November 6, 2012

Global Conference Issues Call for Homeschool Freedom

Read the text of the Berlin Declaration >>
(requires Adobe Acrobat Reader)The organizing board plans to make it possible for anyone to sign the document in the coming weeks. Stay tuned for more information.

Hundreds of homeschool leaders gathered last week in Berlin, Germany, most of whom signed the Berlin Declaration, which calls on all countries to respect and protect the right of home education.

The document was presented at the historic, first-ever Global Home Education Conference, which drew participants from every continent to Germany’s capital. Conference organizers chose to convene in Germany in part to highlight that nation’s policy of persecuting homeschoolers.

Rogue States

In his keynote address HSLDA Founder and Chairman Michael Farris underscored the injustice of such government oppression by making the case that home education is a human right of the first order.

Farris explained:

“Denying parents the right to choose education in conformity with their religious and philosophical convictions, including home education, is an act of a rogue state and bears the same level of shame in international law as the practice of indiscriminate killing, torture, and slavery. States that deny parents the right to control the education of their children are condemned by international human rights law for an invasion of the highest level of protection—the denial of a non-derogable right.”

By drawing the attention of lawmakers and national media to the struggles of homeschoolers, the event succeeded before it even began, said Jonas Himmelstrand, conference chairman and president-in-exile of the Swedish national homeschool association, ROHUS.

“This week, two high-level German politicians issued important statements. These statements have been covered in the German national media,” said Himmelstrand. “One of our goals was to support persecuted German homeschoolers and draw attention to their plight. We did this in a firm way, calling on Germany and other countries to live up to their international treaty obligations to respect the rights of parents in education.”

“Denying parents the right to choose education in conformity with their religious and philosophical convictions, including home education, is an act of a rogue state.”

Mike Farris
HSLDA Founder, international law expert

Great Success

Michael Donnelly, secretary of the conference organizing board and director of international relations for the Home School Legal Defense Association, said that the conference exceeded all expectations.

“Organizing this conference involved 10 people from nine countries over one year with significant financial investments from leading homeschool supporting organizations like Classical Conversations, the German Friederich Naumann Foundation, the Homeschool Foundation, HSLDA and many others,” he said. “We were simply delighted that nearly 200 leaders representing 26 countries gathered to affirm the fundamental right of parents to choose how their children are educated!”

Dagmar Neubronner, second chair of the conference organizing committee, who styles herself a “secular unschoooler,” was very happy to see the diverse group uniting over a common interest.

“I was a little unsure what might happen with so many people who have so many differences meeting here in Berlin,” she said. “But everyone was totally focused on this idea that parents and not the state must have the right to decide how to educate their children. We were able to focus all of our energy and attention on this subject, and there was great mutual respect among everyone who was present. It was wonderful!”

Neubronner was forced to flee Germany after her bank account was seized by the German government and she was fined thousands of dollars. Citing her concern over threats from social authorities, she left Germany in 2009.

At the conference Neubronner was a workshop speaker and shared her experiences about the difficulty of having to leave her home and family under such pressure.

A Plea for Liberty

Donnelly explained why Berlin was an important place to hold the conference.

“Berlin is a city that invokes freedom.” he said, “The fall of the Iron Curtain and the unification of East and West Germany symbolize victory of liberty over tyranny. It was a fitting backdrop to our conference. We found that homeschoolers just as diverse in their reasons and approaches to home education could also find unity in the idea of liberty. We support the idea that a parent’s right to decide how their children should be educated is a fundamental human right that must be respected by all nations.”

Conference attendees were wowed by the scope of the content and the speakers.

Dozens of speakers provided insight and encouragement. Policy makers from Russia, Germany, South Africa, Ireland and others countries met to compare notes. Emer Farrel, an administrator for the Irish National Education Welfare Board, was surprised that home education is not permitted in all countries.

“In Ireland home education is protected in the constitution. I was surprised to learn that some countries do not tolerate home education,” she said.


Participants were inspired and thankful for the opportunity to meet to support home education worldwide and took many ideas back to their home countries. Many talked of hosting regional conferences.

“We are thinking about holding a regional conference in Asia,” said Tim Chen of Taiwan Homeschool Advocates. “We think that cooperation among homeschooler worldwide is needed to support our movement.”

The conference also provided a means by which German homeschoolers could meet and discuss ways to better organize.

David Han, an organizing board member and international liaison for Christian Home Educators of Korea said he was excited about the prospects of international cooperation.

Pavel Parfentiev, Russian board member and director of a pro-family NGO in Russia, was pleased about the Berlin Declaration.

“The Berlin Declaration is an important document,” he said. “It provides ample support for the idea that educational freedom is a fundamental human right. This conference is an historical event and will have long life through this document. I was very pleased to be part of it and look forward to more international cooperation in the future with the many people I have met.”