I have my share of not-so-great homeschooling moments. You know those days when all the kids do is complain, you feel like a complete failure, and you wonder why you’re doing it in the first place? Sadly those days happen more often than not, and it is easy for me to lose perspective. I’ll easily fall into the “woe is me” persecuted homeschool mama role, complaining that I just can’t get it all done, and that it’s just “so hard”.
Well, I’ve gotten a good jolt of reality on it all from a surprising source… the name Dominic. Obviously, the death of my son Dominic gave me some clarity on why I homeschool, and what my priorities should be. But I’ve gotten a new appreciation from another source with the same name… Domenic Johansson.
You may not know him, but he has been a big name in the international world of homeschooling, for the past 3 ½ years. Why? Because this then-7-year-old-boy was kidnapped from his parents, in 2009, by the Swedish government. The reason? Because they homeschooled him.
I know, I know, it sounds crazy. And it is crazy. But it really happened. And it happened because of homeschooling.
Christer and Annie Johansson decided to homeschool their only son, Domenic, because, at the time, homeschooling was legal in Sweden. For almost a year and a half prior to his seizure, the family had been harrassed and investigated for their decision, because Sweden (which has since made homeschooling illegal) was hostile to anyone that did not enroll their children in the government-sponsored schools. In June 2009, the family boarded a plane in preparation for flying to Annie’s native country of India, when Swedish armed policed stormed the plane and seized Domenic from his parents. Domenic, who vomited from the trauma of it all, was immediately placed in state foster care. The parents were never charged with any crime, nor did the police have a warrant. Officials originally cited homeschooling as the reason for taking Domenic into custody, only later adding in cavities in Domenic’s teeth (which the family was planning on getting treated in India by a dentist relative of Annie’s), and a failure to vaccinate to their justifications.
The ensuing months and years have been a picture of incalculable injustice. The Swedish court, through a mind-boggling amount of legal hocus pocus, has continued to rule that Domenic was in better care by the state, and would remain in foster care. The parents were allowed only highly supervised visits once every two weeks, in which they were not allowed to speak freely to their son or discuss the case at all. In 2010 all visitation by Chris and Annie to their son was cut off completely. To hammer the final nail on the coffin of justice, on December 10, 2012, a Swedish appeals court terminated Chris and Annie’s parental rights.
Although this family is continuing to pursue their options through the European Court of Human Rights – sadly because parental rights, in Europe, are strongly inferior to human rights – they continue to live, every day, with the knowledge that their son is being raised by someone other than themselves, and being indoctrinated in ways with which they do not agree. Through pursuing the natural right to educate their beloved son, they lost their son to a government that believes it can do a better job of educating children than parents can.
There is no smoking gun in this case. No skeletons in the closet, or deleterious hidden actions on the part of Domenic Johansson’s parents. It is simply a matter of power, control, and money on the part of a totalitarian government. For more details on the international politics behind the Johansson case, read From Sweden Without Love, The Folly of Sweden’s State-Controlled Families (a lecture given to the Family Education Trust in London), or Why Is the Swedish State So Cruel and Heartless? But, incredibly, the Johansson case is not unique. Many homeschoolers around the world face similar persecution and oppression. The freedom to teach our children as we choose, which we so easily take for granted in America, is a “freedom” that has cost many families across the world their children.
Every time I feel annoyed with how homeschooling is going, I think of this family. This family, who, because of their commitment to educate their child according to their own values, rather than the values of the state, has been ripped apart. I have actually corresponded with Chris Johansson personally, and have been struck by the plight of this articulate, caring father with whom I share many similarities. He and I share a similar faith, a similar love for our children, a commitment to parental rights, and even a love of photography. We both have sought to homeschool our children, and have been committed to teaching them the values that our families hold dear. The major difference between us? I have the freedom to homeschool as I choose, with my biggest concern being which curriculum is going to best suit my daughter’s learning style. Chris, on the other hand, has been told by the courts that he is no longer his son’s father.
Kind of puts my homeschooling “problems” in perspective.
So this week, when my daughter complains about writing a paper, or when I feel like we’re just not making any progress in math, I’m going to think of these boys with the same name. My Dominic, who reminds me just how short time is and how I must make the most of every moment with my children while I have them, and this Domenic halfway around the world, whose parents are fighting every moment just to regain the right to have the child they bore. I will think of them, and I will say, no matter how frustrating the issue at hand might be, “Thank you, Lord, for the blessing of being able to homeschool my children”.
If you are interested in receiving updates about the Johansson case, or want to encourage this family in their quest to get back their son, join the facebook group, Return Domenic Johansson To His Parents.