Earlier this year I made comment about how rules-bound and obedient Germans are in my experience. Perhaps the insistence on 'state education only' is part of the picture.
In October of 2005, the Neubronner family (pictured) decided to homeschool. In America, that would have been the end of the story. The Neubronners, however, lived in Germany, where government has taken an extreme hardline stance with the aim of eradicating home education altogether. The loving German parents applied for permission to educate their two young sons, Morris and Thomas, at home. Unsurprisingly, their application was rejected.
Over the next few months, the battle seemed interminable. They sued for permission to homeschool and lost. Then they appealed. Again, they lost. Finally, in the summer of 2006, the Neubronners struck a deal with school authorities: The boys could be homeschooled provided they were tested regularly. Like the vast majority of homeschoolers, the kids did great on the government’s tests.
Despite the high marks, or perhaps because of them, eventually, authorities decided to put an end to the successful home education scheme. The Neubronner parents were threatened with massive fines, and like many other homeschoolers in Germany, even a potential jail sentence was put on the table if they refused to comply. During that time, the family appealed all the way up to the German constitutional court.
As the fight was unfolding, the family’s story became national news, with mother Dagmar, a biologist and publisher, becoming the face of the secular homeschooling movement in Germany. The media coverage ranged from friendly to neutral because the family seemed — aside from the homeschooling, at least — like a rather “normal,” well-integrated, intellectual family without any particular ax to grind against government schools; they simply wanted to exercise their right not to use that particular government “service.”
When the family refused to pay the exorbitant fines, officials burst into their home and ransacked it, searching for something, anything, to take with them. They found nothing worthwhile, but the horror was just getting started. Finally, officials froze the family’s bank accounts. They even threatened to arrest both parents and auction their home to pay the fines.