The Dark Side of Government Schooling in Sweden

In 2011 Sweden banned homeschooling “except under exceptional circumstances,” forcing some families to immediately leave the country in order to continue homeschooling and others to stay and see what would happen. Those who stayed have faced very stiff fines for every day they homeschool their children, though to date no one has been taken to court for payment. But it appears this will soon change. Swedish educationists want to be sure that children have the right to go to school, but not the reciprocal right to decline and learn in other types of settings, such as at home and in their communities. A strange “right” this is—the right to be forced to attend school under threat of fines, the right to lose your children to social services, and the right to only follow instructions from government agencies about what you can and can’t do for your children’s education.

There is a Swedish news article about making this explicit in their law; my friends in Sweden have translated this blog entry by one of the proposal’s proponents, Lotta Edholm:

Today I have written an opinion piece together with Ann-Katrin Åslund (Liberal Party) in Aftonbladet asking that the social services act be changed so that the social authorities have the possibility act when children are held from away school by their parents – often for religious or ideological reasons. Every child has a right to an education. The school law states that education shall “be designed in accordance with democratic values and human rights”. This is incompatible with a system where parents simply can refuse to send their children to school and the social services has no support in law to intervene. Deputy Minister of Social Affairs, Maria Larsson, who is also responsible for conditions for children, should take an initiative to change the social services act so that the social authorities can intervene when children are kept away from school by their parents.


There are significant differences in social attitudes and laws between Sweden and the United States, so it is not useful to simply say that US law is better than Swedish law and they should be more like us. But there is a very strong assumption by the Swede’s that education is a science that can only performed by those who are certified in it, and challenging that perception may be the hinge for successfully challenging the Swedish homeschooling ban. Here are some ideas on that topic:

If there is one correct way to educate all children, why are there so many different pedagogies? If education is only the result of instruction performed by professionals in schools, why do countries with lots of educational options, such as Finland and Denmark, flourish? There is a large research base that supports informal learning and other models besides government schooling: How does Sweden justify ignoring a human’s innate ability to learn on his or her own, as we’ve done for centuries before compulsory schooling became the norm (around 1850), as well as all the research that supports intrinsic motivation, autodidactic behavior, and learning by doing as deep sources for educational excellence? What about the Pippi Longstockings—those children who do not respond to control and prediction in classroom settings but nonetheless succeed in life? Getting parents involved in their children’s education is vital according to every piece of research I have read, so why must parents stop at a certain point? Why must education be either/or (school/homeschool) and not both/and? I can go on, but I’ll stop here for now.

Underlying a lot of this discussion, from what I can tell by reading in translation, is also a fear of “the other”: people whose religious, educational, or political beliefs are different from the government’s beliefs. We have struggled with this issue in our own country and have created a pluralist society that tolerates many ways of living and growing, though it is hardly perfect. Nonetheless, we are at least making an effort at inclusion in the United States; it remains to be seen if such tolerance for “the other” will continue in Sweden.

New Education Law Makes Homeschooling Illegal in Sweden

How the Swedish Government voted against a human right.
The Swedish Parliament passed a new school law on Tuesday, June 22, 2010.

This is the first completely re-written school law since 1985 and it is about 1500 pages long. Two or three of these pages concern ”completing the school obligation in other ways”, or in other words homeschooling. The new law even further restricts an already highly restrictive policy on homeschooling in Sweden, making it pretty much illegal. Here is the story.

What does the new law on homeschooling say?

The writing on homeschooling in the new law is basically the same as in the old law. The law requires a fully satisfactory alternative to school and that the authorities can look into the homeschooling. However, the new law adds a third requirement: “there must be exceptional circumstances”. Lawyers have told us that “exceptional circumstances” in a Swedish juridical context means as close to a definite “no” as you can get, regardless of the circumstances.

Also in the motivational text of the law, which explains how the new law on homeschooling is to be interpreted, the following can be read (my translation):

“Current school conventions make it clear that the education in school shall be comprehensive and objective, and thereby be created so that all pupils can participate, no matter what religious or philosophical views the pupil or its legal guardian/s may have. In accordance with this it is the opinion of the Government that there is no need of a law to make possible homeschooling based on the religious of philosophical views of the family.”

Page 523 in Prop. 2009/10:165 (Swedish Government proposition)

This means that religious or philosophical convictions are no longer valid reasons for homeschooling under the new school law.

How Rohus worked to stop the law

Using all of its rather limited resources Rohus has worked vigorously to stop this new law ever since it was proposed on June 15, 2009. Rohus was asked by the Ministry of Education to give a consideration on the new law, which we did in September 2009 in a full 228 pages. During the spring we have lobbied Members of Parliament and written countless e-mails to the Parliament and to the Government. We have worked hard with media getting more published articles and TV-spots on homeschooling in the last six months than probably in the last ten years all put together. We have sent many requests to the Minister of Education asking for a meeting, but have always been turned down. In the last week before the vote Rohus wrote one e-mail per day, each with a new argument for homeschooling, to all 349 Members of Parliament. Several members responded to us in agreement or disagreement. Obviously, there was a reaction to the e-mails we were sending.

In the vote of the new law the red-green opposition – the Social-democrats, the Green Party and the Leftist Party – voted against the law with the basic reason that there was not enough time to evaluate the law. The centre-right government side of the parliament voted for the law – the Liberal Party, the Moderate Party, the Centre Party and the Christian Democrats. Thereby this centre-right Swedish Government approved of a law clearly violating human rights in Sweden.

No true majority for all aspects of the new lawIn truth, however, there was no majority in Parliament in favour of passing the whole law. We knew from the e-mail responses and from personal meetings with several Members of Parliament that they were probably a dozen members on the Government side who did not want to restrict homeschooling. How could the law still be passed? ”Well, such is democracy”, says a member of the Christian Democratic Party, one of those who did not want to restrict homeschooling. What this person meant was: The mandate of the Government, the party line and the bureaucratic procedures. There was no possibility to vote ”no” only to the pages on homeschooling, and a ”no” to the entire law would have inflicted a Government crises. In this way a human right was terminated with few people realizing it.

One dissident on the law in the Swedish Parliament

One member on the Government side, however, did not want to vote against her conviction and was replaced by another person in the vote. Maria Kornevik Jakobsson from the Centre Party was critical both to the restriction on homeschooling, and to the view of the new law to make day care and pre-school regarded as a form of school. She was concerned that this was first step to make day-care and pre-school compulsory. This made a new split in the current Government coalition visible: On one hand, the rationalist and neo-liberal Liberal Party and Moderate Party; On the other hand the more more traditionally liberal and developmentally oriented Christian Democrats and the Centre Party.

A weak Swedish democracy made the ban on homeschooling possible

The new school law has brought into the open a much bigger issue than the question of homeschooling. No democratic Government should have the possibility to abolish a human right through law. There needs to be rules to what a Government can do. In other countries this is called a constitution. Sweden lacks a true constitution and an elected Swedish Government has great freedom to do whatever it wishes. The only real control is at election every fourth year. If Sweden had been a true democracy, the Supreme Court council on new laws (Lagrådet) could have stopped the law. The Lagrådet also criticized the new key words in the law restricting homeschooling: ”exceptional circumstances” in chapter 24, paragraph 23. The Lagrådet found the term ill defined. But as the Lagrådet at present only has an advisory function the Government did not need to care, and indeed they did not.

The only power in Sweden seems to be able stop a human right from being terminated by law is the media. If the opinion in media is strong enough, the Government gets cold feet in fear of losing votes. The fifty or so Swedish Homeschooling families were simply too few, in spite of hard work and wonderful international support – too few to make sufficient headway in the media.

Human rights are not strong in Sweden

Human rights do not have strong support in Sweden. In Sweden it is possible for a human right to be abolished in Parliament based on prejudices and ignorance – this is exactly what we witnessed just now. This is the ultimate reason for homeschooling being restricted as close to being fully illegal as can be. The worst part is that the present Swedish Government actually used this democratic weakness. It is hard to write in a civilized way what Swedish homeschoolers feel about this.

Still, there is hope for the future

But not everything is on the dark side. A human right living in the heart of some citizens can never be abolished through a vote in Parliament. And Rohus has definitely made some inroads into top politics. Several embarrassed Members of Parliament have tried to sheer up Rohus board members during personal encounters outside the Parliament building this Monday. The say that homeschooling has not been made illegal, there is still some possibilities to get permission, especially for secular members of Rohus. Of course, Rohus will confront them with this if Swedish homeschoolers get problems with the new school law.

International pressure is paramount

During the informal talks on Monday we also learnt that the Swedish Government is not happy about the international attention the new law restricting homeschooling has attracted. Again, the international help given to Rohus has had a definite effect. A plausible conclusion could be that the Ministry of Education has lately realized that the restriction may not have been worth its political cost, but that stopping the law again was not possible for reasons of political prestige. An optimistic view of this conclusion would be that the Swedish Government does not want to see any spectacular cases of exile, political asylum in other countries or homeschoolers put in jail, and that it will do what it can to stop this. The could lead to a mild interpretation of the new law, and international pressure will certainly help in this respect.The law could be short-lived.

In September Sweden has national elections and the law cannot be considered to be in effect until after the election. The outcome of the election is by no means certain and new parties could cause a complicated political situation. The fate of the new school law is therefore at present in the hands of the September election. Parts of the law could be very short-lived.

Homeschooling in Sweden will continue

Swedish homeschoolers will not be intimidated by the new law. They will continue to homeschool. They will either fight in court or go in political exile – they need not go further than the neighboring Nordic countries which all allow homeschooling under workable circumstances. Rohus will continue to work politically to change the law, through new connections established and through the new awareness of homeschooling which seems to be growing, even if it is slowly, in Parliament.

Jonas Himmelstrand

President of Rohus – The Swedish Association for Home Education


Please, also sign our petition HERE if you want to support us in our work to ensure that home education becomes a legal alternative to school.

Soviet-Swedish Social Services Kidnap and Abuse Domenic Johansson – Why? Home-Schooling!


Comment: An Open Society? A Democracy? Freedom of Choice? NO NO NO!

It’s been called one of the worst cases of government abuse ever committed against a home schooling family: the abduction by Swedish authorities of Domenic Johansson, a happy, healthy, 7-year-old boy taken from his parents Christer and Annie Johansson in 2009 as they waited to leave Sweden on a flight to India.

After the abduction, the Johanssons’ story spread quickly on the Internet.

But three years later, Domenic is still being kept from his parents, and Swedish authorities keep finding new reasons for why the child can’t go home.

The Abduction

“This is about the most fundamental right you have. You have the right to your own children, or you should have,” Christer told CBN News during the first television interview he and his wife have given since their only child’s abduction.

In 2008, Christer and Annie were making plans to leave Sweden for humanitarian work in Annie’s native India.

They decided it would be best for Domenic to be home-schooled during the final months before their departure, rather than enroll him in public school.

Christer says Sweden’s Ministry of Education told him they could home-school, but local officials levied steep fines and threatened the couple to discourage them from doing so.

Then, as the parents sat on a plane at Stockholm airport for their scheduled trip to India, police came aboard and took Domenic away.

“They took Domenic from the plane,” Christer recalled. “Then he threw up until they took him to ER. That’s how severe the trauma is. If someone throws up so you have to take him to the hospital, that’s severe.”

“I have no clue what went on,” Annie added. “There was just a stampede. My child had no clue, and I have no clue still what’s going on. I can just hear the screams of my child all the time.”

Cat and Mouse

According to Christer, the couple was supposed to have Domenic back a few days later. But when they went to pick him up, authorities changed their story.

Officials decided Domenic was “at risk,” because he had cavities and did not have every recommended vaccination. They also noted he was shy.

Gotland Social Services then found more problems — claiming the Johanssons’ home didn’t have enough furniture, and that Christer was a drug addict with a mental illness, even though he passed a drug test and psychiatric examination.

“I went to psychiatric clinic and said, ’Check me thoroughly,’ and they did. So I took that paper to court and it had no effect whatsoever,” Christer recalled. “I said, ’I’m healthy,’ but the Social Services and Social Services’ lawyer said ’No, you are suffering from personality disorder.’”

Social Services said Domenic was developmentally delayed, although videos show him flying a plane on a flight simulator before being abducted at age 7, and also speaking clear English.

Authorities were also disturbed that Domenic was too affectionate with other children, greeting his friends with a hug and kiss on the cheek. They called this “deviant behavior.”

Christer was then labeled a “human rights fanatic.”

Christer said authorities have resisted all attempts to reunite the family. And evidence showing that the pair are good parents has been completely ignored.

“It doesn’t matter if we have professors or doctors to speak for us. It just doesn’t matter,” he said.

Swedish Soviet Union?

Exasperated, Christer brought Domenic home without permission in Nov. 2010. Police then raided their home with guns and dogs and took Domenic away again. Christer was put in jail for two months.

“The Domenic Johansson case is the home-school tragedy of Sweden. I believe this was simply a mistake,” Jonas Himmelstrand, who heads the Swedish Homeschooling Association (Rohus), told CBN News.

“Officials didn’t realize they couldn’t take a child on home schooling charges alone. So after they took him, they invented all kinds of other reasons — and also pride, which is well-known among Swedish authorities, that once they’ve made a mistake to never admit it,” he said.

Michael Donnelly, an attorney for the Home School Legal Defense Association, which is helping the Johanssons, said, “It’s astonishing to me that free governments who know about this case have not done more.

Donnelly compared the Swedish government’s behavior to the Soviet Union.

“This local government, backed up now by Swedish courts, have demonstrated that they are capable of visiting the most totalitarian acts on their own citizens, reminiscent of the Soviet Union and communist countries in recent history,” Donnelly said.

The Emotional Fallout

Annie and Christer were only allowed to visit Domenic for one hour every five weeks, but even that has stopped. Christer said the son who so obviously loved his parents before the abduction, now no longer wants to see them.

“We haven’t had any contact with him since Nov. 2010 – not a phone call, not one. We don’t know how he is. We don’t know anything,” Christer said.

Annie suffered an emotional breakdown after the abduction and now suffers from panic attacks when she talks about what happened.

The Gotland Social Services Board has told the media that secrecy prevents it from discussing the case. But Sweden’s ambassador to the United States has defended his government’s actions.

Meanwhile, the Johanssons’ attorney Ruby Harrold-Claesson says the police abduction of Domenic from the plane was illegal, and another court hearing is scheduled for May.

But photos of Domenic before and after the abduction show what Christer describes as boy who has already been “broken into a million pieces.” Annie and Christer keep hoping this nightmare will end.

“How can you live without your children?” Annie asked. “It’s devastated our life. This has in fact devastated everything in our life.”


Ed Comment: This is the essence of life in Sweden. CONFORMITY and UNIFORMITY. “Oneness”, all the same, do the same, shut up and go back to sleep. Law of Jante

Please listen to our commentary: The Nordic Model, a Template for Global Enslavement

Red Ice Radio

John Taylor Gatto – History of Education, Social Engineering & Indoctrination in the School System

Hour 2 of this interview: here