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. [...] 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
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 (Riverside, California)
My family traveled to the West Conference from the East Coast, not only for the conference itself, but because of the location’s proximity to Yosemite and other natural wonders, which we visited as well. As someone just starting out in homeschooling, I yearn for the fellowship of like-minded adults who are striving and praying for similar things for their children, and I experienced that at the West Conference. My recollection of the days spent there is that it felt like heaven, and I was sad to leave. The visits to the monastery, free-play of the children, communal lenten meals, campfires at night, and the spiritually nourishing content of the lectures and talks... I left inspired, enriched, rested, and longing to return. I’m eager to explore all of the newly discovered Orthodox homeschooling resources that were presented there — many of them from companies created by other homeschooling families to support this difficult quest. I look forward to fellowship there with Orthodox homeschooling families in the future.
— Elyzaveta Bateham (Savannah, Georgia)
The first West Conference 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. The 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.
— Fr. Paul Volmensky (Holy Ascension Russian Orthodox Church, ROCOR, Sacramento, California)
Glory to Jesus Christ!
I often encourage pilgrimages, retreats, nature-oriented vacations, and conferences. The recent 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. 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. 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)
The thing that excites me about the 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
The 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)
We have homeschooled for many years not knowing the amount of support there is within the Orthodox community for homeschooling.  Having gone to this 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)
I attended the first West Coast Homeschool Conference with four of my children. All the aspects of the conference - the proximity to the monastery, the speakers, participants, activities for the children, vendors, and fast-friendly meals - 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.
— Stephanie Johnson (Holy Apostles, Vancouver, Washington)
The West Conference in April 2018 exceeded my expectations a hundred fold. I originally signed up hoping to get a few tips on how to better plan my busy days and also to meet other large homeschooling families in California (I have six kids). Instead, the lectures focused on how to form my children’s souls and, consequently, mine. My husband and I listened to Fr. Demetrios Carellas’ lectures encouraging us to know the Mother of God personally, to seek her prayers and protection, and to increase our prayer lives. His incredible ability to speak passionately about raising our children in the Faith in a radical way, without a hint of condemnation, only love and mercy, touched us in a way that we have not been touched in many years. All of the doubts about why we are homeschooling our kids, the struggles, the tears, were replaced with peace and a sense of, “We can do this and we should do this for the salvation of our children’s souls.”

We also were blessed with opportunities to listen to moms and dads who have successfully homeschooled their children all the way through high school. Many of these families were large. Their words of wisdom and advice were encouraging and challenging. The message was that homeschooling looks different for each family and everyone is capable of doing it.

I have six children ranging in age from 2 years to 14 years. They all had an absolute blast at the conference. They played outdoor tagging games, archery, hiking, they completed art projects, sang songs around the campfire, prayed together, and played countless chess matches in the dining hall. My older girls even had an opportunity to help the nuns clean up after the Sunday brunch. They did not want to leave and cannot wait to come back.
— Shawna Mary Jackson (Riverside, California)


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


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.