Which countries would you like to learn

Other countries, free learning ...

A culture in which children and parents realize education in self-organized networks? -
This is a criminal offense in Germany! A young person with free learner experience asked how this practice is developing in other European countries. By Julian Mohsennia, published in issue # 30/2015

At 16, I am not as old as the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, but I have already learned what it can mean when children are allowed to live their right to education in a self-determined manner. Why? I spent my first “school years” in Canada, learning completely legally. Back in Germany, I had to go to school, and the difference to self-determined learning became quite clear to me. Since then, I've been interested in how free learning works in different countries. The “European Home Education Conference” held in Switzerland in July 2014 gave me the opportunity to make contact with families in Ireland, Belgium, Italy, Hungary and Norway who organize their own education. In order to find out how this works in practice, I then had conversations via Skype.

First I spoke to Annette from Ireland. Her daughter Maria is ten years old and has been a free learner for two years. Annette sometimes looks into the Irish curriculum to compare whether her daughter is not too far "behind". But that has never been the case. She tells me about her everyday life:
“For us, free learning is like normal life, except that Maria doesn't have to get up early every morning to disappear into school. Many think we have forever summer vacation, but that's not the case. Instead of going to school, Maria just does her own thing - for example reading what is important to her at the moment - and I often do my own things on the side. We have a lot of conversations about this and we decide what we want to do together. A few days ago it came down to the fact that we measured a snail that had sneaked into our house, how fast it was moving forward in time, while we were reading about snails in a natural history book. Maria often comes to work with me. Last week we went to an art museum with some parents who are thinking about free learning. Next we want to attend a workshop on game design and one on marine biology. So there are several meetings every week. "
Annette and Maria find their free learner life exciting. They pride themselves on the fact that the Irish Constitution allows its citizens to study at home. If you want that, you can register and are then under the supervision of the Agency for Children and Families (Tusla).
"The people from the agency talk to the families and check whether the child has achieved the minimum required level of education," explains Annette. There are no other conditions. Free-learning is increasing rapidly, and a good 400 families are now active. Unlike in Germany, they are not looked at from an oblique angle. "Others usually find it brave," says Annette. “However, some think that free learning is only for rich people or that the children's social contacts are neglected.” Maria: “To be honest, I now have a lot more friends than at school, where I spend the whole day with 30 peers together. It's not the best way to make friends. ”Her mother says she has been much more confident and less shy since she stopped going to school.

Christina lives in the French-speaking part of Belgium. Here, free-learner children are tested every two years to see whether their level of knowledge corresponds to school standards. If they fail the test twice, they have to go to school. Christina says: »We would have preferred not to start school with our three children because we don't like such a control system. We would have liked to have had complete freedom, but because of this law we had to move between free-learning and home-schooling in practice. "
Christina respects her children's choices. “The oldest, now 22, wanted to get to know the school when he was twelve. He made his experiences there for two years, then he preferred to continue studying from home.
As an almost 18-year-old free learner, my daughter wanted to obtain a university entrance qualification from an adult education institution. But she didn't feel happy there and realized that she just wanted to "just be free." After finding out about life without a school leaving certificate from various people with very different opinions, she decided: ›I will quit and dare to go my own way.‹ I was pleased about that. "
In the books by John Holt and in the magazine “Growing without schooling” Christina discovered that people in the Anglo-Saxon region have long been thinking about the consistently self-determined learning of children. This encouraged them to no longer push their children for the state tests, but simply to let them learn what is important to them. Fortunately, at the age of 16, tests are no longer necessary. Apart from this obligation, a family in Belgium does not have to meet any special requirements in order to be able to raise their children at home. “Almost no one here did that ten years ago; people looked at us like aliens, "remembers Christina. "They found it very dangerous because they thought that the children would then not get a proper education and would have no friends." At that time, the free-learner network was still small, and meeting each other was associated with long travel times. It has grown in the meantime. "My younger son, who always studied at home, now has few, but really good friends," explains Christina.
"Well, they are definitely highly gifted." Christina has heard this comment more often when free-learner children are developing well. “But some ask themselves why they still send their own children to school even though they are not happy there. And so more and more people are interested in free learning. You ask interested questions - and that's a real step forward. We are getting bigger and bigger in Belgium. "

Erika from Italy has American and Italian citizenship. In conversation with her, I found it exciting to find out why she and her husband want their four bilingual children to learn freely. Erika said, “We believe that children are part of their families and shouldn't sit in a building eight hours a day, five days a week, asking permission for anything they want to do. We want them to have the freedom to learn what interests them - and that they primarily ask questions, not answer teachers' questions. "
And what about the social contacts? “My children have some good friends, free learners as well as schoolchildren. They play or do something together several times a week. "
Erika's family organizes meetings in museums and on farms as well as other activities together with other free-learner families via the website www.educazioneparentale.org. The children open small stalls and offer homemade cookies or junk. Everyone loves sports. "My nine-year-old, for example, is a very good dancer," says Erika.
As a passionate activist for free learning, with her book »Homeschooling. L’Educazione Parentale in Italia «Informed thousands of parents that free learning is legal in their country. She believes that society will change as we begin to show more respect, peace and freedom to parents and children around the world. With her blog www.controscuola.it she also wants to show that free learning is easy and legal in Italy. In fact, more and more families are choosing it. Free-learner children must be reported to the education authority every year. Very seldom does the office want to see proof that the parents are sufficiently educated and can manage the education financially from home. These certificates can also be prepared by friends, acquaintances or neighbors. There are no other controls. If a child wants to go back to school or take an exam there, they submit a personal application and a résumé.

When I talked to Eva from Hungary, it turned out that she too was committed to free learning beyond her own family. She organized four meetings to which families from all over Hungary came. Eva emphasizes that her three children at the age of twelve, ten and eight would learn freely from birth. "Every day looks different for us," she says when asked about her everyday life. »Sometimes we go into nature, meet friends or do something in the city. We seldom spend whole days at home. ”Her only problem is currently dealing with the computer:“ Sometimes I try to set fixed times for this. Then I let the children decide freely again and then I am desperate because they sit at the computer for so long. "
And the social contacts? »Our meetings create friendly relationships between the families. The children play in the neighborhood and go to sports and other clubs a lot. Many parents think that social life takes place in school. But it's different in real life. "
Since the end of the dictatorship in 1989 there is no longer any requirement to attend school in Hungary. Homeschooling is allowed if the children are enrolled as private students in a state school and the parents adhere to the curriculum. "With a few others I unearthed a legal text that says that Hungarian children can also fulfill their educational obligation abroad," says Eva. »This is a loophole to take part in the international educational program› Clonlara ‹, which supports free learners. I am now starting a Hungarian Clonlara group. Many families find out about such paths through our meetings, networking on the Internet and the book ›… and I was never in school‹ by André Stern. Others have big question marks in their eyes and are very skeptical. There is also resistance from the authorities - depending on who you come across. "
Eva is looking forward to visits from parents, children and young people who want to get to know Hungary and free learning.

When Mary's sons were six and twelve years old, the family moved from the United States to Norway. If they were previously an independent family, the two children went to school there - the older for three and the younger for four years. Then they decided to go back to learning - similar to mine; that makes me curious. Mary says: “School wasn't a particular challenge for either of them. But it bothered them that they had too little time together. «The older one has now graduated from high school at the age of 18. After the first four playful years of primary school, the younger one could no longer quench his thirst for scientific knowledge at school and preferred to learn on his own. At the moment he is mainly interested in programming and music. A while ago his subjects were poets, UFOs and myths. Today, at the age of 15, he is preparing for his thesis. For the free learner approval, both had to take regular tests, for which they each prepared specifically.
And how is everyday life going? »Sometimes we go on an excursion, work on the house or in the garden, meet friends, read all day or watch films, very often we play sports and make music. Then there are the free-learner meetings in Oslo or visits to museums, seminars, concerts, art events and, from time to time, participating in competitions. There are also several free-learner camps every year. "
Mary believes that it is not difficult to meet other free learners in Norway. In addition, her family likes to travel because she has many friends abroad. "In our free-learner-friendly country, people are slowly realizing that an interested child is something very important to society," says Mary thoughtfully. “The legal situation here is good, even if this is often not known. Even many school authorities believe that schooling is compulsory, but that is not the case. Some free learners sometimes have problems with neighbors or old school friends who do not want to understand their way. In general, I have the feeling that many parents are afraid that their children might want to learn freely. Seen in the light, this is absurd - to be afraid that your own child will educate itself! "
Why is free learning possible around Germany, but can bring parents to prison in this country? That is a mystery to me. •


Julian Mohsennia (16) attended a free school for three years, lived in Canada for a while and is involved in the organization team of the school-free festival.

Find out more about free-learner opportunities:
There is a video of Erika on YouTube: http://bit.ly/1Aeb7pr
The Clonlara Education Program: www.clonlara.org
European open-learner forum: www.tenhe.eu

more articles from issue # 30