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August 12, 2010

Fine Imposed for Studying at Home

Speak Out on Behalf of Swedish Homeschoolers

Swedish homeschoolers continue to face difficulty for deciding to teach their children at home. Two homeschool families in Uppsala, Sweden have had significant fines placed upon them—equivalent to about $1,000 and $1,400 in U.S. currency—for refusing to send their children to school. A local municipal government turned to the courts to enforce its decision that the family’s children “absolutely must go to a regular school.” The fines will accrue each time the child is absent at school.

A Swedish newspaper included an article on the situation in its August 10 edition. The families ask that you take a moment to read the article and another moment to post a comment.

Please read the English translation below and then visit the Uppsala Nya Tidning website to post a comment.

  1. View the original article online
  2. Scroll down below the Swedish article and click on “Kommentara Artikeln” ("Comment on the article")
  3. Enter a subject, comment, and your personal information
    • Förnamn = first name
    • Efternamn = last name
    • E-postadress = email address
  4. Click the box stating “Jag har taget...regler” (“I have read the rules”)

Note: This article is a translation of the original in Swedish that appeared in the newspaper Uppsala Nya Tidning.

Photo Caption: “I want to continue to homeschool in the fall when I start in sixth grade,” says 12-year-old Isak, who is taught by his mother Lisa.

Two families in Uppsala refuse to take their children to school. The municipality therefore petitions the courts that they should be forced to pay fines of 6,000 and 10,000 Swedish kronor (about $1,000 and $1,400 in U.S. currency).

Homeschooling is in many ways better than a regular school, states Isak, who during the last academic year had his mother as a teacher.

The City of Uppsala requires that Lisa and her husband together to pay 10,000 Swedish kronor. The background is that their 12-year-old son Isak, during the last school year in fifth grade, has been studying at home. The municipality says that he absolutely must go to a regular school.

Last year, the municipality issued an order which said that the couple could face a fine of 10,000 kronor if Isak didn’t show up at the designated school. But the response from parents was to continue teaching at home. And so it went. Since then, the municipality turned to the courts, which has not yet determined whether the penalty should be imposed. Isak, for his part, seems to take it all with peace.

“I like homeschooling. Before, when I went to regular school (4th grade), I was ahead of the others in the class (in some subjects). At home, I can study at my own pace.”

The municipality thinks it is too isolating for Isak to study at home. It seems that Isak himself does not see it as a major problem, and says he has many friends in leisure and sports, and plays with his friends almost every day. How it will be in the fall, the family has not yet decided.

“I think I would rather be homeschooled,” he says. Isak’s older brother Erik, 14, has been homeschooled for grades one to five.

“Homeschooling means I get more help, and that I may spend more time on topics I am interested in. I would like to study at home again this fall,” he says.

Mama Lisa shows us around the family’s house. Along one wall is a huge world atlas and desktop computers with which she homeschools Isak during the day. They have lots of textbooks, and she picks up a book of curriculum (to show me), designed specifically for home education.

Her main argument for those who wish to receive a home study is that the teaching becomes more individual.

“I always have opportunities to support the child’s weaknesses and develop his talents, compared to what time a teacher in a class of 20–30 students,” says Lisa. She does not believe that homeschooling is a negative social advancement at all. “To sit in a class does not automatically cause you to gain social skills.”

She comes from the United States, where home education is much more common, and she believes that the local rejection of homeschooling as an educational option is largely due to its perception as something foreign.

The second case is also in Uppsala, where the municipality requires penalties for the Himmelstrand family, as UNT earlier told you about. The couple said that their 11-year daughter has special needs and that home education is simply the best form of teaching for her.

“We have testimony from an internationally recognized psychologist who met with our daughter and found that her good social development is precisely due to our teaching in the home environment. Her development would be jeopardized if she went to school,” says the father Jonas Himmelstrand.

The municipal penalty will cost the Himmelstrand’s 1,000 kronor per parent, every time their child is absent when they are called upon to take the girl to school. To date, there are three lessons in sewing class that were requirements by the municipality to attend, and so the penalty amounts to a total of 6,000 kronor. The court has not yet ruled on the matter.

Anna Widén, first vice chairman of the Children’s Board, says that it is extremely rare that penalty are placed upon parents who do not take their children to school.

“Fines are given to you to only when all other avenues have been exhausted,” she says.