I wrote recently about the Sandbergs, who I’m told are likely the last homeschooling family in their home country. The parents have been fined thousands of dollars for not sending their children to public school, and now the national authorities are threatening to have the police bus the children to school!
Jonas Himmelstrand, the president of the national Swedish homeschool association, told me that despite numerous positive reports from child protection authorities and overwhelming evidence that the Sandberg children are being well educated, the national education authorities in Sweden want to stamp out this last remnant of homeschooling.
The Himmelstrands are one of several homeschooling families who live in exile in the Åland Islands of neighboring Finland, where Swedish is primarily spoken.
“The national authorities are pressuring the municipality to consider even stronger options to get the children to school. The municipality has mentioned the use of force, including sending the police to pick up the children and take them to school, as a possibility,” Himmelstrand said. “It is not clear whether Swedish law would allow for this possibility, but the threat is a stark reminder of the hostility that the Swedish government has towards anyone who would dare homeschool.”
Himmelstrand hopes that the local authorities use their power to alleviate the Sandbergs’ situation.
“[The municipal authorities] have the power to exempt these children and to resolve this crisis,” he said. “Whether they will or not remains to be seen.”
Not Exactly a Utopia
This latest threat to freedom has reminded me that Sweden, a country often touted as a model social democracy, is turning into a dystopia for anyone who does not conform to rigid patterns of accepted behavior.
Swedish law does explicitly allow for homeschooling under “exceptional circumstances,” but as a practical matter the right to homeschool is denied by municipal authorities, who are granted the power to approve exceptions.
The Swedish national government, meanwhile, puts pressure on the family as a social institution in a variety of ways. Early childhood education is mandatory, and government-funded day care starts for children as early as age 1. It is the rare exception for a mother to stay home with her young children after the age of 2, and there is tremendous social pressure for women to re-enter the workforce as soon as possible after giving birth.
We’re in This Together
HSLDA is supporting the Sandberg family as a last hope to make some impact on the repressive attitude of Swedish authorities and to push back against the anti-homeschooling policy of a country that is looked to by many developing nations as an example of a European socialist success.
Home education is a growing global movement, and in countries like Sweden where there is strong social pressure against it, the few families with the courage and conviction to try teaching their children at home need our help. No one should be treated as a criminal for homeschooling.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights makes it crystal clear in Article e26.3 that parents have the prior right to choose the kind of education their children will receive. Sweden is a party to this treaty and numerous others that demand the protection of this right and ensure that children can receive education that conforms to the religious, philosophical, and pedagogical convictions of their parents. Click here for a comprehensive defense of the human right of home education.
Swedish authorities’ unwillingness to permit diversity, tolerance, and pluralism in education reveals the dark and totalitarian nature of their intentions to use the education system to indoctrinate children in state-approved ideology. Free governments must reject the use of compulsory education as a form of state-sponsored indoctrination or forfeit their claim to be called a free and democratic society.
The global homeschooling community has a stake in this fight for freedom. Educational statism is a force that is used by left and right-leaning governments alike and must be fought wherever it is found. As HSLDA’s chairman and founder Michael Farris has famously said, “If we don’t fight for these rights everywhere, there won’t be rights anywhere.”