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I am really dumbfounded by this conference. Dumbfounded! I am so thrilled! In my 25 years as a priest I’ve never seen anything like this. A west coast conference, a conference on the east coast, a conference in the mid-west, a conference in the south... I was so thrilled by the website and by what’s happening. It is a fascinating time! Absolutely potent with potentiality! And that is what I feel is happening here. I’m just thrilled. The more that this happens, the more that this love spreads like fire amongst the Orthodox in America, the more good can take place in our lives. Because to embrace parenting and the education of our children is a path to repentance and sanctity. And I can only dream of the good that can take place in our children’s lives and in their formation to be near God, nourished in Truth, and witnesses to our culture.
— Fr. Josiah Trenham in his keynote address at the 2017 West Conference
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The first Saint Emmelia West Coast Homeschool Conference held during December of 2017 was very impressive in the number of its participants and the manner in which it was organized. Orthodox homeschoolers gathered from across many states and many jurisdictions to meet and learn, to gain support for their cause and, sometimes unbeknownst to themselves, to give encouragement to others.  The organizers thoroughly understood the needs of the participants, from preschoolers to parent and grandparent home educators, as seen by the youth activities for children and teenagers and, of course, the rich program of lectures and workshops for adults.

Noteworthy was an experience shared by a participating homeschooling parent who is not yet an Orthodox Christian. That person was brought to tears when learning about the Orthodox approach to parenting, and seeing examples of it at work during the conference; how the grace of the Holy Spirit is capable of producing wonderful fruits of love through wisdom and the virtues of patience, humility, faith, obedience, etc. 

The Saint Emmelia West Conference is highly recommended for those desiring to provide a strong Orthodox formation for their children, are looking for a community in which to share common goals, or are searching for various resources to augment their home education. The natural, mountainous setting of the conference grounds at Saint Nicholas Ranch and Retreat Center nestled just below the Monastery of the Holy Theotokos the Life Giving Spring –– which is accessible for a visit and prayer –– is in itself a rest for the soul. 
— Fr. Paul Volmensky (Holy Ascension Russian Orthodox Church, ROCOR, Sacramento, California)
 
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Glory to Jesus Christ!
I often encourage pilgrimages, retreats, nature-oriented vacations, and conferences. The recent St. Emmelia West Conference was a perfect blend and a surprisingly refreshing time. The West Conference is in the ruggedly beautiful foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains, at the St. Nicholas Ranch & Retreat Center, nestled under the Holy Monastery of the Theotokos, the Life-Giving Spring in Dunlap, California. My highlights in this ascendant setting were the many pious, eager, and loving young families; tasty, nourishing meals appropriate for the fast; the prayerful chanting before and after meals; well-planned, informative, and truly Orthodox lectures and workshops; a rich selection of appropriate vendors; many encouraging conversations; joyous tears during lectures; and lots of new friendships. All of this, plus educational programming for the children at a family-friendly price, makes me very thankful that our growing St. Emmelia Conferences has the West Conference in its family. I strongly encourage anyone who takes their educational responsibility for their children seriously to attend future conferences.
May it be blessed!
— Fr. Noah Bushelli (National Director for the Antiochian Archdiocese Department of Homeschooling)
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We have homeschooled for many years not knowing the amount of support there is within the Orthodox community for homeschooling.  Having gone to this St. Emmelia West Conference we are now rejuvenated and energized to not only teach our kids but to continue with their spiritual, character, and theological formation.  We enjoyed it so thoroughly we will be going each time. We would highly encourage others to attend.
— Ryan & Kim Swehla (Modesto, California)
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The St. Emmelia West Conference was a breath of fresh air for our family! We met incredible families at this conference who encouraged and inspired us. The speakers were delightful and went beyond the surface topics of homeschooling to the deeper aspects of our journey. Everything was beautifully organized and the food was delicious. All six of us came home talking about what a beautiful, fun, and enriching time it was!
— John & Grace Cosby, serving in the ministry of Project Mexico (Tijuana, Mexico)
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I attended the first West Coast St. Emmelia Homeschool Conference with four of my children. All the aspects of the conference - the proximity to the Holy Monastery of the Theotokos, the Life-Giving Spring, the speakers, participants, activities for the children, vendors, and fast-friendly meals at St. Nicholas Ranch - combined to make our four days a time of refreshment and renewal.

What set this conference apart was the emphasis on the goal of our homeschool journey- raising saints. The lectures, prayers and chanting, material offered from the vendors, and the various activities for the children offered a truly Orthodox approach to parenting and education.

My children and I look forward to attending again in 2018.
— Stephanie Johnson (Holy Apostles, Vancouver, Washington)
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The thing that excites me about the St. Emmelia West Conference is the sense that so many people are rethinking education, when it is widely known that we need to do just that. Orthodoxy is a great gift to America, and one of the ways it can reach most deeply into American society and communities is by fortifying the family through home education. I saw this taken seriously at the west conference and look forward to growing from that discussion in the years to come.
— Andrew Kern, founder and president of CiRCE Institute
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It was with such joy that Fr. Josiah and I, together with our youngest girls, were able to attend the West Coast Homeschool Conference this past fall. We were so uplifted and reinvigorated in our homeschooling journey. So many pertinent issues and struggles were addressed with very helpful and competent suggestions. The conference being held near the Monastery was an added bonus for the prayers and uplift there! I went home “full” and encouraged with a lot to digest! We brought our little girls (ages 9 and 4) who had the time of their life! The kids program was very well organized with both fun and educational activities to occupy their time while we were in seminars. The girls made new friends and had a terrific time. As a matter of fact, they keep asking me when we will go to the next homeschooling conference! Thanks for all the love and effort that went into this educational and informative weekend!
— Presvytera Catherine Trenham
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Question addressed to Parents in the Post-Conference Survey:

“Of everything that you experienced at the 2017 WEST Conference, what is the primary element that would cause you to return?”

  • We would come back to see all the friends we've made over these few days.
  • The people, the fellowship, the information that was given.
  • The amazing speakers and the vendor hall.  Also, the monastery - actually everything!
  • The talks/speakers
  • It was an amazing and pleasant experience. Everyone was friendly and helpful. The grounds were amazing. The speakers were informative. I would return for all of this.. and for feeling the presence of God.
  • Spiritually refreshing as a family
  • The wisdom of the speakers, fellowship with other Orthodox homeschooling families, proximity to the monastery.
  • The fact that you minister to the children.  Also, the spiritual guidance in the context of homeschooling. The opportunity to encourage and support other families.
  • The panel of moms who spoke about their experience homeschooling highschool
  • The serenity, peace, and focussing on Christ
  • Interaction with other Orthodox Homeschoolers
  • Fellowship with other like-minded Orthodox homeschoolers. For both my children and I, this fellowship has always been a blessing. Also, hearing the speakers and being reminded & re-energized as to why we are doing this.
  • Community, connection, inspiration
  • The speakers and information.  I learned amidst other families like my own.
  • A community of faithful families committed to raising their children in the faith.
  • Having the opportunity to meet all the families and learn from their experiences.
  • The activities for the children.
  • Fellowship and the keynote lecture
  • The location.  The setting is beautiful.
  • The location, fellowship, retreat, speakers, price! I can't choose just one element.
  • My kids loved meeting other families and made quite a few friends. They also liked painting icons, the night hike, astronomy, and microscopy.  My daughter liked story time.
  • Fellowship for our children
  • Having new topics each conference, so that we hear new information each time
  • Prayer & worship;  Fellowship with fellow homeschoolers.
  • The speakers;  Getting to know other like-minded families
  • That the conference is focused on the Orthodox Faith
  • The experience, reconnections, lectures, and vendor hall
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Demographics for the 2017 West Conference:

220 people attended the 2017 WEST Conference:  100 adults and 120 children!  This was the largest group at the St. Nicholas Ranch for the entire year of 2017, and the largest St. Emmelia Conference.

There were approximately 70 families represented at the 2017 West Conference.

Fifteen families at the 2017 West Conference traveled from out-of-state to attend the conference in California. Those fifteen families represented eight states:  Washington, Oregon, Arizona, Texas, Georgia, Colorado, Kansas, Pennsylvania, and North Carolina.

Two families at the 2017 West Conference live outside of the United States and crossed international borders to attend. One of these families traveled from Canada and the other traveled from Mexico.

Speakers for the 2017 West Conference represented three jurisdictions:  Antiochian, Greek, and ROCOR

Attendees of the 2017 West Conference represented seven jurisdictions:  35% affiliate with the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese, 30% affiliate with the Antiochian Archdiocese, 15% affiliate with OCA, 10% Romanian, 4% ROCOR, 3% Serbian, and 3% Jerusalem Patriarchate.

40% of families who attended had one adult member of the family with a parent or grandparent born in an Orthodox country.

Three families who attended were catechumens.

50% of attendees had never visited the Monastery of the Theotokos, the Life-Giving Spring prior to the 2017 West conference.

60% of the families came a day early for the 'Pre-Conference Visit', which included a visit to the Kings Canyon National Park and the Monastery of the Theotokos, the Life-Giving Spring.

40% of the families homeschool independently of the state, 30% homeschool through a public charter, 15% homeschool through an 'umbrella school' not associated with the government, and 15% have not yet started homeschooling.

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