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Homeschooling in Brazil: An Introduction

By Timothy Brennan, Jr.

Our family has lived in Brazil since February 28, 1952. Both my maternal and paternal grandparents had gone by boat to Brazil to work with tribal groups. My maternal grandparents always opted for homeschooling even though they were heavily criticized by fellow missionaries. My paternal grandparents were able to get a kind of workaround by becoming teachers at a mission school in the state of Goiás. By being teachers, they were able to monitor and guide my father and his siblings through their education.

Teaching one’s children on the mission field has always been a subject of sharp debate for Christians in general—especially among missionaries. Just the idea of taking your children to a foreign land is questioned by most Christians. So imagine how the idea of teaching your children at home was difficult to accept. It is important to note that my mother and her siblings were homeschooled in the 1960s. Added to that was the meaning of “home.” It meant that my grandparents would be providing education to their children while in the middle of the jungle, living with tribal people at their doorstep all day long.

The criticisms raised by most fellow missionaries are classic: “Your children will become social misfits,” “You won’t be able to get a job in the United States,” or “They won’t have the best education.” The funny thing is that I believe these criticisms are not exclusively a missionary “thing.” It appears to be human nature, for I have heard these same arguments raised by different individuals here in Brazil.

My mother and my uncles and aunts are definitely not social misfits. Instead, they have had a variety of life experiences—compared to most in the world—and even hit it off well with their peers when they had to go to a public high school while my grandparents were in the United States on furlough.

After my parents married, completed missionary training and moved back to Brazil, they too opted for homeschooling. I was first taught how to read and write by an uncle of mine, Samuel Brennan, and later my mother started having me read the (in)famous Dick, Jane, Sally and Spot series. I attended public school during the second grade in the United States while my brother went to kindergarten when we were on furlough. The experience was enough for my parents to decide permanently to homeschool us.

My four siblings, three cousins, and I were brought up in the south of Brazil, near the Kaingang tribe. We also had a lot of contact with the local farmers and others from small towns nearby. Our socialization was diverse and unique, to say the least. Always considered foreigners ourselves, homeschooling too was seen as a curiosity and something foreign.

Today, I am married to a Brazilian woman, and both my children are being homeschooled. A lot of things are new to her, but we are working things out quite well. It has been quite a challenge for both of us, but I have seen the struggles we have both gone through as a way to renew my convictions as my wife has been developing hers. FUD (Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt) tends to be the main problem we face, but that is slowly going away.

I really love teaching both of my children as my wife and I detect their personal skills, talents and abilities as we go along. My son loves math, building, learning to play the guitar, and he loves to engage in conversation with adults to learn about new things. My daughter has a natural singing ability and loves to do housework and to serve people. We are taking advantage of every moment to teach at all times—not just in the schoolroom. A walk in the city or in the park, simply driving and answering questions, or having discussions in the kitchen or in the living room are just a few of the important and precious moments where we have taught our children. I view homeschooling as a very unique, special and precious opportunity that we have as parents.

A Historic Event: Brazilian Homeschool Organization Founded

Recently, the issue of homeschooling has drawn the attention of the media here in Brazil. It has always been a personal desire of mine to see homeschooling established in Brazil. Unfortunately many of my Brazilian friends would say, “That works for Americans, but would never work for us Brazilians.”

This mindset has slowly begun to change in the past several months due to several developments. First, Fábio Schebella, a young man from one of the local churches my father helped to establish, began to do his college degree on education. For quite some time he was unsure of what he was going to choose as his thesis. I recall to this day his expression of glee when he told me he had chosen the subject of homeschooling. I personally attended his thesis presentation before the Brazilian committee. It was amazing to observe how the subject of homeschooling was so new to them. They asked very few questions of Fábio because they had simply never considered the idea of homeschooling before. The only question raised by one of the professors was the classic, “What about the socialization of these children?” Fábio had many answers for that question and the general consensus was that he had done a good job of presenting the concept of homeschooling.

After his presentation, Fábio introduced me to the panel. One of the professors expressed her regret that I had not been introduced during the presentation so that they could have asked questions of me. I really don’t know what effect I had on them personally, but it was clear that I did not strike them as weird or strange, as we “socialized” quite well. (Although I never attended any formal language classes, I am fluent in Brazilian Portuguese. I can also read and write with an above-average level in the Brazilian Portuguese language.)

Fábio’s thesis work has been a great help to us in many ways. First, his thesis has opened the door for homeschooling to become viewed as a “Brazilian thing,” which, to me, is very important. In the past, many different Americans have tried to have homeschooling recognized in Brazil, but the media has artfully cast them as American bourgeois trying to push a North American way of life onto the Brazilian people. Through Fábio, we discovered that many Brazilians have opted for homeschooling, but did not have any notion of how many others were also homeschooling their children. There are people of diverse regions, cultures and even religions who are beginning to see the importance of educating their children in the home.

We were also able to connect with many different Brazilians who are taking the lead with this issue of homeschooling in Brazil. One such couple is Luis and Juliana Starling, who, along with quite a few other couples in Belo Horizonte, have taken the initiative to start a National Association for Home Education (ANED in Portuguese) in Brazil. In late 2010, they invited Fabio to their meeting, which meant he would have to travel for almost two days to get there. I personally asked him to connect me via internet telephone, so I could listen in on the meeting. To my surprise, I received an invitation not only to watch the meeting, but to become a part of the counseling committee. This meeting signifies a great, giant step forward on the subject of homeschooling in Brazil. Personally, I am so overjoyed to be a part of this historic event.

I expect a lot to happen in Brazil this year with regard to homeschooling, specifically in promoting homeschooling. One of the purposes of ANED is to educate the public about what homeschooling really is and how it benefits families. This is our challenge for the year of 2011 and onward.

A homeschooling father, Timothy Brennan, Jr., lives in Brazil with his wife and children.

 More Information

Learn more by visiting HSLDA’s Brazil page.