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Political Asylum for Homeschooling?

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Political asylum isn't the first thing that comes to mind when I think of homeschooling. But that's exactly what a Memphis judge granted a German family when they appealed to him.

Romeike Family

Ronda Kaysen: Homeschooling is illegal in Germany; families who homeschool can be fined and even lose custody of their kids. So when Uwe and Hannelore Romeike faced more than $11,000 in fines and the possibility of losing custody of their five kids for homeschooling, they left Germany and moved to Tennessee -- where they fought for political asylum.

To nearly everyone's surprise -- including their own lawyer's -- the judge granted them asylum via a scathing ruling against Germany (hardly a country that one associates with persecution these days).

Immigration judge Lawrence Buman called the German policy "utterly repellent to everything we believe as Americans" and described homeschoolers as a distinct group who have "principled opposition to government policy."

German officials were stunned by the ruling. "We're all surprised, because we consider the German educational system as very excellent," Lutz Hermann Görgens, the German consul general in Atlanta, told The New York TimesGermany's policy fosters the ability "to peacefully interact with different values and different religions," he added.

The Romeikes took their children out of German schools after their two oldest kids began having problems with rowdy, disorderly classmates. As devout Christians, they wanted their children to learn in a different environment. They checked out the nearby religious schools and found them to be not much better than the public school. But after they began homeschooling their kids, they started getting pressure from government officials to send their kids back to public school. Fearing they might lose custody, they decided to leave Germany and apply for asylum in the U.S.

Thousands of people apply for asylum in the U.S. every year. Many have experienced real, visceral persecution. People are fleeing totalitarian governments that will hunt them down and kill them for their beliefs. They're escaping war, torture, imprisonment. I don't think the desire to homeschool fits into the category of social persecution. I'd hardly equate Germany with the countries that most people flee.

Granted, this family might have lost custody had they continued to homeschool. But that doesn't make them persecuted -- it makes them people who don't like the educational policy of their country.

Countries have laws about education. Citizens are expected to follow the laws. If they don't like the laws, they can fight to change them. Germany might be behind the times when it comes to homeschooling rules (most European countries allow it), but I don't see how their  outmoded educational philosophy amounts to persecution.

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19 comments so far | Post a comment now
Kristen March 3, 2010, 5:50 AM

Lets turn this into an argument the masses can understand. You say that not being allowed to homeschool is NOT persecution, well what if the government said you can’t breastfeed or feed your child broccoli, wouldn’t you be up in arms. The government is telling you what is best for your child, that is WRONG.

Katie March 3, 2010, 6:44 AM

Homeschooling is not illegal in Germany. Those seeking homeschool must apply for a waiver. Most people who apply for waivers are seeking to teach their children more Christian values than are offered up in public schools. Since most people ARE turned down, and most people aren’t willing to compromise on religion, many families end up homeschooling illegally in Germany. Whether the rejections have anything to do with religion or not, I have no idea, but it’s estimated that over 6000 families illegally homeschool in Germany.

The religion thing could be a coincidence since the majority of people who apply to homeschool are doing so for religious reasons.

Anonymous March 3, 2010, 9:31 AM


Tanya  March 3, 2010, 9:42 AM

It is persecution when an entire family has been torn apart because government wants to tell you that you may not raise up and teach your children in the best way suited for each individual family. My choice to home-school is one rooted in my spirituality. To not be allowed the my freedoms and to also be punished is absolutely, persecution in it’s true essence.

These illegal home-schooling families in Germany need to get together and make a necessary change to an unjust law. What next, mandatory college? $$$$ It is persecution and tyranny by the government and the people are responsible for taking action. Not saying I wouldn’t have fled my country instead of battling the law…either way the decision is based on what is best for your family. It’s good to see they are getting some recognition and spreading awareness on a human rights issue.

t March 3, 2010, 10:20 AM

The government is doing, what it is supposed to be doing: Protecting the kids against completely unbalanced religious indoctrination and making shure their education is worth anythimg at all. i dont think there are jobs for kids, that were homeschooled by their religiously fanatic parents

Kristen March 3, 2010, 10:57 AM

T, not everyone who is homeschooling is doing so for religious reasons. We are an agnostic family who homeschools because we want our family to be together and I feel that my children can be better educated by me.

Libby March 3, 2010, 1:41 PM

Why would any parent confine their children’s knowledge only to that which the parent knows, robbing those children of the diverse and expansive knowledge of professional educators? Furthermore, why should any society be forced to harbor such?

Homeschooled children are denied the opportunity to learn incredibly valuable lessons about navigating social groups, working alongside those different from themselves, and being both a contributor to and participant in a larger community.

To those who would argue that it’s a parent’s right to confine their children’s experience to that which the parents deign appropriate, I say that is neglect, abuse, and excessive control of precisely the wrong things. All the world needs is more religious wingnuts with zero knowledge of history, psychology, sociology, science. (eyeroll)

Alasandra March 3, 2010, 4:09 PM

Libby, not everyone homeschools for religious reasons. I homeschooled in order for my kids to get the best education possible. My eldest son started college at 16. He has a BS in Computer Science and at 21 is working on his Masters. My youngest is a freshman in college and is Majoring in History. BTW both received scholarships and are working part time to pay the rest.

Homeschooling doesn not limit a child’s knowledge. What an ignorant and offensive statement.

Ingrid March 3, 2010, 6:32 PM

A country “who knows better” taking your children away IS persecution!
Coming to America to raise YOUR CHILDREN in the way YOU see fit because you aren’t allowed to IS seeking asylum!

By the way, What’s up with defending Germany, who became the cliche of persecution and a country people flee IN LIVING MEMORY?

I’m not surprised the judge made that statement. So why was their lawyer???

Chrissy March 3, 2010, 9:47 PM

First off, some parents DO NOT know better. So that is not acceptable agruemnt that parents should raise their kids any way they what. So kids be raised in the KKK? Or that governemnt is evil and it’s okay to kill people working for the Feds?
Or God Hates Fags?
Or pulling a 12 yo girl not of school so she can get married is okay?
All exsist within America.
As far as homeschooling, at some point a single parent or both parents are not going to know the subject matter enough to be able to teach it well enough. I have a masters degree but by no means am I knowledgeable enought to each every subject I took in high school. Especially since our knowledge base has changed in the last 20 years.
There’s a reason many states require a degree in a subject matter along with a degree in education.
I personally would not want to short change my child’s education. Physics, advance calculus, most foreign languages, computer programming - don’t know enough to teach them.

Rebecca @ Playground Confidential March 3, 2010, 10:23 PM

So why Germany? What is different about Germany compared to all the other first world countries? What could it be? Oh, yes. Nazis. I kid you not, I would bet my bottom dollar that the reason Germany has this policy is because they are afraid that people might indoctrinate their children with neo-nazi, white-supremacist beliefs if they homeschool. Would I still argue for the rights of people to educate their children as they best see fit? Even though I think homeschooling is crazy, yes I would. Do I think this family deserved to be granted political asylum in the US? Probably not.

Anonymous March 4, 2010, 7:34 PM

Libby’s crazy.
I don’t homeschool and I wouldn’t. But she’s just crazy.

Carrie March 4, 2010, 8:57 PM

Libby, we homeschool our children, not for religious reasons, but for many other reasons (quality education, morals, fed up with public school issues, family time, traveling, etc.) I have a degree in education and was a public school teacher. Even without the degree, I am far more qualified to teach my children than anyone else. As far as all your opinions regarding homeschooling, maybe you should do your homework. Homeschooled children are far more socialized than public or private schooled children; they have higher self esteem; they do better on equivilancy and college exams; they are actively sought after by colleges and large companies; they do not fall to peer pressure as easily… (I could go on) As far as confining my children to simply my knowledge - Do you honestly think that homeschooling families simply sit at home while Mom lectures to the kids??? We have homeschool groups where often an expert on a field in brought in; we take countless field trips; we learn along side our children in many subjects. Believe me, as a public school educator, you would be surprised what your child’s teacher does not know. Granted there are numerous wonderful educators out there, but they are also bad educators. I’m not willing to throw the dice when it comes to my children.

Betty March 8, 2010, 10:00 PM

“The government is doing, what it is supposed to be doing: Protecting the kids against completely unbalanced religious indoctrination and making shure their education is worth anythimg at all. i dont think there are jobs for kids, that were homeschooled by their religiously fanatic parents”

That is absolutely laughable! The *government* making sure a kid’s education is worth anything at all? Bwahahahahahahahahahaha!

I don’t know anything about Germany’s Constitution - or if they even have one - but I do know that our Constitution says nothing about it being the government’s responsibility to make SURE (there’s no “h” in sure) everyone’s education is worth anything. If that were true, people would be flocking to the hell holes called public schools where they can get a *free* education.

You apparently know nothing about homeschooling in general, yet you criticize it. You know nothing of this family in particular or what they are teaching their children, yet you condemn them.

The problem most people here that are against homeschooling have with these people is their religion (bigots) - not the quality of their education. How many public schooled kids get a crappy education? How many of you wrote scathing articles about it?

Some large cities have dropout rates of over 50% - and what are you people getting upset over? Some family from Germany who are actually taking on the responsibility of educating and raising their children, rather than depending on the government to do everything and provide everything for them.

Homeschooling parents care a great deal about their children’s education. They make many sacrifices, not the least of which is monetary - which is a lot considering this economy. How many people show up at those PTA meetings? Yeah…thought so.

You people don’t know what those German schools are really like! Of course some German consul general is going to praise German schools - what else would he say?

Why don’t you try to make your district’s public schools a shining example of education excellence, since you seem to know SO much about educating kids? Give homeschoolers and private schoolers a reason to enroll, with well-behaved children, orderly classrooms, great textbooks, safe environments, and teachers that won’t seduce the students.

Then give us a call.

Tori March 9, 2010, 10:20 AM

Before there was any government how did the human race survive? One generation taught the next and so on. The public school system in the United States is designed around the industial revolution. It was a way for America to have qualified workers. So now that we are in a recession and we are participating in the global market what are all the public school graduates going to do for a living? There are only so many bean fields in America!

elisabeth March 9, 2010, 3:11 PM

Um- just wondering if you happen to be a pedaphile or love incest? Because that’s German sex ed. link:
And since they’ve shut the only door out- homeschooling- it’s either sicko porn school or jail and having your children taken. This article is not only insensitive to what the family’s been through, but it shows either a sick mind or one that goes along with Whatever the Authorities Say. Please use your excellent writing for something that deserves it…

aaleya  May 4, 2010, 10:04 AM

hey wat up

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