Keynote and Featured Speakers


2018 Keynote Speaker:  Dr. Temple Grandin

Temple Grandin is a professor of animal science at Colorado State University and she has been a pioneer in improving the handling and welfare of farm animals.


She was born in Boston, Massachusetts.  Temple’s achievements are remarkable because she was an autistic child.  At age two she had no speech and all the signs of severe autism. Many hours of speech therapy, and intensive teaching enabled Temple to learn speech.  As a teenager, life was hard with constant teasing.  Mentoring by her high school science teacher and her aunt on her ranch in Arizona motivated Temple to study and pursue a career as a scientist and livestock equipment designer.


Dr. Temple Grandin obtained her B.A. at Franklin Pierce College in 1970. In 1974 she was employed as Livestock Editor for the Arizona Farmer Ranchman and also worked for Corral Industries on equipment design. In 1975 she earned her M.S. in Animal Science at Arizona State University for her work on the behavior of cattle in different squeeze chutes. Dr. Grandin was awarded her Ph.D in Animal Science from the University of Illinois in 1989 and is currently a Professor at Colorado State University.


I have done extensive work on the design of handling facilities. Half the cattle in the U.S. and Canada are handled in equipment I have designed for meat plants. Other professional activities include developing animal welfare guidelines for the meat industry and consulting with companies on animal welfare.


Following her Ph.D. research on the effect of environmental enrichment on the behavior of pigs, she has published several hundred industry publications, book chapters and technical papers on animal handling plus 73 refereed journal articles in addition to 12 books.  She currently is a professor of animal sciences at Colorado State University where she continues her research while teaching courses on livestock handling and facility design.  Her book, Animals in Translation was a New York Times best seller and her book Livestock Handling an Transport, now has a fourth edition which was published in 2014. Other popular books authored by Dr. Grandin are Thinking in Pictures, Emergence Labeled Autistic, Animals Make us Human, Improving Animal Welfare: A Practical Approach, The Way I See It, and The Autistic Brain.  She also has a popular TED Talk.


Dr. Grandin has received numerous awards including the Meritorious Achievement Award from the Livestock Conservation Institute, named a Distinguished Alumni at Franklin Pierce College and received an honorary doctorate from McGill University, University of Illinois, Texas A&M, Carnegie Mellon University, and Duke University. She has also won prestigious industry awards including the Richard L. Knowlton Award from Meat Marketing and Technology Magazine and the Industry Advancement Award from the American Meat Institute and the Beef Top 40 industry leaders and the Lifetime Achievement Award from The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association. In 2011, Temple was inducted into the Cowgirl Hall of Fame. In 2015 she was given the Distinguished Service Award by the American Farm Bureau Federation and Meritorious Award from the OIE. HBO has premiered a movie about Temple’s early life and career with the livestock industry. The movie received seven Emmy awards, a Golden Globe, and a Peabody Award. In 2016, Temple was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.


Dr. Grandin is a past member of the board of directors of the Autism Society of America.  She lectures to parents and teachers throughout the U.S. on her experiences with autism. Articles and interviews have appeared in the New York Times, People, Time, National Public Radio, 20/20, The View, and the BBC. She was also honored in Time Magazines 2010 “The 100 Most Influential People in the World.” Dr. Grandin now resides in Fort Collins, Colorado. 

2018 Keynote Speaker:  Akilah S. Richards

I wrote my first book a year after I had Marley, our first daughter. Marley, now 13, inspired me to leave my career as a paralegal about to start law school and pursue what I loved—writing. Less than two years later, our second daughter, Sage-Niambi, nudged me to publish my first book, Execumama: A Pocket Guide for the Twenty-something Mommy on the Move.

In that book, I interviewed 12 women who struggled with the same jarring questions that motherhood brought to me: How can I be there for my child while building a career and finding time to honor my own needs? Is work-life balance a myth? Was it even possible? And if so, at what cost?

I started blogging about those questions, and some possible answers, and a couple years later, I was featured in a major magazine (Essence Mag, May 2009 issue). I started working with a few brands, wrote and self-published a few more books, started doing public speaking at small events, and eventually went into life coaching, working with women looking to make shift from day jobs they hated to entrepreneurship doing work they loved.

That work—both in my own life and in helping my clients—taught me a lot about how our unresolved feelings, our backstories, and in many cases, our childhood experiences could serve as tools to power us up in adulthood, or hold us back from taking charge of our own lives.

The work transitioned from a focus on managing and naming emotions, to exploring and expressing the things that define us, and the things that have the most powerful influence over our choices. I took to calling that liberation practice radical self-expression.

Over the past six years that work has looked like participating in my own liberation, and that of my children, with their father by embracing Self-Directed Education in the form of Unschooling.

Unschooling isn’t just about education and children, it’s about how adults and children live together, and how adults and children get to be themselves while they learn, grow, and define themselves. We trust children, and our daughters are teaching us how to live with children in ways that help raise free people. People who change the world, instead of just fitting into it.


In essence, I’m a storyteller and an agitator who believes in non-coercive, liberatory living and learning. My goal is to help more people embrace confident autonomy, children especially, and we believe this goal is already changing the world for the better.

2018 Featured Speaker:  Aaron Eden

Aaron Eden works with schools and families around the world to re-humanize education. He helps adults re-frame their understanding of the relationships involved in learning, to become trusted partners rather than managers. Aaron's work spans from coaching parents on how to support Self-Directed Education, to transforming schools from command-and-control to co-creative communities, to starting schools from the ground up and building capacity in teachers to hold space for self-direction.  Aaron is the father of three self-directed children.  You can visit Aaron online at

2018 Featured Speaker:  Elana K. Arnold

Elana K. Arnold writes books for and about children and teens. Her most recent YA novel WHAT GIRLS ARE MADE OF was a finalist for the National Book Award, and her middle grade novel A BOY CALLED BAT is a Junior Library Guild Selection. Some of her books have been included on the LA Public Library’s Best Books of the Year list, the Bank Street Best Book list, the YALSA “Best Fiction for Young Adults” list, have been ALAN picks, and have been selected for inclusion in the Amelia Bloomer Project. Her YA novel, INFANDOUS, won the Moonbeam Children’s Book Award and the Westchester Fiction Prize. She holds a master's degree in Creative Writing/Fiction from the University of California, Davis and currently lives in Huntington Beach, California, with her husband, two children, and a menagerie of animals.

2018 Featured Speaker:  Erika Davis-Pitre

Erika Davis-Pitre and her husband Michael have 4 children - one daughter (39) and three sons (35, 33 & 25). They also have a son-in-law, two daughters-in-law and two grandsons(11 & 4).
She and her husband have recently moved back to San Francisco full-time after living in Connecticut for more than a decade.
They have been unschooling for many years and love it, so Erika is always looking for opportunities to share their unschooling joy with others.
Erika has spoken at many un/homeschooling conferences, led quite a few funshops/workshops and has hosted and participated in many round table discussions about unschooling all over the US and Canada.
She especially enjoys talking about unschooling teens, sharing the joy of unschooling and celebrating diversity through unschooling.
And she is a Artist Trading Card(ATC) fanatic-if you don't know about ATCs please ask!

2018 Featured Speaker:  Erin O'Shea

Erin O’Shea is a single mother of three and has been homeschooling her children for the last 7 years. She has been an arts educator in Southern California for over 20 years. Her teaching experience includes elementary school, alternative education programs for at risk youth and she is currently the chair of the Saddleback College Art Department. Her work as an illustrator and muralist has consistently focused on socially engaged themes. Erin has created collaborative public art projects with her community resulting in: a mural with OC Great Park on the history of OC, a mural with OC Greenpeace on Resisting Climate Change based Consumption and a Mural de Amistad in Spain as part of an art study abroad program. Her service on the Equity & Diversity Committee at Saddleback College has led to the development of the Safety Net Program for vulnerable student demograhics, the establishment of gender neutral restrooms on campus and the removal of a Latino stereotype as a school mascot. She is dedicated to fostering the development of creative curiosity within her communities and guiding those pursuing in a career in the visual arts.

2018 Featured Speaker:  Julie Bogart

Julie Bogart is the creator of the innovative Brave Writer Writing and Language Arts Curriculum. For 18 years, Brave Writer instructional manuals and online classes have enriched the homeschooling lives of thousands of families. Brave Writer exists to foster a nurturing relationship between homeschooling parent and child while creating a safe environment for writing growth.

The Brave Writer program brings a fresh point of view to the writing process. Rather than emphasize formats as the key to success, Brave Writer's materials and instructors facilitate the emergence of authentic writing voice in children. Once children have access to the language, insights and ideas within, they easily learn a variety of writing genres, including the rigorous academic formats of high school and college.

Julie's professional background includes freelance writing, magazine and book editing, and ghost-writing. She's authored and supervised the development of all original Brave Writer materials, as well as having homeschooled her five (now adult) children for 17 years. She lives in Cincinnati, Ohio.

2018 Featured Speakers:  Lainie Liberti and Miro Siegel

Lainie Liberti, a mom and recovering branding expert (whose 18 year career once focused on creating campaigns for green – eco businesses, non-profits and conscious businesses) and her now 18-year-old son Miro Siegel, set out 8 years ago on what became a life changing journey. In 2008, California’s economy took a turn causing the closure of many local business. Lainie and then 9-year-old Miro decided to “be the change” instead of victims as the pair began the process of redesigning their lives, with the dream of spending stress-free quality time together. After closing her business, selling and giving away all of their possessions, Lainie and Miro hit the road for what was to be a one year adventure mid-2009.
Eight years, twenty-four countries (and many personal changes) later, Lainie and Miro continue to slow travel around the globe, living an inspired possession-free-lifestyle, volunteering and learning naturally from the world around them. The pair are following their interests, learning in partnership, as the planet has been transformed into the ultimate classroom. Both Lainie and Miro have been forever changed, inspired by diverse cultures, histories, languages and traditions, often encouraging the pair to examine their own humanity and interconnectedness. Often you will hear Lainie say “we are blessed to be accidental unschoolers." Lainie and Miro have become advocates for life learning at any age, combined with travel. They call it “worldschooling."
In 2011, the mother and son duo co-founded Project World School in hopes of bringing this experience to others. Project World School was born from an inspired idea: co-create temporary learning communities around the world with teens and young adults, in order to collaborate in rich experiential and social learning. During the retreats, both natural and academic learning occurs through immersive cultural experiences while encouraging social learning, teamwork and leadership. Participants create strong connections with other participants, the world around them and community through a rich collaborative environment. Teens who participate are inspired to continue their worldschooling explorations (and most return for other retreats).
Learning from the world since he was 10 years old, Miro has developed a passion for writing and literature. Currently writing a collection of poems and short stories, he spends most of his time tapping away on his keyboard or reading.
When not co-facilitating retreats with her son, Lainie can be found hosting conversations about alternative education on her weekly show For the Love of Learning, Voices of the Alternative Education Movement. Currently with almost a hundred shows in the archives, she credits her insatiable curiosity about everything everywhere and is happy to have a forum to ask questions about learning and education.

2018 Featured Speaker:  Sue Patterson

Sue Patterson, wife and mom to three grown unschoolers, began their homeschooling journey in 1996 when they discovered schools were not going to be a good fit. After 20 years of helping families and connecting with others in the homeschooling community, she is excited to share her insights and experiences with us. 
Sue has a coaching practice where she helps families that are new on their own homeschooling paths or further down the road but struggling with making it work. She shows families how life can be so much fuller and richer if they can shed so many of the schoolish thoughts that hold them back.
Find out more about working with Sue 1:1, in groups, or through her DIY courses at
Editor of our own Homeschooler Post, Sue also published a fabulous book, Homeschooled Teens. If you have fears about the teen years, you'll want to read what 75 young people have to say about their lives as homeschooled teens.  Sue is active on social media, hosting the widely popular Facebook group, Unschooling Mom2Mom. Join her there or on Instagram @UnschoolingMom2Mom or Twitter @Sue5.

2018 Featured Speaker:  Wes Beach

Wes Beach has 56 years' experience in education. He spent 32 years in public and private schools as a teacher in grades K-14 and as the director of alternative education programs. In 1993 he wised up and left the public schools. He is currently Director of Beach High School, a private high school consisting of a home office and an attitude that offers a wide variety of alternatives to traditional schooling. About 1,500 people have graduated from BHS without a traditional high school education and have succeeded in a wide variety of endeavors, including but not limited to reaching the highest levels of formal education.

Wes has served on the board of the HomeSchool Association of California (HSC) and is at present the Teen Adviser for both HSC and the Gifted Homeschoolers Forum (GHF). He is the author of "Forging Paths: Beyond Traditional Schooling" and "Self-Directed Learning: Documentation and Life Stories."

Wes lives with his wife and two cats in Soquel, California, two miles from the waters of Monterey Bay.