The conference is off to a great start. We have over 300 people at the St Petersburg portion of the conference, all that the facility can hold. About 150 are international and 150 are Russian. The morning started with talks from many speakers about the homeschooling movement around the world. The bottom line is that it is growing in many countries and under attack in a few countries. In particular, we had a member of the Brazilian Parliament, Alan Rick, tell us about the status in Brazil since our last conference was there. The movement has seen rapid growth, there are several bills in the legislature that would protect homeschoolers, and the supreme court is under great pressure to rule in favor of homeschoolers on a case that has been before it for over two years. We also heard from a professor from Belgium, Jan de Groof, who was an advisor to the Russian minister of education right after the old USSR fell in 1992. He wrote the Russian education law that allowed homeschooling. This law was under attack in 2010 when a bill was proposed that would eliminate homeschooling as an option. But the Russians had their version of HR6 in 2011 which so surprised the Russian parliament, that the bill was modified to allow greater freedom for homeschooling in Russia.
It is interesting in the sessions. All the speakers are either speaking in English or Russian. There are translators in little sound booths in the back of the room who are doing simultaneous translation (like what they do in the UN). So almost everyone has a headset. When an English speaker is talking, all the Russians are wearing their headset and when a Russian speaker is talking, all the rest of us are wearing our headsets. So, either way there is a low-level rumbling going on as 150 headsets are playing the translation at any given time.
The food is at the conference center and is typical institutional food, but there was something on the menu that I have never seen at a US conference center – borsch (beet soup). I must say, it is pretty good. After dinner this evening. I went for a walk with other conference attendees from Iowa and Canada. Weather was sunny and balmy. And it stays light here until about 11 pm. We had a nice walk around a nearby lake. There are lots of lakes and canals in St Petersburg, since it was built on a swamp.
The afternoon was workshop time with a special mom’s session and parallel dads session right after lunch. Then there were several other workshops on getting started, practical tips, support groups and coops, and learning styles. All of these are being done in a panel presentation and discussion mode. This same pattern will continue throughout the conference. By the time all four days are completed, there will have been over 100 people speaking at this conference.