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May 9, 2013

Firm Steps Forward

By Marek Budajczak

Homeschooling in Poland is growing stronger! It’s a fact, regardless of our having Germany as a neighboring country, that it looks like we have the most propitious social conditions for homeschooling in the whole of continental Europe.

At present our national homeschooling movement is a stable one and evolves by degrees. Each successive year brings more families and children schooled at home. In 2009 there were only some 40-50 kids being homeschooled, but now the number has reached approximately 1,500 homeschooled students. We anticipate that during the 2013-14 school year, several hundreds of additional families will make the decision to start on their homeschooling journey.

All this has been possible because of positive changes introduced into the Polish school laws. The biggest change, and the one demanded by Polish homeschoolers in consistent contact with government officials, was specifying that parents may apply for permission to homeschool from non-public schools. Although one can still find school directors who are against homeschooling, many of them now hold a fundamentally positive attitude toward this educational option. Moreover, there are even “umbrella” schools in Poland that specialize in working with homeschool families, for example, Montessori Schools led by Marcin and Ola Sawicki or Lubczyna Schools led by Joanna Strzelecka. It is interesting to note that the mentioned schools are all located in rural parts of our country and are subsidized from taxes and no tuition.

Not only are school officials from the local level up to the Ministry of National Education becoming more familiar with home education but also ordinary teachers and even the leaders of teachers’ unions are becoming gradually more and more open to homeschooling. A number of these individuals homeschool their own children.

The Polish media has also changed their approach toward homeschooling. Previously it was treated as an eccentricity. Let me pause here for a personal reference: when journalists came in the 1990s to my own homeschool family living in a tiny town, it was as if they came to visit a man keeping a…brown bear or similar oddity! Now the same media, from the national to the local level, regard homeschooling as one of the legal and pragmatically justified educational options, and sometimes even as a better solution than the traditional school with its commonly known deficiencies.

In the sphere of the Internet, we have now a few growing Facebook forums for Polish homeschoolers—one of them with over 900 members! Some groups are general and others are specialized (for Christians, atheists, big families and so on). There are also many personal websites and blogs written by Polish homeschoolers, as well as commercial educational offers used by some homeschooling families.

As all Polish homeschooled children have to pass yearly school exams, it's not possible in today's Poland to openly unschool one's child. However, in the last couple of months several initiatives have developed that promote so called "democratic schools" of the Sudbury School type, where students are responsible for their education. We will see moving forward how this develops.

All of the above points to an explanation for the title of this article, I hope, although it lacks the acknowledgment that we Polish owe much in our homeschooling to Americans and British friends. But our external, international relations will be described in a future article.

Marek Budajczak, PhD, leads Stowarzyszenie Edukacji Domowej, the Polish Association for Home Education, and is the author of “Edukacja domowa.”

 Other Resources

Learn more by visiting HSLDA’s Poland page.