Interview with German Radio

In Germany it is not allowed to home school. A journalist contacted us, because she wanted to make an interview with us for German State Radio. Here is the result:

https://www.deutschlandfunkkultur.de/homeschooling-in-daenemark-ein-weltall-referat-am.976.de.html?dram:article_id=450366

Here is the radio show in text:

In der Heimschule der Familie Schou in Dänemark steht nicht nur der klassische Lernstoff auf dem Programm. Die Kinder lernen auch beim Gemüseeinkauf, im Garten oder beim Lesen von Manga-Comics. Und wer eine Pause braucht, geht aufs Trampolin.

Photo rights owned by Miriam Arndts.

Es ist 10 Uhr morgens und in der Heimschule der Familie Schou, wie sie sie selbst nennen, ist es ganz still. Die vier Kinder sind vertieft in ihre jeweiligen Tätigkeiten. Weil sie mit dem Lernstoff für dieses Schuljahr fast fertig sind, dürfen die Kinder an diesem Vormittag selbst entscheiden, womit sie sich beschäftigen.

Die 15 Jahre alte Martha zeichnet Fantasiewesen, die 12-jährige Edith bastelt an einer Tasche aus Plastikperlen, die 11-jährige Dagmar liest einen japanischen Comic. Der Jüngste, Hjalmar, schreibt Wörter in eine Reihe. Er ist sechs Jahre alt. Seine Lieblingsbeschäftigung in der Schule sei es, in seinem Arbeitsheft Wörter mit den dazugehörigen Bildern zu verbinden, erzählt er. In welche Klasse er gehe, wisse er nicht.

Mutter Vibeke Schou sitzt auch mit am Tisch, hält sich aber im Hintergrund. Die Entscheidung, die Kinder zu Hause zu unterrichten, trafen sie und ihr Mann, als ihre älteste Tochter eingeschult werden sollte.

Die Begeisterung der Kinder fürs Lernen bewahren
„Mein Mann und ich erinnerten uns an unsere Schulzeit. Und die war nicht immer rosig. Entweder musste man auf die anderen warten und langweilte sich, oder man hinkte so weit hinterher, dass man total verloren war. Ich sah mir 10 bis 20 Schulen in der Umgebung an und suchte nach einer, die ich selbst jeden Tag besuchen wollte. Diese Schule gab es nicht.

Unser Ansatz ist, dass Lernen ein großartiges Geschenk ist und wir wollen die Begeisterung in unseren Kindern bewahren. Viele Kinder freuen sich ja auf ihren ersten Schultag und darauf, etwas zu lernen. Und dann wird diese Begeisterung nach und nach ausgelöscht.“

Frau und mehrere Kinder schauen auf einen Bildschirm. (Miriam Arndts)Ihre Doppelrolle als Mutter und Lehrerin empfindet Vibeke Schou als völlig natürlich. (Miriam Arndts)

Seit zehn Jahren unterrichtet Vibeke Schou ihre Kinder zu Hause, während ihr Mann arbeitet. Abends macht er mit den Kindern manchmal physikalische und elektronische Experimente, während die ausgebildete Schneiderin Nähkurse an der Volkshochschule gibt.

Photo rights owned by Miriam Arndts.

Ihre Doppelrolle als Mutter und Lehrerin empfindet Vibeke Schou als völlig natürlich. „Bei uns ist es ein bisschen so, wie es zu Beginn der Menschheit war: Die Mutter bringt den Kindern das bei, was sie fürs Leben brauchen. Für mich ist Unterrichten und Muttersein ein und dasselbe.“

Bei Familie Schou klingelt keine Pausenglocke
Hjalmar ist inzwischen in den Garten gelaufen, wo er auf einem riesigen Trampolin hüpft. Das macht er, wenn er nicht mehr still sitzen kann, erklärt seine große Schwester Martha. Bei Familie Schou klingelt keine Pausenglocke. Die Kinder nehmen sich ihre Pause, wenn sie sie brauchen.

Die Zweitjüngste, Dagmar, erzählt, dass sie gerne mal ausprobieren wollte, wie es ist, in eine normale Schule zu gehen. Also begleitete sie einen Freund einen Tag lang in die vierte Klasse. Es war sehr laut, sagt sie. Zu Hause könne man die anderen bitten, leise zu sein, wenn man sich konzentrieren müsse. Hier habe man außerdem mehr Zeit, sagt die 11-Jährige. Diesen Eindruck hat sie vermutlich auch, weil nur ein Bruchteil des Heimschul-Alltages klassischer Unterricht mit Stillsitzen ist.

„Bei uns zu Hause ist ja rund um die Uhr Unterricht. Wenn wir im Supermarkt sind, frage ich die Kinder: Welche Möhren sind hier das beste Angebot? Auch wenn wir im Garten sind, lernen wir die ganze Zeit und das ganze Jahr über. Wenn wir einen Regenwurm finden, dann gehen wir rein und lesen was über Regenwürmer. Dann sagen wir nicht: Das machen wir jetzt nicht, weil Sommerferien sind.“

Der Wechsel an die öffentliche Schule steht bevor
Dagmar ist mittlerweile ihrem kleinen Bruder aufs Trampolin gefolgt. Ein Junge und zwei Mädchen tauchen am Gartentor auf. Hjalmar hüpft vor Freude noch höher. Damit ihre Kinder genügend soziale Kontakte haben, lädt Vibeke Schou oft andere Kinder zu sich nach Hause ein.

Diese drei Geschwister werden auch zu Hause unterrichtet. Deswegen ist es völlig normal für sie, sich nach kurzem Spiel im Garten mit an den Tisch zu setzen und Marthas Referat über das Weltall zu lauschen. Es geht unter anderem um den Urknall, der allen hier ein Begriff zu sein scheint, und um den dänischen Astronomen Tycho Brahe. Dagmar und Edith machen sich Notizen und heben den Finger, wenn sie Fragen haben.

Hjalmar hat sich auf den Schoß seiner Mutter gemogelt und hört gespannt zu. Auch er meldet sich: Er glaube nicht, dass Aliens Ufos bauen können, sagt er. Martha ist ganz seiner Meinung. Keiner macht sich über seine Bemerkung lustig.

Martha fängt im August in der zehnten Klasse einer öffentlichen Schule an und möchte im Jahr darauf an ein naturwissenschaftliches Gymnasium wechseln. Vielleicht werde sie Schriftstellerin, sagt Martha. Sie habe angefangen, alle Experimente, die sie machen, zu notieren, um daraus lustige Geschichten zu schreiben, von denen andere Kinder etwas lernen können. Vielleicht werde sie aber auch Astronomin.

Building a Home School Community

When we started out home schooling, we had a goal to create a community of home schoolers for our children. We wanted to create an environment, that showed our children that they were not alone. We wanted to show them that it is OK to live your life in different ways. That it actually makes life more interesting.

So we started looking for other home schoolers in Denmark. 10 years ago there were only 200 registered home schooled children and we could only find 3 families on the internet, that replied to us contacting them. So they invited us to a monthly meeting, where they met up at the National Museum in Copenhagen. There was a sunday activity there for children, which we took part in and then we went to the school room where you were allowed to eat your lunch. After we went to the children museum, where the children could play together. After a while the meetings kind of dissolved and we had a few times where we were the only home schoolers showing up. So we thought it was time for a new initiative.

Home school meeting at the National museum 2010.

One of our friends then started doing home school meetings montly at their house. Everybody who was an active home schooler or aspiring to be, was welcome. We took part in those meetings and at one point our friend asked us to do every second of those meetings at our house. So we started sharing the arrangement of those meetings. Our friend then at some point didn’t want to make the meetings at their house and I took over all of them. They grew. Often we would count 45 people at our house and something had to be done to fit in all those people.

Home School meeting at a private home.

As we had been scouts for many years at a nature cabin owned by the state, we had been offered to take a user certificate to the cabin. That meant that we could book the cabin for nature arrangements for home schoolers. So we started having our meetings there. There was a lot of space, things you could do, set up bonfires and make food, go fishing, climb trees. All good ways to build new relationships and help new home schoolers get started.

Having these meetings took a lot of effort and we still have them, but now only around 4 times a year. That works really well. The cabin have space for 80 people. Usually we are around 5-15 families.

Home School meeting at Streyf nature cabin in Copenhagen 2017.

All these initiatives that we have made, has helped our children feel part of a group and that they have a group to relate to. It has also been heart warming to help so many people get started through the years. It is always nice to be able to help other people.

We also were part of a new up and coming free school in Denmark, that friends of ours started. Our kids went there once a week to play with their friends. I arranged all the seasonal events and also did a monthly teaching day at the school in different subjects. At one point the school grew so big that it was not in our interest to continue and we moved all our seasonal arrangement to our own garden and invited all the home schoolers that we knew.

Fastelavn at the Free School 2011.

We have also taken part in a playgroup at a local church for 9 years, where the person in charge was very open to home schoolers and mixed age groups. She took us in and we changed that playgroup from 2-6 year old to 0-15 year old mixing with each other in full harmony.

Bethlehem Church 2015 playgroup.

All of these initiatives that we have made during the years, has helped grow a strong homeschooling network in Denmark. We want to inspire others to do the same. It is a great way to get playmates and create an envirenment where home schooling is the norm.

We still have these meetings, as we probably will be homeschooling for 10 more years. We post the dates on facebook in relevant groups.

Our 10 Homeschool rules.

When we set out home schooling 10 years ago, we talked a lot about what our basic ideas were. We realized that most other homeschooling families we met, had other ideas from ours, that shaped their Home School. These are our foundation, and we try to stay as true to them as possible.

  1. We try to answer all the children’s questions, right now or as quickly as possible. We say “yes!” if we can. We try to fulfill all learning wishes set forward by the children.
  2. Every member of the family contribute in practical chores. We are all a precious part of the team.
  3. Our goal is to learn something new every day. To learn as much as possible, based on our present level, individually. Our level of knowledge is not static, we are all the time in a progress of learning.
  4. We spend as much time as possible together, as a family, and prioritize time spend talking together. It is important for us to have plenty of time to eat together.
  5. We teach our children to respect each other and other people. We accept that other people have different views to us. We are allowed to be free to be so physical that we may hurt ourselves, and find our natural limits. We may shout, scream, be unfair, tired, but always be able to say sorry and work on making things good again, with respect for the damage we may have caused. We work on finding our own limits and others.
  6. We do not shield our children from the world, we inform and enlighten them. You can tell children about everything in the world, you just have to find the best way for them to understand right now in their level of understanding.
  7. Teach our children to take initiative.
  8. We limit trips and visitors to at the most every second day. We prioritize space for personal development.
  9. Screen time is limited to a minimum. Spending time outside in the nature, time for play, movement and creativity are prioritized.
  10. We aim for a level of learning, that is above elementary school, so our children with ease could be included in such a school, if it no longer are possible for us economically to afford homeschooling on one full salary and a part-time wage.

Learning from the elders

In a society where the main focus is on the benefits of age segregation, we focus mainly on the benefits of age integration in our home school. Learning to mix with all age groups gives you a greater tolerance and understanding of the different periods of human life. You will learn not to fear death, but accept it as a part of life, just as giving birth to little helpless babies. To see and feel that humans have different needs and abilities during a life span is a great part of learning to be a complete person. To show compassion with elders, who do not react as fast as young people, may have age handicaps, and to see them as wise experienced people that you can learn from.

Last year my mother died and left my dad on his own after more than 50 years of marriage. This has given us an opportunity to take care of him and learn all those exiting skills from him, that he knows.

Luckily, he enjoys telling about his life and about his experiences.

He has taught the children how to draw perspective:

Taught us how to use a scythe:

Let us experiment with a planer in his workshop:

Our friend Bob

2 months ago we found some moldy bread in the kitchen. Great opportunity to make it grow. Immediately we found a name for it – Bob. So Bob was put into a plastic bag and given a place to live in our kitchen, where he could develop in peace and in a non stressful environment. So we have been looking at him once in a while the past 2 months. This is what he looks like now.

Acid and base test with red cabbage 2019-04-07

Doing simple experiments with things you can find in your kitchen is cool. We like doing acid base tests with red cabbage. It is a simple harmless thing you can do with all age groups. And they can easily see that something happens. They can all take part. In this experiment, we mix red cabbage, boiling water and Sodium hydroxide. That strong base will change the colour to first green, then blue then end at yellow. Then the other glass is red cabbage, boiling water and lemon. That acid mixture will turn red.