Since Russia has so swiftly become the world’s official bulwark of conservative values, it is quite surprising that it has systematically lagged behind in one obvious realm: Homeschooling.
For most Russians, homeschooling has always been enveloped in a fantastical aura, something associated mainly with special needs and/or with Amish-like Protestant groups in America.
But lately, as more Russian Christian families gain a voice, energized by growing state supports and society’s intensifying religiosity, the demand for alternatives to the official public school system, corrupted by materialism and Darwinism during the Soviet Regime and, now, by liberal values, has grown more popular and apparent.
A new film by Alexey Komov about the disastrous consequences of Soros-funded educational reform in 1990s Russia based on the American model, the problems in American school systems, and how home-schooling presents a solution to the crisis. A Russian version of the film can be found here, with full transcript (in Russian).
More and more Russian parents are frightened and reluctant to hand over their child’s education into the hands of strangers, realizing, that in doing so, they are also relinquishing the moral upbringing of their own child, and allowing them to become inculcated with morals and values that may be completely foreign.
This is where Alexey Komov and Irina Shamolina, the pioneers of homeschooling in Russia, come in. The Russian couple, passionate about education, homeschools their three sons. Irina leads a popular blog about education and Alexey is the representative the World Congress of Families in Russia. Both have been fascinated by, and intensely studying, homeschooling since 2012. With time, they came to the conviction that homeschooling options were urgently needed in Russia.
They traveled regularly to the US, which has the most developed homeschooling systems in the world, trying to learn about and experience the lively Christian homeschooling scene of the country.
They finally settled upon the Classical Conversations, a Christian homeschooling organization, started in the 1990s by Leigh Bortins in North Carolina. The model creates communities of homeschooling Christian families that meet weekly and aims to teach children in a classical manner. It is based on educational theories gleaned from Ancient Greece and the Trivium concept of the Middle Ages.
Thus, the child is homeschooled for most of the week, and the parents nurture and teach their own child within their intimate family circle. However, this system also addresses the need of the child…and the often ignored need of the parents…for socialization and community with like-minded people with weekly meetings. These also always begin with prayer and provide children with skills that parents may not be able to develop in children on their own.
Aleksey Komov and Irina Shamolina adopted the existing Christian homeschool curriculum and translated the resources. They also worked to adapt the program to a Russian Orthodox perspective, making it relevant to Russian culture and reality.
They found American supporters, and along with other Russian enthusiasts, helped them create an utterly beautiful website.
The program launched this fall, is 27 cities and 370 kids strong – in Russia, Ukraine and Belarus. It has met with unexpected, lively interest and seems to be turning into a movement among Russian Christians.
Importantly, Classical Conversations in Russia also immediately received wildly enthusiastic support from one of the most famous priests in Russia, Fr. Dmitry Smirnov. Fr. Dmitry is incredibly popular and has a huge audience, perhaps bigger than that of any other religious figure in Russia. He is also the head the of the Russian Church’s Department for Family.
Public education happens to be Fr. Dmitry’s pet peeves and he advocates homeschooling in many of his sermons. He is convinced that school corrupts the child’s mind, and is a highly artificial, unnatural, and destructive environment for growing children. He insists that the ideal environment for the child is the home, full of siblings and lots of love and faith.
Fr. Dmitry devoted one of his interviews on his highly popular blog to Classical Conversations, interviewing the American founders, as well as the Russian founders. Naturally, as a result, many members of his fan base decided to try out homeschooling.
The movement is gathering more power with every month.
According to the founders of Classical Conversations: ‘Firstly and foremost we are a community of families.’ In other words, the idea is that the family units, working together, provide emotional and spiritual support for each other in their lives and service to God.
This stance echoes with modern Russia’s preoccupation with strengthening and rebuilding family units; both to counter a population slump and to lead lives most fitting to the morals of a Christian society.
The idea of community, too, is especially appealing to the Russian traditionalist, since Russian culture and religion greatly values ‘community,’ often even over the sacred Western value of ‘individualism.’
The families meet for group classes every week. Each meeting begins with prayer and parents are required to come, simply because Classical Conversations model creates a really wonderful support system not simply for children, but for parents as well.
Parents involved in Classical Conversations are also given opportunities to attend free, three-day workshops, that aim to help them become better teachers of their own children, building them up on the more difficult subjects and giving them practical strategies.
The philosophy of Classical Conversations stresses family education as a system where God is at the center of the family and the community.
The Classical Education model breaks down schooling into 3 major phases.
- The first one, called ‘Grammar’ refers to teaching students skills for learning and retain information (knowledge).
- The second stage, Dialectics, refers to analyzing information and transferring skills between subjects (understanding)
- the third, most sophisticated one, refers to using, presenting and sharing knowledge with others as well as serving Truth over oneself (wisdom).
Much emphasis is put on presentation skills throughout the entire curriculum, as sharing knowledge and learning to present information well is considered to be key in one’s education.
All in all, homeschooling has found itself a new home. And it has all the potential to thrive in contemporary Russia, which may offer the most fertile ground in the world today for a system that supports Christianity, community, and family.
A video introducing Russian Faith
Anmeldebescheinigung: How to get Austria’s crucial residence document for EU citizens
The EU’s freedom of movement enables citizens to move to another country in the bloc relatively easily, but there are still some conditions you need to meet.
As a citizen of an EU country, Iceland, Norway or Switzerland, you have the right to live in Austria for more than three months as long as you meet one of the following criteria:
- Being employed or self-employed in Austria
- Studying at a recognised Austrian institution
- Having sufficient financial means to support yourself
As well as fulfilling one of these conditions, you also need valid health insurance for Austria.
If you are working legally in Austria, you will have this automatically, either through the Österreichische Gesundheitskasse (ÖGK) if you are employed by a company or through the Sozialversicherungsanstalt der Selbständigen (SVS) if you are self-employed.
As a student or self-supporting person, you will instead need to find your own comprehensive health insurance policy; your European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) might be sufficient for students who aren’t in Austria long-term, but this doesn’t cover all medical visits so it is generally worth getting a separate health insurance policy.
When you arrive in Austria, you need to register your residence within three days, and at this point you will receive a Meldebestätigung (proof of residence). However, the process of getting your registration certificate (Anmeldebescheinugung) does not happen automatically after the initial registration.
You need to submit your application for the Anmeldebescheinigung within four months of your arrival in Austria, and you do this in person at your local MA35 office, the government department responsible for immigration and citizenship matters.
You need to make an appointment to attend the office in person.
If you live in Austria for five continuous years as an EU/EEA citizen, you automatically receive the right of permanent residence. You do not need to apply for any specific document to prove this or to continue living in Austria, but if you want to, you can apply for a certificate of permanent residence.
The documents you’ll need are the following (it’s a good idea to bring both the original and a copy):
- Valid ID or passport
- A completed Anmeldebescheingung form: Most of the details here are simple to fill out. You’ll need your personal information (name, date of birth, parents’ names, marital status), your current residential address, and to note which of the criteria for residence you meet and which company you have health insurance with. You can fill out the form before your visit, but you usually sign it when you have your in-person appointment, not before.
- Proof of employment or self-employment if you’re working: This would be a work contract for employees, while self-employed workers can show their tax number, trade licence if applicable, contracts with clients, and/or other proof of your business.
- Proof of studies if you’re studying: This could be a certificate of enrolment, and you may also need to show proof that your place of study is accredited. Your university’s student office should be able to help you get the documents you need.
- Proof of sufficient funds and health insurance if you are either studying or self-supporting: This includes your insurance certificate, and proof of your bank balance or pension statements for example. Students who are being supported by their parents should be able to show confirmation from their parents of a monthly allowance.
- Your proof of residence in Austria (Meldebestätigung)
Your documents will need to be in either German or English, so documents in other languages need to be translated by an authorized translator.
Getting the certificate costs €15, and there may be additional fees depending on which foreign documents you provide. Not getting it is potentially more expensive though (not to mention illegal) as you could face a fine of up to €250.
Brendan Kennelly, one the country’s most popular poets, dies aged 85
Family members confirmed his death on Sunday evening at Áras Mhuire nursing home, Listowel, in his native Co Kerry.
He graduated from Trinity College, wrote his PhD thesis there, and went on to become professor of modern literature at the university.
Mr Kennelly had more than 30 poetry collections published, which captured the many shades and moods of his home county as well as his adopted Dublin home.
He was also a popular broadcaster and made many appearances on radio and television programmes, such as The Late Late Show.
[His poetry is] infused with the details and texture of life, its contradictions and moments of celebration including the wry experiences of football and politics
President Michael D Higgins, a friend of Mr Kennelly’s, said his poetry held “a special place in the affections of the Irish people”.
“As one of those who had the great fortune of enjoying the gift of friendship with Brendan Kennelly for many years, it is with great sadness that I have heard of his passing,” he said.
“As a poet, Brendan Kennelly had forged a special place in the affections of the Irish people. He brought so much resonance, insight, and the revelation of the joy of intimacy to the performance of his poems and to gatherings in so many parts of Ireland. He did so with a special charm, wit, energy and passion.”
He added that Mr Kennelly’s poetry is “infused with the details and texture of life, its contradictions and moments of celebration including the wry experiences of football and politics”.
Taoiseach Micheál Martin said the country has lost a “great teacher, poet, raconteur; a man of great intelligence and wit”.
He added: “The Irish people loved hearing his voice and reading his poetry.”
He spoke the language of the people. We loved his writing. His eloquence was masterful
Trinity College Dublin’s provost, Prof Linda Doyle, said Mr Kennelly was known to generations of Trinity students as a great teacher and as a warm and encouraging presence on campus.
“His talent for, and love of, poetry came through in every conversation as did his good humour. We have all missed him on campus in recent years as illness often kept him in his beloved Kerry. He is a loss to his much loved family, Trinity and the country,” she said.
Tony Guerin, a close friend of Kennelly’s, and a playwright, said he will be remembered in Kerry and elsewhere as “the people’s poet”.
“My relation with Brendan was one of friendship. There are more scholarly people who will assess his contribution and discuss those matters. But he spoke the language of the people. We loved his writing. His eloquence was masterful, whether it was the written word or being interviewed by Gay Byrne,” he said.
Mr Kennelly is survived by his brothers, Alan, Paddy and Kevin, by his sisters, Mary Kenny and Nancy McAuliffe, and his three grandchildren.
His daughter Doodle Kennelly died earlier this year.
Arrangements for a family funeral are expected to be announced shortly.
New skeleton find could reveal more about Vesuvius eruption
The remains of a man presumed to be aged 40-45 were found under metres of volcanic rock roughly where Herculaneum’s shoreline used to be, before Vesuvius’ explosion in 79 AD pushed it back by 500 metres (1,640 feet).
He was lying down, facing inland, and probably saw death in the face as he was overwhelmed by the molten lava that buried his city, the head of the Herculaneum archaeological park, Francesco Sirano, told the ANSA news agency.
“He could have been a rescuer”, Sirano suggested.
As Vesuvius erupted, a naval fleet came to the rescue, led by the ancient Roman scholar and commander Pliny the Elder. He died on the shore, but it is believed that his officers managed to evacuate hundreds of survivors.
The skeleton might have otherwise belonged to “one of the fugitives” who was trying to get on one of the lifeboats, “perhaps the unlucky last one of a group that had managed to sail off,” Sirano suggested.
It was found covered by charred wood remains, including a beam from a building that may have smashed his skull, while his bones appear bright red, possibly blood markings left as the victim was engulfed in the volcanic discharge.
Archaeologists also found traces of tissue and metal objects — likely the remains of personal belongings he was fleeing with: maybe a bag, work tools, or even weapons or coins, the head of the archaeological park said.
Other human remains have been found in and around Herculaneum in the past decades — including a skull held in a Rome museum that some attribute to Pliny — but the latest discovery can be investigated with more modern techniques.
“Today we have the possibility of understanding more”, Sirano said.
Researchers believe that in Herculaneum temperatures rose up to 500 degrees — enough to vaporise soft tissues. In a phenomenon that is poorly understood, a rapid drop in temperature ensued, helping preserve what remained.
Although much smaller than Pompeii, its better-known neighbour outside the southern city of Naples, Herculaneum was a wealthier town with more exquisite architecture, much of which is still to be uncovered.
READ ALSO: Where are Italy’s active volcanoes?
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