Homeschooling is Officially Illegal in Spain

Homeschooling was declared illegal in Spain in December 2010, mainly because there is no language in the Spanish constitution that permits it. Madalen Goiria, a Spanish citizen and a law professor, notified me that this case “comes after an appeal to the Constitutional Court numbered 7509/2005 against a previous decision by the Audiencia de Malaga, put forward by two families: Antonio Gómez, Maria Socorro Sanchez, Florian Macarró and Anabelle Gosselint. The Constitutional Court decision has come five years later and it is dated 2nd December 2010.” The essence of the constitutional court decision is that homeschooling is not a right under Spanish law and therefore all children must attend formal school. The court notes that laws can be made that allow for more flexibility and choices for families, but until then homeschooling is illegal in Spain.

Spanish homeschoolers will likely appreciate any sign of solidarity they can get as they are now an oppressed minority in their own country. Creating new laws and amending a constitution are tall tasks for any group to take on, but that seems to be the order of business for Spanish homeschoolers. Homeschoolers in Spain will probably need to create alliances with politicians, family rights groups, and educators who will support new homeschooling legislation, as well as create public support for alternatives to school for children. This is no small task, as we know from our own efforts in the United States, but it is possible.

Further, civil disobedience, such as refusing to send one’s children to school, can be a spark that can bring support from non-homeschooling parties who support educational freedom, but I don’t think it is called for at this time. Videos and photos of children being forcibly separated from their parents to attend compulsory schooling can stir powerful emotions in the public, but it is not clear to me at all that there are enough homeschoolers in Spain, nor enough support for homeschooling there, to suggest that parents risk losing custody of their children over homeschooling. After all, in Sweden and Germany public opinion appeared to be against homeschoolers and media appeals in those countries didn’t do much to move public opinion in favor of homeschooling. For now, I think Spanish homeschoolers should build a larger base of support and advocacy, then, if necessary, move towards more dramatic measures. For instance, I read how “the regional government of Catalonia announced in 2009 that parents would be allowed to homeschool their children up to 16 years.” So there might be some legal precedents and lawmakers for Spanish homeschoolers to work with in this regard. Also, the creation of alternative schools that enlist parents as teachers in their program (“umbrella schools” is the phrase used here in the U.S.), enrolling their children in distance learning programs that are recognized by the government, and just plain old “underground homeschooling,” as some did, and still do, in the U.S., could be options Spanish families can use. I’m not sure if any of these ideas can work given the legal framework of Spain, but I want to mention them for those who seek to continue helping their children learn in Spain without sending them to school.

We should not dismiss this development as “Well, that’s too bad for the Spanish. They’re not lucky enough to live in a country like the U.S. that has constitutional protections for families to raise and educate their children without undue government regulation.” There is truth to that statement, but there is also myopia.

Though this situation does not directly affect our ability to homeschool in the United States, it is important for us to realize that the underlying issues that cause governments to force children by law to receive professional formal education and make alternative forms of learning illegal are universal. Universal compulsory education is a commodity that is useful for all sorts of political purposes. Compulsory schooling occurs in democracies and in dictatorships; the school bell rings and we must attend to it regardless of our country’s political structures. We need to be alert to what’s happening to homeschooling in other countries; laws and public attitudes towards people who do things differently than the majority can often change suddenly.

NOTE: If you can read Spanish, here are two resources for you. You can download this transcription of the Spanish Court’s decision here.

You can also read about the development of a new group that wants to make homeschooling legal in Spain: Educacion libre.