“Many attendees have commented that the St. Emmelia Conference was an answer to prayer. I always nod in wholehearted agreement, for back in my dark days of December 2007, when a life that I loved appeared to be shattering all around me, I begged God that if I could no longer be a homemaker and homeschooling mother, that He would bless me with some sort of work that mattered and that would be a blessing to other families. It is truly remarkable to see what God has done!” – Barli Ross
The St. Emmelia Orthodox Homeschool Conference was born out of a desire for fellowship with other homeschooling families. In 2008, two lovely women, Barli Ross and Barbara Shukin, began the planning of the first conference. The conference had wonderful speakers leading workshops both for adults and for all our children! For you see, this conference wasn’t just for adults, as many conferences and conventions were back then. The St. Emmelia Conference had something for everyone in the family and provided a relaxed atmosphere so that parents knew they could keep their youngest children with them while still being fed mentally and spiritually in the adult workshops. The first conference, in March of 2009, was a success. The feeling of “these are my people” ran in and out, and through and over, everyone at the conference. We had found our place.
“Thanks so much for organizing and pulling off the 1st Annual St. Emmelia Orthodox Homeschool Conference. It was really wonderful for myself, my Khouria Elizabeth, and my children. We are looking forward to next year!” – Father Noah Bushelli on the 2009 conference.
We all have a desire for fellowship with kindred spirits. Homeschooling parents particularly need the company of other homeschooling parents: it’s a tough job and we who choose this job often stick out as odd in our communities. And, being an Orthodox Christian family that orients its life toward The Church, well, that makes us even stranger. Many of us, if we are lucky, are one of only a couple, or a few, homeschooling families in our parishes. Though we might belong to a community homeschool co-op, we still may feel the odd man out because we are Orthodox. It is just hard to find like-mindedness for homeschooling AND Orthodoxy. The St. Emmelia Conference provided just what so many of us needed.
The first conference had twenty-eight families in attendance, with a total of forty-two children. Over the years, we have grown, and in 2017 we grew to forty-four families and over one hundred children! Not only have we grown in the number of attending families, we have also grown in the number of conferences! In 2017 and 2018, Orthodox homeschoolers will have the option of attending St. Emmelia conferences in California, Texas, Pennsylvania, and God willing, in Kansas too. God has truly blessed the St. Emmelia Orthodox Homeschool Conference!