The conference started on Thursday. Unfortunately we were running behind schedule and did not make it in time to attend the Akathist service- this one being a prayer service to the Mother of God as the nurturer of children. It is a beautiful service as we have attended them in the past.
We did make it for dinner and were happy to see familiar faces and see many new faces as well. After dinner was a nice group photo session and orientation activities including the phenomenal display of photography by Jocelyn Mathewes in the museum at Antiochian Village titled Women With Icons.
Friday brought us a beautiful Pre-sanctified Liturgy service followed by the first sessions! I attended one called "Maneuvering through the High School Years" given by Dianthe Livanos. Dianthe shared her wisdom and reminded us that life is NOT about a title, position or amount of money we make and that we must remember to place Loving God above everything and teach this to our children. I had a wonderful discussion with Dianthe after the session about refocusing my outlook on some recent challenges - we truly must set our sights on God as parents - in doing this our children will hopefully learn to do the same.
Another session was conducted by Susan Papademetris on setting goals and following through. Susan reminded us to set goals- have them in writing - something I use to do but haven't actually done this for several years. It's something I certainly intend to work on. I have writing goals but not written homeschool goals...something is wrong with that picture! We need to review these goals annually - some of us may be fine doing this monthly or weekly...others may need to do it daily. I think the overall goals - especially our goals involving our faith- should be reviewed quite frequently! Susan provided a wonderful handout that I still need to reread to get it all. It will definitely be put in my pile of planning materials for next year as I want to keep it all in mind as I plan and organize.
My session 3 was on Free Online Resources for Education and I'm looking forward to the list of sources Bob Weaver will be sending to those of us in the session! He did a fabulous job of presenting a list of places to look for information and the questions to ask yourself about your sources (Is it authoritative? Comprehensive? Reliable? Current?) and how to go about answering those questions.
The Keynote Speaker, Dr. Christopher Veniamin, spoke on The Orthodox Understanding of Salvation: "Theosis" in St. Silouan the Athonite and Elder Sophrony of Essex. Orthodox theology is personal and unique and Dr. Veniman thoroughly covered this topic and hit many important points including: We must pray or our enemies just as Christ did, If you don't feel bad for the sinner destined to experience the fire then you lack the spirit within you, and before we say, do , or even THINK anything - we need to refer our minds and hearts to Christ!
Saturday brought 2 more sessions and another talk by Dr. Veniamin on Salvation. My first session on Saturday was given by Monica Klepac on "Holding and Letting Go - Sanity and Sustainability in Homeschooling". Monica did a fabulous job at reminding us about setting goals and prioritizing those goals - always remembering which are the most important. She also reminded we moms to remember to put the oxygen mask on ourselves first! - just as in procedures for an airplane emergency- we need to get time for ourselves and take care of ourselves or we won't be able to care for our children - this is something I wished I would have learned years ago.
My second session on Saturday was given by Dr. Veniamin (with a rather humorous opening act by Andrew Kern I may add) on Repentance. This is an important topic as our society really does not seem to understand repentance nor does it offer real support to a soul which desires to repent and yet we are ALL in need of repentance. Dr. Veniamin talked about loving our enemies, laying aside our own will to learn the will of God (a really hard challenge!), and remembering that none of us can discern the will of God by ourselves - we need guidance from others that are further along the spiritual path - namely our spiritual fathers...
Of course, these are just the sessions that I went to. Each session has three choices of speakers and topics. Sometimes it's hard to pick which one to go to! I'm glad my husband is with me so he can go to some different ones and take notes for me. It gives us a lot to talk about in the days to follow.
And of course - there was the late night with other homechool moms. I was tired - plus my teenage son was close by - so I didn't really share that much but I still enjoyed the time with them that evening. We stayed up way to late but it was worth the time with these dear people who I so rarely get to see and get to know.
Thank you to all that had anything to do with setting up the conference and presenting to adults as well as a big thanks to all that took on the children's sessions keeping them safe and wonderfully occupied!