2014 Conference Speakers Line-up

2014 Conference

Our Keynote and Featured Speakers Will Inspire You

VaHomeschoolers is thrilled to welcome two enthusiastic speakers who can help you foster an education like no other in your homeschool. Their creative approaches and insights—from encouraging the rigorous study of history to nurturing a budding creative writer, from building the homeschool you dream of to revisiting and evaluating a homeschooled childhood with the perception time and experience bring—will excite and encourage you.

Susan Wise Bauer headshotIn a search for information about classical education, one of the first names you’ll see is that of our keynote speaker, Susan Wise Bauer. The product of a classical homeschool education herself, Susan is a homeschool parent, a scholar and a prolific author of education and history books. She is an expert by any definition, but you’ll be inspired, not intimidated, by her lessons-learned analysis of her own homeschooling experiences and tools she offers for supporting your own children’s education.

Susan is currently at work on a four volume history of the world for W.W. Norton. Her books include The History of the Ancient World, The History of the Medieval World, The Well-Educated Mind, The Art of the Public Grovel: Sexual Sin and Confession and of course The Story of the World. Susan is the founder of Peace Hill Press, a small press dedicated to publishing history and literature resources for parents and teachers. Susan holds a Ph.D. from the College of William and Mary, where she now teaches writing. She lives in Charles City with her husband and has homeschooled all four of her children, including her eldest son who now attends the University of Virginia.

BWheadshotPurpleYou know how some fortunate people find a calling, not just a job? That’s certainly the case for featured speaker Julie Bogart, creator of the innovative Brave Writer writing and language arts curriculum. Julie draws on her many years’ experience as a professional writer and homeschool parent to nurture children into capable and expressive writers. Her love for language is infectious, and her approach is effective and adaptable. With Julie’s support, teaching writing is not scary but fun and rewarding.

For 13 years, Julie’s Brave Writer instructional manuals and online classes have enriched the homeschooling lives of thousands of families. Brave Writer exists to foster a nurturing relationship between homeschooling parent and child while creating a safe environment for writing growth. Rather than emphasizing format writing as the key to success, Brave Writer’s materials and instructors facilitate the emergence of authentic writing voice in your children. Julie’s professional background includes freelance writing, magazine and book editing and ghostwriting. She has authored and supervised the development of all original Brave Writer materials and has homeschooled her five children for 17 years. Julie lives in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Meet Our Conference Speakers

Amy Angel is a lifelong learner who has homeschooled “officially” since 1997. Although she excelled in school, eventually earning a bachelor of arts at UC Berkeley and a master of science in counseling at San Francisco State University, she learned most of what she actually remembers from books and hands-on activities. Her homeschooling style is eclectic with emphases on travel, theater and literature. Amy and husband Jim live in Fairfax with their five children, all of whom have been homeschooled. Two of her children have graduated from homeschooling and moved on to institutions of higher learning. Three have special challenges, including learning disabilities and hearing loss. Amy is a familiar face in her funky five-fingered shoes and varied skirt collection at many homeschool gathering and events in Northern Virginia.

Barb Benfante and husband Guy have homeschooled their three sons their whole lives. The older two have graduated and are currently recording and touring with the band The Last Bison. The youngest is in his penultimate year of homeschooling. Barb teaches history and other social studies to homeschooled high schoolers at a large co-op in Chesapeake. She has volunteered with VaHomeschoolers for 11 years in a variety of positions, including serving on the Board of Directors, writing for VaHomeschoolers Voice and working on many conferences.

Demetria Clark is an unschooling mother of two teen sons, a business owner and an internationally known author and activist. She believes and lives the intention of family first in all things and has molded her world and career around that. She is the author of Herbal Healing for Children and 475 Herbal and Aromatherapy Recipes and is the director of Birth Arts International and Heart of Herbs Herbal School. She lives in North Carolina with her sons, husband, two cats and a dog, carting teens to football, musical events and wherever the wind takes them.

Marjorie Cole was drawn to homeschooling when her oldest was preschool aged and continues to homeschool her daughters, now 11 and 13, in Falls Church. She takes a very relaxed approach to homeschooling, often calling it “faithschooling” because she has faith that her children will show her what is best for them, as she has seen time and again. She often underestimates what she actually does and is surprised when others point it out to her. She has volunteered with VaHomeschoolers for many years in many different roles. She is a huge advocate of homeschooling parents having interests outside of homeschooling and currently dances on a Morris team, posts too much on Facebook, dabbles in costuming and clothing reconstruction and enjoys going to family dance camps for contra dancing and English Country dance.

Todd Coram is a professional hacker who writes software, designs hardware and takes things apart to figure out how they work. He has been messing with gadgets and programming computers for over 30 years. Todd has taught programming and Internet technology to adults and kids alike. He has been an explorer of the Internet (in its various forms) since the 1980s. Todd thinks that every kid should be taught to become a smart, safe and savvy Internet surfer.

Stephanie Elms volunteers with VaHomeschoolers on the Board of Directors and as Website Administrator. As she has homeschooled her two boys in Annandale for the past 12 years, Stephanie has learned that each child is on his or her own unique educational journey, and she is glad to be a part of it. As co-moderator of the statewide email list VaEclecticHS and various local and national lists, she spends a large part of her free time writing and helping new homeschoolers. You can read her musings on her personal blog, Throwing Marshmallows.

Rebecca Esch began homeschooling her now 13-year-old daughter four years ago when it was clear there were no viable school options where they were living. Now she wishes she had had the foresight to homeschool from the beginning. During these homeschooling years, Rebecca has moved from a semi-structured approach toward unschooling and is always seeking creative ways to incorporate her daughter’s interest in the visual and performing arts into their learning. Rebecca has a doctorate in educational leadership and policy studies. She has taught girls’ development and education courses at the University of Vermont, has worked as a gender equity consultant and is co-founding mother of Rosie’s Girls, a summer program for middle school girls now in four states. Rebecca is Managing Editor for VaHomeschoolers Voice.

Jeanne Faulconer, a popular speaker at homeschooling conferences, business groups and parents’ groups, has homeschooled her three sons in North Carolina, Mississippi and Virginia during the past 16 years. Jeanne is a former college faculty member, a former editor and book reviewer for Home Education Magazine, a long-time editor for VaHomeschoolers Voice and a recent news correspondent for WCVE, an NPR-member station. Jeanne is also a former soccer coach, founding member of Lake Gaston Soccer Association and horse trainer, competitor and riding coach. She has been a student of how learning works—at home, in the music room, in small groups, in the college classroom, on the soccer field and in the car to and from practice. She has found the key to successful learning is engagement, which she addresses at her new website EngagedHomeschooling.com. You can also read more of Jeanne’s insights at TheHomeSchoolMom.com, where she is a guest blogger, and at her own blog, At Each Turn. Jeanne earned a master of arts degree in communication and conducts portfolio evaluations for Virginia homeschoolers for evidence of progress.

Cindy Gaddis is a 20-year home education veteran and mother of seven right-brained children, ages 13–27. She’s married to her high school sweetheart, and their family lives in a log house on 15 acres in beautiful central North Carolina. A passionate advocate for understanding and honoring the natural learning path for creative, right-brained children, Cindy is a popular conference speaker and blogger on the subject. She has helped thousands of learning-different children flourish and thrive and find joy in learning. Cindy has recently published her first book, The Right Side of Normal, in order to reach many more who want to benefit from strengths-based learning for right-brained children. You can find her at TheRightSideofNormal.com and at CinndyGaddis.com.

Rick Gondella is a communications and marketing consultant who specializes in helping non-profits and small businesses. His wife Pamela Schmidt is the primary teacher for the family’s three children. Initially skeptical of homeschooling, Rick quickly saw the benefits for his children compared to his own experiences in Fairfax County public schools. He believes homeschooling promotes the sort of individual learning style and pace that is most beneficial for learning.

Jenny Grove-Bradshaw is the leader of a multi-level Girl Scout troop of 22 homeschooled girls in kindergarten through fifth grade. Jenny is completing her fourth year as a Girl Scout leader and is also involved in the leadership of Girl Scout Service Unit 56-5. She is the founder and director of Compass Homeschool Enrichment in Oakton and works as a consultant to the commercial construction industry. Jenny earned a bachelor of science in building construction from Georgia Tech and a master of science in building construction management from Purdue University. Jenny homeschools her nine-year-old twin daughters and lives in Centreville.

Tara Henry is a writer who has authored books, published in international journals and appeared at conferences, universities and events worldwide. She is a college faculty member and director of a graduate program. Tara and her partner reside in Virginia with their two children, who live and learn without school.

DeAnna Hight is a licensed clinical social worker and registered play therapist. She has been in the social work field since 1992 and has provided psychotherapy for children, adolescents and adults since 1998. DeAnna holds a bachelor of science in social welfare from Metropolitan State College of Denver and a master of social work from the University of Denver. She received specialized training at the Family Therapy Training Center of Colorado while attending graduate school. DeAnna has experience working with individuals suffering from depression, anxiety, trauma and family conflict and with young children with emotional, behavioral and developmental concerns.

Renee Jackson and her family of three daughters, one patient husband and seven rabbits feel that homeschooling has become a way of life rather than a way to school. She serves on the board of the Nova Scoop learning community, has been a 4-H leader for seven years, is an enthusiastic softball mom and is always (okay, almost always) up for the challenge of putting together a group or activity that will support her family’s homeschool lifestyle. Her most recent life pleasure is singing with the Potomac Harmony Chorus, an a cappella Sweet Adeline chorus in Arlington.

Dena Jensen lives in Northern Virginia where she and her husband homeschool their 13-year-old son. Their family traveled to the Galapagos Islands for their son’s 13th birthday and have many more travel plans in their future. Dena believes it’s important to expose her son to the joys, stresses and unexpected gifts that travel has to offer in addition to (and sometimes instead of) the traditional school curriculum.

Stephanie Kraft is a single, homeschooling mother of an eight-year-old son. She has a healing arts and hypnotherapy practice in Northern Virginia and enjoys the freedom of homeschooling and the lifestyle it offers. Her son has a full appreciation for it as well and is very vocal about the benefits of homeschooling as he attended school for 10 weeks when he was 7 years old. From that experience, both Stephanie and her son can compare the differences between going to school and homeschooling. Homeschooling wins, hands down!

Shannon Lee is a licensed social worker with over a decade of experience working in the social work field. She holds a master of social work degree from Syracuse University. Shannon works with individuals, couples, families and groups, using a multitude of modalities designed to meet clients where they are and help facilitate reaching where they hope to be. Her areas of interest include working with military families, grief and loss issues, anxiety, communication, workplace issues (both as employer and employee) and life adjustment issues. Shannon lives in the Northern Virginia area with her husband, two children and two rescue dogs who appear to be immune to any of her behavior modification tricks.

Robin Martin has homeschooled her son for the last eight years and has taught science, including physical science, biology and chemistry, at their academic co-op for the last four years. Not a scientist by training, Robin brings her love of the subject and dedication to research, organizational skills and understanding of how kids learn to the creation of co-op classes where parents can share the costs and maximize the experiences. Robin is the former editor of the VaHomeschoolers blog Connections and is active in her homeschool group and academic co-op. She wrote and maintained her own blog, Martinzoo, for many years to document her family’s homeschooling journey.

Jessica Mays has been in the “other half” role since the decision was made to homeschool their three children about five years ago. Jessica’s work responsibilities have continued to grow over the years and have experienced many positive benefits from this work-life arrangement.

Parrish Mort is a 16-year homeschooling veteran who loved learning alongside her kids. She believes life offers many chances to learn so much more than what is obvious and that homeschooling affords this opportunity to explore deeper topics as well as passions. Parrish has taught many homeschooling co-op classes, incorporating geography into topics such as oceanography, biology, social studies, current events and government. She has volunteered with VaHomeschoolers in multiple roles over the last 15 years, including serving as President for eight years, lobbyist for 12 years, Conference Chair multiple times and as Publisher of VaHomeschoolers Voice for the past six years. She is currently VaHomeschoolers Executive Director.

Maureen Moslow-Benway has homeschooled her two youngest children for the past six years. She absolutely loves the homeschooling lifestyle and feels extremely fortunate to be able to provide her children with the hands-on, experiential education she would have loved to have received. Maureen, her husband Bob and their children live, work, play and learn together on a 25-acre hobby farm, complete with a small organic garden and a menagerie of quirky but lovable animals. Maureen is passionate about education: She is a professor at Virginia Commonwealth University, where she teaches classes on terrorism and homeland security. She also serves on J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College’s board of directors and tutors students at Woodville Elementary, one of Richmond’s poorest inner-city schools. Maureen has always had a passion for the outdoors, nature and adventure. Whether she’s whitewater rafting in Nepal, adventure racing in Borneo, mountain biking in Kenya or camping with her children in the Blue Ridge Mountains, she loves to discover, dream and explore. Maureen keeps a blog of her family’s homeschooling adventures at mileswsmiles.blogspot.com.

Kelly Muzzin homeschools two high schoolers in Manassas. She has been a proud member of Prince William Composite Squadron, Civil Air Patrol, since 2011. Her children have participated to varying degrees, but both have benefited from CAP’s educational opportunities. First Lieutenant Muzzin is currently working toward qualification as a character development instructor, as a ground team search and rescue member and as a mission scanner.

Lydia Netzer is the author of the novel Shine Shine Shine, a New York Times Notable Book, a finalist for the LA Times Book Prize and a Target Book Club Pick. She is also the author of the forthcoming How to Tell Toledo From the Night Sky, which will be published by St. Martin’s Press in July 2014. She has a master’s in English literature and zero mastery over the shelves and counters of her chaotic school room. She lives in Norfolk with her husband, horse and two dogs and has been homeschooling her two children since they were born.

Pete Nuwayser, the other half of the homeschooling team for his twins, has held technology consulting and sales positions with Novell, BearingPoint and Deloitte, has toured the U.S. and UK with his band and has provided mathematics support at home. He enjoys playing drums, traveling, hiking, reading, building Linux servers and practicing French.

Gwen Peredo McCrea has been a homeschool parent since her oldest, now a high school senior, was eight years old. She loves seeing how her kids learn through play, engagement in the community and the pursuit of interests and passions; she feels fortunate to have been able to give them what she hopes is a nurturing and stimulating living-learning environment. Gwen is a Ph.D. candidate in geography from the University of Minnesota and plans (one of these days) to finish a dissertation on urban food production in the D.C. metro area. She makes her home in Northern Virginia along with her husband, two sons and a big brown dog and dreams of beehives and backyard chickens.

David Polak is education director and co-founder of Science Through the Eyes of a Child, an organization offering science and science enrichment to students ages 5 to 105. David has taught science for more than a decade. His recent projects include the introduction of a new science track for St. Catherine’s Brilliant Summer Program in 2012 and 2013, where he unintentionally sent his cell phone 5,000 feet into the wild blue yonder via a class-constructed solar hot air balloon as it recorded a video of the launch. (And yes, he recovered the phone and video.) David earned a bachelor of science in chemistry from Virginia Commonwealth University and studied marine science at the College of Charleston and the University of the Virgin Islands. His science experience ranges from medical laboratory prep to research in oyster aquaculture to bio-fuels engineering.

Michael Randers-Pehrson and wife Laura have always homeschooled their three kids, ages 9, 12 and 13. Although he wades into some of the daily homeschooling activities—especially when it comes to computer programming—Michael’s main role is cheerleader-in-chief for his family’s life adventure. They live in Reston.

Jan Reed has worked at Piedmont Virginia Community College as a professional counselor for the past 30 years. Over her tenure, she has worked in every facet of the Division of Student Services. Currently, she is the first year counselor working with homeschool students and dual credit high school students, coordinating the Student Development Program; she also teaches orientation courses to first year students. Jan holds a master of science in education in student personnel services from State University College at Buffalo. Her two children have families of their own, and Jan has five grandchildren. She loves the outdoors and is an active volunteer with the local humane society. Pets? She specializes in felines!

Joyce Rodgers, executive director of the Athenian Academy, has had the opportunity to work with children from a variety of backgrounds and abilities. She also homeschools four children who are both gifted and struggle with their own learning obstacles. In 2008, she founded the Richmond Enrichment Studio Model United Nations Team, now the Athenian Academy Model United Nations Team, with five ninth grade homeschoolers. This team has grown to about 22 middle and high school students and has attended Model United Nations conferences at esteemed universities as well as at the United Nations in New York City. The team most recently won the 2013 George Mason University Secretary- General’s Award. Working with so many different students in a variety of subjects, Joyce is convinced that their capabilities consistently exceed what they anticipate they can achieve. It is her goal is to engage students in such a way they realize their potential so that they can chase whatever dreams their hearts yearn for.

Pamela Schmidt has over 30 years experience as a counselor and trainer and is the homeschool mom to three wonderful teens. Shifting her teaching relationship to a mentoring one with her own students has resulted in a high school senior who is helping catalog a new library for an education center in Ghana, a 15-year-old son who has just finished building his first guitar and a 12 year old who is still exploring, growing a small farm of 4-H animals in the process. Her own mission statement includes “to create beautiful quilts out of the material I buy thinking I will have time to make beautiful quilts.” She has taught the skill of implementing mission statements with non-profits, teen leadership groups and her own family. She is also the head chicken and rabbit wrangler on her family’s small 4-H farm in Bluemont.

Anita Simpkins is a homeschool mom with over 15 years of personal home education experience. She began helping homeschool families in the 1980s and has classroom experience in the elementary, middle and high school levels. After obtaining her Ph.D. in education from the University of Virginia in 1998, she worked as a distance education professor for the School of Education at Regent University for 10 years while homeschooling her children. Five years ago she added Classical Conversations (CC) as part of her family’s home education journey. Currently, Anita serves as the CC Support Manager for the North Central Virginia region. She enjoys equipping parents and students with the classical tools of learning needed to discover the order and beauty of God’s creation and to inspire others to do the same.

Karen Skelton is in her eleventh and final year of the homeschooling journey and has recently joined the VaHomeschoolers Board of Directors. Her areas of interests include manning the VaHomeschoolers homeschool helpline and offering ongoing assistance to families who begin homeschooling at the high school level. Her son, 20, is a senior studying economics at George Mason University, and her daughter, 18, is a self-directed learner who intends to pursue writing. Karen’s personal “three Rs” of interest are reading, running and research. She is actively involved in the genealogy community and has recently given her first public presentation on Irish records research.

Barbara Smith is living her childhood dream of having a home on a mountain with her high school sweetheart and homeschooling her amazing children. She writes and speaks on the topics of joy, homeschooling, homemaking, boomerang living and childbirth. In her spare time she works as a labor and delivery RN.

Sheila Stone moved to Charlottesville in 1989; in 1995 she became a single mom to her five-month-old daughter. She has reared, supported and homeschooled her now 19-year-old daughter as a single mom in Nelson County for the past eight years. While homeschooling brings challenges to us all, Sheila has had the additional challenge of juggling the needs of her daughter and supporting them both financially, often a seemingly impossible and most difficult task. She has been active in several local Internet homeschool groups, including Secular Homeschoolers and Work and Homeschool. Her other interests include the Internet, learning, gardening and traditional folk music.

Amy Wilson lives in Woodbridge with her husband and two children (ages 12 and 14), who have always homeschooled. Her passions include nature photography, cats, lizards, cheese and coffee. She has served two terms on the VaHomeschoolers Board of Directors and has volunteered as Director of Government Affairs. Amy believes the best thing about homeschooling is the freedom it gives her entire family.

Julie Wingfield has been advocating for children and the importance of literacy education for over two decades. She has served as head of school for Riverside School for 17 years, providing leadership and daily oversight and working to increase community outreach. Julie holds a bachelor of arts and master of science in educational leadership from Radford University. She also has a special education certificate from the Virginia Department of Education in cooperation with University of Virginia, with endorsements in administration and supervision, government, emotional disturbance K–12, mental retardation K–12 and specific learning disabilities K–12. Julie has special professional training in multilanguage instruction, Orton-Gilliangham training, substance abuse counseling, rehabilitation counseling and residential care counseling. She has served on several boards and committees to improve literacy education in the region, including the Virginia Council on Private Education Monitoring Board, the Virginia Branch of the International Dyslexia Association board of directors and the Virginia Association of Independent Specialized Education Facilities Accreditation committee. She currently serves as the state team leader for Literate Nation Virginia.

Kirby Worthington is a mother, grandmother and child development specialist. For over forty years, she has been putting her master’s in child development to good use by teaching parents and educators through speaking, classes and workshops and by training childcare providers through the Virginia Department of Social Services. Kirby also directs an urban-suburban play group to help parents learn ways to develop their children’s minds, bodies, social skills and spirits. Kirby is the author of Getting Your Sweet Potato Off the Couch and co-author, with husband Everett Worthington, of Value Your Children: Becoming Better Parental Disciple-Makers. She is an avid beach-walker and tea-drinker and a resolute child-at-heart.



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