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December 3, 2002

American Homeschoolers Help Out Friends in Ireland

Although the homeschool movement of Ireland is small, the right of parents to homeschool was about to be severely diminished in late 1999.

The Irish constitution explicitly allows for homeschooling; it also allows for the government to reasonably regulate it. The Irish senate passed a dangerous bill in 1999 which would have required homeschoolers to register and be subject to periodic assessments at the whim of school authorities. Worst of all, the bill would have required homeschoolers to submit to home visits where the "education welfare officer" would observe instruction taking place, inspect the premises, and carry out an onsite assessment of the child's intellectual, emotional, and physical development.

The Irish homeschoolers asked for help. In response, HSLDA launched a nation-wide alert. HSLDA flooded Ireland's embassy with hundreds of letters and phone calls.

HSLDA's Chris Klicka worked with Irish homeschool attorney Elizabeth Bruton to help organize a strategy for uniting the homeschoolers and lobbying in the legislature. Klicka corresponded with over 15 key members of the lower house in an attempt to persuade them to derail the bill. The calls of HSLDA members in the United States to the Irish embassy, meanwhile, added additional pressure on the Parliament and significantly contributed to the willingness of the Irish Parliament members and the minister of education to agree to a compromise.

In the final passage of the bill, the mandatory visits for all homeschoolers was removed. Elizabeth Bruton wrote: "Thank you for the invaluable help given by HSLDA and your members in lobbying for changes to proposed homeschool legislation. Homeschooling in Ireland was facing a bleak future. The parents were to be confronted with mandatory home visits and wide-ranging assessments of their children before being allowed to homeschool. As a result of the lobbying, the government has made significant concessions. Families who diligently educate their children at home can confidently proceed in Ireland." Once again, this shows that when homeschoolers lobby, they make a difference—even across an ocean.