(This post was originally written on November 2, during the GHEC in Berlin. These are my thoughts after the first day. This is just a meager recollection of the day’s events. There was so much there, such richness, that I hard time condensing it into one blog post. ~April~)
So, after our official first day here at this conference, David and I are still trying to wrap our heads about what just happened. The atmosphere here at the first ever Global Home Education Conference is, simply put, amazing. Even though there are so many countries being represented from 6 continents, and despite the cultural diversity, everyone here shares a passion for homeschooling.
Our day opened with 4 keynote addresses from very notable speakers in this field. Until they spoke, I had only heard of one speaker, Dr. Brian Ray, who is well known in many US-domestic homeschooling circles as the expert in homeschooling statistics. One speaker gave a historical background for the public educational system (Dr. Charles Glenn), another gave a speech solely from a developmental
psychological perspective (Dr. Gordon Neufeld). The most notable keynote speaker, however, was the Honorable Patrick Meinhardt, a member of the German parliament, and educational spokesperson for his political party. His remarks were given in German (his reason was that, although he could speak English, he felt that a topic as complex as education should be given with emotion, and he could best convey his feelings in his native tongue). Those of us who didn’t understand the language were given a headset, and a translator worked hard to interpret the message. We felt like UN delegates!
After these keynotes, we sat at lunch with 2 extraordinary men, who (no lie) are the “David Parkersons” of their countries. Louis (from Canada) and Stuart (from Australia) are both administrators who run schools that register homeschoolers! They both, like David, want to inspire & equip families who have a desire to home educate their children. It’s pretty remarkable that, at a conference of over 200 people from all over the globe, we would share a meal with 2 men so like-minded with David and HLA! Kind of hard not to think God had a part in that!
After lunch, there were workshops scheduled. The one we attended was more of a panel discussion, where homeschool leaders from many countries talked about the “homeschool climate” in their homeland. We heard from France, Austria, Australia, Sweden, Mexico, Taiwan, UK, Ireland, the Philippines, and many other countries. (Each representative only talked for 5 minutes, and the entire 90 minute workshop was filled.)
David and I skipped the 2nd set of workshops, and instead talked with the guys from the Math-U-See booth, another one of the sponsors of the event. Even networking with US-domestic companies and people is neat, because it’s so different than networking at a curriculum fair. The atmosphere is so unique, and it affects how you relate to others from your own country.
After a sweet time on a Skype call with our kids, we went to dinner. Earlier in the day, we had made a connection to the Philippine contacts, Edric & Joy Mendoza, and instantly hit it off. They share many cultural similarities with me; but our main commonality was our love & work in the ministry of homeschooling. They are our age, with kids within the same age brackets as ours, and they run the largest homeschool group in the Philippines, reaching over 3000 families in a little over 3 years! The doors that the Lord has opened for them are incredible. We sat and talked with them for a long time, and would have talked longer, but they were called away to a meeting (Edric also serves on the board for this conference).
Also at our table was another board member, Rogers Hellman, founder and president of Homeschool Foundation. He is a really neat guy, an entrepreneur/visionary/computer programmer. He’s the type of guy to come up with the idea, figure out a way to get it up & running, then leave it to someone else to run while he starts up something else. Oh yeah, and he is a former VP of AOL. Did I bury the lead? Haha, sorry!
During dessert, since our board member dinner-mates were whisked off for a last minute meeting, we sat and chatted with the Taiwanese contact, Tim Chen. He and his wife (and 2 kids) have written a book for the Taiwanese people to give them an idea of what homeschooling looks like, for the concept of homeschooling is still a new idea in his country. It’s one of a handful of countries where homeschooling is both legal and those who choose the option have little restrictions. However, this is not the case in China, where homeschooling is mostly underground, but still small enough that the government pays them no mind. His family is pretty impressive. His wife is Polish, and his two children speak 4 languages and are learning a 5th!! He said, “Yeah, I’m thinking that, when they get older, they may pick up a couple more, but 4 is good for now!” So, David and I taught him some red-neck English. He got a huge kick out of our exaggerated southern draw.
As we climb into bed tonight, our minds are still a swirl of the days events. More and more, as this day comes to a close, I realize how small I am in the world of homeschooling. As much as I know (or I think I know), it is miniscule when compared to the global scale, the LITERAL global scale. People in other countries are having their children ripped from their arms and are thrown in jail, or have chosen exile…all because they have decided to educate their children themselves, instead of having the state-approved school do it for them.
It is exciting to connect with others from around the world who share our love and passion for this cause and want to see this freedom in every country in the world.
To get involved please consider supporting German homeschoolers by signing the BERLIN DECLARATION.