In the coming weeks, the Brazilian supreme court is expected to hear a case from 2016 in which a homeschooling family was charged with truancy. But despite the possibility that the court could rule against home education, the homeschool community in Brazil is flourishing—and it’s expanding its outreach and advocacy.
Partly in anticipation of the expected trial, homeschool leaders with the Brazilian National Association for Homeschooling invited Mike Donnelly, HSLDA’s Director of Global Relations, to visit Brazil and help develop a strategy for protecting and advancing the movement.
At the meeting in late February, Donnelly pledged to work closely with the Brazilian association, providing advice, encouragement, and financial support.
“What’s happening in Brazil is encouraging,” he said, noting that the movement has grown from only a few thousand families in 2016 to now include some 7,000 families. “It’s exciting. More and more people are hearing about homeschooling and want to do it.”
Ironically, the same high-profile case that threatens homeschooling in Brazil may have contributed to its recent growth. Though some prosecutors argue the government should reject home education for fear it may contribute to so-called “parallel societies,” the fact that the highest court in South America’s most populous nation is weighing the issue has also made it a hot political topic.
Donnelly said he encountered a new openness among elected officials when he and Brazilian homeschool advocates visited the federal legislature.
“There is an increasingly positive reception to homeschooling in Brazil,” said Donnelly. “There is definitely a debate going on.”
His observation was confirmed by a young senator’s aide who served as Donnelly’s interpreter at the capitol.
“This is a window of opportunity,” the young man said. “We now have a government that is more concerned about individual liberties.” When it comes to legislators considering the fact that educational choice is a right, he said, “they are starting to understand.”
Alexandre Magno Moreira, Deputy Head of the Legal Department for the Ministry of Education of Brazil, expressed a similar outlook.
With officials in the judicial system and the national education department announcing their support, he said, “we are much more optimistic about what we can do here, and about the future of homeschooling. We’ve had explosive growth. And we see that we are not alone any more. Homeschooling in Brazil is a fact. It’s not going away.”
Another positive of the supreme court case, said Donnelly, is that no new charges have been permitted to proceed against other homeschooling families while the case works its way through the courts. This is important because homeschooling is not explicitly recognized by Brazil’s federal education laws.
Other highlights of Donnelly’s trip included speaking to a group of homeschooling families at a church, appearing on a Pentecostal television program, and visiting a learning center akin to an American homeschool co-op.
Whatever the venue, Donnelly said, his message was the same.
“I got to share the compelling case for homeschooling and explain how they are part of a growing movement,” he said. “I think there is a very bright future for homeschooling in Brazil. And it will have an impact on millions of people in other countries who want to homeschool, because Brazil is an influential democracy.”