Shalom

I have longed for thy salvation, O L-RD; and thy Torah is my delight. Let my soul live, and it shall praise thee; and let thy judgments help me. I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek thy servant; for I do not forget thy commandments. Psalm 119:174-176


18 September 2013

German Homeschooling Case - The Dudek Family

White Hibiscus - photo by A or J Stahl

At the risk of being called out for this, I do want to cover another home-schooling family in Germany that has been in the news quite often here, but is rarely heard of in the United States. Not only has this family been in the news, they've also been featured in their own documentary.

Today, I would like to share that documentary, as accurately as I possibly can.

In addition to the documentary, I would like to share some news articles about the family, so that all the information I have, is also disseminated in a neat little package for my readers as well, so that everyone can make up their own minds on the case.

 I do wish to place a disclaimer here that I do not believe that this family is in any way involved with the Zwölf Stämmen or other spiritually or physically abusive groups. They seem to be a large, religious family that is happy together and simply wish to continue home-schooling.

It is cases like these, that make it difficult for the courts to find themselves able to push for a revision of  German home-schooling laws. It is also due to the interference of the HSLDA, that Germany feels pressured not to change anything.

The Dudeks live in Hessen and stand on the penultimate stage of escalation [with Child Protective Services]. They risk imprisonment - three months for the father, three months for the mother with no hope of suspension... It is the culmination of a conflict between a family and the German State, that leave both sides with confusing, difficult complications from their doggedness.

Prison could be avoided if Jürgen and Rosemarie would send their children to a public school... But Jürgen Dudek says he can not.
Der Spiegel: ERZIEHUNG - Schule oder Knast 05.01.2009
[Der Spiegel: Education - School or Jail]

...Since the end of the 1990s, Rosemarie and Jürgen D. moved into the 150-inhabitant village... Here, they can live as they want. Or rather: as God wants them to live. So they thought at least until recently...
...It is a possibility for one to consider the family "Christian zealots". But, you would also have to keep in mind that a hundred years ago, Juergen and Rosemarie D. would be hardly noticed in Germany. But, in the 21 Century, they are as if they are out of step with the times...
TAZ: Evangelikale in Deutschland - Um Gottes willen! [Evangelicals in Germany - For God's sake!]

Due to the length of the documentary, I ask that you exercise patience with my translation. My hope is that in translating this documentary, everyone can hear and understand in the Dudek family's own words, what they believe and have been doing for these last twelve years in Hessen.  I wish to present this information as objectively as possible, but as things generally go, there are difficulties when one is translating. Sometimes it is a lot like "Darmok" on Star Trek: The Next Generation. Please bear with us.



Documentary Transcript in English as follows:

Narrator: Concealed in a small village in the Hessian Werra-Meißner District, lives the Dudek family. Although there is compulsory schooling laws in Germany, the parents have taught their own eight children at home for the last twelve years.
One would understand when people ask themselves: Why would parents quit their own careers and change their lives around completely to take on the responsibility to teach their own children? Or why the Dudek family, though they breach their duty to send their children to school and remain in conflict with the courts over this issue; and why the parents keep trying to have the courts overturn court costs and fines as a result of schooling their children at home.

[Musical overlay, with one of the children playing piano and the family's name is shown: Family Jürgen Dudek.]
[Documentary Title: Mit Gottvertrauen Bildung Bauen - In Trusting God, Building Formal Education
Jürgen Dudek: A school is a marketplace for all forms of values, opinions and outlooks. So, it is somewhat like a black box device where we know what and how everything works inside. We know whatever is put inside will build something that is evident soon [in the lives of the students]. We had discomfort about this, that we were stuffed [IWO: screwed] and wondered at our possibilities.
Rosemarie Dudek: Our oldest son Jonathan went to a private school for three quarters of a year. Uh, yeah, but that was so that half of the class teachers had called our house and told that he has not understood something and I had to see him again please through the lesson..
Jürgen Dudek: He was bullied because that was the youngest of the class .. he had an unreasonably long route to school ... and, ultimately, my wife had to go over all of his schoolwork with him in the afternoon after school, re-teaching him as if we were a mini school. So we said, since it's cheaper and we're doing this already, we'll just school him at home.
In that 12 years we have not wanted a single day, to not teach our children at home. We as parents need to be the ones who are able to evaluate if homeschooling is a viable way or not. As homeschooling parents, everything seems to work pretty well without the children lagging behind their public schooling peers. Why then, are such parents nevertheless forced to send their children to school, even for the worse? Why is no one checking what is going on and that our method is working well – even though we have attempted proved it? Why is the school system and child protective services still not letting go?
Jonathan Dudek: In the first grade, I attended for only three quarters of the year at a Christian private school. I didn't have an easy position in the class due to being youngest in the class. The very long bus ride to and from school that I had to take tired me out. It was a relief when my parents removed me from school.

Jürgen Dudek: There is no child without an exceptional ability or abilities and the key to that potential is always sensitivity. This is not something that there is room for in formal schools. School is a collective organization where the creativity of a single person is not always asked for or needed. If public schools would allow the children the freedom to unfold their individual potential in areas, then, we would have completely different results.

Rosmarie Dudek: I believe what the children hear from classmates and teachers in school may not influence them for the better. When it comes to sexual educational teaching, I believe that this is something that the parents are better suited towards teaching their children at home. 
Jürgen Dudek: If a child is confronted with sexual education before puberty, it has a whole different meaning and weight of understanding to them. The child may ask themselves “Why do I need to know about this?” In puberty, there are different ways that one should face the topic with their children about such things. There are problems when you present sexual educational lessons as something that is about your own pleasure. In reality, it is rather about something that is very precious given to you by our Creator that we have to handle very responsibly.
Rosmarie Dudek: The goal of our lives is to get to Heaven. The question is how we get there. And if there is no basis for biblical education and conscientiousness in school....
Jürgen Dudek: We are educating our children to give their Creator their trust. Their Creator is also their Savior and Judge. This is the conventional Christian belief which was handed down from our ancestors. We, as parents, are born again Christians. Since this grace was extended to us to give us freedom and salvation, why shouldn't we be teaching this to our children? But, we are always giving them the information that this is a very personal decision that they, themselves have to make on their own without anyone pressing them to. We were also not forced in making our personal decision in faith.
Rosemarie Dudek: I always had the impression that school robbed me of my precious time and freedom. I always found it to be a sort of prison and if I knew that there was a possibility of homeschooling; I would have wished my parents to give me such an ability as well.

Jürgen Dudek: Today I know everything that I missed out on when I was in school. Not that I missed out because I was a bad student or the teacher was poor – No. I missed out because I was distracted by the wish to be somewhere, anywhere else. The actual lessons weren't as fruitful as they are with our children now, because they grow up in another educational environment.
Lukas Dudek: We do not feel like we miss out by not having a television set, simply because we do not see it as a source of information. I know that I can spend my time better. As I am building my education as a mechanical engineer, I am together with other people of my peer group and in my free time, I spend mostly at home. I enjoy practicing the piano and various activities with the family.
Daniel Dudek: My younger brother and I are youth volunteer fire fighters and I am additionally in the local swim club and orchestra in the music school in Eisenach. Our activities with other people are limited.
Lukas Dudek: We do, of course, have other friends. However, they are not necessarily close by. Therefore, get togethers do not always happen every weekend. When we do organize activities like swimming or going to the lake, we tend to be amongst ourselves. [the siblings, not friends]
Jonathan Dudek: We are altogether five boys, I think that's enough people already. For the peers of our age group, extra curricular activities seem to be focused mostly on going to parties. Parties really aren't our thing. I don't see much sense in getting drunk or damaging your ears...
Jürgen Dudek: There is kind of a knee-jerk reaction concerning home-schooling. The first question is always, “What about socializing?” Usually that is asked with the concern that we do not take care that our children will be disadvantaged and miss out on cultural aspects and social interaction because they are not schooled with their peers. To this, we say that our children are different, but is that truly a disadvantage? I do not think so.
I also do not think that equal social knowledge or experience is something absolute, which every person must experience. We actually see an advantage with our children that they do not have any peer pressure.
[Jonathan, Lucas and Daniel sit at a computer table]
Jonathan Dudek: In summer of 2011, we took a bike tour that started in the Bodensee in Lindau and drove over the Alps, northern Italy, up to the Mediterranean sea. We knew that we wanted to make a film of the trip, but we were not sure how to accomplish this feat. So, we just started compiling short films that we took with our cameras, phones and with as many photos as we had taken; we began to process everything at home on our computers.
I am surprised that three years ago, we didn't even have the ability to watch a video at home, and we are now making our own. This is an advantage for us as homeschoolers, to be able to learn on our own and support our own interests

Jeremia Dudek: In the afternoons I sometime have some homework to do. This is usually something I can finish quickly. When the weather is dry, I'm able to go drive my mountain bike. Or I could play my trumpet... I have many pen pals so I sometimes spend time writing letters.. or often in summer, I will play soccer with my siblings. 
Lukas Dudek: I'm not very much at home these days, because I'm mostly training for my job. Otherwise, I see everyone else at mealtime.

[Family around the table, praying at lunch time, prior to sitting and eating]
[unsure which child is speaking] It's nice to have a family around you that gives you structure, and who you enjoy spending time with.
Rosemarie Dudek: In Germany, it is very important to have a secondary school diploma. I wish that the younger children know that they have the possibility to complete their secondary education as the oldest children have. I want them to know that they could further their education or choose to go into job training – whatever it is that they wish to do.
Jürgen Dudek: We would prefer that we may further educate our children at home, as we have for the past twelve years, without interference from any state officials.
Rosemarie Dudek: After all of these years, we have been able to prove that our children receive a good education at home, through the official school exit examinations. Even though we have these good results, we are being punished as if it doesn't matter at all. This shows that this really is about fulfilling the letter of the law and not about the good of the children.

Jürgen Dudek: [Quoting court documents] “The particularities of this case nevertheless make the imposition of a custodial penalty is essential. Such an imposition of even a high fine will cause the accused to pay out of their own savings which include savings received child allowance benefits. The accused have said that they would then continue to teach their children at home anyway. It is not clear to what extent these circumstances should be changed without penalty of jail, or freedom as they are willing to face penalties, in their opinion for the last three children who currently are too young for compulsory schooling. Then the family, who did not abide by the law, will have taught seven children at home. Currently, they are on the path of completing this with four children, which increases the degree of error against their duty as already substantially mentioned heretofore.... and so on.... Penalty of jail needs to be placed on them.” - What an injustice!
Lukas Dudek: Yeah, well, I was for the last half year of the tenth grade at a state school. It was there I was introduced to the difference of compulsory schooling and homeschooling. I realized that I was learning more effectively at home. I'm happy that I used my childhood to my best advantages.
Jürgen Dudek: From the beginning, we believed that we would need to keep a school record of what the children are learning. So, we kept such a thing for every year that we taught our children. It is only a basic coverage of our school year, and how we actually fill that out is going to vary from day to day. We only know that we will cover specific subjects and items for specific hours of the day, but we do not know how we will exactly do that from a day to day point of view.

We divided ourselves so that my wife taught biology up to seventh or eighth grade, and from there, the children taught themselves. My wife also teaches music to the children, as we find this to be a very important subject – without a musical education – we can't imagine such a thing. My wife also teaches French, and the other subjects that come up fall to me.  
[Jürgen and one of the children sit at the table in front of a microscope] After looking at the microscope that is already put together, I want you to take the parts out of the box and build your own. Let's see how it goes...
Jonathan Dudek: This is an apparatus for distilling salt water. The distilled water is collecting over there.
[Rosemarie Dudek speaks French with one of her children]
[Jürgen is holding one of the youngest children while studying mathematics with his son] 
Jürgen Dudek: While I was at school, I just flaked out on mathematics. I found it too difficult and it was too much pressure for me. I would have never thought that I could rediscover the areas that were not available to me, again at home while schooling my own children. Especially in a way that I can teach other people about it, where I would not have even grasped it on my own a few years ago. Even I have learned something with this homeschooling business.

Lukas Dudek: As in compulsory schooling, we received mid-term testing ever Spring. It was not surprising to us as we already knew where we stood in relation to our schooling. 
Jonathan Dudek: I was always nervous about it. 
Lukas Dudek: I always enjoyed learning at home. I enjoyed the freedom, and it was nice to have my siblings and dog around. I was able to choose for myself what to learn and how to learn it.

Jonathan Dudek: First of all, I need to say that the most important experience for me was to develop my school material with my parents; and because of that, my relationship with my parents strengthened. What also helped me learn from my parents was that I was learning freely without being forced to understand the material all at once or at the teacher's pace. It's nice to just check out the books and work on the subjects and see what each thing is missing and needs to be filled out on my own. That was fun. 
Jürgen Dudek: The compulsory schooling laws in each of the German states have wiggle room that schooling at home may take place. There are exceptions where people are allowed to do such a thing, it just has to be wanted by the politicians in each state. Dietrich Bonhöffer said once “The Germans have had their backs broken twice – first in the school and secondly in the military.” Now that there is no compulsory military service. It used to be very dominant in the past (in the German Empire and later on), why shouldn't compulsory education go the same direction? One solution is that we have exceptions to compulsory schooling for parents who see themselves in the position to educate their own children.
The great fear that always goes around in this scenario is that so many family will hold their children out of compulsory schooling and create parallel societies without giving their children the ability to learn, but force them instead into child labor. This is groundless fear. Usually, parents who are with ambition to teach their children at home, are the ones who will actually follow through with this wish. The others are rather glad that their children are gone from home during the first half of the day.

Rosemarie Dudek: I believe that it is not going to be very difficult to check up on home-schoolers for this sort of thing, because there won't be that many children who will actually educate their children at home. So, I don't think that the risks really are that large. So, that should make things easier. 
Jürgen Dudek: But, in my opinion, my belief is that the house is where you build all other schooling concepts and socialization. Homeschooling is far ahead of compulsory education, especially in socialization aspects as the parents are the ones who are in charge of making sure their children are not placed in any dangers of going too far to the left or right. The responsibilities – well, who is rather responsible of that and hold to these responsibilities? That should be the parents. But not every parent can do that, which is of course clear. But our lawful state should allow those parents who feel that they can do that, and wish to do that, to have the freedom to teach their children at home.

Rosemarie Dudek: Two years ago, my husband and I each were given three months jail time without parole and, um, I thought that I would rather go to three months of jail than my children having to visit me for an entire year of jail time. I would have done these three months if the courts made us. 
Jürgen Dudek: On the first day after school summer holidays, a letter from the educational authorities arrived in our mail. It was new charges for exactly three months time in jail. The educational authorities had gotten wind that we were warned of three months jail time being threatened and they wanted us to tack on additional time to that. We did not have the feeling that they were willing to actually help or check up on our situation. After this, we also received offers of communication from the educational authorities but the target was always that the children must go into compulsory education. It was shown clearly that they were not willing to have open education.

In no way was the educational authority open to the idea that there were any other good ways to educate our children, such as homeschooling them. It was the same story over and over to the point that even if we were going to register our home-school under a state school for guidance was unquestionably going to be denied. They didn't move even a millimeter in that the children could do anything other than compulsory education in a state or private school.

There attempts to disrupt us as a family. The educational authorities have gotten child protective services involved and wanted to come take the children away with police escorts bringing them to school like truants. Apparently the educational authorities were loathe to do that. I suspect that this would create bad press for them that police come and take children to and from school. This already happened in southern Germany in Bavaria, and this caused quite an uproar in society. And if something like that became public again, it would rather backfire on themselves.

Lukas Dudek: Whether or not I'd home-school my own children, I really can't say at this point. But, I would say that I do wish my children would be able to learn like I've been able to. I see it as an easier way to learn and grow. 
Jonathan Dudek: What I wish for most, is that they would be prepared best for life as we were at our own childhood home. Part of that is that the child's character is shaped and based mostly at home. For this reason, I believe I would educate my own children at home, because I want to give them the best in their lives.

[A film from Andreas Holzhauer] 
Narrator: Why may the Dudek family not decide the fate of their own children? Why is home-schooling not legalized in Germany when it is already established as legal in other countries? What is the correct thing for the Dudek family to do to not face consequences in the future? The educational authorities did not want to be interviewed on the Dudek case. The educational authorities feel that an interview would strengthen good opinions on the Dudek family in the public and they did not want to make light of the situation.
We were declined for interview with the statement that they wished to calm the situation down and according to the authorities, there are cases with other home-schooling families that have not yet been made public.

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