“Russia was nothing like we expected,” Dr. Roger Smith and his wife Jan of Winnsboro agreed after attending the Global Home Education Conference held in two locations — St. Petersburg and Moscow, Russia.
“Having grown up in the Cold War Era, we expected to see soviet grey drab buildings and found both cities to be beautiful and bright, even with religious icons over entrances to the mall. We toured many churches and cathedrals that had been refurbished after being completely closed during the Soviet era,” Dr. Smith said.
The Smiths said the people attending the conference were very much interested in how to pass on traditional family values with a strong Christian influence. In fact, they noted, with homeschooling being legal in Russia, many families are choosing that option as the best way to influence their children toward those traditional values.
The theme of the conference was “You Can Homeschool!” Research presented revealed that home education is indeed being successful across the globe, in a variety of religions, cultures, and socioeconomic groups.
“So much diversity is in the group that one could say the only common denominator is the involvement of the parents in the education of the children,” said Jan Smith.
Research from around the world concerning the value and effectiveness of home education was presented throughout the week. Director of Global Outreach for Homeschool Legal Defense Association, Michael Donnelly, stated the number of children being home educated in Africa and Asia has recently tripled, growing at a rate of 37 percent annually.
The family, being the fundamental unit of society, has the right to educate one’s own children, and that right must be protected, conference speakers said.
“Just because a government can regulate education doesn’t mean it should,” states Dr. Brian Ray, a leading international expert in research on homeschooling and president of the National Home Education Research Institute.
The Smiths said research shows that there is little difference in the outcome of home-educated students between the states with high regulation and those with little to no government regulation. In fact, the average home educated students’ score on standardized tests falls in the top 20 percent nationally, with little difference regarding the income and education of the parents. Whether in Philippines, Russia, Mexico or Canada, parents involved in the education of their children are experiencing success in maintaining relationships and preparing their children for life.
As one of the board members of the Global Home Education Conference, Dr. Debra Bell discussed research showing that best learning practices for students are most closely aligned to homeschooling philosophies and approaches.
Jan Smith said her favorite part of the conference was the interaction she had with the Russian mothers who were beginning their homeschool journey. Through broken English of various Russian women, she was able understand their questions and their fears. In turn, she was able to encourage the mothers with answers from her years of experience and training. Dr. Smith enjoyed helping some of the mothers with young children by entertaining their little ones during the workshops, enabling the moms to fully listen and take notes. Dr. Smith does weekly 3 minute videos giving parenting advice at Parenting Matters Now on Facebook. Together with three other families, the Smiths presented a workshop in Moscow on ways to answer the critics of homeschooling.
In addition to the sessions, the conference included time for attendees from around the world to see some of the major sights of St. Petersburg including Peterhof Palace with its beautiful fountains and gardens, and a day at the famous Hermitage Museum. In Moscow, participants saw the Kremlin, St. Basil’s Cathedral, the mall at Red Square and the changing of the guard at “The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.”
The Smiths said the most surprising discoveries were the number of churches that had been renovated since the end of the Soviet Era, and how often the Russian speakers referred to the importance of maintaining “traditional family values.”
Local homeschool support
Conferences, like that held in Russia, offer support to parents seeking to give their children quality education and family values in their home.
Support for the same efforts by parents here in Winnsboro is offered by Franklin Parish Homeschoolers and Northeast Louisiana Christian Homeschool Association. On a larger scale, Homeschool Louisiana is an organization that also works to bring conferences and resources to regions of the state for training home educators. Homeschool Louisiana also represents and promotes the rights of homeschoolers to the state legislature.
One of the conferences developed by Homeschool Louisiana is being held in West Monroe on Saturday, Aug. 11, at Cedarcrest Baptist Church from 9 a.m. to 3pm. It is an opportunity for those curious about home education to get answers from veteran homeschoolers. The event is open to all by registering at HomeschoolLouisiana.org/2018-monroe-homeschool-conference.