Speakers

2022 Speakers 

Stay tuned for updates to this page for our 2023 UWG.

Jennel Benson

 

Jennel is a former TAB member and a long time 4H member.  She has had the opportunity to attend a plethora of skill building conferences and will be sharing job seeking and interview skills in a workshop for youth and as a discussion on how parents can help their kids with this process.

 

Cindy Gaddis

Cindy Gaddis was an unusual child, self-driven to pursue life on her own terms. When her first child was born with the same spirit of learning, it was just a matter of stumbling on the term that described what came naturally: unschooling. Six more children later, all grown now, and 30 years later (where does the time go?!), Cindy became a passionate advocate for understanding and honoring the natural learning path for creative, right-brained children. She wrote her book, The Right Side of Normal, based on what she learned as a (left-brained) unschooling parent observing her seven (all right-brained) children. Cindy continued her passion for creative learning when she fulfilled her dream goal of opening a creative learning center in 2017 in a 1920s farmhouse on 18 acres and primarily mentors middle-high school attendees in collaborative education. You can find her at https://www.therightsideofnormal.com/or at https://www.clclexington.com/ .

Understanding Your Right-Brained Child
Is your child interested in one or more of the following: art/photography, theater/showmanship, music/dance, computers/video games, building (LEGO!)/electronics, cooking/gardening, puzzles/mazes, math/numbers (concepts/spatial), or fashion/sewing? Have you heard people make comments about your child such as he does not live up to his potential, or she is smart but lazy, or he may have a learning disability? Does your child resist your teaching methods? Your child may be a right-brained, creative learner. Cindy will share the characteristics of this learning style to help parents discover their child’s path to learning with joy.
Unschooling the High School Transcript
Can unschooled children make it to college? Does it look different from the traditional path to college? How do you make a transcript from life learning? What do I need to know to support my young man or woman through high school and in finding their place in the world? Cindy watched as each of her first three adult children made these decisions. Each went to college in some shape or form and at some time in their life for various reasons. What did that look like? What were the reasons? Were they successful? Cindy will share her role in this process with her children, including samples of unschooled transcripts.

Heather Horrell

Heather is a creative and inquisitive lifelong learner and mom of 6 wildlings. She is a passionate educator who wants to inspire children, and their parents, to honor and proudly share their unique gifts, stay curious, and spread kindness everywhere. When not teaching, you can find her dreaming up new ideas, making art, or moving among nature. Heather’s credentials include various health and wellness certificates as well as a Master’s degree in Education and Bachelor’s in English Literature. She has been traveling nationally for over five years and has shared her unique, Play, Learn, Grow methodology with teachers and parents from all over who want something different for their kids!
Weaving the 3 Ms Movement, Mindfulness and Multidisciplinary learning
Learning the old way is out! Heather firmly believes in sparking kids’ curiosity and building their empathy while creating a lifelong love of exploration. Learning, especially for developing minds and hearts, is all about creating meaningful experiences that draw upon their natural creativity and desire to interact with the world as a whole person. Learning experiences should be organic and built with the 3 M’s in mind. Mindfulness, Movement, and Multidisciplinary. When we focus on all facets of the human experience and the different ways kids learn; the social-emotional component, the kinesthetic needs, and their innate ability to make connections among seemingly unrelated topics, we see kids thriving and being in control of their own educational needs. Not only does this serve each kiddo optimally, it helps families live and learn more peacefully and with greater ease. In this speech, Heather will talk about the benefits of the 3 M’s philosophy, how it birthed her Play, Learn, Grow curriculum, and what simple steps you can take to incorporate it into your day with your kids and/or students.

Jen Kendall

Jen Kendall has been attending UWG since 2010 – and has the totebags to prove it! She has two children, ages 17 & 15, who are thrilled to be attending their 10th Unschoolers Waterpark Gathering. Although her kids have always been home educated, it took Jen several years to call herself an unschooler. Now she runs and/or moderates several unschooling-focused groups, including two Facebook groups and an Unschooling Gamers discord server. She and her husband and kids live on a little hobby farm in Northeast Ohio.

An Unschooling Retrospective

Looking back on 18 years of home educating, would I go back and do anything different if I could? Here’s our family’s story, including the small but important events that made two parents steeped in schooly thought transition completely to unschooling.

There’s An App For That

When should your kid get a phone/tablet/device? Should you let them have TikTok? What even is a Discord? Let’s talk about some of the tech platforms out there and how to help your kid develop a healthy relationship with them.

Kim Lowery

Edible Landscaping and Food Forests– Join in a lively discussion of all things gardening related, with an emphasis on integrated growing techniques.  What’s worked, what hasn’t, what’s your next big project or your favorite part of your garden.

 

Liz Ryan

Liz Ryan is a whole lot of things, once she stopped focusing on her “whole lotta not’s”. Imagine that? She has unschooled her kids accidentally since her first was born in 2011. She has been on a constant journey since then, unlearning all that she grew up believing to be true. She has an affinity for all forms of the word “f*#k, sprinkling it like MSG. She has been a financial advisor since 2006 and working independently since 2011. She published a children’s book in 2017 after self-learning the process from start to finish. She spends most of her days figuring out what substance she stepped in, trying to drink enough water & coffee, and living the dream attempting to be present. One of her biggest accomplishments though has been accepting herself for who she is, so she can do the same for her kids, and anyone she meets.
Welcome Home To Ourselves: Changing Our Narrative
Body positivity is a buzz phrase that has made its rounds all over social media, but what does that look like in action? What does that look like in the midst of day to day life? How does this have anything to do with unschooling? As parents of unschoolers many of us have tuned to deschooling ourselves, or even our kids if they started out in public school. It only takes a few minutes of walking the halls of UWG to see our kids living their truths unapologetically, but how do we get to that same space?  How can we meet ourselves from a place of love and compassion, changing our narratives of intrusive thoughts, our egos, and our stories we have created about ourselves? When we embrace the human we already are, and always have been, the lies we were conditioned to believe melt away.
Come join our little magical community for an interactive experience of peeling back all of our layers, our fears of being seen and heard, and living in the now! Uncover your badassery and show up as the best human for yourself. Preteens, teens, adults: this is for all of us.
“My love, if you don’t speak to yourself like the most beautiful love story you have ever read, then how are you speaking to yourself? If you don’t look at yourself and see your soft rolls sitting one on top of the other, like volumes in a library, then how do you see yourself? If you don’t feel all that life has to offer in this very exact moment, in your very exact body, taking up all the damn space, then what do you feel? You ARE the better. You ARE the best. There is simply no room for anything else.”
The Science Behind Journaling & How It Can Alter Your Life
Join Liz for an in-depth journey through “future self journaling” from the work of Dr. Nicole LePera. Learn how you can rewire your neural pathways to heal through the simple act of journaling. The daily practice can be done by anyone, children included. We will discuss the science behind journaling, walk through the daily practice step by step, and dive deep into healing ourselves. There will be Q&A, and journaling resources on hand for adults and children. Liz will give real examples of how this has changed multiple areas of her life, from relationships with her children to relationships with herself. Come relax and join our community in this transforming act of compassion for ourselves.

Steve Ryan

Steven Ryan and his family has been a part of the UWG community for the last 6 yrs. Steven and his wife Liz decided to unschool shortly after having their first child Sully, before knowing anything about unschooling. They now have 3 more children: Maggie , Veda, and Redd. Steven comes from a rural community in PA and was pushed through school, as most of us were. From selling candy in 3rd grade with a friend out of a tackle box and being suspended for it to flipping items like helicopters. All to keep from having to work a 9-5 job. Steve would probably have been voted in high school least likely to succeed, although from a past riddled with the makings of a mini-series, he consistently proves there is no clear path to success in life. Steve is the perfect mix of Sanford and Son meets Elon Musk. His entrepreneurial spirit and drive is contagious! Come join him this year at UWG to share his version of the chickenpox lollipops!

What would life look like if… – A DIY approach to acting on those what ifs!

From the beginning of time, everything has had to be tested before it has hit “its” stride. We are not different, whether that be with unschooling or pursuing interests, hobbies or careers. I am no Tony Robbins, but I do my best, in my way, to inspire others to step outside their comfort zone and be their very best.

Fear is a motivating factor for all of us. From heights to spiders, they are real…but some are unwarranted fears that stem from a deep inherited gnawing that “we just can’t” or “aren’t good enough” or whatever adjective you use.

I want to share my experience and, ultimately, hope and motivation to explore more of those things you keep putting off, whether it be wanting to write a book, pursuing a career, or asking for that raise. It takes the right people at the right time to help bridge the mental gaps we create in putting thoughts into action.

With a little encouragement and effort, we are capable of amazing things! My title, “What would life look like if I…” is then something each year we can share collectively at UWG. I will have a sign up book and I will periodically check up on you to see how your pursuit in conquering your “thing” is going.

Come join me and let’s mark this day as the day you decided to move forward in wanting to …

Create Your Vision Board and Start Manifesting Your Future

Steve will be leading us in making either a physical or virtual vision board.  Supplies will be provided but feel free to bring things to make your board extra personal and special.

 

Heather Schleidt

Heather Schleidt and her husband live on a 65-acre farm and run three restaurants. She never intended to homeschool, let alone, unschool, but after learning about the principles of unschooling and researching many of the pioneers like John Holt, John Taylor Gatto, and Sandra Dodd, she was intrigued at the idea of allowing her children the freedom to design their own life, free from arbitrary rules and assignments.  Heather and Markus have four children and each of them have a unique path they are on. The oldest, Mitchell, got married in 2020 and started his own business in 2021. Lukas,18, has found his own passion in working out, playing chess and video games, and spending time after work with his friends. Their third son, Parker, focuses on video games, Boy Scouts, and working a part-time job. Heidi, the youngest, dances and has been in professional shows and is currently starting her own Etsy business. The original critics of the unschooling path have seen the joy that the children have for life and have leaned into trusting the process. One of Heather’s passions is to get people to educate themselves and to challenge them to think outside of the box. Unschooling works for many families – come learn how unschooling might work well for your family!!

Unschooling 101

Ely Vuksanovich

Ely Vuksanovich is a lifelong unschooler. Never been to a day of school in their life, he would tell you it’s the best thing to ever happen to him. She’s gone to UWG for over a decade, and carries the unschooler mindset anywhere and everywhere. Coming from a small hobby farm in northeast Ohio, Ely has lots of passions in many directions. From beekeeping to drawing, crocheting to gaming, tarot reading to jewelry making, they like to keep creative and busy in their spare time while learning vital life skills for their future.

Achievement Unlocked: Unschooler Graduation

Your kid is unschooled! You threw traditional schooling to the side and your wheels are spinning! But what about the graduation? The actual adulting part, what’s the destination? I’ve made my way through 18 years of unschooling in one piece, in some mismatched path as unschoolers do. Your kid can (and most likely will!) become a self sufficient adult when they’re unschooled, and I’m walking proof. I’ll share some stories and experiences on how I made my way through processes like getting a job and a drivers license, and how I learned important skills while unschooling.

Panels

Ask an Unschooled Teen

This is a great opportunity to get answers to your most pressing unschooling questions from the perspective of a teen or young adult unschooler. This years teen panel includes Livi Kendall, Avery Hodgson, Kyle Kennedy, Heidi Schleidt and Ely Vuksanovich.

Grown Unschoolers 

Join unschooled young adults for a fun and informative Q and A session.

Unschooling Q & A 

Are you new to unschooling? Thinking about trying it out, but you have nagging questions in the back of your mind? Are you worried about Math and science? Chores and personal hygiene? Video games? Bring your questions and let’s discuss everything you ever wanted to know about unschooling but were afraid to ask!

Our Unschooling Q and A panel will include veteran unschoolers Jen Kendall, Raina Hodgson, Steve Hodgson, Heather Schleidt, Barb Splett and John Splett.