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"Have Faith": Examining Homeschooling and Compulsory State Education Archpriest Peter Heers, D.Th.



APRIL 19-22, 2018


It is a great joy and blessing for me to be here, back in California, as Fr. Paul said. I grew up in the East Bay, from age ten to nineteen -- before I went away to college. And I spent my formative three or four years before I went to Greece in this area, going to St. John, the relics, and Platina, and many other places. So, it's a joy to be back. Actually, in this place right here, I met Elder Ephraim for the first time twenty-four years ago, so this brings back a lot of memories.

My topic today is “Have Faith,” and the directions that I received from the director of the conference -- who I want to thank for inviting me. She's done a tremendous job. Thank you very much, Christine, for inviting me and allowing me to be here and to speak to you, as well as Fr. Noah, who is an old friend on the East Coast, who’s involved as well -- regarding the topic, I was told, “This needs to be motivational. We need to give people courage in this struggle for home education, and not just for educating, but actually imparting the faith.” I think this is one of the main reasons why we're all here and why we're all believers in homeschooling and struggling to continue, is that we understand what's at stake is not simply the education of our children, but the faithfulness of our children to Christ.

And this is why today I'm going to focus a little bit – as a jumping off point – on homeschooling in relation to state compulsory schooling and history, because I think it's important for us to see the big picture. A lot of us, we start out homeschooling, we're looking at our small children, and we look at the various things we need to do to impart to them the basics, and a lot of us are uneasy: are we really capable? Can we really do this? But if we step back and see the larger picture, I think it's very encouraging. It's also very frightening, when we see the history of compulsory schooling. But it's also encouraging, because we see that homeschooling is so very necessary, not just for ourselves, but for the Church and for the survival of the Church as we go forward.

I started out my homeschooling in Greece about 18 years ago, and you might not know, but in Greece, it's actually illegal to homeschool. It's not allowed. You have to send your children to the state school. It's kind of ironic that here we are in California and you are free to homeschool, but in Greece you are not. So, as an American citizen, I did it anyway. I was an illegal homeschooler for my entire 18 years in Greece.

And I want to tell you a little story about what I encountered with the Greek state schooling system, because I think it's encouraging, in that it shows that God is above all and encourages us in everything we do. About two years into homeschooling, I was in the village up in the mountain outside Thessaloniki where we lived, a very small village. And eventually someone said, "You know, Fr. Peter, who's the priest of the village, is not sending his kids to school. What's going on?" And they told the school down in the next city, and the school officials called us in and they said, "You need to be sending your kids to school." And we said, "Well, actually, no we don't. I'm an American citizen, and in America this is the kind of education system that we have, and our children are enrolled there online." We were enrolled with St. John of Shanghai and San Francisco Academy, “distance learning,” we called it. We presented them the paperwork, and they didn't really know what to make of it because probably in Greece there's about five or ten people who homeschool, and they're probably all foreigners. In any case, he said, "I have to submit the paperwork to the state because this is a requirement. You have to send your kids to school.” And then he tried to convince us why it's so important to send our kids to school.

Of course in Greece, comparatively, you might say, “Well, why, Fr. Peter, did you feel it's so necessary?" You'll see after I present about compulsory state education why I think it's necessary. Comparatively, fifteen, eighteen years ago things were much better – and probably much better than California in terms of what kind of influences they were bringing into the school system. But it goes beyond just the threats, the moral problems in the school. It goes to the whole heart of what it means to raise a child, how to raise a child, how that child is going to react to you, and when he should start learning, and when he or she should start leaving the house and being far from the mother and father. There's a lot more to homeschooling than just the education. It's much more involved. Compulsory state education is actually much more diabolical than it looks, when you understand the history.

So we stood our ground and he sent the papers to the state of Greece, the department of education, and we never heard from them. And we did our education for the next fifteen years in Greece for all of our children. I still don't know what happened, but my guess is they just said, “Why bother with the crazy priest up in the mountains from America?” And then we learned as we went on that there were more Greeks becoming interested in homeschooling in Greece.

We learned that other people had fought to have control over the education of their children as well in Greece, and they had been successful. Some had sent their children abroad, and others had done school via the internet. And increasingly, what's happened in Greece since that time -- just to share something that I'm sure most of you don't know – has been the introduction of transgenderism, homosexuality, teaching sexual education to very young children. And many other things have been introduced into the schools in Greece, with the result that there have been more and more people who are interested in homeschooling in Greece.

Read the rest of the lecture, and see the slide shows, at the St. Kosmas Aitolos Homeschool Community.

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