Letter to the Swedish Parliament regarding Homeschooling
At the request of homeschoolers in Sweden, who are facing an outright ban on homeschooling in their country, I sent the following letter of support on Monday, 5/10/10.
To the Swedish Parliament regarding proposed changes to homeschooling legislation.
I have been asked by my fellow homeschoolers in Sweden to write to you as a concerned educator who has studied, written about and participated in homeschooling for over 29 years as a father of three daughters and as publisher of Growing Without Schooling magazine.
The one-size-fits-all model of education that is delivered through government schools is quickly becoming a thing of the past as free market education options, such as vouchers, for-profit schools, distance learning and, especially, home schools continue to gain ground worldwide as citizens seek more individualized educations for their children.[i] Indeed, Per Unckel, a Governor of Stockholm and former Minister of Education, explained the need for allowing educational options for Swedish citizens to an American reporter in 2009: "Education is so important that you can’t just leave it to one producer. Because we know from monopoly systems that they do not fulfill all wishes."[ii] The legislation you are considering, Chapter 24 Paragraph 23 of the proposed new Swedish school law, will create such a monopoly by outlawing homeschooling except under “exceptional circumstances.” I urge you to vote against this change to Swedish law in order to preserve a family’s right to choose from a variety of educational offerings, including private and home schools. The state should not have a monopoly on education, either of schools or methods. To reduce educational choice for Swedish citizens to a mandatory selection of pre-packaged commodities presented by the government is hardly a real choice.
Not all children flourish in state schools, which is one reason why Sweden became a world-leader in free market education by introducing education vouchers in 1992. This decision raised controversy due to concerns that educational choice might result in increased social segregation, particularly regarding homeschoolers. However, research and history has shown that allowing different social groups to control the education of their children does not necessarily result in increased segregation and that tolerance for pluralism is a necessary component of democratic societies.
Dr. Christian Beck has studied homeschooling and social integration in Norway and concludes:
“…among home educators who are registered and monitored, home-based education also appears to produce well-socialized students. The greatest difficulties with regard to social integration have to do with unregistered home educators.”[iii]
Making homeschooling illegal, or extremely difficult to do, will result in more families becoming unregistered home educators in Sweden or, as is currently happening in Germany, it will result in families seeking political asylum in countries that permit homeschooling. The bad publicity, complex court cases, and educational rigidity that will flow from banning homeschooling in Sweden can easily be overcome if the government and schools cooperate with families in their efforts to be involved in their children’s education rather than prosecute them for doing so.
The homeschooling movement is quite small in Sweden and it is likely to remain small. Indeed, even in countries such as the United States, that has seen considerable growth in homeschooling in recent years, it only represents 3% of the total school-age population. Homeschooling is also not a permanent condition for many families; one researcher claims that only 15% of secular homeschoolers and 48% of religious homeschoolers continue to homeschool in the United States after 6 years, and there have been no serious difficulties with homeschooled students who matriculate into schools.[iv]
There are many more pressing educational matters before Swedish schools than homeschooling. For instance, on any given day in Sweden there are far more students who are truant from school than there are homeschoolers being educated. Wouldn’t the energy and money being spent to restrict families who want to help their children learn at home and in their communities be put to better use by focusing those efforts on truant students who are literally running away from school?
The examples of the United States, Great Britain, Canada, Spain, Australia, and other western democracies that have growing homeschooling populations prove that the state does not need a universal curriculum administered through state schools to create good citizens. It is widely noted that homeschooled citizens who enter into adult work or college are equally or more engaged in political, sports, entertainment, scientific, and social endeavors when compared to their schooled counterparts.[v]
The popular American author and teacher John Holt, who supported homeschooling after many years as a teacher in private schools and universities, addressed the Minnesota State Legislature when they were considering restricting homeschooling in 1980; the legislature decided not to pass the law. Holt ended his testimony with words that also apply to Swedish homeschooling:
The legislature can affirm the right of parents to teach their own children, while continuing to exercise its constitutional right to assure that all children are being taught… There are and will remain large and legitimate differences of opinion, among experts and nonexperts alike, on the subjects that should be taught to children, on the materials to be used, and on the ways in which this teaching and learning are to be evaluated. Only by allowing and supporting a wide range of education practices can we encourage the diversity of experience from which we can learn to educate our children more effectively, and it is the intent of this legislature to allow and encourage such variety.[vi]
Please vote against the law to change Chapter 24 Paragraph 23. It will not only ban homeschooling, but also severely restrict educational opportunities and personal freedoms for anyone who does not flourish in the conventional education system.
President, Holt Associates Inc.
Author, Teach Your Own: The John Holt Book of Homeschooling (Perseus, 2003)
[i] Brian Ray, Worldwide Guide to Homeschooling, Broadman and Holman, TN, 2002
[iii] Home Education and Social Integration by Dr. Christian Beck. Critical Social Studies, No. 2, 2008. Retrieved on May 5, 2010 from
[iv] Isenberg, E.J. (2007) “What have we learned about homeschooling?” Peabody Journal of Education 82, 387-409.
[v] Scholarly articles on the topic include Home Schooling for Individuals' Gain and Society's Common Good. Brian D. Ray, Peabody Journal of Education, 1532-7930, Volume 75, Issue 1, 2000, Pages 272 – 293; Knowles, J. Gary, & Muchmore, James A. (1995). Yep! We're grown-up home-school kids—and we’re doing just fine, thank you. Journal of Research on Christian Education, 4(1), 35-56; Jones, Paul and Gloeckner, Gene (2004). A study of admission officers’ perceptions of and attitudes towards homeschool students. Journal of College Admission, Special Homeschool Issue 185, 12 -21.
[vi] Teach Your Own: The John Holt Book of Homeschooling (Perseus, 2003), p. 221