The Lord arranged Bulgaria as the destination for the first LFW trip from our new home. We spent two weeks traveling around the country visiting families already educating their children at home and many others highly interested in the concept. From north to east and south to west we found that Bulgarian parents, as parents everywhere, are anxious to provide their children with rich opportunities toward a fulfilling life. The best education possible is at the top of their list.
We spoke with moms and dads, one or two families, small groups, and larger gatherings. We came to know the Bulgarian people as warm and hospitable, proud of their heritage and rich in the value of extended families who are concerned about their children’s future. They represent a diverse collection of world views where christianity adds a intriguing flavor.
Lay of the Land:
Dr. Viktor Kostov is a practicing attorney who addresses issues of religious freedom and has defended homeschool families in the courts. Dr. Kostov is also a homeschool dad who understands the desires and struggles of his countrymen. A recent discussion confirmed and extended our understanding.
There are 60 to 100 families currently homeschooling in Bulgaria. The issue of compulsory education is embedded in Article 53 of their Constitution which states that a) school education is mandatory to the age of 16 and b) the government controls all schools. Therefore since all children to the age of 16 must be in school and all schools, public and ‘private’, are required to follow the national (state-regulated) curriculum, the government controls all education. There can be no separate and distinct nor Christian schools per se, and certainly no home education.
Nevertheless Bulgarian parents are a determined and creative group. There are a number of processes by which they are teaching their children at home. Many will bring back memories to pioneers in other countries. Thankfully, at present homeschooling is seen as more of a civil problem than a criminal one. Some families have met formal opposition with threats of fines, but none have actually been levied.
As soon as we got back to Prague we learned that a ‘Draft Law on the Child’ had been proposed by the Ministry of Labor and Welfare. Vagaries abound within the Draft that could lead to a child being removed from the home. For example, “violence” against children is described as anything that inflicts pain or “mental” or “other” violence. It’s not hard to imagine how easy it would be for government officials to make troubling decisions.
The Draft also suffers from internal contradictions and redundancy. Dr. Kostov’s measured response to the proposal is, “If this draft becomes law, the Bulgarian family will be taken back to the dark years of communist totalitarianism, where children do not belong to their parents, but to the socialist state, albeit under today’s political and social conditions.”1.
A specific and visible opposition to the proposed legislation is developing. Since the freedom and integrity of all families will be affected the attention of all parents is needed. It is critical that every one become informed and involved in the discussion. The construct of the family, the very warp and woof, the heart if you will, of Bulgarian culture is what is being considered for government regulation.
For many, it seems a foregone conclusion that this Draft Law on the Child will be enacted. We suggest that those who believe in Jesus commit themselves to pray over the entire situation. There are three main areas of need:
1) Encouragement and support for those whom God has chosen as Bulgarian pioneers, with a unity of purpose by His direction and wisdom for the tasks before them.
2) A recognized national homeschool organization to promote unity amidst the diversity of families who educate their children at home and those who support their rights and responsibilities to do so.
3) A central, well-organized website to provide information, options, resources, and contacts as Bulgarian materials and the homeschool community are developed.
- Copies of Dr. Kostov’s Analysis of the Draft Law on the Child are available by contacting him at firstname.lastname@example.org
Curt and Sandra Lovelace reach out to international homeschool families through Lifework Forum. They live in Prague, Czech Republic in order to be close to those the Lord would have them serve. The Lovelaces look forward to returning to Bulgaria as He would lead.