Meet the Speakers


Chris Adams graduated from San Jose State University School of Music and Dance, Christopher Adams is a local classical guitarist, arranger, general music instructor, Simply Music instructor, Heart Alumni, and a former homeschooler. Having experience in many different ensemble settings, Christopher has had the pleasure of successfully organizing and performing with various ensembles including show choirs, orchestras, concert bands, and other various university level ensembles. With extensive teaching experience, Christopher has been an active teacher in various subjects for over 6 years. His background in instrumental training allows him to be fluent in teaching the basics for woodwinds, strings, percussion, choral, and keyboard instruments as well as some experience with mixing and sound.  As a dancer, he has formally studied Ballroom and Latin dance at SJSU through various classes and has even competed in intercollegiate competitions against Cal Poly, Stanford, Cal Berkeley, and more. He continues to study with Dancesport (SJSU’s competitive dance team) and their coaches


Kwasi Agbottah is originally from east Austin and holds a degree in education where he successfully defended best practices in addressing the school-to-prison pipeline confronting many students in his community. The three most significant factors were approach to safety, the meeting of needs, and a faith foundation that all valued the student and larger community. He currently resides in west Detroit with his wife and four children. More @ www.juneteenf.tumblr.com


Crissi Allen homeschooled her children for 20 years while building businesses to help her family and community to thrive. Currently, she is the Founder & Executive Director of a 16-year Christ-Centered Co-op called HEART Academy, connecting homeschooling families with passionate mentors in the Silicon Valley of California (www.heartacademysj.com). Within this community, Crissi finds it a great joy to be working with talented students and directors to produce 3 musical drama productions per year. She is the co-author of “Why I Love Homeschooling: 24 Parents Share the Joys & Challenges of Educating Their Children At Home” (https://amzn.to/39k7as0). After a stint of helping her daughter heal from migraine headaches, she entered into the world of natural health. Through this very personal experience, she understood that God wants us to heal in three areas – the body, soul (mind, will, emotions) and Spirit and that if we submit to the Holy Spirit, the body and soul would follow. She has been Wellness Coach for 7 years using Prayer, Scripture, Nutrition and Essential Oils as healing modalities. (www.crissiallen.com)


Jere Allen is an Inspirer, Teacher, & Family Pastor. Jere’s 30 years of teaching experience include working with youth of all ages and he is lovingly dubbed the Inspirer by his wife, the Fun Master by his young friends and resident Math Guru by his students. Truly, he loves teaching all types of math from Elementary to Calculus, but his list of accomplishments also include teaching engineering, entrepreneurship, high school science, technology, and PE.


Jessica Allen has taken 15+ years of private voice lessons but always knew musical theater was not her only passion. During her high school senior year, Jessica was presented with an opportunity to lead worship for the youth at her church with contemporary Christian Music. This stirred within her a passion for the music industry. She went on to lead and entire 5 piece band for the entire adult congregation of Bayside Community Church in San Jose. Since then, she has started writing music, posting on Instagram and YouTube. She is an experienced songwriter as well, and has written 20+ songs. She has performed these at different venues up in the San Jose Bay Area. As she refines these projects, she is in the process of creating original songs portfolio in Hollywood, CA.

 

Bernadette Ashby is a successful serial entrepreneur. She has a MA in Education with a California Teaching Credential from San Jose State University. In addition, she has a MA in Religion from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. She is a veteran homeschool mom committed to passing on the entrepreneurial mindset to the next generation of Christian families. 


Glenn Ballard is an accountant, entrepreneur, debate coach, philosopher, visionary and father of four children. Glenn lives in Silicon Valley with his wife, Pearl, and their four children. The Ballard family has been homeschooling for more than 10 years. Glenn is the founder and director of Lux Debate Camp, Lux Debate Club and Lux Education.

Glenn is well educated with a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering from the University of Alabama; a Bachelor of Business Administration, with a major in Accounting, from Georgia State University; a Master of Science in Finance from Georgia State University; a Master of Taxation from Georgia State University; and Master of Business Administration (“MBA”) from the University of California, Berkeley.

Glenn is passionate about bringing the light of God’s truth and grace to the world, to advance Christ’s kingdom and bless people. Glenn is also passionate about multigenerational, strategic thinking and planning.


DENISE BOIKO and her husband, Ron, homeschooled both of their children from kindergarten through high school. With acceptances to multiple colleges, their daughter earned a B.S. and an M.S. in biology at Stanford University before going on to medical school, and their son chose the University of Southern California, earning a B.S. in engineering. Since then, Denise has successfully walked more than 150 homeschooled and traditionally schooled students through the college admissions process, with acceptances to universities such as MIT, Columbia, Cornell, University of Pennsylvania, UCLA, UC Berkeley, Duke, and Rice. As a speaker at homeschool workshops, and in one-on-one sessions, Denise loves to partner with homeschooling parents and lend a hand as they construct customized curricula, create credible transcripts, and craft compelling counselor letters.

Homeschooled & Headed for College was written to help other homeschoolers benefit from the many years of research and personal experience that facilitated the Boiko students’ admission to selective universities. This second edition is an updated and expanded version of the original.

 With a degree in biology and a lifelong passion for writing, Denise has taught high school biology, composition, and literature since 2006 at a local homeschool academy and at other homeschool class sites. Since she seeks to make these subjects come alive, a classroom visitor might witness a mock-up of the Berlin Wall, an Ides of March party to conclude Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, or a lively model of the cell’s plasma membrane, composed entirely of teenagers.

In her pockets of spare time, Denise enjoys making friends with neighborhood cats (especially black ones), baking lemon bars and peanut butter-oatmeal-chocolate chip cookies for the holidays, watching old Monk crime drama episodes, creating colorful quilts, meeting former students for coffee, and reading dozens of books while running on the treadmill or climbing the never-ending stepmill.

Connect with Denise!

Website:

Email: [email protected] to receive a free tip sheet,

“Top Twenty Tips for Homeschooling the College Bound Student”

Facebook: @HomeschooledAndHeadedForCollege


Karen Chegwidden is a mother of three; her two adult children both gained admission to university without ever having been to high school, and without a HSC (high school diploma). Her youngest child was home educated until 10th grade, and has now successfully transitioned to the local high school. Karen lives in the middle of the bush in Northern NSW Australia with her husband, youngest son and 4 chickens. Karen became a Christian as a teenager, and her favourite Bible verse is Phillipians 4:13 “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”, which she has kept in her back pocket for all the challenging moments along the parenting journey! Karen is a midwife, nurse and the President of the Home Education Association - a voluntary role in a national not for profit organisation dedicated to supporting home educators across Australia.


Steve Demme and his wife Sandra have been married since 1979. They have been blessed with four sons, three lovely daughters-in-law, and two special grandchildren. Their fourth son has Downs Syndrome and lives with them in Lititz, PA. Steve has served in full or part time pastoral ministry for many years after graduating from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. He is the creator of Math-U-See and the founder of Building Faith Families.


Juliet English has been married to Larry for 33 years and has 7 children (most of them now adults) and one grandchild. She has been home educating/homeschooling since 1998, and still has a few years to go, as her youngest child is now 14 years old. The family are originally from South Africa but have been living in England since 2007. Juliet’s passion for helping others led to her completing a Social Work degree, and starting out as a Social Worker. As her family grew, and the decision was made to homeschool, this same passion got her to set up homeschool groups in South Africa and later in England, as well as setting up a non-profit company to offer support and advice to home educators, and running an annual conference for home educators. She also works behind the scenes with other initiatives which benefit home educators.

Juliet speaks from the many years of experience of struggles and challenges her family have had to overcome (and are still overcoming), and has a desire to encourage, equip, enable and empower parents to home educate with boldness and freedom. She is an advocate of home education as a positive and valid educational choice and believes that children (and their parents!) benefit greatly from this amazing alternative to the classroom. Although her various homeschool-related endeavours don’t leave her much time, Juliet loves creating – through handcrafts, gardening, or cooking – as well as taking photographs of the beauty around her. She also designs and sells t-shirts and other items for homeschoolers through her Bold & Free website.


Megan Erps has been homeschooling for eleven years, and has three graduated children, and one child still in homeschool high school. She has been married to her high school sweetheart and best friend, Ryan, for twenty-one years. She loves Jesus, her family, the Church, teaching, the mountains, the beach, music, reading, organizing, and encouraging moms whenever there is an opportunity. She has personal experience with special needs and foster care/adoption, and is grateful for how these two gifts have shaped her as a mother and a Christian.


Justina Ford is a #1 Amazon International Best Selling Author, Business Mindset and Strategy Coach, Motivational Speaker, Internationally Published and Awarded Makeup Artist, and creator of the Soulful Business Alignment and Mindset Mastery Blueprint. She developed a business from her heart and soul that has allowed her to mentor dozens of women, get paid to speak and share her story, expertise, and truth. She has celebrated 5-figure launches and built a business with the flexibility to homeschool her three children. Most importantly she's watched her Soulful Business Alignment and Mindset Mastery Coaching Program help her clients build the mindset, clarity, confidence, and visibility they needed that has allowed them to create signature programs, triple their sales, get their retail product in local stores, launch their businesses, and sign contracts up to $1 Million in their own


Sandi Gonzalez has had many roles, but her favorite is mom to four daughters, (ages 14, 17, 20, 21) and one son (age 12), three of whom she homeschools, and all of whom have been involved in the performing arts of music, theater, dance, and stagecraft. Having studied dance as a child with an emphasis on tap, Sandi returned to it a few years ago when her children expressed interest in music, then theater and dance, and has performed as a tap and jazz dancer with Ohlone College. She has also worked with Stage 1 Theatre in Newark, performing in such shows as Cinderella, Titanic and AIDA and working behind the scenes as an assistant choreographer, co-producer, and properties designer on various other productions and has taught dance classes for varying ages with the City of Fremont's recreation department. She currently serves as a dance instructor at Starlight Studios in Tracy where she teaches begin-ning to advanced and adult tap classes, musical theatre classes, and preschool tap and ballet combination classes. Three of her chil-dren take classes of every style and her eldest daughter teaches piano and voice there. An ongoing learner, Sandi is taking jazz and ballet classes with the studio. She also has the privilege of being a choreographer with HEART's Youth Theater Project, which al-lows students to perform theatre in a Christ-centered environment. The first show she choreographed for YTP was Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat in 2014. She has gone on to choreograph YTP's productions of Singin' in the Rain, Seussical Jr., The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, Mary Poppins, Honk! Jr., Into the Woods Jr. and Wizard of Oz. One of her favorite aspects is seeing students' growth in character, skill and confidence as God uses and grows each one. As she combines her passions for teach-ing and dance at YTP, she is excited to do the same for the Worship Dance class at HEART where the focus is bringing glory to God through the art of various dance styles.

After homeschooling her 5 children for over 22 years, Cynthia Hancox now devotes her time to supporting other home educating families, especially those just getting started, as well as advocating for the home education community in her role as Government Liaison. She lives on a small urban farm in New Zealand with her husband and lots of crittters. Cynthia loves to encourage other Christian homeschoolers in their walk, and especially has a heart for those struggling with depression and chaos. Check out her websites: www.cynthiahancox.com and www.goodbyechaoshellopeace.com

 

LaNissir James is an educational leader nationwide with a passion to serve the home-educating community. She provides academic support for families while encouraging and equipping homeschool graduates to transition into colleges, careers, and vocational schools. As an HSLDA High School Educational Consultant, LaNissir loves speaking to parents to encourage and support their homeschooling with empathetic, engaging and practical wisdom. She earned her BS in journalism from the University of Maryland College Park, a Meyers-Brigg Type Indicator certified, and is pursuing a master’s degree in biblical studies. LaNissir and her husband Lorenzo are celebrating 25 years of marriage and seven beautiful children homeschooled children (five girls and two boys) with ages ranging from toddler to young adult. Her hobbies include reading, traveling, photography, and kayaking.

 

Jaynel L Jones is an author, multi-faceted single mom serialprenher, unschool & game schooling mom of a teen, and Life Coach. She has found that an authorship experience can become one of the many blessings while embarking on your own personal journey to self fulfillment and a sense of freedom. She also educates parents on how to impactfully engage in hands-on education for their children in fun, effective, and innovative ways. She found that the Los Angeles public school system where she grew up in was incapable of giving her child the necessary and fundamental tools to become a viable functioning adult. Therefore, she took the necessary steps to figure this out on her own. In addition, She felt the need to share her successes with her peers and contemporaries and found herself under the tutelage of a prominent Life Coach. From there, she learned how to share the valuable message of personal success gifted to her. Lastly, I became a Life coach because of the grief of losing and supporting loved ones, being able to embrace forgiveness to a heightened existent, and overcoming parental figures with mental detriments.

 

My name is Sydney Lee and I’m a senior in high school. I’ve been homeschooled for nine years and have taken classes at HEART Academy and various community colleges. Currently, I’m planning to study biological sciences in college and minor in English. In my free time, I love to read, listen to music, and do creative writing. 

 

Katie Andrews Potter is the creator of Wildwood Writing, a place for nature-based creative and expressive writing guidance for families. She is an author, educator, and homeschool mother. Katie admits she can often be found daydreaming, whether it be about a new story idea, a poem or song, or remembering a time hiking to a beautiful place somewhere off the grid with her family. She finds peace in nature and nature’s God.  Katie and her husband Ben have three kids: Ellie, Micah, and Silas. They share their home in Indianapolis, Indiana with a number of dogs and cats.

 

LM Preston is the author of Homeschooling and Working While Shaping Amazing Learners and a homeschooling mother of four. She’s an engineer, and a wife of more than twenty-five years. Her coaching and courses on homeschooling, college customization for homeschoolers or adults returning to school, and career reimagination, are products of her homeschooling journey. Homeschooling has enabled her kids to successfully complete college by the age of seventeen. In addition, she is a bestselling author of young adult fiction. She also writes for several small business publications focusing on women in business while parenting. Find her books and courses on www.EmpoweredSteps.com.

 

Andrew Pudewa is the founder and director of the Institute for Excellence in Writing and a father of seven. Traveling and speaking around the world, he addresses issues related to teaching, writing, thinking, spelling, and music with clarity, insight, practical experience, and humor.


Brian D. Ray, Ph.D. and others founded the institute in 1990 as a 501(c)3 non-profit research organization, and is the president of the institute. He holds his Ph.D. in science education from Oregon State University, his M.S. in zoology from Ohio University, and his B.S. in biology from the University of Puget Sound. Dr. Ray has been a middle school and high school classroom teacher in both public and private schools, an undergraduate college professor, and a university professor at the graduate level. He is a leading international expert with regard to homeschool (home school, home education) research. Dr. Ray executes and publishes research, speaks to the public, testifies before legislators, and serves as an expert witness in courts.

 

Sue Ruggles is a veteran homeschool mom with 3 kids in college. Through her coaching, she enables moms to navigate the many challenges of homeschooling and to feel supported, less stressed, and more confident. A Biblical worldview drives her passion for all things health, incorporating spiritual, physical, emotional, and mental wellness. From her love of learning and teaching, Sue provides guidance, direction, encouragement, and perspective. She is always learning new things and LOVES to pray for people and see God work through her to touch others in powerful ways!

 

Elizabeth Ramirez Sharpe, M.Ed. is a mom, wife, professor, parent, health educator and marriage and family coach. She has been married for twenty-two years and has a seventeen year old daughter and five year old son, both with learning disabilities. She is certified in Feeding Dynamics and trains and teaches in the areas of holistic health, learning disabilities, academic achievement, discipline, social emotional health and feeding issues. A native of California, she and her family recently relocated to Fort Worth, Texas. She believes EVERY child, teen young adult and parent can thrive with the right mindset, tools and community!!!!!!!


Hosac WIlliam Sharpe is a husband of 22 years and father two: a seventeen year old daughter and five year old son. He is a special Education Educator, Marriage and Family Coach and Bible Teacher. He feels that men are the key to generational legacy. They are the linchpin to ensuring that marriages, wives, children and grandchildren live out the calling that God has for them. His passion is for God's people to seek God's heart by listening and abiding in the Holy Spirit. God restored his marriage. A native of Chicago, Il.  He and his family reside in Fort Worth, Texas.

 

Pat Sikora is passionate about the Kingdom and about the church being the church. Her mission is to equip the body of Christ to be Kingdom carriers and to minister the powerful and practical word of God to transform lives through writing, teaching, training, prayer, and presence. She holds a Master of Arts in Theology (biblical studies) from Fuller Theological Seminary. Her many books and hundreds of articles span a variety of areas, including Bible studies, small groups, leadership training, healing, communication, aging, caregiving, writing, and Christian living. Her most recent book is Kingdom Now: Pursuing Unity in the Body of Christ to Change the World, inductive Bible study on ten passages in the New Testament. She is also author of Why Didn’t You Warn Me? How to Deal with Challenging Group Members which equips leaders to effectively minister to extra-grace-required people (available from mightyoakministries.com/) and Critique Groups that Work: A Handbook for Starting, Leading, and Participating in a Christian Writers Critique Group, which equips writers to become more successful.


Pat is the founder and lead Sherpa at Mighty Oak Ministries, which provides tools, resources, and strategies to equip the Body of Christ to grow deeply, heal progressively, and mature splendidly. She has experienced how the Word of God, applied and engrafted in community, can transform the most broken person, resulting in a life more splendid than the mightiest oak (Isaiah 61:3). She blogs at PursuingSplendor.com/blog. Pat serves as a national advisor for SmallGroups.com, a ministry of Christianity Today, which equips small group pastors, coaches, and leaders. She spends much of her time in one-on-one healing ministry and was involved in family caregiving for over a decade.

Pat and her husband, Bob, live in Sugar Land, TX. They have one brilliant son whom they home schooled through high school, an amazing daughter-in-love, and three of the cutest grandkids you would ever want to see. MightyOakMinistries.com and PursuingSplendor.com

 

Barbara Smith (and her deceased husband, Craig) have been home educating their eight children in New Zealand (and Tasmania the last five years) since the first was born in 1980. Barbara helped with Craig to establish local support groups, published materials, spoke at conferences and ran several National Christian home education conferences before going to work full time for the Home Education Foundation in 1998. The Home Education Foundation is a charitable trust established to encourage parents to take up the option of educating their children at home and to support them in their task. The Home Education Foundation motto is: serving, promoting and strengthening the home educating community in New Zealand. Barbara, mother of eight, grandmother of 22, soon to be 23, is still home educating their youngest who is 14. Barbara still has two children in New Zealand with two grandchildren so far, two children in the USA with eight grandchildren and the rest in Australia. Barbara is interested in keeping the hard won home education freedoms New Zealand enjoys today. Get in touch with Barbara at one of the following links: Email [email protected] [email protected]


Miguel Song, fourteen years old and in the tenth grade, lives in San Jose, CA with his parents and three sisters. He has been homeschooled all of his life.  He is a student in the Classical Conversations program, where he meets with a group of peers to discuss topics from Debate, Latin, Literature, Reasoning, Math, and Science. Miguel loves music and sings and plays several instruments, including the piano, guitar, and bass. He formed a worship band with his sisters and a friend this summer, and they were given the opportunity to help lead worship during several outdoor events, as well as a youth camp that was held over Zoom.  He is an excellent public speaker and has participated in theater, mock trial, and team policy debate.


In 1988, Graham and Alison Shortridge founded Theocentric Christian Education, an educational system from Grades K-12 based on the Biblical Christian worldview. After trying unsuccessfully to implement this system in small private schools, the couple eventually decided to homeschool their own children in 1993. As this was illegal in South Africa at this stage, this resulted in conflict with the authorities. The couple then started a campaign to have homeschooling legalized, and by the grace of God and the help of the ACDP (African Christian Democratic Party) and Christopher Klicka of the Homeschool Legal Defense League in the USA, homeschooling was legalized in 1996. Since then thousands of South African families of all races have chosen to homeschool their own children and dozens of curriculum providers have entered the market to provide homeschooling materials for those who want it. The couple live in Cape Town and have six children, fourteen grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. They are still actively involved in running TCE and continue to provide homeschooling curriculum and books for hundreds of homeschoolers each year.


Teresa Striplin is a wife to Eric and mom to three exciting young people. Her family has used Classical Conversations to homeschool for 11 years, and over the years Teresa has learned that keeping it simple is the most fruitful for her family. She has almost worked herself out of a job, Nathan is in the Army and is heading to California Baptist University after basic training, Maria is entering her senior year with Classical Conversations and Zoë will be a sophomore and is motivated to follow her siblings footsteps. Teresa is certain that none of this is possible without the help of the Lord.


John Travis is a National Recruiter at Liberty University. During his 2 years of employment, he has traveled to over 22 states for the opportunity to tell students about Liberty’s many academic options. As a Lynchburg, VA native and Liberty class of 2018 graduate, John is able to discuss the growth and impact that the university has had city-, state-, and nation-wide.


My name is Sarah Venable, and I have the blessing and privilege of being a pastor’s daughter. The oldest of four children, my siblings and I are very close, especially since we were homeschooled for part of our school years.

After graduating from Westmont College and completing my student teaching abroad in Costa Rica, God sent me to Calvary Christian Academy in San Jose, CA, where I have worked for the last eight years. I love working at CCA! There, I have been able to share my love and passion for learning and knowledge with my students, while discipling their hearts and minds in the ways of the Lord. It is a joy to see and experience firsthand lives transformed by the Word of God.

When not in the classroom, I enjoy reading a good book, taking walks, and playing the piano. I also enjoy many different kinds of arts and crafts—from sewing and crocheting to sketching and do-it-yourself projects. My family is also a special priority and part of my life.


Dr. Melanie Wilson is a Christian psychologist turned homeschooling mother of six. Four of her sons have graduated, leaving her with a freshman and junior she is still homeschooling. She credits God and her husband of 28 years for the time to write, speak, and homeschool, too. While she doesn’t practice anymore, she does share sanity-saving ideason her blog, Psychowith6, and her podcast, The Homeschool Sanity Show. Melanie is the author of The Organized Homeschool Life book and planner, A Year of Living Productively, and Grammar Galaxy, a story-based, elementary language arts curriculum that is a Practical Homeschooling Magazine reader favorite. Melanie is passionate about encouraging mothers in their homeschooling, family life, and faith. In her free time, she enjoys scrapbooking, tennis, and pickleball.


Michelle Huddleston is a God-fearing wife and homeschooiing mom of five blessings. She desires to link arms with other homeschooling moms to help them navigate their journey with grace and ease. Michelle owns Michelle Huddleston Services, a virtual assistant business that allows her to assist other business owners with the behind-the-scenes tasks of their businesses. She blogs at The Healing Life and runs a thriving Facebook group for homeschooling moms, Outta Box Homeschooling Community.


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