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Entries in Swedish Homeschooling (8)


Swedish Homeschoolers Walk to Freedom—July 13 to 19, 2012

If you're like me you can't fly to Sweden to join in their protests against their draconian homeschooling law, but you certainly want to support their effort. As the following short film shows, many families have chosen to leave Sweden and live where they are allowed to homeschool instead of compelling their children to attend conventional Swedish schools. It is an awful situation for learners who do not thrive in conventional schools, and for teachers who seek personalized, non-standard ways for helping children when conventional methods fails. As the organizers note in the film, Sweden is in violation of the European Commission on Human Rights by denying parents the right to educate their children according to their own religioius and philosophical beliefs.

To learn more about the protest walk watch the video below and visit one of these links for donations and more information:!/WalkToFreedom



The Dark Side of Government Schooling in Sweden

In 2011 Sweden banned homeschooling "except under exceptional circumstances," forcing some families to immediately leave the country in order to continue homeschooling and others to stay and see what would happen. Those who stayed have faced very stiff fines for every day they homeschool their children, though to date no one has been taken to court for payment. But it appears this will soon change. Swedish educationists want to be sure that children have the right to go to school, but not the reciprocal right to decline and learn in other types of settings, such as at home and in their communities. A strange “right” this is—the right to be forced to attend school under threat of fines, the right to lose your children to social services, and the right to only follow instructions from government agencies about what you can and can’t do for your children’s education.

There is a Swedish news article about making this explicit in their law; my friends in Sweden have translated this blog entry by one of the proposal’s proponents, Lotta Edholm:

Today I have written an opinion piece together with Ann-Katrin Åslund (Liberal Party) in Aftonbladet asking that the social services act be changed so that the social authorities have the possibility act when children are held from away school by their parents - often for religious or ideological reasons. Every child has a right to an education. The school law states that education shall "be designed in accordance with democratic values and human rights". This is incompatible with a system where parents simply can refuse to send their children to school and the social services has no support in law to intervene. Deputy Minister of Social Affairs, Maria Larsson, who is also responsible for conditions for children, should take an initiative to change the social services act so that the social authorities can intervene when children are kept away from school by their parents.


There are significant differences in social attitudes and laws between Sweden and the United States, so it is not useful to simply say that US law is better than Swedish law and they should be more like us. But there is a very strong assumption by the Swede’s that education is a science that can only performed by those who are certified in it, and challenging that perception may be the hinge for successfully challenging the Swedish homeschooling ban. Here are some ideas on that topic:

If there is one correct way to educate all children, why are there so many different pedagogies? If education is only the result of instruction performed by professionals in schools, why do countries with lots of educational options, such as Finland and Denmark, flourish? There is a large research base that supports informal learning and other models besides government schooling: How does Sweden justify ignoring a human’s innate ability to learn on his or her own, as we’ve done for centuries before compulsory schooling became the norm (around 1850), as well as all the research that supports intrinsic motivation, autodidactic behavior, and learning by doing as deep sources for educational excellence? What about the Pippi Longstockings—those children who do not respond to control and prediction in classroom settings but nonetheless succeed in life? Getting parents involved in their children's education is vital according to every piece of research I have read, so why must parents stop at a certain point? Why must education be either/or (school/homeschool) and not both/and? I can go on, but I’ll stop here for now.

Underlying a lot of this discussion, from what I can tell by reading in translation, is also a fear of “the other”: people whose religious, educational, or political beliefs are different from the government’s beliefs. We have struggled with this issue in our own country and have created a pluralist society that tolerates many ways of living and growing, though it is hardly perfect. Nonetheless, we are at least making an effort at inclusion in the United States; it remains to be seen if such tolerance for “the other” will continue in Sweden.


Leaving Sweden in Order to Homeschool Their Children

The situation in Sweden is a stark reminder to homeschoolers everywhere about the power of the state and professional organizations to stamp out family-based teaching and learning situations with the justification that only Big Schooling can provide all children with a proper education.

According to this logic, professionally licensed and operated education is a right that should not be denied children; apparently it is also a right unlike other rights, since children MUST exercise it in one way: to attend school. Unlike the right to voting or free speech, which you can choose to use or not use based on your personal needs and opinions, this right does not allow children or families any right to refuse it.

The fact that meaningful teaching and learning take place outside of school for children and adults every day, and has been this way well before compulsory schools were invented about 150 years ago, is ignored by Big Schooling proponents who feel that family life must conform to Big Shooling's demands. Flexischooling and other blends of school and family life, as well as learning how people can learn and do things totally on their own, are totally wiped-out and ignored with this brutish approach to standardized education. Most importantly, as Jenny and her son make clear in their comments, choosing to learn at home is not necessarily a rejection of school; it can also be a desire for more connection and deeper relationships with family and community, human needs that are often not met for all people in school systems.

Jenny Lantz, a Swedish homeschooler I've been in touch with during the Swedish government's persecution of homeschooling, has written this report about how her family, and others in Sweden, are becoming expatriates in order to continue living and learning with their children. The Swedish media outlet Rapport ran a story about this and Jenny and her friend, Mary Jack, have translated the video and news report into English; the original Swedish versions appear in the link to Rapport.

22 May 2011 Rapport

The new school law which comes into effect this summer means that it will be nearly impossible to [obtain permission to] homeschool. Several families are against the changes [in the law] and are now leaving Sweden.

Rapport has met with the Lantz family who are now house hunting on Åland in order to be able to continue homeschooling.

  • "We wish to be together. We like to have the children with us and the children likes to be at home. Both they and we have an incredible freedom in such a lifestyle," says Jenny Lantz.

Children's Right

But the Minister of Education offers no hope for change.

  • "I think this is unfortunate. I believe that all children in Sweden have the right to go to school and it is the child that has this right. Parents should not be able to deny their children this right," says Jan Björklund.

He receives a reprise from Nicklas Lantz.

  • The Lantz family consists of two adults and three children. Nicklas and Jenny have their own business and Nicklas works part time as a plumber, professions that they could take with them to Åland where they now live in a camper while awaiting their own house.
  • "I like to be able to be with my family all the time. I feel happier that way, having friends and close family," says their son Lukas.


Approximately 100 children are homeschooled in Sweden, but as of autumn 2011 only parents of severly ill children will receive permission to (continue to) homeschool.

  • "In the upper grades (grade 7-9) we have sixteen different subjects. Many highly trained teachers with expertise in the various subjects are required to educate a student in the higher grades. There is no chance that parents can completely replace this teaching," says Minister of Education Jan Björklund.
  • "Should we find that we cannot teach ourselves the subject, or lack the time or the opportunity to do so, we can find someone who is knowledgeable and can help the kids," says Jenny Lantz.

So far, three Swedish families have settled on Åland because they wish to homeschool. And they are not alone.

  • "More (of us) will leave Sweden. We know of families who are planning to move here, and we know of families who are planning to move to England, the US and Canada," says Jenny Lantz.

On Åland, the requirement is learning, not school.

  • Families meet regularly with the school personnel in order to ensure that the children are learning, and through testing the children can earn the right to higher education.

 "It´s not about us being angry with school, or school being poor. That´s not the reason for us to homeschool. It´s a form of education that suits us. We enjoy being close to the children," says Jenny Lantz.


A Matter of Conscience

Kelly Green has written a series of rousing essays and commentary about contemporary homeschooling that deserve to be read by any homeschooler who is thinking about the national and international social and political situations homeschooling now faces. Ms. Green, an experienced homeschooling parent and group leader who lives in Canada, uses current events in the United Kingdom and Sweden, in particular, to drive home her points. As a homeschooling political activist, Ms. Green draws upon and comments on her work with the Canadian government, helping ground her political views with practical strategies and tactics.

The United Kingdom situation, described in blog posts on this site and easily found on the Internet (Search on “The Badman Report”), is convincingly presented as a case of professional overreaching and media bias against homeschooling. The now-discredited report claimed that homeschooling parents were two to three times more likely than the general population to abuse their children. The media reported it, accepting the government consultant’s report at face value, and British homeschoolers were tarnished as a group and threatened with severe regulation. It took a major effort to halt the bad legislation that was marshaled in response to the report; though halted, there is no reason to relax one’s guard. As Ms. Green points out, the underlying arguments in such political actions are that parents can’t be trusted to care for their own children and children can’t be trusted to learn without going to school; both groups require the ministrations of professionals, and the professional class requires clients to grow. For instance, in Sweden, as part of the government’s successful move to make homeschooling illegal, Green writes, “I was amazed, recently, to learn of the frontal assault by teachers on home educators in Sweden. They were encouraging children to wear t-shirts that said, “Every Child has the Right to be Taught by a Professional Teacher.” This argument looms for all homeschoolers, and the work of Ivan Illich, John McKnight, and Mahdu Prakash and Gustavo Esteva in Escaping Education, are important touchstones for homeschoolers to reference as we insist on learning in our own ways in the face of professional overreaching and bureaucratic development.

Green presents some strong arguments against any government attempt to standardize families and how they learn, including some interesting insights into Tasmania, which, for reasons that have eluded me, is considered an excellent model for homeschooling regulation by UK and Irish homeschoolers. Ms. Green shows all is not well in Tasmania for homeschoolers, nor is it time to rest in the UK either: Green ends her book with a description of recent unfair media attacks upon homeschooling in Scotland.

Her sources in England provide fascinating first-hand accounts of the turmoil and fear homeschoolers faced during the months of media coverage, Parliamentary debate and intrigue. Further, many of her larger points also resonated with me, particularly her essay “So What’s Wrong with a Parallel Society Anyway?” Germany and Sweden have used this argument, in conjunction with the professionals-only argument, to stop homeschooling in their countries. Green writes:

Societies have very different ways of handling minority groups and “outsiders.” I have to admit that one of the things I love about my adopted country of Canada is the way Canadian society makes a good faith effort to respect the cultures and wishes of its many minority populations … I arrived here [in Canada] in the post-Pierre Trudeau moment of multiculturalism, and I have loved living in a place where the dominant image is of a Cultural Mosaic as opposed to a Melting Pot. I don’t want to be an ingredient in a soup, thank you very much. I would much prefer to be my own individual paint blob or bit of glass in a work of art.

As the son of a proud Italian-American father (my mother says she’s a Heinz: 57 different varieties mixed-up in her gene pool!), I grew up around some family members who were more comfortable speaking Italian than English, who loved to visit “Little Italy” in Manhattan, yet, were also incredibly in love with, and loyal to, the United States. I know, firsthand, that a country can thrive without its population being homogeneous.

I do have reservations about some of the book’s essays, such as the one about social engineering; it echoes arguments about Outcome-Based Education we heard in the early nineties in the United States and Green’s essay doesn’t really add anything new. I think Green’s social engineering argument could have been more strongly linked to the parallel society issue, thereby moving the issue beyond standard conservative talking points on OBE.

By arguing that education is a freedom or a right that should be protected by the government, we end up becoming dependent on the courts and government officials for guaranteeing that right, which, in turn, makes that right or freedom dependent upon future court and political decisions. Right now, our personal learning, and whom we decide to learn with or from, is currently our own family’s business until we become compulsory school age; then, in some places, we must register as homeschoolers to continue learning as we want to do. By encouraging a "rights mind-set" to protect homeschooling we will probably be protecting lawyers' and politicians' jobs more than our right to homeschool. Green does not go down this path in her book, but whenever someone claims something is a "fundamental freedom" I worry what the next step will be in their argument.

One of my favorite passages in this book deals with the issue of government regulation of homeschooling. Green notes, “Suddenly, the state is a member of your family, making sure that you are doing “it” right, whatever “it” is. So instead of just living, you are living, like the Truman Show, with a camera in your life, in your brain, watching your every move. You find yourself stepping back from the moment, from the experience, thinking how you will write this up in eduspeak to please the “monitors,” the “authorities,” the teacher who has been assigned to sign off on your educational provision. That’s not life; that’s performance art.”

Ms. Green makes a point early in the book that she is in favor of notifying the government when families want to homeschool their children, a point I support, though for slightly different reasons. She writes:

A notification-only law is not the same as registration. It is not a licensing scheme. It implies no power on the part of the state to refuse permission to home educate.

At the same time, the family would be notifying the state of its intent to maintain complete control and administration of the child’s education. This could, possibly, benefit home educators in several ways.

By making such an intent official, home-educated children could never be confused with those classified as “missing education,” or “excluded,” or “truant.” Those terms would be restricted to students whose relationship with public school has broken down, not those who have chosen to have no relationship with public school whatsoever.

… Finally, such a system allows for a multi-tiered approach. Those families who want a notification-only relationship with their local authorities can have just that. Those families that want some level of support may be able to enter into negotiations with the local authority to see what might be available to them (although, traditionally, this approach does come with strings attached).


Further, there is, to me, an important point that gets muddled in this book, namely, that education is not the same as teaching and learning. Education is the professional commoditization of teaching and learning, whereas teaching and learning are everyone’s birthright. Teaching and learning are natural activities, two heads of the same coin, that we can unconsciously engage in, such as when a parent coos and babbles at their newborn child, or that we can consciously engage in, when we have the need or desire to do so. Educators have long-encouraged strong distinctions between informal learning and formal learning, devaluing the former and promoting the latter. But careful observers of how people learn, such as John Holt, Peter Drucker, and Sir Ken Robinson, show us how porous those informal/formal distinctions are in the worlds of childhood, work, and academics, and how informal learning is far-more used in life and work than our formal learning in classes is used. Yes, there are instances where specialized, formal instruction makes sense—I want someone trained in brain surgery to operate on my head—but that doesn’t mean we all need to go through medical school, just those who chose to and have the ability to do so.

I encourage you to read and discuss Kelly Green’s important contribution to homeschooling. It is a timely overview about the problems homeschooling is currently facing worldwide. Just because things are okay for homeschoolers in North American now, doesn’t mean our situations will remain that way. All it took in Germany was one family’s court case to make homeschooling illegal for all German citizens. In Sweden, politicians and educators fueled fears about people who are different and coupled it with a belief that professional education made other forms of learning unnecessary; that’s all it took to make homeschooling illegal there in less than a year. In the UK, a report by a consultant to the government nearly made independent homeschooling extinct in a few months. We delude ourselves if we think such things can’t happen to us; laws and attitudes can change quickly, particularly when institutional hubris, social conformity, and money collide. Green’s A Matter of Conscience: Education as a Fundamental Freedom provides us with much food for thought and action in this matter.


Sweden Bans Homeschooling: What would Pippi Longstocking say?

Educational Freedom Takes Another Hit: Sweden makes homeschooling illegal

Our homeschooling friends in Sweden have suffered a major blow: On June 22, 2010 the Swedish Parliament effectively wiped-out the ability of families to choose homeschooling except under “exceptional circumstances.” Swedish homeschoolers explain why this is so bad on their website:

The writing on homeschooling in the new law is basically the same as in the old law. The law requires a fully satisfactory alternative to school and that the authorities can look into the homeschooling. However, the new law adds a third requirement: "there must be exceptional circumstances". Lawyers have told us that “exceptional circumstances” in a Swedish juridical context means as close to a definite "no" as you can get, regardless of the circumstances.

Also in the motivational text of the law, which explains how the new law on homeschooling is to be interpreted, the following can be read:

"Current school conventions make it clear that the education in school shall be comprehensive and objective, and thereby be created so that all pupils can participate, no matter what religious or philosophical views the pupil or its legal guardian/s may have. In accordance with this it is the opinion of the Government that there is no need of a law to make possible homeschooling based on the religious of philosophical views of the family."

Page 523 in Prop. 2009/10:165 (Swedish Government proposition)


So with the stroke of a pen we see how one’s religious and philosophical views are viewed as subjective baggage that government bureaucrats can dictate to be discarded and left at the door of government schooling. I’m surprised that Swedish alternative schools didn’t kick up more of a fuss about how this law will affect them, but my understanding is that they, too, are of recent vintage in Sweden and therefore are not that well established as a political or social force.

My contacts in Sweden have indicated they will probably move to Great Britain next year, which recently dodged it's own bullet to educational freedom (see my earlier entries re. The Badman Report), when the law takes effect, so they can continue homeschooling in accordance to their religious and philosophical beliefs. Swedish homeschoolers note that their government hates bad publicity and hope that an international outcry might shame the government into repealing or not enforcing the law.

The fierce independence and unconventional philosophical views of Pippi Longstocking, one of Sweden's most famous fictional characters and an autodidact, certainly seem diminished in light of this law. Indeed, a modern-day Pippi would have to flee to a country with more educational and personal freedom than Sweden in order to have her adventures now. Perhaps we should encourage all homeschoolers to boycott travel and goods from Sweden until they allow families the educational freedom to raise and teach their children in accordance with their religious and philosophical views?