Every two years, the law requires the Mairie in the town of your residence to file an enquête with the Education Department before your yearly inspection. This enquête is, at its base, an interview with the mayor’s office. It is intended to be just a simple questionnaire to establish a little about your family dynamic and how it relates to homeschooling.
The mayor’s office uses this interview for two reasons. One is for keeping records of the schooling of the children in their city. The other is to prepare a file for the Educational National.
Normally, any employee from the mayor’s office could conduct this interview. And it is so simple that it could even be conducted over the telephone.
However, as homeschooling becomes more and more prevalent, we see an evolution in how each mayor’s office handles this responsibility.
In the case of Calais, where we live, a social worker employed, not by the mayor’s office, but by the office of the prefecture, conducted our interview. She normally worked with children and families in abuse situations.
You can learn more about our first encounter in 2017 in the post Interview with the Mayor’s Office.
Our second visit was supposed to be with her as well. She had told me this herself. This was one of her responsibilities and she would be the one in charge of my file in the future.
Jump Forward to 2019
Imagine my surprise when the letter of convocation informing me of the date of our interview this year had someone else’s name. And not just anyone but an educateur specialisé. This is another type of social worker usually put in charge of children in difficulty or with disabilities. Clearly it seemed to me that the mayor’s office considers homeschool families “in difficulty.”
Because of this change, I made sure to have all my papers about my legal rights on hand. And I did some reconnaissance.
Since the passing of the new law requiring education to begin at age three, the number of homeschoolers in Calais has doubled, if not tripled. All the families who believed in keeping their child at home while still young enough to take naps were now forced with the decision to homeschool or not.
And a lot of these moms, with only one or two children, became extremely active on the homeschool scene in Calais. One has even created an association. Think of it as a Co-op but without the ability to teach classes.
Of this group, I found three other mothers who were confronted with their first interview with the same gentlemen in my letter. And two of them were scheduled before my own. We shared information about what was and was not allowed.
The first family to have an interview with this young man described her visit the day after. And here is where I got a little concerned. Apparently, he had informed her upon entry into her home, that he would be conducting a visit of the entire house to verify the learning space and get an idea into the routine of her child.
Huge red flags went up. Especially because even though she had been informed ahead of time of her rights, she apparently felt this was acceptable and gave him a tour.
The rest of the visit seemed to go smoothly. She let us all know that he was very nice and understanding and that the visit was over in a little less than an hour.
The Day of Our Visit Arrives
Once again, my husband took the morning off in order to be there with us. And now, since it concerned all four of our children, he stayed in the room with us.
Just before the time of our interview, we prayed together. This was necessary not just for my children but for myself. Asking God for calm and protection made us all feel a little better prepared for whatever was to come.
Shortly after 10 am, we saw two men outside our door. Apparently our doorbell was not working and they did not knock. Oops. Good thing we were keeping an eye out.
But it threw us for a loop. We were only supposed to be meeting with one monsieur. Standing at our door were two men. I admit I started to get anxious.
In the current political climate, with a president who would rather send armies to silence dissenters than listen to their concerns, I’m always concerned when the government starts taking liberties.
Sending two men, when the other mother had only one, was concerning to me. Especially when our letter stated they were only sending one.
Introductions were made and we invited them to have a seat in our school room, formerly the dining room. He proceeded to explain that it was now his duty to follow the homeschooling community of Calais. The growth of the homeschooling community in Calais meant the city was rethinking how it would handle this increase.
He explained that the visits had been handled previously by the prefecture of Pas-de-Calais with whom the mayor’s office had a contract. However, after the termination of the contract, the city decided to keep these duties in-house.
His position up until this point had been in dealing with students in the school system that had difficulty (those who were expelled, skipped school regularly, or had phobias). Apparently, the mayor’s office thought this included homeschoolers. The presence of the other man was never adequately explained.
Then he explained what the visit would entail. I’m assuming this was part of a routine that he had trained for since he spoke as though he was already bored with the speech.
But he wanted to let us know that he would be conducting a visit of our home to verify the learning space and get an idea into the routine we had for homeschooling. I immediately tensed and crossed looks with my husband.
Nope. Not happening. This was not legal and I wasn’t going to get rolled over by his niceness.
I waited politely until he had finished his spiel. And then I informed him gently but firmly that we would be staying in the schoolroom because this is where we studied.
As a side note, we homeschoolers know that learning can happen anywhere. But if I were to take him on a tour of all the places my children were learning, we would busy all day going all over the city.
From the way he did not insist, it seemed that he had been given the information that what he was asking was not legal. It was clear to me that he was trained to try for it anyway. Sneaky.
The rest of the visit went very smoothly. He asked questions. We answered with the necessities.
I have to admit that he asked questions that technically he was not allowed to ask. For example, he asked about my husband’s profession. But as an employee of the same department that would be inspecting us later, we couldn’t really keep that secret.
And frankly, it is not something that I think needs to be hidden. Especially because in our case, it can only be helpful.
On the whole, I’m relieved at the ease with which this interview happened. Even with a couple of snafus, he did not overstep his bounds.
And now we are free from this intrusion for another two years.
But it has taught me something.
Be ever vigilant. Know your rights; know what they are allowed to do. And do NOT let them overstep. Because as anyone who has had contact with a government out-of-control knows, “give them an inch, they will take a mile.” And then some.
It is also very important that all homeschool families are in accordance with their responses. If some families give in to their illegal requests, it paves the way for the government to overstep with everyone. And to potentially create a new law restricting homeschooling even more.
If you would like a copy of the document I used to be aware of my legal rights and to prepare for this visit, you can find it on the UNIE website.