Breaking the law for the good of our children

My last blog entry was about how we do home schooling while on the road.

But wait, is home schooling legal in Sweden? Actually, no, it isn’t. So we are strictly speaking breaking the law. It is called Civil Disobedience, a form of respectful disagreement with a stupid law.

Here’s a dialog took place between me and Dave a few months before starting our trip:

  • Henrik: “So Dave, how are we going to handle schooling while we travel? You don’t want to fall behind all your friends right, and have to redo second grade while all your friends are in third grade?”
  • Dave: “Hey Dad, YOU can be my teacher during the trip!”
  • Henrik: “Great idea! Let’s do it!”

And then this dialog took place between me and the school teacher:

  • Henrik: “We plan to do a 6 month round-the-world trip, and I would like to home-school Dave. How can we do that?”
  • Teacher: “I don’t have the authority to permit that, you’ll have to talk to the principal”

So then this dialog took place between me and the school principal:

  • Henrik: “We plan to do a 6 month round-the-world trip, and I would like to home-school Dave. How can we do that?”
  • Principal: “I don’t have the authority to permit that, you’ll have to talk to the school authorities”

So then this dialog took place between me and a official from Ekerö Kommun:

  • Henrik: “We plan to do a 6 month round-the-world trip, and I would like to home-school our oldest child (8 years old). How can we do that?”
  • Official: “Sorry, we can’t permit that.”
  • Henrik: “What do you mean?”
  • Official: “It is against the law. The school law has changed recently, and home schooling is completely forbidden. You child has to attend a formally approved school as long as you are a Swedish citizen. The only exceptions are if you have medical reasons.”
  • Henrik: “Oh. Uh, well, suppose, hypothetically, that we make this trip anyway. What would happen?”
  • Official: “You would be breaking the law and can get into a lot of trouble. If we are worried about your child we can fine you and register you with the authorities and [list of other bad things that might happen to Bad Parents like us].
  • Henrik: “What can I do to lessen your worry than?”
  • Official: “Well, calling us now was a good first step.”
  • Henrik: “OK. Well, suppose, hypothetically, that we make this trip anyway. And suppose Dave menages to learn the stuff he needs to learn, and the school teachers agree that he has enough knowledge to join his class again when he is back home. Will we still be punished?
  • Official: “Probably not.”

I was glad to see that, even though a law can be unreasonable, the people enforcing it can be reasonable.

We realize that there is a reason for the law, since there have been some cases of parents keeping their kids completely outside of the school system, thereby denying their kids a proper education (and a chance to integrate with the Swedish society) That’s the type of situation the law is aimed at, a good cause. The stupid thing is that school principles aren’t given the authority to make exceptions on a case-by-case basis, such as this case where we obviously aren’t denying our child an education, and could present a credible plan for how to stay in sync with school. In the US, home schooling is really big, and the studies I have seen indicate that home schooling works just as well (and in many cases even better) than “normal” schooling, if done properly.

Anyway, enough ranting. In the end we decided to just ignore the law. This law incriminates any Swedish family that does a long trip like ours (and Swedes do travel a lot), and I’m sure that’s not the intent of the lawmakers. So I hope that more people like us will protest (such as through civil disobedience) and thereby indirectly contribute to a future adjustment of the school law.

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Categories: Uncategorized | 4 Comments

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4 thoughts on “Breaking the law for the good of our children

  1. Erik

    A really stupid law. Typically Swedish…

  2. chrs

    We didn’t have this problem on our trip since we were only away for 3 months, mostly during the summer break. But home schooling is allowed in the UK anyway. In fact, I’ve heard of people moving here from Germany where it is illegal and the authorities don’t turn a blind eye…

  3. Fred Sculco

    We met you in the BVI. We were the older couples on the adjacent boat. I sent you some pictures of the children to sophia@kniberg.com but they got sent back. Is there another address I can send them to? All the best, FredP.S. Enjoyed reading your blog….

  4. Henrik Kniberg

    That email address should work. Maybe the files were too big, in that case try using yousendit.com (a web service for emailing big files), or something like that. Or send several emails with fewer pictures in each.Thanks!

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