Speakers

We are delighted to have many distinguished speakers with us in Asheville, NC!

As we book speakers for the 2019 National Leaders Conference, we will be sure to add their information here. (To view more information about a speaker, click on his or her picture.)


Keynote Speakers

J. Michael Smith
J. Michael Smith
HSLDA, President

Mike Smith and his wife Elizabeth, along with Michael Farris and his wife Vickie, incorporated Home School Legal Defense Association in 1983 and were the original board members. Mike grew up in Arkansas and graduated from the University of Arkansas. Upon graduation, he entered the U.S. Navy and served for three years before attending law school at the University of San Diego. He graduated in 1972 and was admitted to practice law in the state of California shortly thereafter. He is licensed in Virginia, California, and Washington, D.C.

In 1981, Mike’s life changed drastically when he heard a radio program that introduced him to the idea of homeschooling. Mike and his wife began homeschooling one year at a time to meet the academic and social needs of their children. After several years, however, it became obvious that God had exposed the Smith family to homeschooling for many other benefits, including spiritual development and family integrity. All of Mike’s children are now grown, and three of the four were homeschooled.

When he started with HSLDA, Mike began defending homeschooling in California both in court and before the legislature. In 1987 he came to HSLDA full-time, serving as its vice president until 2001, when he became its president. In addition to serving as president of HSLDA, he also is HSLDA's lawyer for California, Nevada, and Puerto Rico.

Mike’s favorite part of his job is going to homeschool conferences and meeting those he calls America’s greatest heroes—homeschooling moms.

Dr. Mark Hamby
Dr. Mark Hamby
Lamplighter Ministries International, President

If you have ever heard Dr. Mark Hamby (MS, MDiv, ThM, DMin) speak, you know that he loves to tell stories that make the truths of the Word of God come alive! Mark is founder and president of Lamplighter Ministries International, a ministry comprised of Lamplighter Publishing, Lamplighter Theatre, Lamplighter Guild, Lamplighter Life-Transforming Seminars, Lamplighter Moments Daily Radio Broadcast, and the Fastened Like Nails weekly podcast.

Mark and Debbie, his wife, have devoted themselves to making ready a people prepared for the Lord (Luke 1:17). By closely examining and dramatically communicating the 12 lessons of wisdom from the book of Proverbs, he tells the unforgettable story of Wisdom and Folly and the epic battle for our children’s souls.

Robert McFarland
Robert McFarland
Transformational Impact LLC, President
As a leadership consultant, executive coach, and conference speaker, Robert McFarland is president of Transformational Impact LLC, a leadership development consultancy helping companies improve their employee cultures to make the companies healthier, more productive, and more profitable. Robert has worked with myriad organizations to conduct strategic planning, provide branding guidance, and give communications counsel, helping them envision their preferred future, map the strategy to get there, and create the company culture to bring it to fruition. Robert enjoys helping people change their thinking so they can get the results they want at work and in life. He is the author of Dear Boss: What Your Employees Wish You Knew and Dear Employee: What Your Boss Wishes You Knew and is also a featured contributor to the Daily News-Record (Harrisonburg, Virginia) and the Christian Post. His Impactful Lives blog at www.RobertMcFarland.net focuses on how intentional Christians can change their thinking spiritually and professionally to lead impactful lives.

Robert has been involved with nonprofit organizations in staff and board capacities for more than 20 years. He has served in board development, communications, and fundraising roles. Robert is a member of the of the National Religious Broadcasters board of directors and chairman of the board of The Family Foundation of Virginia. He and his wife, Tamitha, have homeschooled all of their six children. After living 25 years in the Washington, D.C., area, they now live in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley, where they wake up to the sound of cows instead of cars.
Roxanne Parks
Roxanne Parks
Winter Summit Ministries, Inc., President
As an author, life coach, and teacher, Roxanne Parks has been speaking life-giving truths to her audiences for over 40 years. After earning her petroleum engineering degree from the University of Oklahoma, Roxanne found that her heart’s passion was to build and encourage others toward fruitful, fulfilled lives. For 12 years she spoke and taught as an international business leader in Europe, South America, Central America, and North America to over 100,000 people. Roxanne is now president and founder of Winter Summit Ministries, Inc., and has an advanced certificate in Christian life coaching from Light University. She wrote an 11-week curriculum for Branch15, a women’s transitional ministry in Oklahoma where she is board secretary, and recently started as a writing partner for the YouVersion Bible app.

Worship Leaders

Kingery Family
Kingery Family

Mike and Chris Kingery began homeschooling their first child in 1988 during Mike’s seven-and-a-half-year career in major-league baseball. After Mike’s retirement in 1996, the family moved back home to Minnesota and continued to homeschool. Many music lessons later, in the late 1990s, they began singing for others as a way of teaching their children to serve. All eight of Mike and Chris’s children have been part of the family music. Now, the family includes three sons-in-law and eight grandchildren, all of whom join in when their schedules allow. The Kingerys sing primarily bluegrass gospel while also incorporating fiddle, patriotic, and a cappella music. Their combination of tight harmonies, uplifting songs, and family unity are sure to encourage!


Workshop Speakers

Faith Berens
Faith Berens
HSLDA, Special Needs Consultant
Faith Berens lives in Fauquier County, Virginia, with her husband Matthew, daughter Hailey, and son Hayden. Faith joined the HSLDA team of special needs consultants in 2008 and homeschools her children. She also works as a private educational consultant and evaluator. Some of her passions include reading for pleasure, singing, traveling, nature/science, leading Bible studies, and teaching reading to struggling students. Faith holds a master’s degree in reading from Shenandoah University. She has over 15 years of teaching experience that includes serving as a classroom teacher in public and private Christian schools, Reading Recovery® teacher, reading specialist, NILD educational therapist, home educator, co-op instructor, and tutor. Her areas of expertise are early childhood literacy, reading assessment, and the identification and remediation of reading difficulties and disabilities.
Sam Black
Sam Black
Covenant Eyes, Vice President
Sam Black is a vice president at Covenant Eyes and the author of “The Porn Circuit: Understand Your Brain and Break Porn Habits in 90 Days.” He joined the Covenant Eyes team in 2007 after 18 years as a journalist. He has edited 16 books on the impact of pornography and how to protect our families. Sam has been married for 23 years and is a father of two.
Robert Bortins
Robert Bortins
Classical Conversations, Inc., CEO
Robert Bortins was homeschooled through high school before earning an industrial engineering degree from Clemson University. He has led Classical Conversations as it has grown into an international organization helping people across four languages and 20 countries know God and make Him known.
Karla Bruno
Karla Bruno
Leadership Institute, Director of Foundation and Corporate Relations
Karla Kraynak Bruno is a former English teacher and librarian with over 30 years as an educator and researcher to her credit. Since arriving at the Leadership Institute in 2011, she has increased foundation giving by 72%. Karla is a published author of historical fiction and a frequent guest columnist for two regional Virginia newspapers, and she serves on the 2019 Commemoration First English Thanksgiving Committee as part of the celebration of Virginia’s 400th anniversary of historic contributions to our national heritage. Her latest book is William and Mary and Tyler, Too, a biography of Lyon G. Tyler, due out in 2020.
Lindsey M. Burke
Lindsey M. Burke
Heritage Foundation, Director of Center for Education Policy and Will Skillman Fellow in Education
As director of the Center for Education Policy, Lindsey Burke oversees the Heritage Foundation’s research and policy on issues pertaining to preschool, K-12, and higher education reform. In 2013, Burke was also named the Will Skillman Fellow in Education Policy, in which capacity she devotes her time and research to reducing federal intervention in education at all levels and empowering families with education choice. Burke’s commentary, research, and op-eds have appeared in various newspapers and magazines, and she has appeared on numerous radio and television shows and spoken on education reform issues across the country and internationally. She has published evaluations of education choice options for public policy foundations such as the Virginia Institute for Public Policy and EdChoice and has done extensive work developing and evaluating education savings accounts. In 2015, Burke won Heritage’s prestigious W. Glenn and Rita Ricardo Campbell Award in recognition of her work fighting against national standards and tests and for expanded education choice options. Burke holds a bachelor's degree in politics and a master of teaching degree in foreign language education. She graduated with a PhD in education policy and research methods from George Mason University, where she examined the intersection of education choice and institutional theory.
Jonathan Butcher
Jonathan Butcher
Heritage Foundation, Center for Education Policy Senior Policy Analyst
Jonathan Butcher, a former homeschool parent, serves as senior policy analyst in the Center for Education Policy at the Heritage Foundation. He has researched and testified on education policy and school choice programs around the U.S., and his work has appeared in journals such as Education Next and the Georgetown Journal of Law and Public Policy. Jonathan previously served as the education director at the Goldwater Institute, where he remains a senior fellow. He was a member of the Arizona Department of Education’s first Steering Committee for Empowerment Scholarship Accounts, the nation’s first education savings account program. He is also a senior fellow with the Beacon Center of Tennessee, a nonpartisan research organization, and a contributing scholar for the Georgia Center for Opportunity. Prior to joining Goldwater, Jonathan was the director of accountability for the South Carolina Public Charter School District, South Carolina’s only statewide charter school authorizer. Jonathan previously studied education policy at the Department of Education Reform at the University of Arkansas and worked with the School Choice Demonstration Project, the research team that evaluated voucher programs in Washington, D.C., and Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
Cheryl R. Carter
Cheryl R. Carter
Cheryl Carter Communications, Founder
Cheryl R. Carter is a busy homeschooling mother (of five), author, speaker, and college professor with a passion to help others. Besides teaching, she has written broadly on spiritual growth, education, and special needs. She is the author of several books, including Organize Your Life, Chasing God and the Kids Too, Essential Writing Skills for the College-Bound Student, Inspire the Writer in Your Child, and Organize Your AD/HD Child. In addition to writing fiction and poetry in her spare time, she blogs regularly on issues of clarity in written communication, college admissions, and the Christian family. Cheryl has a BA in English and an MFA in writing and has done graduate study in special education and college admission. Active in her local homeschool group, she has taught college-prep co-op classes for several years. She has also written numerous literary guides and won academic awards for her writing. Cheryl is a member of the HSLDA Compassion Committee.
Eric Dalton
Eric Dalton
Alpha Omega Publications, Executive Vice President
A natural-born entrepreneur with a keen eye for market opportunities, Eric Dalton has worked in a number of fields, including healthcare, transportation, and education. He has spent the last 15 years in private education. Having joined AOP in 2013, he has worked to revitalize and expand its brands into leading market products through data-driven marketing. Eric and his wife are homeschooling parents to four adopted children and reside in Arizona.
Mary Beth Dearing
Mary Beth Dearing
Mary Beth Dearing was born and raised in Roanoke, Virginia. After high school, she attended Radford University, where she earned her bachelor of science in nursing. She met her husband, Bryan, while working during the summers in one of Roanoke’s local hospitals. Bryan and Mary Beth married in 1983. They home educated their four children, Emily, Charles, Grayson, and Mary Kathryn, from 1994 to 2017. While on their homeschooling journey, Bryan’s work relocated the family from Tennessee to Virginia and finally to Georgia. They were involved in homeschooling organizations in each state. Mary Beth served on the organizations’ leadership boards in both Virginia and in Georgia, where she spent her later homeschooling years serving on the Paragon Cooperative Learning Academy board as parent rep (2010–2015) and then as chairman (until summer 2018). Bryan and Mary Beth are active in their church, First Conyers, located just outside of Atlanta.
Cheryl Fields-Smith
Cheryl Fields-Smith
University of Georgia, Associate Professor
Dr. Cheryl Fields-Smith, an associate professor of elementary education at the University of Georgia, is also currently serving as program coordinator for the master of arts in teaching (pre-K–5th grade). Prior to earning her doctorate from Emory University in 2004, Dr. Fields-Smith taught elementary school in Connecticut, including in two magnet schools emphasizing the Bank Street Model. Fields-Smith’s research interests include family engagement and homeschooling among Black families. She has conducted interviews and focus groups with over 80 African American families whose children have attended public schools or been homeschooled. Dr. Fields-Smith infuses the knowledge gained from her research into her teaching to foster future and in-service teachers’ understanding of partnering with ethnic-minority and low-income families. She also consults and conducts professional development workshops on cultivating home-school partnerships in diverse communities. In 2014, Dr. Fields-Smith received the University of Georgia, College of Education’s Carl Glickman Faculty Fellow Award for excellence in research, teaching, and service.
LaNissir James
LaNissir James
HSLDA, High School Consultant

LaNissir James is a wife and mother of seven beautiful homeschooled children (five girls and two boys) with ages ranging from toddler to young adult, and she is a homeschool leader with a passion to serve the home-educating community. She provides social, spiritual, academic, and supervisory support for many homeschooling families and encourages and equips countless homeschool graduates to transition into colleges, careers, and vocational schools. LaNissir earned her bachelor of science degree in journalism from the University of Maryland College Park, is pursuing a master of biblical studies degree, and is Myers-Briggs Type Indicator Certified. LaNissir’s hobbies include reading, traveling, photography, and kayaking.

Darren Jones
Darren Jones
HSLDA, Senior Counsel
Darren Jones has worked at HSLDA since 1996, first as a legal assistant and then as an attorney in various capacities. He spends his time at the office: 40% talking to members in legal difficulties, persuading them that it’s not as bad as it could be and HSLDA has got their back; 40% advising homeschool group leaders about everything from crafting statements of faith (he prefers the Nicene Creed) to designing policies to protect children at co-op; 10% writing legal briefs (and wondering how in the world documents of 30 pages can possibly be called “brief”); 10% keeping HSLDA and its sister organizations in compliance with the charitable solicitation laws of way too many competing jurisdictions; and 100% advocating for the fundamental right of parents to direct the education of their children. Darren and his wife Sara homeschool as a team, and have graduated the oldest of their four children. He enjoys board games, teaching Sunday school, and speaking at homeschool conferences around the country.
Michael Knott
Michael Knott
BJU Press Homeschool, Sales Director
Michael Knott is the sales director for BJU Press Homeschool and director of HomeWorks by Precept. He is a husband and proud father of three girls and one boy, all of whom are homeschooled. He has been involved in many aspects of BJU Press Homeschool for fifteen years, including analytics, marketing, sales, product feedback, and much more. His passion is to encourage the next generation to become a light in a darkness that desperately needs to see God.
Nancy Manos
Nancy Manos
Arizona Family Home Educators, Executive Director
Nancy Manos has been serving the Arizona homeschool community since 2001. She and her husband, James, homeschooled their two daughters all the way through high school and found it to be a rich, rewarding experience. Nancy and James served on the Arizona Family Home Educators board of directors for 13 years in a variety of roles. In 2016, Nancy was hired as the organization’s executive director. She has served on the AFHE Convention Committee since 2005 and has been the convention director since 2012. One of her great joys is to encourage and equip parents as they endeavor to homeschool their own children. In addition, she takes great pride in the reputation AFHE has amongst speakers and vendors for having a well-run, organized convention with an engaged community and sweet atmosphere. As a graduated homeschool mom and now a grandma, too, it is a joy to be able to continue to serve and support homeschooling parents and further the work of the statewide homeschool organization in Arizona.
Margaret McLewin
Margaret McLewin
Homeschool Plus, Director
Margaret McLewin has over 30 years of experience in homeschooling as a parent and as the founding director of Homeschool Plus (HSP) in Norfolk, Virginia. HSP was one of the first enrichment centers for homeschooling in the country and continues to innovate. It serves about 400 students within four unique programs: Enrichment, Academy, High School, and Brain Bridges. The Brain Bridges team of trained therapists serves students with learning challenges, addressing root causes and building more competent, confident learners. Targeted therapies bring beneficial changes for learners struggling with attention, processing speed, memory, oral and written skills, auditory processing, dyslexia, ADHD, dysgraphia, and dyscalculia. Margaret and her husband, Dr. Peter McLewin, homeschooled their five children through high school. Several immediate family members overcame learning difficulties and are thriving. The McLewins travel internationally, training leaders in the persecuted church and advocating for educational concerns. They enjoy their eleven grandchildren, biking, kayaking, and sailing.
Karim Morato
Karim Morato
Homeschool Spanish Curriculum, Founder
Karim Morato, a homeschooling mother of three, is a certified native Spanish instructor with more than 20 years of teaching and classroom experience. She formerly taught Fairfax County (Virginia) Public School Immersion and International Baccalaureate Spanish and obtained her M.Ed. in online curriculum and instruction and online learning. Karim is passionate about teaching students how to gain the skills to become confident bilingual Spanish speakers. In addition, she helps homeschooling parents navigate the foreign-language aspects of homeschooling. Karim offers Spanish educational solutions through her K–12 online Spanish programs (https://homeschoolspanishcurriculum.com/).
Brian Ray
Brian Ray
National Home Education Research Institute, President
Dr. Brian Ray is a leading international expert in research on homeschooling and president of the National Home Education Research Institute. He has published numerous articles and books, been repeatedly interviewed by major media, served as an expert witness in court cases across the U.S. and in Canada, and testified to legislatures regarding educational issues. He is a former university professor and classroom teacher. He holds a PhD in science education from Oregon State University. Brian and his wife, Betsy, homeschooled their eight children and are now enjoying being grandparents.
Stephen Rowe
Stephen Rowe
Leadership Institute, Deputy Director of Digital Training
In his role as a deputy director at the Leadership Institute, Stephen Rowe trains thousands across the country every year in digital and political technology. Before joining LI, Stephen was the editor-in-chief of Hypeline, where he executed its start-up and website redesign, and achieved over 12 million page views in one calendar year. Stephen has been awarded places on multiple 30 under 30 lists. His work has been featured on Fox News and Fox Business and in The Blaze, The Daily Caller, The Washington Times, Townhall, Breitbart, and The Daily Wire. Stephen grew up in Montana, the Treasure State.
Mary Sayre
Mary Sayre
 
In two years, Mary Sayre will be finishing up her tenure as an active homeschooling mom! What began in 1989 as a year-by-year decision for her and her husband Rodger turned into a lifetime commitment of directing the education of their children. Mary's journey has included a variety of unique scenarios, including teaching school-age children while trying to corral four preschoolers, meeting the Pennsylvania requirement of preparing and submitting six portfolios in one year, and directing the education of a special-needs son. She has experienced the ups and downs of organizing and leading a homeschool coop and currently serves on the board of her local homeschool support group. In 2021 she will have completed 32 years of teaching and successfully graduating, with a parent-issued diploma, all 11 of her children. While her personal homeschool journey is about to end, Mary’s heart is to successfully pass the baton to the next generation of homeschool leaders, encouraging them to step into their leadership role with enthusiasm, conviction, and a vision for the future.
Tj Schmidt
Tj Schmidt
HSLDA, Staff Attorney
Tj was first taught at home in the 2nd grade by his parents in northern Vermont, and he was homeschooled nearly every year after that until he graduated. For much of that time, his family lived in foreign mission fields. Tj earned his Juris Doctor from Oak Brook College of Law while serving as a legal assistant at HSLDA. Now, as an HSLDA Staff Attorney, Tj answers general legal questions and assists members across the country experiencing legal difficulties. Tj and his wife, Susan, have seven children: Josiah, Suzanna, Ella, Makenna, Jonah, Annika, and Ezra. They look forward to teaching all of their children at home.
Elizabeth Smith
Elizabeth Smith
Elizabeth Smith, wife of HSLDA President Mike Smith, taught three of her four children at home from 1981 to 1996, when the youngest entered college. For over 30 years, Elizabeth’s practical wisdom has encouraged audiences at homeschool conferences, symposiums, and women’s retreats throughout the United States. Mike and Elizabeth have appeared several times on Focus on the Family’s radio program. She serves on the boards of Breakthrough (an intercessory prayer ministry), the National Black Home Educators, the Family Foundation of Virginia (a pro-family policy council affiliated with Focus on the Family), and the State of Virginia Gideons International Leadership Team.
Scott Woodruff
Scott Woodruff
HSLDA, Senior Counsel
A follower of Christ since his conversion in 1971, Scott earned his Juris Doctor from the University of Virginia in 1980. After working as an assistant attorney general for John Ashcroft and then working for a major regional insurance company, Scott came to work for HSLDA in 1998.

At HSLDA, Scott has assisted thousands of home-educating families in dealings with child protective services investigators, police officers, truant officers, principals, superintendents, and prosecuting attorneys. He has represented HSLDA members in court, and testified before many state legislatures on bills affecting the homeschool community.

Scott is a frequent speaker at homeschool conferences and on radio programs across the country. He currently handles legal issues for HSLDA members in Virginia, Arkansas, Maryland, New Jersey, Idaho, Maine, Illinois, Missouri, Iowa, South Dakota, Kansas, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. He also has extensive previous experience dealing with members’ legal issues in Oklahoma, Indiana, Colorado, New Hampshire, Vermont, West Virginia, Massachusetts, and Michigan.

Scott is a member of the bar of the Supreme Court of the United States, and he is licensed in Virginia and Missouri.

Scott and his wife, Jane, homeschooled all three of their adult children and have one little one still at home.