This article originally appeared on a new site about the Christian renaissance in Russia, called Russian Faith. Their introductory video is at end of this article.
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 millionaire German doctor is facing criminal charges after vaccinating an estimated 20,000 people with a self-developed vaccine against Covid-19.
Some 200 people were queueing for a jab at the airport in the northern city of Lübeck on Sunday when police arrived and closed down the improvised vaccination centre.
A police spokesman said doctors had already administered about 50 vaccines: not from BioNTech or Moderna or another recognised producer, but a home brew by Dr Winfried Stöcker.
The controversial doctor, who is also the owner of Lübeck airport, insists his jab is 97 per cent effective against Covid-19.
Dr Stöcker was not present, did not administer vaccinations and faces no charges, according to his lawyer Wolfgang Kubicki, a leading member of Germany’s Free Democratic Party (FDP), which is part of Berlin’s new coalition government.
Lübeck state prosecutors see things differently. On Monday, they announced an investigation into four doctors, aged between 61 and 81, for involvement in the unauthorised vaccination centre.
Dr Stöcker may also face legal action for running an unlicensed vaccination campaign, which is considered a criminal offence under Germany’s Medicines Act.
Contacted by the Bild tabloid, Dr Stöcker said he had not submitted his vaccine for approval because the process would “take too long and cost millions”.
“We have a responsibility to the patients, not the state, but the police stopped everything,” said the 74-year-old.
In May 2020 Dr Stöcker claimed to have developed a traditional vaccine – without any external assistance – similar to that used against tetanus, using inactive pathogen cells to activate the body’s immune system.
The doctor says he tested the jab on himself and some 100 volunteers before rolling out the vaccinations around the country. In total, he claims some 20,000 people have received a dose of his vaccine.
“Some 2,000 of them are under observation, no side effects were noted to date,” he said. “There were virus breakthroughs in 10 people.”
On his website, he says his “Lubecavax”, a three-dose vaccine, has proven highly effective. Some 376 friends and colleagues were vaccinated with the substance during the summer, he wrote, and “97 per cent developed high concentrations of antibodies against coronavirus”.
“In our view the ‘Lübeck vaccine’ is safe, effective and presumably the most suitable vaccine for children,” he adds in a blog post. “Doctors have the right to mix together compounds that they believe will help people.”
In this assertion he is drawing on a 2000 German constitutional court ruling which forbade federal authorities from prohibiting an experimental treatment of two doctors using stem cells.
News of the rogue vaccination has horrified German medical authorities. The Paul Ehrlich Institute, which is responsible for approval of medicines and vaccines in Germany, said on Monday it had offered Dr Stöcker assistance with testing in September and December of last year, but that he had not responded to the institute’s offers.
The hurdles to vaccination licensing “are deliberately high”, the institute added, “to ensure the maximum possible security for participants in clinical trials”.
Christmas trees aren’t just for Christmas, at least for the Cork business with a pot-grown tree initiative that sees householders rent their tree in early December and bring it back to the farm in early January, to be cared for all year around.
Colm Crowley from Glanmire says his 5ft trees, which are rented out for €40 a year, are a very sustainable way to celebrate Christmas.
Customers can rent or buy a living Christmas tree in a pot from Cork Pot Grown Christmas Trees. The rented ones are then taken back to the farm in Rosscarbery, west Cork, after the festive season.
“I started off with small pot-grown trees and I started selling them for €10 or €15 and a lot of customers were coming in asking, ‘have you anything bigger?’ It got me thinking that there was a market for bigger pot-grown Christmas trees.
“With the pot-grown trees, they are never dead. They are always alive. They continue to take up carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and provide oxygen as well,” he says.
“They come with a care leaflet. The water would be the big one: making sure they have enough water but not too much because too much would cause root rot,” he says.
“I found that pot-grown trees are very big in America and it has started spreading to Germany and the UK. I knew that Irish people would love it.”
It takes 12-14 years to grow a Christmas tree from seed, with a lot of work involved in pruning, shaping and making the tree perfect.
“It is only used for four weeks. With the pot growns, we get to use the tree over and over. That said, cut Christmas trees are also very environmentally friendly because when a tree is cut in November, another one or two are planted in spring. With the pot growns, between November and spring that cycle continues, so for those few months the Christmas trees continue to take the carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and provide oxygen.”
As rental trees will continue to grow throughout the year, Crowley is anticipating customers not recognising their tree when it is returned to them the following Christmas.
‘Exact same tree’
“They send me pictures looking for the exact same tree,” he says.“With the rentals, you are getting the same Christmas tree you liked and picked out. But it will have continued to grow. There is a lovely smell – you are bringing a bit of forest in your house.”
Crowley says the real Christmas tree business has grown hugely since he first started selling, from his mother Margaret’s house in Ballinlough, Cork city, in 1998 before moving to bigger premises.
Last year was particularly buoyant for sales as families sought to create a festive atmosphere during the pandemic.
“Sales right across the country were probably up around 50 per cent. People wanted a bit of happiness. They needed cheering up.”
Customers are encouraged to name their trees, with the two most popular names being “Spruce Springsteen” and “Woody”.
The father of two adds that he couldn’t survive the December whirlwind without the hard work of wife Jacqui and mother-in-law Rose.