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June 11, 2012

State Pressures Family to Enroll 3-Year-Old in Preschool

Staff Attorney Mike Donnelly is director of international relations at HSLDA. He and his wife homeschool. Read more >>

A local nursery in northern Norway attempted to use social services to pressure a family into re-enrolling their 3-year-old into a preschool program. The Hansen family (names changed to protect privacy) contacted HSLDA and asked for our assistance in closing the investigation against them.

The family had recently withdrawn their son Erik from the nursery after deciding it was not a good fit for him. However, in the Nordic countries it is common for parents to send their children to local daycare programs from birth until the time the children begin primary school. Although participation in these programs is technically voluntary, parents are often questioned if they choose not to enroll their young children. The Hansen family say they did not expect such pressure to re-enroll their son in the nursery.

“We had no idea that the state could put so much pressure on parents just over sending toddlers to nursery school,” states Mrs. Hansen. “Compulsory schooling in Norway starts at age six. It’s our choice whether or not to send their children to a preschool program. However, over 90% of parents send their children to nursery school, so our choices were seen as being outside the mainstream. In Norway that’s cause for concern, apparently.”

After the family withdrew their son, the local school referred the matter to social services. School officials said he was “passive” and “not showing emotions,” despite routine medical visits that confirmed he is a healthy, well-adjusted child. Social workers declared that Erik had language delays and promptly opened an investigation into the family—without taking into account that the Hansen home is a bilingual one.

“Our very real fear was that as part of the investigation, the Child Welfare officials would compel us to send our son back to the nursery,” explains Mr. Hansen. “They said they were worried that it will be hard for Erik to fit in at school, and strongly recommended that he should go to nursery in order to learn how to operate in that environment. They also said that nursery is the best place for him to acquire language, social and motor skills.”

Michael Donnelly, director of international relations at HSLDA, provided the family with a letter explaining that the family intended to homeschool when Erik reached compulsory education age. In Norway, homeschooling is legal according to the education law which states that education may be in public schools or “otherwise.”

In early May, the case was officially “closed with concern,” and the family believes that HSLDA’s assistance and guidance prevented it from escalating further.

“Our HSLDA membership has been a huge blessing all through this,” says Mrs. Hansen. “We used Mike’s letter as the basis for our interaction with the social services worker and are especially grateful that he put us in touch with a Norwegian homeschool contact, who was a tremendous help as well!”

Donnelly notes that the trend for state officials to think they know what is best for families continues to increase.

“Families like this one often endure lengthy and troublesome social services investigations over the issue of education. Too many government officials in European countries think it’s their responsibility to raise children,” states Donnelly. “It was our privilege to assist the Hansens, and are pleased that social services has closed the case.”