In a recent fiery speech targeting Islamic separatism, French President Emmanuel Macron pulled homeschooling into the discussion by calling for “homeschooling [to] be strictly limited,” adding that the practice should only be allowed for “health reasons.”

The speech has homeschooling families in France greatly concerned.

According to news reports, the French president said:

The third pillar of our strategy is school. It is oh so essential, and you can see that as I move forward, I am entering, if I may say so, into the intimacy of our republican life. School is the republican melting pot. It’s what makes it possible for us to protect our children in a complete way from any religious sign, from religion. It is truly the heart of the space of secularism, and it is this place where we form consciences so that children become free, rational citizens, able to choose their own lives. The school is therefore our collective treasure. It is what allows us in our society to build this common thing that is the republic.

Immediate Reaction

French homeschooling organizations have criticized Macron’s vision and his comments. Connexion France quoted homeschool parent Gwenaëlle Spenlé as saying she couldn’t believe it. Spenlé is a member of the association Les Enfants d’Abord and has homeschooled all five of her children, aged 13–23, with two still at home.

“When I first heard the news that our right to homeschool was to end I thought it was a joke,” she said. “It is incomprehensible, inadmissible, and takes away an essential freedom of people in this country.”

A press release from LAIA criticized the French president for being clueless about home educating families:

Mr. Macron is shooting at the wrong target: home educated children are neither lost, nor adrift, nor off the radar, nor invisible. They are well and truly integrated into society, as responsible citizens, not hiding themselves but feeling proud. But has he ever met any?

The release also states that, “we, members of LAIA, have decided to resist this bill, and we will work with all those who wish to safeguard the freedom of education.”

In Defense of Freedom

They will not be resisting alone.

Home School Legal Defense Association’s interest extends to supporting French homeschoolers because an attack on their freedom is an attack on our freedom. Every family has a fundamental right to enjoy the opportunities that homeschooling provides, including a personalized education in a safe, nurturing environment. 

HSLDA is working with the international homeschooling community and will deliver a strong response in the coming weeks.

HSLDA has learned that the proposal, due to be delivered as formal legislation in December, has been received with some hesitation in the French Assembly. Sources familiar with the situation have told HSLDA that there is reason to believe that some of the president’s proposals will not be received without some skepticism.

At a time when hundreds of millions of children around the globe—perhaps even a billion or more—are being educated at home by their parents in order to protect their health and safety, the French president’s proposal is profoundly flawed.

French parents, whether religious or not, are the ones who should be deciding how their children are educated. It should not be acceptable in any democratic, free society to propose a ban on home education.  

Macron’s comments are similar to those of Harvard Law Professor Elizabeth Bartholet, who called for a “presumptive ban” on home education. (HSLDA wrote a lengthy series of articles in response to Bartholet.)

The French president’s comments show why it is so important for the homeschooling community to stand together. This is why HSLDA supports the work of the Global Home Education Exchange Council. GHEX is convening the first and biggest global online conference on homeschooling November 9–13. This issue and many others will be discussed by policy makers, researchers, and organization leaders. Registration for the conference is free.