Hello from St Petersburg Russia. This is the arrival day for many of those who are attending the Global Home Education Conference. In my case, 22 hours and 11 minutes after we were wheels up at Greenville Spartanburg airport, the plane touched down in St Petersburg. There were stops at Chicago O’hare airport and London Heathrow airport along the way. It was a beautiful spring afternoon in Russia. The sun was shining, temperature was 23 degrees (Celsius, that’s about 73 degrees Fahrenheit). A half hour taxi ride brought me to the hotel. As I entered the hotel lobby, I saw my good friend Dr Brian Ray, head of National Home Education Research Institute, and I knew I was at the right place.
The Global Home Education Conference (GHEC2018.org) is a biannual conference of homeschool leaders from around the world. This conference serves two purposes, one is to promote homeschooling freedoms everywhere, and the second is to give the local homeschooling organizations from the host country a boost. The first conference was held in Berlin in 2012. At that conference, we signed the Berlin Declaration that affirmed home schooling as a fundamental right for children everywhere. Home school families in Germany were in court fighting to be allowed to homeschool. Unfortunately we lost the battle in Germany and today it is one of the most oppressive countries in the world to homeschool. Parents are incarcerated and the children removed from the family if they decide to homeschool.
In 2016, the Global Home Education Conference moved to Rio de Janeiro in Brazil. At that conference we published the Rio Principles. These principles set out the boundaries for state authority and parental authority with respect to home schooling. Brazil was chosen as the site because of home schooling cases that were before the Brazilian supreme court and proposed legislation in the Brazilian legislature. Today homeshooling in Brazil is flourishing even though the supreme court has not yet handed down its ruling.
The 2018 conference is in Russia because homeschooling is booming in Russia. The Russian Orthodox church has endorsed home schooling and is one of the local sponsors for the event. In fact, this year’s conference is to be held in two cities, St Petersburg and Moscow so more homeschool families are able to attend. As of last week, there were nearly 800 registered attendees for the conference in the two cities, about 200 were internationals, and the other 600 were Russian homeschoolers.
So back to the hotel lobby. As I said, I saw Dr Ray as I walked into the lobby. And while checking in, I was able to greet many other attendees – some old friends and some soon to become new friends. Among them were Mike Donnely and Trudi Miller of the Home School Legal Defense Association, Mike is on the Board of GHEC and Trudi is the conference coordinator this year. In addition, Shortly after that, Gerald Huebner and his wife, Bev came by. They are from Canada and Gerald is the chairman of the GHEC. I also saw Elizabeth Smith, wife of Mike Smith who is president of HSLDA and Sergio Saavedra, who I have met at other conferences. He is on the GHEC board and now lives in Stockholm. And while standing in line I met new friends from Canada and Poland. I am looking forward to the start of the conference and will keep you posted on events of interest.