2023 Tri-State Homeschool Conference Speakers
Vicki Bentley is the mother of eight daughters, foster mom of over fifty, and grandma to 23 wonderful grandbabies and six great-grandbabies (so far). Vicki has homeschooled 17 children since 1988, alongside her husband Jim, and has been a support group leader since 1991. She has served on the executive board and convention committee of the Home Educators Association of Virginia and has addressed state and national conventions, university teacher organizations, and many mothers’ groups. She is the author of My Homeschool Planner, Everyday Cooking, The Everyday Family Chore System, Home Education 101: A Mentoring Program for New Homeschoolers, High School 101: Blueprint for Success, and other homeschool and homemaking helps. She currently serves as a consultant for HSLDA. Vicki has a heart for parents, with practical wisdom and encouraging words.
I’m Dr. Pat Davis, Orton Gillingham level 1 certified through the Dyslexia Training Institute. Firm Foundations LLC works with PreK through 8th grade children struggling with reading, writing, spelling, and grammar. In the 30+ years before starting Firm Foundations in 2017, I homeschooled; started a private K-8th school in Jefferson County; taught 5th grade in another local private school; and trained adults while managing training programs for D.C-based corporations.
One of my own children introduced me to the world of dyslexia and reading disabilities. The process of successfully teaching her to read, using a phonics-based approach, motivated me to keep learning more about this critical problem.
Today, I use the Orton Gillingham (OG) approach, tutoring PreK through middle school. This approach works and allows me to customize sessions and meet a child’s needs and interests. As a result, children make progress.
Kelly Edwards is the creator and founder of the 90-Minute School Day, a lifestyle approach to education. The 90-Minute School Day is a deschooling method that connects children with learning in their natural environment: at home with their family. Kelly is passionate about home education, connecting families through attachment, seeing neurodivergence as a gift, learning as a lifestyle, and helping children (and parents) identify their purpose.
Kelly is enjoying her 7th year as a homeschool mom, she believes all children are holistic beings and true health is to grow and fully integrate the emotional, mental, physical and spiritual aspects of the individual; this is best exercised in outdoor environments and synching with natural rhythms. To this end, Kelly uses her personal research and professional experience to guide the homeschooling parent with a framework and system to overcome the overwhelm that affects each of us.
MICHAEL DONNELLLY, JD, LLM
Mike currently serves as the Vice President of Yes. Every Kid. Foundation. Prior to that, he was HSLDA’s Senior Counsel, serving members in five states and Director of Global Outreach, coordinating HSLDA’s support of homeschooling freedom around the world. He is also an adjunct professor of government at Patrick Henry College, where he teaches constitutional law.
Mike saw combat as a cavalry officer in the United States Army during the first Persian Gulf War. He also worked in private legal practice and founded a nationally ranked internet marketing firm. He holds a juris doctor with honors from the Boston University School of Law as a Paul J. Liacos Scholar and an LLM with merit in Constitutional and Human Rights Law from the London School of Economics. He is a member of six federal and state bars.
Mike is an internationally published writer and frequent speaker on homeschooling, educational freedom, parental rights, and human rights. His published work includes articles and chapters in The International Journal of Human Rights, Homeschooling in the 21st Century, International Journal of School Choice and Reform, Homeschooling in New View, Balancing Freedom, Autonomy, and Accountability in Education, Religious Freedom in Education, The International Journal of Religious Freedom, and Homeschooling in America and Europe: A Litmus Test of Democracy.
Mike and his wife Patricia are homeschooling parents of seven children.
Becky met her husband through youth ministry then she later served in many ministries while raising their 6 children. The couple was called by the Lord to homeschool which they had determined to take one year at a time and have graduated 5 girls, with her youngest son still at home. When led to homeschool she recalls: “I wrestled with the Lord and begged Him to at least let me be able to teach them how to read, as my college degree is in social work, not early childhood education. I felt so inadequate to the calling but in obedience submitted the daily education to Him that He would have them learn what He wanted each day, and trusted that I was led by Him to the best of my ability.” 23 years later: Abbey 27, has a social work masters and is a child therapist with KVC Services in Martinsburg. Alley, 25, has both a culinary and baking degree and is the Retreat Assistant at Camp Wabanna in Edgewater Maryland. Alexa is 23, married, and has a master’s in Counseling and works as a child therapist at Bethany Christian Services. Ainsley, is 21 with a bachelors in Communication in Writing and works at the Journal. Audrey, 20, is a junior at Clarks Summit University studying Camping Ministries and plans to continue on to get a masters in Organizational Leadership. And Austin is 13, in 8th grade. He has aspirations of being a videogame designer.
Brooke Hamlin is a local pastor’s wife, author, and homeschooling mama. She is passionate about helping families discover the joy, purpose, and adventure of following Jesus. This year, in preparation for the release of her newest book, she will be speaking on the importance of praying for our children.
A homeschooling mom and leader, LaNissir has a passion to serve the home-educating community. She provides social, spiritual, academic, and supervisory support for families in local groups and encourages and equips homeschool graduates to transition into colleges, careers, and vocational schools.
As an HSLDA high school consultant, LaNissir loves speaking to parents to encourage and support their homeschooling with empathetic, engaging, and practical wisdom. She says, “The joy of helping a family feel confident that they can homeschool is priceless.”
She earned her BS in journalism from the University of Maryland College Park, is Myers-Briggs Type Indicator certified, and is pursuing a master’s degree in biblical studies.
LaNissir is wife to Lorenzo, who also serves the homeschooling community through sports programs, photography services, and photography classes. She is the mother of seven beautiful homeschooled children (five girls and two boys) with ages ranging from toddler to young adult. Her hobbies include reading, traveling, photography, and kayaking.
Marcey currently works at McDaniel College as the STEM, Instruction, and Assessment Librarian. She has a very diverse background in librarianship as she’s served as a public librarian, worked at the NIH Library, The National Library of Medicine, and is now loving her role as an academic librarian. Marcey homeschooled her daughter K-8 & 11-12, often spending her coop time as the science instructor. Currently she’s working on a research project with the local homeschool community and McDaniel College on preparing homeschool students for college research.
Barbara Kandalis, coordinator of dual enrollment at Shepherd University, has worked in higher education for 14 years. For the last six years, her focus has been expanding the University’s dual enrollment program, which allows students to receive high school and college credits simultaneously.
Throughout her career, she has always approached her role with a customer service lens, aiming to improve the experiences of the people with whom and for whom she works. She takes pride in going the extra mile for students, co-workers, and academic partners. Barbara is a Shepherd University alumna, and received her R.B.A. with a concentration in education.
Vanessa McGuigan is a mom of four amazing kids and is a 22-year homeschool veteran. She and her husband of almost 28 years, Brian, have graduated three of their kids from high school and one from college. Their youngest child is a high school junior.
Just like most homeschool moms, Vanessa has worn many hats over the years including working at the United States Office of Personnel Management, Editorial Assistant for the Shepherdstown Chronicle, and most recently, three years as a Classical Conversations Director for Challenge B. Vanessa is currently pursuing a career as a certified Life Coach.
Terrie McKee is an author, speaker, podcaster, and blogger who also homeschools her youngest daughter. Married to Greg (who is paralyzed), together they have four children who all have varying special needs. A follower of Jesus Christ, she teaches adult Sunday School and writes books to encourage Christians on their faith journey.
Homeschooling stay at home dad
“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” Gal. 6:9. This is the verse that sustained Jeanette Nicholson through her homeschool journey. She started homeschooling her four kids in 1999, all from kindergarten through high school graduation. Her oldest, daughter Jessie, is a physical therapy assistant. Her oldest son, Stone is in IT and her younger boys, Aidan and Cole, are both starting businesses. She has been married to Buster for 32 years. Her favorite thing about homeschooling is the close family ties. Even after all the time the family spent together, all four of her kids still talk to each other!
I am a Biologist by training working for the federal government. I am a father of three and we homeschool the two older children. I work from home full-time and also tutor science for my children. We have homeschooled for the last 6-7 years.
As Director of Student Recruitment, Stephen Pierce oversees and directs recruitment strategies for the Admissions team. Stephen graduated from Patrick Henry College with a degree in Classical Liberal Arts and joined the Admissions team shortly after graduating. After years as an Admissions Counselor and Senior Admissions Counselor, he felt called by the Lord to grow the college with the right mission-fit students as Director of Student Recruitment for the past 4 years. These opportunities have given Stephen a deep institutional knowledge and an intense love for the college. Stephen married his wonderful wife Megan in November 2016, and they have one daughter, Janie, and one son, Ray, and another baby joining the family this summer.
Prior to receiving her calling to homeschool, Dr. Rochelle Matthews-Somerville completed an MS in Special Education with a focus on Autism/Asperger’s Syndrome and Behavior Disorders and a doctorate in Psychological and Cultural Studies with a concentration in Learners with Severe and Communication Disorders. Rochelle has over 20 years of clinical experience serving youth and their families in the field of Early Childhood and Special Education. She has served as a university professor, county-wide autism specialist, and K–12 resource teacher and educational consultant in both the private and public education arenas. She has a passion for teaching and loves speaking at local conferences and across local school districts.
Over the past 10 years, Rochelle has also shared her gifts with the homeschool community as she has served as program director, community instructor, and assessment liaison. She genuinely enjoys providing encouragement and support to other homeschooling families in all ways possible. She joined Home School Legal Defense Association as a special needs educational consultant in July 2019, presently serving as team leader.
Rochelle is the mother of six beautiful children (five boys and one girl) and has been homeschooling for 14 years. She lives with her husband and children in Charles County, Maryland.
Samantha unknowingly became a homeschooler when her first daughter was born in 2000. She had no idea that after earning a Bachelor of Arts in Music Education through Shepherd College in 1989, a Masters of Elementary Education at WVU years later, and enjoying her role as a music teacher with Berkeley County Schools, that God would call her to stay home soon after her first daughter was born.
Since then, she has served as a foster mom and has continued teaching within her home and through homeschool co-ops. Samantha praises God for being her Fighter when she was diagnosed with Stage 3 Sarcoma Cancer in 2016, (Exodus 14:14) and loves to give her testimony to anyone who wants to hear about it. She is incredibly thankful to say that she has been Cancer FREE since May of 2017.
She is a passionate homeschooling advocate who inspires and instills a love of learning. As a West Virginia certified teacher, Samantha uses every opportunity to encourage, support, and share knowledge of curriculum possibilities, teaching and learning styles, and information needed to homeschool successfully. Samantha resides in Charles Town, West Virginia, with her doting husband and three incredibly wonderful daughters.
Wendy is a board member of the Christian Home Educators of West Virginia. Wendy has been homeschooling her two boys for over 16 years.
Lynna Sutherland is a homeschool graduate and the mother of eight always-homeschooled kiddos ranging in age from high school senior to kindergarten! Lynna loves to remind parents of the freedom and flexibility that is theirs in homeschooling and how the gospel reshapes parenting and sibling conflict management. Lynna writes about parenting at Sibling Relationship Lab and about homeschooling at Your Large Family Homeschool. Lynna is also a certified parenting coach and offers in person and virtual parent coaching tailored to your individual family and needs.
Judith V.T. Wilson has enjoyed a long and accomplished career in education. She has taught in several school systems in West Virginia and Maryland. Her first twenty years were spent as a classroom teacher in grades two through seven. As a lifelong learner herself, Judy is a national board certified teacher and has earned a Masters of Science in Curriculum and Instruction with Leadership along with an Administrator I certification.
While Judy’s heart has always been focused on teaching and learning, her talent was transforming theory and research into practical applications for the classroom. She has designed and implemented many innovative learning experiences that ultimately led to her being named Teacher of the Year while teaching in St. Mary’s County, Maryland. Her many local and state awards have stemmed from her creative ability to make real world connections across the curriculum into motivating experiences that engage all students. Her award-winning programs have included take-home family reading packets, economics and community service-learning projects, an elementary student-led Leadership Club, story book math packets, and many student-authored published books by Title 1 students.
Judy’s expertise afforded her many varied summer workshop experiences with the Maryland Geographic Alliance, the MD Council on Economic Education, and Maryland Public Television (MPT), where she was presented their Outstanding Educator Award. Her most memorable experiences were with the Maryland State Department of Education where she attended their Governor’s Academy for Mathematics, Science, and Technology, wrote test items for the Maryland School Performance Assessment Program, and was inducted as a fellow into their Maryland Student Service Alliance.
Judy later transitioned into staff development where keeping abreast of current trends in education has been energizing and rewarding. Over the years, Judy has mentored new teachers, supported student-teachers, trained para-educators, facilitated staff meetings, rolled out county-wide curriculum, and designed numerous family fun nights. As an adjunct instructor, Judy has also enjoyed teaching pre-service students from St. Mary’s College of Maryland as well as graduate students from the College of Notre Dame of Maryland.
Throughout her career, Judy has presented professionally at local, state, regional, and national conferences on reading, writing, vocabulary, social studies, and growth mindset topics. One of the highlights of her career has been to present at the International Reading Association World Congress in Budapest, Hungary.
Now as a retired educator, she enjoys sharing the latest findings about the benefits of neuroscience for teaching and learning. After reading the best seller Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, by Stanford University’s psychologist Dr. Carol Dweck, Judy felt compelled to write a children’s picture book, Growing Smarter, which is grounded in Dweck’s research. Judy’s goal was to put the key aspects of a growth mindset directly into the hands of parents and children themselves, which she did in her story about a little owl growing up. Judy grew up in Shepherdstown with her ponies practically in the backyard. She spent many hours working in her family’s flower shop and graduated cum laude from Shepherd University. As a retiree, she still enjoys reading SmartBriefs, relaxing with her husband outside on the deck, working in her flower gardens, and playing with her young grandson as he grows smarter.