What is The Saint Emmelia Orthodox Homeschool Conference?
By Carol Federoff
With only one exception, for the birth of my son in 2010, my family has never failed to attend the Saint Emmelia Orthodox Homeschool Conference held each year at the Antiochian Village conference center in Bolivar, PA, since its establishment in 2009. The conference has always provided speakers and topics offering bits of wisdom and inspiration on our journey to raise and educate godly children within our Orthodox Christian homes.
It can sometimes be daunting in this world full of chaos, strife and high academic standards to keep our focus on the one thing needful. Even our homeschool world is full of an overwhelming number of influences from other faiths and it is difficult to find ways to guide our students in academic subjects while remaining true to Orthodoxy. So it’s a breath of fresh air to attend the conference and be surrounded by an average of 50families from far and wide who are all of the same mindset: we all want to provide our students an individually tailored education that includes participation in the life of the Church and time spent in prayer and strengthening their faith in preparation fora life long journey in Christ. We all share that commonality – which is the backbone to our homeschooling and our life. Attending the conference at this time of year has been instrumental in my sanity! It’s that time of year when I wonder if I’m doing it all right! Am I losing focus on what’s important? Am I doing the kids justice? And it is the conference that helps bring me back into focus. It is a reminder that the focus of education is not a particular ideology (Classical, Charlotte Mason, Unschooling or any of the others) or a particular academic goal. The focus is actually on our children’s (and our) salvation. I go home with such a feeling of peace and tons of hands on ideas and tidbits and sometimes materials from the vendor hall to set the wheels in motion to stay on the narrow path! Further, I have made more friends and I have their contact information to stay in touch with all of them who, like me, are trying to stay on that path. This is a valuable tool to have within arm’s reach throughout the year!
This year’s conference, to be held April 7-10 will no doubt be just as profitable to our intellectual and spiritual growth! Our keynote speaker, Father Noah Bushelli, will be speaking on the subject of marriage and homeschooling! I am really looking forward to hearing what Father Noah has to say regarding practical steps to keeping Christ in our marriage. Fr. Noah will also offer his wisdom and encouragement on thriving (or surviving) as a homeschool family, challenging us to consider the meaning of family and education as well as the needs of our children and the changing cultural landscape.
In addition to Fr. Noah, other amazing speakers, including Kh.Elizabeth Bushelli, Andrew Kern of the Circe Institute, Lori Branch of the University of Iowa, Anne Marie McCollum of St. Theophan Academy, and other homeschooling parents, will offer talks in a homeschool track that is beneficial to parents just starting out in homeschooling, those with just a little experience and, like my husband and I, topics for parents that are already teaching the high school years!
Aside from the abundance of knowledge and insight gained from the speakers, time at the conference keeps us growing in faith together as we attend the services held in the St. Peter and Paul chapel in between talks and meals shared together with other homeschooling families from areas near and far. Our children have, over the years, made friends with other Orthodox homeschool children and have been exuberant in the telling of their own experiences at the village from classes, night hikes, icon workshops, movies, and discussions with excellent children’s workshop hosts! It’s quite possible that my children look forward to the conference even more than I do!
I am truly thankful that we have this opportunity every year to attend the St. Emmelia Orthodox Homeschool Conference and am hopeful you will consider it as an important part of your homeschool and Orthodox nourishment!
For more information, visit the website at http://www.saintemmeliaconference.com.