A cry for help – our legal battle for homeschooling in The Netherlands

Dedicated to my son Seth

noJustice

 “The happiness of your child in this case […] is totally irrelevant.” – General Attorney of the Public Prosecution Service

UPDATE: There’s some news – read about it in part 2

I’m exhausted. And disappointed, too. Weary and disappointed with the Dutch government and its attitude towards homeschooling. And I really could use your support. Why, you might ask? Well, because my wife and I homeschool our son and it’s become unnecessarily complicated. I’ve written a similar piece in Dutch, but firstly, I have to explain a bit about how homeschooling in The Netherlands is regulated. Please, read on.

Regulation of Dutch homeschooling

As opposed to most countries in the World, homeschooling in The Netherlands is not legislated in such a way that it is an acknowledged, legal form of education. Though it is possible to legally homeschool your children, it is only under the following circumstances:

  1. your child is physically or psychologically unable to attend school;
  2. you’ve got ideological objections towards the denomination of nearby schools (however, these cannot encompass didactical or pedagogical objections);
  3. your occupation requires you to live a wandering life without permanent place of residence .

When #2 is applicable to your circumstances, you can inform your city council administration as to the reason why you will not enlist your child in a school. This is only possible if your child wasn’t enlisted in the preceding year, or never has been enlisted before.

When a parent is sent notice to remind them to register their child for school, the government does not explain all options regarding schooling your child with the result that many people send their child to school to see whether it fits with their ideological beliefs. However, in doing so they instantly forfeit their right to apply for homeschooling. According to European legislation (Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms), this part of the Dutch schooling law is discriminating and thus illegal.

What happened to us

And that’s where it went terribly wrong. We tried school. We enlisted our son when he was four years old (and thus before we were even required to send him to school). Our son started as a bright and happy kid but in less than five months he transformed into a sad and unmotivated little boy. And just as we suspected, that’s because school didn’t fit our way of life. So, we informed our city council of our ideological objections. And yes, our objections are predominantly didactic and pedagogical, because our outlook on didactics and pedagogy is inextricably part of our way of life.

A long, long legal battle followed. We went all the way to Supreme Court. Though several judges acknowledged our objections, the outcome was simple: we were not allowed to homeschool our son in spite of the fact that we’ve got ideological objections, because he attended school for a few months (this despite the fact that he had not reached the age for compulsory education at the time). The law dictates that’s the way it has to be. Sadly, it’s not about my son’s happiness. It’s not even about if he’ll lose his motivation to learn if he has to go back to school. It’s just that we.have.to.com.ply. Case closed.

Wait, case closed? Not quite!
We’ve received fines, and have a lot of legal costs. We still homeschool our son – risking more and higher fines and even jail time. The only option I have is bringing this ridiculous, discriminating way of enforcing Dutch schooling law to the European Court of Human Rights.

Why go to European Court?

Aside from the fact that we seek justice for our personal situation, bringing this unfair Dutch practice under the attention of European court also serves another purpose. In my opinion (and that of many other homeschoolers and governments), our children have the right to be properly educated whether through regular schooling or homeschooling. Since several groups have (unsuccessfully) tried to convince our Dutch government to change this law, the only option left is to bring this matter to the European Court of Human Rights. This is, however, a costly endeavor which we sadly cannot fund on our own.

So, on behalf of my son and all those other children who want to be educated in a way it suits them, I beg you: please help us!!

How can you help us?

Most importantly, we need money to fund our case at the European Court of Human Rights. I estimate it’ll cost us up to 800 euro. In addition , we need 882 euro if I’m legally forced to pay the fines so as to avoid a jail sentence.  If you would like to donate, please send me an e-mail for further instructions at pepijn at artofnemesis dot com.

What do you get out of this?
Firstly, and most importantly, the satisfaction of knowing that you contributed to attainning an unambiguous schooling law (including legal justification for homeschooling  in The Netherlands).

Secondly, if you make a donation, I’ll make sure your name will be listed on this site, if you wish.

Amount donated: EUR 1575,-

Allready 19 donations for our battle for justice!

People who’ve donated thusfar:

Special thanks to

Christel Rengers – my wife and soulmate
Channa Samkalden – our lawyer at Prakken D’Oliviera
Tamara Buruma – our lawyer at Prakken D’Oliviera
Brechtje Vossenberg – our lawyer at Prakken D’Oliviera
Lucy Browne – homeschooler, for reviewing this text

Want to read more?

MamaNatuurlijk (my wife) – ik geef het op
Arrest Hoge Raad
Nederlandse Vereniging voor Thuisonderwijs

9 thoughts on “A cry for help – our legal battle for homeschooling in The Netherlands”

  1. I’m so incredibly surprised that this is the case in the Netherlands . I had been under the misconception (it seems), that some of the best knowledge on child development, autonomy, play and slow learning was coming from the Netherland so this,strong attitude to homeschooling shocks me.
    This clause that states you cant home school if your child has been in the education system is absolutely nonsensical. How can you possibly know that school does not fit your child unless you first try it?

  2. Hi, I’m Sue, I am with you, in spirit and belief for our children, lets manifest as you are already in so much positive action, I would like to share my intention and thoughts to support you and can donate a little but not sure how exactly to donate, could u give me details how in that way :-)
    Love and light and a happy Christmas,
    Sue x

  3. First I know how well you provide for your son and how you take his education an development seriously. I’ve met you several times. I agree with you that what is happening here is devastating and far from fair or logical. You’re not mistreating your child. You’re a warm loving family.
    However I’d like to make a comment to add to this story.
    In this blog you state it is possible to homeschool legally if :
    1. your child is physically or psychologically unable to attend school.
    This is not all together true. In this case your child is dismissed from school. They simply reason that the child is not capable to receive education, therefor that homeschooling too, is not in order.
    Since there is law (2015) that states schools have to be able to support all children’s learning needs, it has become extremely hard, if not impossible, to claim taking your kids out of school because of psychological circumstances. These kids have to stay in the system, no matter what, due to this new law. However in most cases school related trauma makes parents turn to this article. Trauma due to a misfit between what schools offers and what a specific child needs. And this simply can’t be solved just by sending a kid to a new school with new teachers and different kids. The curriculum remains the same, the methods used for learning too. It’s a one size fits all system, claiming to be able to do every kid justice.
    Making sure your kid receives proper schooling in the Netherlands is becoming a huge problem in any case which involves a different curriculum or pedagogical approach than which is provided for by the State.
    Dutch parents need a serious wake up call, better late than never.

    1. I am aware of what you state, Annemieke. However, misinterpretation and almost impossiblle usage of LPW 5a is a whole different ballgame. I merely stated the law as it is right now (regarding options as they are described in LPW), and not particularly how our legal and school system ‘abuses’ LPW 5a.

      Though our battle is about freedom of education, our main focus will be on the discriminating part LPW 8.2.

      And thank you for your support and loving words!

  4. The law is flawed (as I see it) – there should be a logical order:
    1. Children have the right to learn (constitution);
    2. Children are adolescent, therefore parents/caretakers have the obligation to enable 1;
    3. The state can’t enforce this (2) onto parents without proper support, therefore public schools and/or other measures are needed.

    Now, to make sure your child is able to learn anything, you need to find the proper setting. The fact that a lot of children underperform at school is because for them the specific setting is not enabling them to really learn.

    So first of all, sending the child to school doesn’t mean that part 2 has been fulfilled and second, not sending the child to school doesn’t mean that part 2 has not been fulfilled. This is why the law is flawed and the key performance indicator (KPI) is misleading. Above all this, when you do homeschooling you don’t get any money to enable the study, which is provided for children going to school (discrimination?).

    We did homeschooling for our son from 5 – 10 years old, he was very motivated and at the moment he’s at a VWO+ with very good grades. Nobody can convince me school is the only good option to teach children what they need. The main problem is that the dutch government doesn’t want to spend money on homeschooling and wants to monitor children from 0 to 18 years (just wait for leerplicht starting at 4, obligation to enlist for ‘consultatiebureau’ and ‘GGD’).

    Send me details for supporting you.

    1. Hi Danny, thank you for your support!

      I totally agree on that the point of view regarding schooling children should be the other way arround, which is why our school system doesn’t work right now.

      I’ve sent you an e-mail with further information.

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