Well it has been a great day here at Moscow. The GHEC 2018 conference definitely felt like a homeschool conference. There are over 500 Russians here today. Most of them homeschool moms and dads, pushing strollers around. And of course, with all the strollers and babies, you could often here a baby in the back of the room getting a bit fussy. We had a number of exhibitors set up in the lobby and in a large wide hallway, so we got the feel of a convention exhibit hall also. Although one booth looked a little different than what we normally see. This booth was for the Russian Orthodox church and was selling a number of books. What was a bit odd about it was that it was manned by Russian Orthodox priests (or priests in training) who wore big black floor length robes and vestments and had big bushy beards.
The questions I got during the day from Russian homeschoolers were also similar to what you hear at a home school conference. One mother was asking me if I thought she could teach her son. She was worried because her son liked to play and didn’t always behave (meaning he was a typical boy). I assured her that she could do it and we talked about trying a unit study approach. Another mother asked about what kind of organization she needed to create for the families in her town. It turned out that there were about a half dozen families with kindergarten and early elementary kids. I told her that she should not get hung up on organizational structure, but just meet for play days and moms support meetings. I can remember answering versions of these same questions dozens of times in the early days of homeschooling.
Dealing with questions is sometimes a problem. I need to find someone who can translate. For that reason, I have tried spent a great deal of time with a young man attending the conference from Wittenberg University in Springfield Ohio. He speaks conversational Russian and can help with translation. He is here as one of the researchers. One of the elements of this conference that I greatly appreciate is that there is a research track. There will be about 20 papers presented at this conference that deal with various aspects of homeschooling. And most of this is research from all over the world. I sat in on one of the sessions today and there was a researcher from France, Poland, Finland and two from the USA presenting. (Yes, Dr. Brian Ray was one of those and the other was the young man from Wittenberg – who is also a homeschool grad). You may wonder why we need more research when we have Brian? Well, getting research that supports homeschooling from all over the world is one of the ways to silence the critics of Dr. Ray who say that his studies are biased. Other independent research that reaches similar conclusions strengthens his work. GHEC has included a research track in each conference and it is a valuable component. An added benefit of this conference is that many of the researchers attended a symposium on alternative forms of education yesterday that was held at Moscow University. the attendees at that symposium included many members of the Russian government.
Our general sessions today focused on legal aspects of homeschooling. The speakers included two members of the Russian legislature, a member of the Brazilian Senate, and a former Canadian Member of Parliament. The sessions focused mostly on Russian law and the status and support from the different Russian ministries. If we can believe all we heard, the government of Russia is far more enthusiastic in its support for homeschooling than that in the United States. We also had one of the senior Russian Orthodox priests present to us. He leads their ministry or initiative on the sanctity of life. He delivered a strong pro-family and pro-life talk.
A few final comments on the hotel. The facility is well-suited for this size conference. The large hallways provided space for the exhibitors. The ballroom was spacious and easy for everyone to see. However, there are just a few items in the hotel that are odd to American sensibilities. For instance, in the closet in the hotel room, where typically you would see a hair dryer or steam iron, there is a gas mask No comment on why we might need one, but this is an industrial grade heavy duty gas mask. Also, at dinner tonight I tried another delicacy I had never eaten before, “herring with a fur coat.” I’ll let you look up the recipe on google – but I will say that it was delicious.