Homeschooling, banned in Russia for most of the last century, is beginning a boom, according to a homeschooling expert.
"Homeschooling in Russia has gained recognition from both the media and society in general," said Mike Donnelly, the director of global outreach for the Home School Legal Defense Association. "Part of that stems from its growth so far."
Donnelly, who recently attended a homeschool conference in St. Petersburg, said Russian supporters of homeschooling expressed "genuine optimism for the future" and "confidence in their plans to achieve substantial growth."
His organization, the world's premiere legal defender of homeschooling, has battled over the rights of parents to teach their children, often an integral part of international agreements and treaties.
And while major disputes have raged in Germany, Sweden and the United States in recent years, in Russia the homeschool movement has been maturing, he reported.
One of his encounters was with Pavel Parfentiev, the chairman of the board of Za Prava Sem'i, a family rights organization.
"I do believe that home education has a big future in Russia," he said, according to Donnelly.
"Russian law specifically states that the parents are the primary educators of their children," Parfentiev said.
The movement in Russia, still "in its early days," has obstacles, including a Common Core-like set of national requirements that parents are working to have lifted.
Reported Donnelly: "Homeschool leaders estimated that there are between 50,000 and 100,000 Russian children being homeschooled. Although that range is well under 0.5 percent of the Russian school-age population (by comparison, estimates put the growing homeschooling community in the U.S. at close to 4 percent of the school-age population), it places Russia second only to the United Kingdom among European countries."
Parfentiev said, "Most people do respect home education as a normal and good educational option for parents."
Donnelly said the strength of the growing movement was evidenced by a parent named Victoria, who with her husband Boris is reviewing homeschooling options even though their oldest child is not yet 4.
Translated by Boris, Victoria said, "I understand that children are given to me by God, but for a small amount of time."
And educating them?
"I understand that this is my task, and not the task of the teachers out there. I'm becoming more and more convinced that this is the way to go."
Donnelly said he wasn't alone in perceiving the hopefulness of the Russian homeschoolers
He was accompanied to the St. Petersburg conference by Gerald Huebner, HSLDA Canada's chairman.
"In the end, Gerald said, ‘it's just like a conference in Saskatchewan or North Dakota. People from Canada or any state in the United States would feel very comfortable here,'" Donnelly said.