In six short months, one of the most exciting things I can imagine is going to happen: a global home education conference will take place in one of the most unlikely places. On May 15, 2018, homeschooling leaders, parents, policymakers, professors, and others will gather in the beautiful and historic city of St. Petersburg and then move to Moscow, Russia—the heart of the former Soviet Union—to explore this rapidly growing form of education.
I find this simply amazing.
During the 1980s and 1990s, I was a young US Army officer who could name every Soviet aircraft and vehicle. The Soviet Union was our enemy, and I trained to meet and destroy it on the field of battle. In college, I studied Russian so I could become an intelligence officer (although I never did . . . I promise).
I remember watching the 1980 Olympics as the United States hockey team defeated the “evil empire” on the ice. Although I had never heard of homeschooling then, the words freedom and Soviet Union seemed antithetical.
Decades later, I have traveled hundreds of thousands of miles not only to talk about why home education is a great way for children to learn, but also to explain why it should be considered a first-order human right. While homeschooling is illegal in countries such as Germany and Sweden, it continues to flourish in Russia—a fascinating case study.
I was surprised when I first learned that homeschooling was legal in the Russian Federation. In 2011, I was approached by Russian education advocates who were trying to preserve the freedom from legislative oversight—and they succeeded. Now, there are thousands of Russian parents who are homeschooling and thousands more who are interested in doing so. Even the Russian Orthodox Church, an important institution in Russia that survived communism, supports the family as having a primary role in educating children.
Progress in the global political landscape during the past 25 years has been astounding, but political tensions remain between Russia and other countries. Could homeschooling provide a way to ease these tensions? Parents naturally want what is best for their children—no matter what government or culture gets their allegiance. Home education is one of those few ideas that unite people across political, linguistic, socio-economic, religious, ethnic and other so-called boundaries.
In the past three years, I’ve been to Russia twice. I’ve stood in the Kremlin where the Communist Party ruled with an iron fist. I’ve met many people who speak a different language, have a different history, and hold different beliefs. But when I ask what these people want or hope for their children, I get the same answer I’ve heard in dozens of countries: They want a better and brighter future for their children. At its core, this is what the home education movement is about: providing what is best for children according to each family’s own principles and ideas. Isn’t this the essence of freedom?
Home education is becoming a global movement built on unifying principles. It rejects state control over education of children, whether under communist or democratic rule.
In the West, there is plenty of evidence of the struggle between parents and state-controlled education; it’s been evident for decades at all levels and in all branches of government. Home education represents a reaction to this struggle and a desire to embrace the true spirit of freedom that celebrates the importance of the individual and the family in civil society. Parents don’t want their children used as pawns in a political struggle—they want their children to be free to learn what they deem most important.
It’s amazing that a global conference on home education will take place in Russia in May of 2018! You can help with your thoughts, prayers, financial support and more. As we think about the transformation we’ve seen in 25 years and the growth of our homeschooling in the United States, we should marvel at the changes we have seen.