As a military family, moving to Europe has been at the top of my wish list for years. When our orders to Germany dropped I could hardly contain my excitement. I jumped and cheered, and ran straight to the computer to start planning all the things we could see. The more I stalked Pinterest travel pictures, the more I realized I didn’t have that much *time*, especially if I was going to be working around a school calendar.
I never imagined myself as a homeschooler. In fact, if you spoke to me three years ago, I was that person who says annoying things like “kids should be around other kids.” Homeschooling was intriguing, mainly because I hate selling things and setting an alarm, but not because I felt a calling or strong pull to do so. However, when faced with the choice of following a school calendar, or glorious freedom to explore Europe . . . I choose freedom, and travel, and giving in to my sense of wanderlust.
When the plane touched down in Germany, I jumped into homeschooling with both feet. Luckily for me, the Department of Defense has very little regulations governing homeschoolers. I don’t need to report to anyone, or register, and no one needs to check our portfolios or attendance or test scores. Homeschooling under the Department of Defense may very well be the easiest way to homeschool.
I wish I could say that homeschooling in Germany is always easy. Homeschooling here is not common place, in fact, it is illegal. Close to where we live, a family has had their children taken from them because they would not follow compulsory education laws and put their children in a German school. My family is not doing anything illegal, as American citizens with SOFA protection we have every right to homeschool, but that does not change the social atmosphere of the country we live in.
Germans carry a strong sense of social responsibility; they place emphasis on a maintaining a strong society rather than protecting individual freedoms. In explaining the ban on homeschooling, Wolfgang Drautz, consul general for the Federal Republican of Germany, said “Homeschool may be equally effective in terms of test scores. It is important to keep in mind; however, that school teaches not only knowledge but also social conduct, encourages dialogue among people of different beliefs and cultures, and helps students to become responsible citizens.”
In talking to my homeschooling friends stationed with me, one common thread connects our experiences. We all feel a little misunderstood living this life. Some of my friends have German neighbors who have questioned their ability and qualifications to teach their children, and I have even had people suggest that home educating my kids is somehow “irresponsible.” These experiences aren’t uncommon in the United States either, but when you combine this with language barriers, and the absence of resources, the negative opinions can wear you down.
Luckily, military life teaches you to make yourself at home and form relationships quickly. Homeschoolers here have banned together to form strong homeschool support groups. I always have someone to go on field trips with, or explore town, or help with my children when I am overwhelmed. Something simple like heading to a German grocery store can be daunting, but I always have a friend I can call to come with me. It can be isolating to homeschool here, but it doesn’t have to be.
I am so grateful to have the chance to explore Europe with my children. I love taking them to see history with their own eyes, where it can come alive for all of us. I never would have made the leap into homeschooling if it wasn’t for this beautiful country. I would not have continued homeschooling without the local homeschool support group.
Now that we are settled in here, I am proud to call myself a homeschooler, and hope to continue long after we leave beautiful Deutschland.
Heather is a proud military wife to her U.S. Air Force husband, and homeschooling mother to her three beautiful, goofy, love-y children. She travels, dabbles in photography, and teaches art…. and then blogs about *all* of it at www.onlypassionatecuriosity.com.