Note:This is a translation of an article by Gerard Vroegindeweij, originally published in the Dutch media.

The government would do well to stop assuming mistrust when setting rules for homeschooling and start assuming trust.

So says Erna Stelma on behalf of the Home Education Association, one of the advocates of home education in our country. In the Netherlands, just under a thousand children are homeschooled because their parents object to the philosophies taught by schools where they live.

Stelma was responding to an advisory report on home education that the national Education Council recently issued. In it, Arie Slob, Minister for Primary and Secondary Education, was given a hefty slap on the wrist. According to the council, the minister would do well to revise the draft law thoroughly and only then present it to the Lower House.

Slob presented a first bill last year to impose additional rules on home education.

The draft law states that there should be a stricter test before parents are allowed to start teaching their own children. They must submit educational plans; parents must demonstrate pedagogical and didactic qualities; otherwise the education inspector may be unexpectedly around the corner. If parents do not provide access to their home, the municipality can immediately revoke the exemption from school registration.

Courage

Stelma added: "In a way we understand that the government sets rules for home education. But the proposal now before us is based too much on distrust of parents who homeschool their children. It is one of the basic principles of our constitutional state that the government trusts its citizens until proven otherwise. That is not the case with this law. Freedom of religion and freedom of education are at stake here. In our country, there has always been room for parents with conscientious objections who cannot find a suitable school for their child. The Home Education Association does not see why this should be abolished. There is no question of structural abuses. On the contrary, parents are highly motivated to prepare their children for a place in society."

Severe Restrictions

Stelma, who previously homeschooled her oldest son and now homeschools her two youngest children, calls Slob's bill "practically a death house construction. The requirements are so strict that very few parents will be able to meet them in time."

Among other things, she believes that the compulsory education officer is given too much power.

"That's actually going to test the objections,” Stelma predicted. “That doesn't suit a government. That's not how our legislation is structured."

Moreover, this will elevate an illegal practice to the status of law. Stelma is also extremely surprised that, under this proposal, the children who are going to be homeschooled have to attend the meeting with the school attendance officer.

"That doesn't seem right to me,” she insisted. “Parents are the legal representatives of their children, aren't they?"

Update

Home Education Association was pleasantly surprised with the advice of the Education Council that was made public a few weeks ago. The highest advisory body for education policy also noted that the minister is actually making homeschooling impossible. The council called on the government to openly acknowledge the possibility of homeschooling and to come up with realistic requirements in the area of powers, safety, and tests.

"This advice is a boost,” observed Stelma. “I trust that Minister Slob will take it to heart. I know and believe that the minister stands for the freedom of education and religious freedom. I assume that he will safeguard these freedoms, also for the citizens who cannot find a school in their neighborhood that fits their philosophy of life. Surely this minister of the Christian Union party has an eye and an ear for this? The Home Education Association would like to speak with him one day to bring our proposals to his attention and to set outlines for the future."