Is home schooling becoming an extreme exception?

With the start of the school year, the tall pine trees on Lake Trémelin probably thought they had rest this Thursday. Lost. While twelve million children were called to class, the stretch of water west of Rennes (Ille-et-Vilaine) was taken over by dozens of children, ranging from babies to adolescents. Extended vacation? Absolutely not. When these children play around and even in the pond, it is with the blessing of their parents. Here we defend the IEF, that is, the instruction in the family, better known as “school at home”.

Organized every year by the IEF 35 collective, the gathering ironically celebrates the “not returning to school” by offering children a day that is far removed from the day experienced in schools, colleges and secondary schools in France. No school bag or new pencil case here, but a firm desire to defend this alternative model, which remains marginal but attracts more and more parents. However, the IEF was dealt a serious blow on 1 September with the entry into force of the Family Education Act. Before the start of the school year, all parents who wanted to practice at home at school had to have an authorization. Previously, only a statement was required. “The problem with this authorization is that many parents don’t get it, without really understanding why. There are real differences between the academies,” explains Katy, member of the IEF 35 collective.

Mother of two boys aged 12 and 14, she has always been homeschooled. His two teenagers never went to school. “I discovered this for a year when I was a kid. It was my grandmother, who was a seamstress, who taught us. I have always kept this idea in mind for my children. I wanted them to discover something different.” Like all families whose children are already out of school, Katy has been quiet for two years and does not need permission, provided that the checks carried out by the inspectorate are favorable to her. The situation is much more complex for parents whose children have just started school.

Dozens of families gathered on September 1, 2022, to celebrate out of school and confirm their choice of homeschooling.
Dozens of families gathered on September 1, 2022, to celebrate out of school and confirm their choice of homeschooling. – C. Allain / 20 minutes

Since 2019, school is compulsory from 3 years in France. Parents who want to leave the school system must now justify this choice. A disability, intensive sport or art practice or the homelessness of the family are among the criteria used by the institution. The latter is much more vague and evokes “the existence of a specific situation for the child that motivates the educational project”. Every dossier is studied, but few are accepted. Sometimes rightly so, because certain situations can lead to the isolation of children in maladaptive contexts. But sometimes wrongly, when families just want to manage a more autonomous instruction themselves, inspired by models like Montessori. “I received the rejection letter yesterday (Wednesday). Normally I should have taken my son to school this morning. But I didn’t have the courage. I want to take time for reflection.

Numerous appeals have already been made to the administrative court. At the Toulouse academy, 283 of the 314 requests for reason 4 were rejected. “This reason 4 is the exception, you really need a valid reason,” Rector Mostafa Fourar insisted. Jennifer is one of them. Two years ago, this mother of three decided to pick up her oldest from primary school to teach him at home.

“My son had good results, but he couldn’t sit still. Sitting in class all day was not for him. All his teachers told me that.”

The new law allows her to continue teaching her 11-year-old grand, but not her 4-year-old junior. The reason ? She has no baccalaureate degree. “It’s absurd. Especially when you know how teachers are recruited at the moment,” tackles Coralie, whose son has been benefiting from family education for a year.

Already under consideration for a few years and the persistent comments from distraught teachers, Jennifer’s choice to leave school was confirmed during the first incarceration of March 2020. A date on which millions of parents could test – in many more or less good circumstances – what homeschooling was like. . Already on the rise, the number of interested families has increased. About 70,000 children would be involved in home schooling. What do they think? “I really like the IEF because we do a little bit of everything. We work in the morning and in the afternoon I can see my girlfriends and friends,” explains Amande, 10 years old. The girl was interested in participating in a “normal” class this year. “I wanted to try, meet other kids, see what it was like. But I was a little scared to sit all day.

“We suffer from these prejudices when it is unfounded”

Faced with the threat of getting the famous clearance if her daughter wanted to go home, Amande’s mother didn’t want to take the risk. “People sometimes think that our children are not socialized or that they are not going to learn enough. We suffer from these prejudices when they are unfounded. They are very comfortable, they develop skills, autonomy “says Claire, who hopes for the repeal of the law. If her choice is ideological, Claire has a moving thought for all children who do not like school. “There are families for whom school becomes a real problem. By banning them from home schooling, we deprive them of a solution.” To promote its law, the government insisted on the need to fight radicalization and separatism. An argument that did not convince many people. “How also, you had to turn yourself in in the past And you really think those families did?” asks Katy.

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