2014 Tulsa Convention Speakers


Michael and Elizabeth Smith, along with Michael and Vickie Farris, incorporated Home School Legal Defense Association in 1983 and were the original board members. Mike grew up in Arkansas where he attended the University of Arkansas. Upon graduation, he entered the U.S. Navy, serving three years before attending law school at the University of San Diego. In 1972, he was admitted to the bar in California and also has been admitted to the Supreme Court of the United States.

After being introduced to the idea of homeschooling in 1981, he became convinced he had been called to use his talents in the legal profession to assist homeschoolers who were being prosecuted because they didn’t hold a teacher’s certificate or satisfy other school district requirements for teaching their children.

Mike came to HSLDA full-time in 1987 and has served as president of the organization since 2001. He is also a contact lawyer for California, Nevada and Puerto Rico. The most enjoyable part of Mike’s job is going to homeschool conferences and meeting those he calls America’s greatest heroes, homeschooling moms.

  • How Do We Measure Success in Homeschooling?
  • Balancing Family Responsibilities for the Busy Homeschool Family
  • Homeschooling & Parental Rights
  • The Power of Praise with Our Children

Phil Downer serves as president of Discipleship Network of America. A popular speaker at men’s events, church conferences and home school conventions, Phil also speaks at couples' events with Susy, his wife of forty-one years. He is the author of numerous books including Eternal Impact: Investing in the Lives of Others. A former machine gunner who served in Viet Nam with the United States Marine Corps in 1967 and 1968, Phil was a successful lawyer before being led to Christ and discipled by fellow professionals. He left his position as one of the senior partners of a fifty-attorney law firm in Atlanta to serve as president of Christian Business Men’s Connection for a decade. Susy, also an attorney, served as assistant corporate secretary and legal counsel for Delta Air Lines for ten years. She resigned her position in 1985, to devote full time to their six children whom she homeschooled through high school.

  • Dad's Irreplaceable Role
  • Resolving Family Conflicts in Truth & Love
  • Teaching Your Children How to Work with Godly Discipline

Paul Downer is a coauthor of From Hell To Eternity: Life After Trauma. He is a frequent speaker at conferences and training events around the U.S. and appears with Phil on their daily one-minute broadcast, A Discipleship Moment, which airs on over 550 stations. Paul speaks on discipleship, culture, men’s issues, family relationships, and reaching twenty-somethings. He offers parents and children insight into what it takes to respond to the conflicts of life in a way that enables a family to overcome differences and relational wounds in order to experience healthy Christ-centered relationships.

Paul earned his B.S. and B.A. at Bryan College where he studied as a Presidential Scholar. He is currently pursuing a Master of Christian Studies degree from Regent College in Vancouver, British Columbia. Paul has been a mentor for young men in their teens and twenties for ten years and has been speaking at national men’s conferences and retreats for twelve years.

  • Homeschooling the Strong-Willed Child—I Am One!
  • Media & Entertainment—Monitoring What Influences Your Family

Todd Wilson, author of Lies Homeschooling Moms Believe, Help! I’m Married to a Homeschooling Mom, and The Official Book of Homeschooling Cartoons, is a dad, writer, conference speaker, and former pastor. Todd’s humor and gut-honest realness have made him a favorite speaker at homeschool conventions across the country. As founder of Familyman Ministries, his passion and mission are to remind dads and moms of what is most important through seminars, books that encourage parents, and a weekly e-mail for dads. Todd and his wife Debbie homeschool their eight children in northern Indiana and travel around America in the Familyman Mobile. You can visit Familyman Ministries at www.familymanweb.com

  • Irresistable Parenting
  • What To Do When Your Plan Doesn't Go According to Plan
  • Choosing the Hard Things

Harold and Rebekah Mally and their three children, Sarah (age 34), Stephen (age 28), and Grace (age 24), lead a ministry called Tomorrow’s Forefathers with the primary emphasis of encouraging and strengthening other families in the Lord. The Mallys began homeschooling in 1990. In 2002 Sarah, Stephen, and Grace co-authored the book, Making Brothers and Sisters Best Friends. Sarah is the founder of Bright Lights, a discipleship ministry to equip young ladies to live fully for the Lord. Today there are more than five hundred Bright Lights groups worldwide. In 2006 Sarah published the book Before You Meet Prince Charming. Last year Grace published Will Our Generation Speak? A Call to Be Bold with the Gospel. As our world grows increasingly dark, the Mallys pray that the Lord will raise up mighty warriors for His kingdom in this generation. (www.tomorrowsforefathers.com)

  • Making Brothers and Sisters Best Friends
  • Credentials Without College
  • Raising Pure Daughters in a Generation of Darkness
  • Knights, Maidens & Dragons

Diana Waring, author of Beyond Survival, Reaping the Harvest and the History Revealed curriculum published by AiG, discovered years ago that “the key to education is relationship.”Beginning in the early ‘80s, Diana homeschooled her children through high-school—providing the real life opportunities to learn how kids learn. Mentored by educators whose focus was to honor Him who created all learners, and with an international background (born in Germany, university degree in French, lifelong student of world history), Diana has been enthusiastically received by audiences on four continents.

  • History Via the Scenic Route
  • Box-Free Living
  • The Key to Education Is Relationship
  • Got Teens???

Barb Shelton’s heartfelt delight is to refresh homeschoolers and help equip them to grasp and implement God’s vision for the true education of their children. She and her husband Dave homeschooled their three children for twenty-six years, ending when the youngest graduated in 2006, and there was no one left to homeschool! She has written eight books for homeschoolers and developed seven CDs, all of which are on practical and encouraging topics that are vital to all homeschoolers, no matter what stage they are in. Combining humor and vulnerability on a foundation of Scripture, Barb’s message has helped countless parents recover from, or avoid, the pitfalls resulting from listening to the many loud voices of the world. She inspires us to draw close to God and hear His voice alone for our unique children.

  • The Heart of True Education
  • Preparing Heart, Soul 'n' Guts NOW to Homeschool to the END!!
  • Creative, Flexible Home Organizing
  • Real-Life Homeschool Learning & Organizing for Younger Children
  • Connecting Hearts—Now & Forever

Dennis Gundersen is owner of Grace and Truth Books and is a frequent convention speaker. Dennis has served as a senior pastor in Tulsa for twenty-six years. He and his wife Naomi have four adult sons and four grandchildren. (www.graceandtruthbooks.com)

  • Deadly Weaknesses in the Strong Man: Moral Lessons Fathers Must Teach Their Sons
  • Don't Scare the Children! Homeschooling & the Fear of the Lord
  • Courtship & Dating—So What's the Difference?

Joanne Calderwood is an underwhelmed mom of eight great kids, ages ten through twenty-three. She has been married to Tim for twenty-eight years. As a former classroom teacher, Joanne had a meltdown when trying to homeschool her first four children with the classroom mentality. Then she began to allow her older children to work independently, and the results were so amazing that she developed a system of education which incorporates the tenets of self-learning and mastery. Results include perfect and near-perfect SAT scorers, and four teens (so far) who have gone on to attend their first-choice colleges on full scholarships! Joanne is the author of The Self-Propelled Advantage, I’m the Mom; I Don’t Have to Know Calculus, and The Homeschool Student Planners. She is a columnist for Home School Enrichment magazine and is the heart behind www.URtheMom.com. The Calderwoods reside in Normandy, Tennessee, where they earnestly try not to disturb the neighbors.

  • Self Teaching 101, Part 1 & 2
  • If Mary & Martha Had Been Homeschool Moms
  • Top 10 Things I Wish I Had Known As A Young Homeschool Mom

Susan Chrisman and her husband, Jerry, began their journey in home education in 1985. The Chrismans have five children and three grandsons. They have served on the board of trustees for the Oklahoma Christian Home Educators’ Consociation since 2001. Jerry is currently serving OCHEC as president, and Susan is the editor-in-chief of publications. She also co-directs the Oklahoma City Charlotte Mason Discussion Group, and has published homeschool resources which are available on her website at www.lifelonglearnersonline.com. Susan founded a resource service called Lifelong Learners to encourage parents (especially moms) in the training and education of their children. She speaks to support groups, at moms’ retreats, and at homeschool conventions, and she mentors moms, helping them to be intentional about their relationships and responsibilities.

  • OCHEC 101: A Home Educator's Guide to Scheduling & Planning
  • Preschool & Kindergarten Education at Home, Part 1 & Part 2

Kim and her husband Greg began homeschooling fifteen years ago because they desired for their children to be a vital part of their overseas missions work. God used their initial choice of convenience and flexibility to hook their hearts, and eventually they began to see that homeschooling was their lifetime “call.”

The Fords have a passion for helping families pass the baton of faith successfully to their children. Kim desires to help homeschool parents gain vision for doing what they do: “It’s not ease, nor convenience that motivates you to finish the course. It is vision.Our children’s hearts are seed-beds to be equipped and challenged to be His light into the everyman’s world.

Kim is honored to serve in leadership with Classical Conversation. She also works with her husband reaching unreached nations. But her greatest joy is the full-time leadership development of their five children—Hudson, Graham, Elliot, William and Claire.

  • Homeschooling Your Teen: Your Finest Hour

Cindy Nicolai is a retired homeschool mom who just cannot seem to get away from the call and conviction of parents training and discipling their children at home. Having trained her children at home from early childhood through high school, Cindy now has a passion for helping other moms in this sometimes overwhelming journey of educating their children at home while still running a household and maintaining sanity. With an empty nest, Cindy finds herself fulfilling many roles, some old and some new, but her favorite role is that of Grammy. That role is what drives her to stay involved in the homeschool community and to continue working to preserve the freedoms we now enjoy for future generations. You can contact Cindy at canicolai@gmail.com.

  • OCHEC 102: Choosing Curriculum
  • OCHEC 104: Taming the Beast of Recordkeeping


Tracy Phillips is wife to Patrick and mom to nine. She is a thirteen-year homeschooling veteran, graduating her oldest child this year, while potty training her youngest. Having decided to homeschool when she was still in junior high, Tracy earned her BA in Family and Child Development...her “mommy” degree. Tracy and Patrick have served on the OCHEC Board of Trustees since 2005. Before that, Tracy was the leader of a successful homeschool support group in Oklahoma City. Tracy’s gifts include organization skills and providing encouragement to other moms while keeping it real.

  • OCHEC 103: Philosophies of Education
  • Fostering Hope
  • Organize THIS!

Andrew Pudewa
  • But...but...but...What About Grammar?
  • Mastery Learning, Ability Development & Individualized Education
  • The Four Deadly Errors of Teaching Writing
Jennifer Courtney
  • Teaching Truth, Goodness & Beauty
Cyndy Kinney
  • Basic Lapbooking Across the Curriculum
  • Learning Styles– What Are They & Why Do They Matter?
  • Carschooling—How to Turn Anything into a Learning Experience

  • Cindy Nicolai

    Cindy Nicolai is a retired homeschool mom that just can’t seem to get away from the call and conviction of parents training and discipling their children at home. Having trained her children at home from early childhood through high school, Cindy now has the passion of helping other moms in this sometimes-overwhelming journey of educating their children at home while still running a household and maintaining sanity. With an empty nest, Cindy finds herself fulfilling many roles, some old and some new, but her favorite role is that of Grammy. It is that role that drives her to stay involved in the homeschool community and to continue working to preserve the freedoms we now enjoy for future generations.
  • Cyndi Kinney

    Cyndi Kinney is an author, speaker, and publisher for Knowledge Box Central. She and her husband homeschooled their daughter for several years and eventually changed their method to unschooling. Their daughter graduated high school at 15 and began college. Cyndi's undergraduate degree is in Nursing, though a diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis forced her to stay home. She spent many years studying Color Psychology and uses this information as she designs Lapbooks and other hands-on educational materials. She has designed curriculum supplements for Tapestry of Grace, Apologia Science, Jeannie Fulbright, American Girl, and others. Cyndi, author of over 400 books, serves as the Key Note Speaker at many homeschool conventions each year.
  • Dana Wilson

    Dana Wilson and her husband Dan have five home schooled children, who range in age from five to twenty-two. They are a foster family that has homeschooled for fifteen years and serve as OCHEC trustees.
  • Dara Halydier

    Dara Halydier has homeschooled for 21 years and just retired! Her five boys are launched and doing well. They love the Lord, serve Him, and love to get together as often as possible! Dara is a pastor’s wife, a Bible teacher, a conference and retreat speaker, a mentor and a friend. Dara is the president of Abiding Truth Ministry and the author of Practical Proverbs for Younger Students, Practical Proverbs for Older Students, and As They Sit and Stand: A Resource and Guide for Teaching Your Children the Bible. Dara has learned life’s lessons the hard way—experience! She has moved over thirty times, deals with chronic pain, has four boys with learning disabilities, and has overcome a past of abuse and shame to proclaim God’s grace, forgiveness, and freedom.
  • Dennis Gundersen

    Dennis Gundersen is President and owner of Grace & Truth Books, a Christian publisher of 60 books, most of which are reprints of 19th-century children’s books on character-building themes. He and his wife Naomi have four adult sons, all of whom were homeschooled all twelve years of their education before going on to college. Dennis has served as Senior Pastor, for 26 years, at three Tulsa churches. Dennis and Naomi have been married since 1976 and relish ministering together in a wide range of settings, whether in teaching, discipleship and counseling at their church, to missions trips to Mexico, India, Mozambique and other nations—and every year at numerous conventions.
  • Dr. James Wanliss

    Dr. James Wanliss is a scientist, author, and speaker. Originally from South Africa, he now lives in South Carolina with his wife, Esther, and their two homeschooled girls. He is passionate about knowing God and sharing the love of Christ with his family, the homeschool community, and anyone else who will listen! Dr. Wanliss holds a PhD in plasma physics and is the recipient of numerous awards and honors. He serves as an expert reviewer for the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change. Dr. Wanliss has published more than fifty peer-reviewed papers and has lectured on topics as diverse as homeschooling, parenting, global warming, Christian apologetics, space weather, and the relation of theology to science.
  • Joe & Jennifer Kimmons

    Joe and Jennifer have overcome major obstacles both individually and in their marriage. Today, through Jesus Christ, they experience a godly intimacy in their marriage. Their heart’s desire is to help couples and families get rooted deeply in the truth of God’s word so they too can experience a dynamic marriage and family! Joe is passionate about spreading the word that there is freedom from the grips of any addiction. He mentors and guides men and couples through the process of finding purity through the name of Jesus. He and his wife Jennifer are the parents of three girls.
  • Shelley Noonan

    Author and speaker Shelley Noonan’s passion is to assist parents in recapturing the lost art of mentoring. Often times, as parents, we teach a little here and a little there and just hope and pray that our children “turn out”. But we can teach our children with purpose, on purpose, the morals, values and standards we want them to possess. This process of purposeful teaching is called mentoring. Shelley and her husband, Robert, have over 13 years of homeschooling experience with their three grown children. She presents a wide variety of topics and uses the experience of homeschool and life to motivate and challenge the workshop attendees. Her message will touch your heart and encourages you in the high calling of parenting on purpose so that future generations will know, serve, and love the Lord.
  • Sheri Yates

    Sheri Yates is a mentor, motivating speaker, and writer. She speaks openly about how she overcame a long-term identity crisis with God’s overwhelming love. Having overcome years of bondage caused from childhood abuse, she is passionate about the body of Christ being set free to live out their God-given dreams. Sheri is a wife and homeschooling mom of three. She authored, Stuck–Recapture the passion to pursue your God-given dreams. Sheri is the co-author of SOAR, www.soarwithgod.com, a free Bible study. Her family authored Truth or Trash™ game and iPhone app for families to learn how to discern God’s truth. Sheri is also a founder of ikanministries.com and the Avodah, worship and prayer room in Oklahoma.
  • Skeet Savage

    Skeet Savage is a veteran homeschooling mother of six, the founder of Wisdom’s Gate Ministries, and editor of Home School Digest, An Encouraging Word, and Overcoming Life magazines. She is a dedicated teacher/mentor/discipler, and an inspiring and challenging speaker at ladies events, seminars, conferences and churches. Skeet is the author of the books, Letters to Grandma: Wise Counsel for Women of All Ages (Vol. 1); Letters to Grandma: Conversations About Life (Vol. 2); Choose Wisdom; and Homeschooling for Eternity.
  • Susan Chrisman

    Susan Chrisman is a wife, mother, grandmama, twenty-five year homeschool veteran, researcher, speaker, and ardent pursuer of God. With compassion and transparency, Susan speaks for the purpose of guiding women to a deeper relationship with God, while building trust, boosting faith, and inspiring hope. She also challenges parents to become lifelong learners and shows them how to inspire their children to love learning, too.
  • Tracy Phillips

    Tracy Phillips is wife to Patrick and Mom to nine. She is a fourteen year homeschooling mom of special kids and special needs kids, having graduated her oldest child while potty training her youngest. Choosing to homeschool when she was in junior high, Tracy earned her bachelor’s in Family and Child Development…her “mommy” degree. Tracy and Patrick have served on the OCHEC Board of Trustees since 2005. Before that, Tracy was the leader of a successful homeschool support group in Oklahoma City. Tracy’s gifts include organization skills and providing encouragement to other moms while keeping it real.
  • Woody Robertson

    Woody’s personal mission is to live “a real life with a real relationship with a real God.” He’s a first generation homeschool graduate with huge passion for the next generation of culture shapers. An entrepreneur and visionary, Woody has been a principle player in several start-up companies. In 2004, he co-founded CollegePlus after earning his accredited BSBA in General Management in 18 months for under $10k! A frequent motivational speaker at conferences nationwide, his information-packed sessions are innovative and inspiring. As a member of the CollegePlus team, Woody lives in San Antonio, TX with his wife Gina—the girl of his dreams!