“You CAN homeschool!”
Congratulations to the organisers of the GHEC 2018, and especially to the Russian hosts, thanks to whose hard work hundreds of Russian and international homeschoolers could attend the conference in St Petersburg and in Moscow.
GHEC 2018 was a fascinating learning experience. It was such a privilege to have been able to meet and converse with well-known leaders and researchers from all over the world, and what is more, on Russian soil!
The message “You CAN homeschool!” was proclaimed by a large variety of speakers, who dealt with a very wide spectrum of homeschooling topics: policy and policymakers, legislation, practical aspects, approaches to homeschooling, curriculum and national standards, insights from homeschool graduates, international research on homeschooling, homeschooling and the family and community, and socialisation. Plenary sessions were open to all attendees, and then a number of workshops were run concurrently. The proceedings will be made available online in time.
Homeschooling in Russia
For homeschooling in Russia the GHEC 2018 has been an especially significant: home education is legal in Russia, and homeschoolers consequently experience little official resistance. However, with a view to possible future conflict, it was of particular consequence that eminent political and church figures took part in the conference and publicly voiced their support of home education.
As a continuation and a confirmation of the ideals of the GHEC organisers, a new organisation was founded: the GHEX (Global Home Education Exchange Council). In addition to organising the Global Home Education Conferences, the GHEX will be able to contribute expertise internationally on various levels and support homeschooling organisations globally.
Africa Home Education Conference planned for 2019
The Pestalozzi Trust was founded in 1998, and will turn 21 in 2019. An upshot of having been able to meet with representatives of Africa in person during the GHEC 2018 is that we now can look forward to hosting, together with the East Africa Community of Homeschoolers, an Africa Home Education Conference, to coincide with the coming of age of the Pestalozzi Trust, in 2019. Homeschoolers from Kenya, Uganda and the United Arab Emirates are keen to take part in the Africa Conference. Various international speakers have also already indicated that they would like to participate in the Africa Conference. We hope to involve homeschoolers from across Africa and South Africa in the conference.
Position of South Africa
South Africa fortunate to have a legal defence fund: the Pestalozzi Trust
Homeschooling legal defence funds exist only in the US, Canada and South Africa. A legal defence fund is necessary in South Africa, where the state has shown itself ready to impose severe restrictions on home schooling. Compared to countries like the US, Canada, UK and Russia, the home schooling environment is much freer than in South Africa. On the other hand there are countries in which home schooling is illegal or severely restricted, like Sweden, Norway and Germany. Other countries, like Brazil and Poland, are battling in court to change their existing laws in favour of homeschooling.
South Africa has expertise, but needs much more research
Although South Africa is a small country, with a relatively small number of home schoolers, leaders and researchers, South Africa does have valuable expertise. From various discussions with leading researchers on homeschooling it became clear that South Africa urgently needs more research done with South African data.
Three representatives from South Africa, viz Bouwe van der Eems, myself (Karin van Oostrum) and Megan Puchert, presented talks during the conference. Bouwe spoke on Homeschooling in South Africa in St Petersburg and Moscow, and Megan on the Best Interests of the Child in Moscow. Megan also took part in the International Research and Practice Conference dedicated to Parental Rights and Homeschooling at the Moscow State University on the 17th of May, 2018, which Bouwe and I also attended as observers. I spoke on Challenges Facing Homeschoolers, and also on the Charlotte Mason approach in St Petersburg. The workshop on Getting Started in Moscow, in which I again spoke on Challenges Facing Homeschoolers, was met with a multitude of unanswered questions by the Russian homeschoolers. It was wonderful to be able to communicate with them, with the friendly help of a mom who was also a translator, to simply share our experiences and things we learnt through the years. My daughters were also able to answer questions and share their own homeschooling experience with the moms.
The Value of Family
As a symbol of the importance of the family, the Russian hosts of the GHEC 2018 presented each board member country with a set of Matryoschka Russian stacking dolls. If you look carefully, you’ll see that this set of dolls differs from the traditional set of dolls. They represent a family: the outer doll consists of a father, and the mother and a number of children are inside the large outer father doll.
In Russia the leaders in the home schooling movement are also involved in Russian and international advocacy bodies for the family. Russian political and church leaders at the GHEC 2018 see home education as part of a return to sound family values and practices. Many families need family skills – they don’t know how to function in a family, how to be a mother and how to be a father. Somehow the school culture seems to disorientate parents and to deprive them of their self-confidence.
Children and babies impart a very special atmosphere to a homeschooling meeting – and serve to remind us that THEY are the real reason for the meeting. It was heartwarming to see that quite a number of speakers and attendees brought along their babies, as well as their adult and small children, to the conference.
We attended the GHEC 2016 as a family: Leendert and I took our two youngest daughters with us to the conference in Rio. It was a marvellous family experience. When the GHEC board resolved that the next GHEC would be held in Russia, we decided that we would, God willing, again attend it as a family. It took some careful saving, but our youngest two daughters, Uda and Katrina, managed to accompany me to the GHEC 2018. It has been great fun to attend this magnificent conference and explore a new country together.
Next GHEC in the Philippines
The next GHEC (2020 or 2021) will be held in the Philippines. The GHEC flag was handed by Alexey Komov, our Russian host to Edric Mendoza, who will, God willing, be our host in the Philippines. Long live home schooling!