speakers 2016

UP_PAMPam Sorooshian and her husband, Cyrus, are parents to three unschooled and now all-grown-up daughters (ages 25, 28, and 31 by conference time). They provide the best proof possible that unschooling can “work” as they are happy and successful adults. Pam has taught college-level economics and statistics for the past 40 (yes that’s right) years. She has been involved with unschooling – reading, writing, observing, thinking, and speaking – for the past 20 years. Pam runs the “Unschooling California” Facebook group and is on the Board of Directors of the HomeSchool Association of California. She writes for and helps publish “The Homeschooler,” and blogs (occasionally) at https://learninghappens.wordpress.com/. She writes extensively online and has also written for a newly-published book, “Playing With Math.” Pam’s number one hobby is learning about how children learn and how schooling can block learning, especially when it comes to math. 


UP_RenRen Allen, admitted Tea-aholic, lover of birds, student of life, mother of many, and companion to one.  We found our way to natural learning as a family, led by my very energetic and non-conforming eldest son who left school after kindergarten in 1995. I have learned and followed my own passions alongside my children which has led to some amazing adventures, not the least of which is running my own makeup and body paint studio across the hall from my photographer husband. Unschooling has definitely been a lifestyle for us… with all it’s ups and downs.


Paula Sjogerman, mom of two always unschooled now adults, is a theater artist and arts administrator living in the great city of Chicago. She likes Shakespeare, singing and short walks on the beach. Her unique and diverse experiences – including being a certified teacher and too many years of after school programs – formed her solid and steadfast “unbelief” in the current institution of school. She is unabashed in sharing what she stands for, will speak loudly about it, perhaps also jumping up and down.




(Co-Founder, Co-Organizer of Unschoolers Platform)
Amy Jarjusey has an unquenchable thirst for spying a need and fulfilling demands.
As a co-founder and sole coordinator of the AJ Collective Workshops she is constantly peering outside the box determined to supply everyone involved with new classes, fresh experiences and a place where families can gather, develop friendships and provide support to one another. Amy doesn’t take “no” for an answer and conversely doesn’t give “no” for an answer! With Amy there is ALWAYS a way — it’s never “DO?” — it’s always “DONE!” On the home front, she and her dedicated husband Seringe, are the anchors to the foundation of life learning that their 5 children are all deeply ingrained in as they sail about their days — crazy busy — but always connected!!


up_michele2(Co-Founder, Co-Organizer of Unschoolers Platform)
It is with titanic enthusiasm that Michele Kowalski sprang on board to help bring the unschoolers platform to life! Michele loves to see folks of all ages having fun — as well as hugely loving having fun herself. Her buoyant energy and “get in the mix” attitude keep her moving, growing and continually amazed by life. She, and her tenderhearted husband Vlaiko, are devoted to raising their son Hacho (6) with a deep and abiding reverence to his unique spirit. Guiding him gently while basking in the complete grandeur of abandoning the main stream as often as possible. LOOK FOR HER IN THE MIDDLE OF THE DANCE FLOOR!!! “Heyyyyyyyyyy!”



Juli Walter and her husband Ed Billings are the parents of 5 children ages 26, 19, 16, 13 and 10.  Juli has been unschooling in Chicago for 19 years, she is a founding member of Northside Unschoolers Group (NUG).  She loves helping to facilitate her children in follow their passions.  She runs her own private practice lactation consulting practice in Chicago.  She loves to travel and take road trips with her kids, she is trying to reach her goal of visiting all of the 59 National Parks.  She also loves long distance wilderness hiking and hiked the John Muir Trial and portions of the Appalachian Trail.  She is excited to present a workshop at the Unschoolers Platform, because she really loves to support new homeschooling families in their journeys.


Cara is the mother of a 10 year old who is constantly keeping her on her toes. She began homeschooling almost two years ago now…pulling her son out of school…it has been the best choice she’s ever made…she hasn’t looked back since.Her love and passion after parenting is music. She is a vocalist who performs around the city of Chicago and is currently working on her first solo album.  When she isn’t singing she spends her time teaching and sharing yoga with kids from the age of 6 through 106.  She is excited to be a part of this conference and looks forward to great conversations, connections and  sharing. 

UP_ChrisChristopher Bakker has been homeschooling his son, Pierce, since the summer of 2007. He and his family experimented with unschooling, world schooling, & private school for 2 years, before settling on a mix of each. He has been a working stay at home Dad for all of that time & looks forward to meeting other fathers on their own parenting journeys. He is honored to be an Unschoolers Platform speaker alongside Danny Dwarf.



Helen Michniewicz facilitates her children’s education while also running her own consulting practice where she assesses and coaches executives across the globe on leadership skills.  Helen holds a Master of Science degree in the field of business psychology and has 15 years of research and experience in increasing motivation, optimizing learning, and improving performance at Fortune 500 companies. She’s dedicated her professional career to developing leaders and creating work environments that promote life-long learning.  Helen leverages this experience as she guides her children’s education without a formal curriculum.  More importantly, choosing a path of life learning is a natural extension of the way that Helen and her husband raise their three daughters, ages 8, 5, and 5.  As infants their daughters ate and slept according to their own internal clocks, never on a schedule, and the family continued to follow their own pace and interests shaping their journey together.  Always exploring an eclectic mix of methods and theories, such as Waldorf, Montessori, Reggio Emilia, and Place-Based education, Helen’s family takes what works but always stays centered around the core value of natural living and learning.  She is honored to be a panelist at The Unschoolers Platform and can’t wait to meet you!  Follow her on her Live and Learn Freely Blog, Facebook Page, and Twitter.   Helen is also a contributing author at Life Learning Magazine.
KellyAnn Corcoran is a homeschooling parent of four and a life-long professional Theater Maker She has taught Theater to adults, children and homeschoolers. She also has a background in early Childhood Education and Brain Development. She and her family lean more toward unschooling and enjoy the freedom of their lifestyle. They love to road trip and intend to visit all of America’s National Parks in the next 9 years.
Annie is homeschooling mom to three almost grown daughters, 22, 18, and 18.  She happened upon homeschooling, accidentally, some 17 years ago, while searching for the perfect kindergarten for her first born, and is still taking things “one year at a time.  Almost an unschooler, but too afraid to trust, she burdened her children with school rules, and so far only two need therapy.  When not involved in academic pursuits she can be found back stage at Thin Ice Ensemble Theater or Tellin’ Tales Theater, dressing performers of all ages, sizes, and shapes.  Other random job titles of hers include: bookseller, storytime lady, volunteer teacher, girl scout leader, book group participant, and occasional biker.
Nancy Machaj first learned of unschooling & radical unschooling while she was pregnant with the first of her two children.  She knew instantly that she wanted to live this way!  Today, her 11 and 8 year old children have never been to school.  Nancy is very involved in the Chicagoland home/unschooling community and helps connect families through discussion groups, online and in person. You can count on her showing up at park days and various local meet-ups.  Nancy will share from her experiences how she has navigated the freedoms of radical unschooling and how it has evolved over the years. Nancy loves her tribe and community, and is looking forward to meeting lots of new friends at UP!
Danny Dwarf is an unschooling dad and budding children’s book author-illustrator. After 18 years illustrating, animating and marketing in the medical industry, he remembered his answer to the age-old question, “what do you want to be when you grow up?” Without variance he’d reply, “an author-illustrator like Arnold Lobel.” So he took his own advice (better late than never!) and decided to spend his next 40 years creating illustrated stories of adorable hilarious animal characters, inspired by his free spirited kids / in-house critics. As a peaceful learning facilitator he prefers the “whatever the heck works” method. If he offends traditional schoolers or hard core unschoolers, he still has the uncanny ability to not lose sleep 😉 Any ethical technique that effectively prepares his kids for long term happiness is definitely worth trying.”
Andrea Oliver is mom to 4 homeschoolers: ages 17, 14, 10 and 7. Finding balance in our family with all of our different learning styles, interests, needs and wants has been a challenge.  We have used curriculums, given up on curriculums, only to pick them up again in a different year.  I have always desired to follow unschooling philosophy but have never embraced it radically.  My trust issues and fear have frustrated our home life at times, but the kids keep learning and teaching me who they are and what they need to live into their whole selves.  Watching them learn and gain confidence through their interests and passions has calmed my fears and inspired me to trust the process more.  I am happy to have the freedom that homeschooling offers and grateful for the time spent  with my children.  I remain fearful, but hope for courage.
Sandra Estrada – mom to two life-learning children, ages 14 and 11. As a family, our time is spent exploring whatever piques our curiosity. We love to travel, have been to over 10 countries, and road tripped through at least half of the US. I’m looking forward to connecting with seasoned and new homeschoolers at UP. My hope is that sharing our family’s experience will help others on their educational journey.

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2 thoughts on “speakers 2016”

    1. Greeting Jill! The talks have been scheduled, however we have a slew of opening for funshops/workshops that are free to host and free to attend (if you are a paid UP registered family). It would be wonderful to offer something in that department! Can be any subject, and age group! Submit your ideas on the Funshop page. Thanks so much! Look forward to seeing you there!

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