still be forced to attend school. The reason? "Our system needs children like them."

"Violence due to drugs, sex, and indecent dress and behavior here is incredible," said German homeschooler Richard Guenther. Guenther is a board member of Schulunterricht zu Hause (School Instruction at Home), a legal defense organization founded by HSLDA for German homeschoolers. "Half of the parents who contact us are taking their children out of school for religious reasons," said Guenther. "[the other] half [want to homeschool] because their children are being severely beaten and mobbed by other students while the teachers turn their backs. At bus stops and in areas around the school and even on school grounds smoking among 9 and 10 year olds is a common sight."

Guenther believes the problem with the German system is not their lack of dedication, but rather their uneven focus. "State authorities relentlessly hunt down parents [homeschool] . . . and at the same time they turn their backs on the parents of students in the street who refuse to go to school," he said. "The parents who wish to protect their children or provide them with a better education than the schools [offer] are treated literally as dogs."

Parents Risk Fines and Imprisonment to Protect their Children
In April of 2003, School Instruction at Home faced its first case when attorney Gabriele Eckermann successfully represented Michael and Sigrid Bauer. Parents of eight children (ranging from 10 months to 16 years old), the Bauers were concerned with the German school's exclusive teaching of the theory of evolution and "constant confrontation" to the topic of sexuality.

"We know American public schools also have sex-ed courses, but . . . what we are having here cannot be equated," said Richard Guenther. "X-rated films are tame in comparison." According to Guenther, judges who asked to see the latest "sex-education program" were greatly embarrassed by the pornographic-like material as they viewed it. Yet the schools maintain that parents are unfit to teach their own children, even about such personal matters. School Instruction at Home does not agree. "Sexual education leads to an early sexualisation of students," maintained attorney Eckerman in his defense of the Bauer family.