In 2021, data from the Census Bureau confirmed what many already suspected: Homeschooling had become mainstream. Eleven percent of the American population acknowledged teaching their children at home, likely driven out of the public school system by COVID-19 policies and the revelation of what was really taking place in the classroom.
In all likelihood, you or someone close to you is now in this homeschooling demographic. But would you remain in it if the government suddenly began fining you and threatening to take custody of your children because you chose to homeschool?
That’s a question faced by Uwe and Hannelore Romeike in Germany in 2006. The persecution they endured for homeschooling their children grew so strong that they finally sought asylum in the United States, living here peacefully for the past 15 years. Now, the entire family is about to be deported, and this sudden news has the Romeikes wondering what they will experience if forced to return to Germany, as they are still homeschooling their three youngest children.
In the early 2000s, the Romeikes were living normal lives. Mr. Romeike supported his growing family as a music instructor, while his wife took care of their four children, sending the older ones off to school every morning.
But then the couple began noticing a change in Daniel, their eldest son. Once very outgoing, he withdrew, which they soon learned was due to the bullying he was experiencing from his peers at school.
Hearing about homeschooling, the couple decided to try it, pulling their three oldest children, ages 9, 8, and 6, out of public school at the beginning of the 2006–2007 school year. The couple knew that homeschooling was illegal in Germany but had heard fines were minimal and felt they could manage.
Unbeknownst to them, Germany was stepping up its assault on homeschooling.
“Within a few short days, the principal showed up, then it went to the mayor, and then … they sent the police to take our kids,” Mr. Romeike said. “Germans … go by the books, and when you are not following the rules, they do everything they can—they send the authority to make you follow.”
Over time, pressure from the authorities began to take a toll on the family. A retired teacher was assigned to their home for five hours every day—they incidentally won him over, and he became a supporter of their cause. The emotional drain was also a factor, and their oldest daughter, Lydia, suffered nightmares for years after being dragged off to school by the authorities.
Fines began coming daily—one for each parent and each child—leaving Mr. Romeike with a heavy heart every time he went to the mailbox.
“They tried to financially crush you, and then, fathers were jailed and custody [of the children] taken,” he said.
Through it all, however, the Romeikes felt the peace of God.
“He really carried us through this time,” Mr. Romeike said.
By the time the family appeared in court to plead their case, their reasons for homeschooling had evolved. No longer was it just about their children being bullied; now it was about what the schools were teaching their children.
“We assumed they would teach the same things … we had gone through, and we had learned,” Mrs. Romeike said. “They change it and make it worse every few years.
“We took our first look into the books—that was scary. It opened our eyes.”
With fines mounting and the loss of their children threatened, the Romeikes realized it was time to leave their homeland. After discovering that finances and language barriers prevented them from moving to another European country, they set their sights on the United States, seeking asylum with the help of attorneys from the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA).
Wanting to help other homeschooling European families dealing with persecution, the Romeikes agreed to let their pursuit of asylum become a test case to set a precedent. Their case went all the way to the Supreme Court in 2013 but was denied a hearing. Shortly after, however, they were given an order of supervision, allowing them to live peacefully and work in the United States for the past decade with annual checks at the immigration office.
Sadly, that attempt to help other persecuted homeschoolers now seems to be coming back to bite them. Had they thought of themselves alone, they likely would have quietly slipped into the country under the radar, enjoying permanent asylum. But in early September, they were suddenly given four weeks to ready their papers to return to Germany; they can’t help but wonder if the high-profile nature of their case has made them a target in the highly politicized world of immigration.
“It’s still not all about us,” Mrs. Romeike said, speaking of this unexpected turn. “We want to be helping other families as well.”
The possibility of returning to Germany—now with two more children, two in-laws, and a newborn grandson—leaves the Romeikes with many question marks. For the youngest children, Sarah (12) and Rebecca (10), both U.S. citizens, it means potentially going through the same trauma their older siblings experienced before they were born, as Germany hasn’t relaxed its homeschool laws. For 18-year-old Damaris, returning to Germany raises the likelihood of being forced to finish her senior year at a German high school, a difficulty since she knows subjects such as American history rather than German history.
“I don’t even have third-grade German,” she said. “I don’t have that grammar that I need [to succeed].”
“It’s a very weird thought to me to think that I don’t belong here,” Damaris continued. “I don’t think I would feel the same kinship as I do with the American people here.”
Nevertheless, the family isn’t despairing. In fact, when they’ve faced possible deportation in past years, they are the ones who end up comforting their upset American friends, and they do so because they have repeatedly seen God provide for them and answer prayers.
“Jesus promised that if we do the right thing, we will be persecuted,” Mrs. Romeike explained, but “he has promised he will go with us through it.”
“We are very much believing that God fights on our behalf, and even if there’s no way, God makes a way,” Mrs. Romeike continued, noting that her search of the Scriptures has taught her that God takes the side of foreigners and strangers.
“It’s already like a wall of prayers is going up around us,” she said. “We are covered by peace.”
Their experience has taught them to value homeschooling.
“I love homeschooling,” Damaris said, citing the way it strengthens the family bond, while removing the drama and depression that many of her public school friends seem to deal with, as some of the things she most values about this schooling choice.
The family encourages Americans to continue fighting for the freedom to homeschool, being wary of the many little regulations that the government is constantly trying to slip into law to undermine that freedom. After all, Mrs. Romeike explains, parents are the ones responsible for their children, not the schools. And for parents who are unable to homeschool, she reminds them to saturate their children with truth.
“You have to repeat the truth more often than [the schools] repeat the lie,” she said.
Attorneys and elected representatives are currently working on the family’s case. For those who wish to support the Romeikes, HSLDA has set up a petition and is seeking 100,000 signatures to send to the Biden administration. H.R. 5423 is also making its way through Congress, seeking to “grant the Romeikes permanent status as legal residents,” and HSLDA requests that concerned citizens contact their representatives and ask them to support this bill.
This article is republished with permission from The Epoch Times.
Image Credit: Uwe Romeike