In March 2003, Home School Legal Defense Association alerted its members to the plight of six small-town families arrested for homeschooling. At first glance, this may have seemed unusual. Are families actually arrested for homeschooling anymore? While it is almost unheard of for parents to be arrested for educating their children at home in the United States, it is occurring with increasing frequency in other countries around the world as more parents choose to teach their own children.

The six families in question live in Ukraine. Word reached Home School Legal Defense Association through a Russian missionary that legal proceedings were underway to deprive these families of their parental rights and remove their children from their homes. Ironically, the law in Ukraine, a country controlled until recently by the communist Soviet Union, allows for homeschooling. Yet local officials in the Kaliya region of Ukraine were prosecuting homeschoolers anyway.

These Ukrainian families were eventually allowed to continue homeschooling in peace, due in large part to the outcry from HSLDA members in the United States. This situation is a prime example of how homeschooling is growing around the world, and how homeschoolers in the United States can help spread educational freedom and parents' rights.

Homeschooling goes global
It is clear that home education is no longer just an American phenomenon. For years now, HSLDA has watched homeschooling spread well beyond the borders of the United States. In Canada, homeschooling took off in the 1980s almost as soon as it did in America. Then other Western nations, such as Australia, New Zealand, England, and South Africa, caught on to the idea.

"Our involvement internationally started with inquiries from homeschoolers moving out of the United States," says Michael Smith, president of HSLDA. "As time went on, however, we began to get requests for help from citizens of other countries where homeschooling was illegal."

American missionaries and military families who homeschool introduced many in other countries to home education. Parents around the world were beginning to react to the problems of institutionalized government-run schools. Soon more of Europe and parts of Asia began to see parents looking into home education. They contacted HSLDA to find out what had happened in the United States and to get ideas for their own legal and grassroots strategies to legalize homeschooling.

"It was exciting for us [HSLDA] to be the ones they were contacting for help," says Chris Klicka, HSLDA's attorney who now handles international contacts.

In addition, the advent of the World Wide Web facilitated the flow of information about homeschooling. Over the internet, parents in other countries could easily discover an array of information on the success of homeschooling.

The fights for freedom
In the early 1990s, HSLDA began studying international home education. In addition to becoming a clearinghouse for information, helping draft laws, and advising government officials and homeschool leaders in other countries, HSLDA began to encourage American homeschoolers to help by sending out national alerts asking them to contact foreign embassies and parliaments. This involvement by the United States has had significant impact.

>> In South Africa, two homeschooling parents were freed from prison. Eventually, home education was legalized after U.S. homeschoolers flooded the South African embassy with phone calls. 
>> In Germany, a 1998 case against a homeschooling family was dropped within three weeks after thousands of calls were made to the German embassy. Another case decided in a homeschooling family's favor this year became the first formal recognition of the validity of homeschooling in Germany.