Newly elected President Jair Bolsonaro has proposed to the Brazilian Congress a bill that would legalize homeschooling.

The Brazilian Supreme Court had acknowledged the right of parents to homeschool in a decision late last year, but indicated the need for the federal Congress to enact a measure recognizing the right to homeschool under Brazilian education law.

In the absence of federal legislation there is a grey area that has been used by opponents of homeschooling and aggressive prosecutors to go after some families. HSLDA has been assisting some of these families.

Growing Debate

Bolsonaro’s proposal has been criticized by both supporters and opponents. News coverage reveals that the debate over homeschooling in Brazil echoes similar issues that American homeschoolers have grappled with over the decades.

Carlos Vinicius Reis, executive director of the national homeschool organization ANED, has said that the movement is energized by the proposal.

“We are seeing great excitement from all the families in Brazil who homeschool,” said Reis, a homeschooling father of three. “Last week we bussed in over 300 people from all over Brazil to meet with members of our national Congress. We received a warm welcome, and we are working hard to provide them with the information they need to debate a law that gives us all the freedom we need to teach our children.”

This is the first time that a president and a majority of the Congress have been willing to debate and pass a law that would invigorate a fast-growing movement. Damaris Alves, who was appointed by Bolsonaro to serve as minister of women, family and human rights, has called home education an urgent issue dealing with fundamental human rights.

Outside Support

Advocates are following the legislative process closely to ensure the measure adequately protects the rights of parents to direct their children’s education. If Congress ultimately enacts an unreasonably restrictive bill, it could quell enthusiasm for homeschooling, a movement that has grown from a few hundred people to tens of thousands in the past decade.

This growth has attracted attention from American curriculum companies and Brazilian entrepreneurs, who are working hard to develop learning materials and technology platforms.

Entrepreneur and businessman Rodrigo Martins of Brasilia has founded an online learning platform called PluggEd. His goal is to provide Brazilians with a turnkey and easy-to-use digitally delivered curriculum that meets the needs of all audiences and children at every learning level.

Robert Bortins, CEO of Classical Conversations, one of the largest support group and curriculum providers for homeschoolers in the United States and whose company is expanding globally, echoed optimism for the movement.

“We are very excited about translating our materials into Portuguese and helping families in Brazil homeschool,” Bortins said. “Brazil is a natural fit for homeschooling with their strong family and community culture. The more options that families have for educating their children, the stronger all of Brazil will be, and we look forward to the success that families will see soon.”

Times and Seasons

The timing of the legislation is important, as following the supreme court’s ruling last year some families have experienced hostility from officials over home education. During the case the court had stayed all prosecutions, but following its ruling the stay was lifted.

As the Brazilian movement matures, it appears that national and regional organizations are poised to provide a similar level of support as HSLDA does in the U.S. HSLDA provided initial support for the founding of ANED, the national homeschool organization, and we are delighted to report on their success.

Such success, however, would not likely be possible without the watershed political change that took place in Brazil’s recent election, which saw a nearly 50% turnover in the Congress, as well as the election of Bolsonaro.

HSLDA is encouraged by the development of homeschooling in Brazil. As a large and emerging free society, it has the opportunity to set an example for other countries to follow. In contrast to countries like Germany and Sweden, Brazil’s example in freely allowing its citizens to homeschool may provide similar emerging nations a model to follow that respects the inherent right of families to choose homeschooling.

I see what is happening in Brazil as ground zero for homeschooling freedom globally. Brazil will be the largest country since Russia in 1991 that has grappled with the issue of home education on a national legislative scale. And what happens to homeschool freedom and homeschool families in other countries and regions of the world has a ripple effect on our freedom here in the United States: we’re observing a trend in some U.S. courts to look to international human rights treaties and international court decisions for guidance in ruling on domestic cases.

Free to Thrive

A growing homeschool movement supports freedom and self-government. A nation that respects the rights of families to pursue home education freely without unreasonable restriction is one that demonstrates a commitment to self-governance and mutual respect. These are principles that promote peace, family autonomy, and economic growth—principles that benefit an entire nation.

Reis praised the help of HSLDA and the example of the American homeschooling movement.

“We would not be here but for you,” he said. “the example of the United States is very important for us. All the research, the materials, the answers to the questions like ‘how can mothers teach their children’ and ‘what about socialization’ are the same questions we are getting here. HSLDA’s professional materials and answers have been so helpful.”