Workshop Speakers

All our speakers are experienced home-schoolers. Please note, the views they share are their own and not necessarily representative of AHE.

Sophia Sharpe has been homeschooling her two boys for 12 years.  She thought it would be lapbooks, writing practice and drawing  – but all her boys wanted to do was play LEGO and ask impossible science questions.  Despite being a ‘7’ on the iron scale and unable to follow any kind of schedule, she found her homeschool style and got her boys the science they wanted and needed. Sophia now runs the “homeschooler Recommends” Facebook blog, owns and manages ‘SharperThinker’ – a small business that makes STEM-based educational kits, and continues to homeschool her teen boys, (along with her husband Andrew who, truth be told, does most of the cooking).

Sophia also recently participated in an AHE/Ministry of Education meeting to help the MOE understand un-schooling/natural learning during the primary years.

Sophia is taking the Simple Science workshop.

Sam and Ruth Harrowfield run a management consultancy specialising in Sales and People Strategy. They have four children aged 4-11, who are all home educated. 

Sam is a seasoned business development professional, having worked in a variety of sales roles across multiple industries for over 20 years.  Sam has a degree in communication management. As a home educator, Sam enjoys discovering new things and finding the teachable moments that these provide for his kids.

Ruth is an organisational psychologist with a BSc/BA and an MSc in Industrial/Organisational Psychology.  She works with a range of organisations as a performance improvement consultant, helping them to get to the heart of their people problems and develop tailored solutions to get results. Ruth loves the exploration process that goes with home educating her children – especially the opportunity learn together with them and to create individual growth pathways for each of them.

Sam and Ruth are taking the Lessons in Juggling workshop.

Stephanie Walmsley has been an inspirational home-educator and mentor for many parents. She worked as a classroom teacher before becoming a mother. She homeschooled her own five children; they are now all grown and married, and Stephanie is grandmother to four lovely grandchildren.  Stephanie has tutored homeschooled children, school children, and university students. She has written courses for parents of homeschooled children, and led many sessions for parents. She has a great love of the arts, in particular, fine arts and art history.

Stephanie is taking two workshops: Looking at Paintings, and The Best of Teens (with Celia).

Celia Harding was homeschooled and never went to school. She has an honours degree from Auckland University and is now a homeschooling mother of three children.

Celia is taking The Best of Teens with her mother, Stephanie Walmsley

Adrienne Wood is a presenter, educator and parent consultant. She has a particular interest in children presenting with complex behavioural needs. Drawing on her training with the Neufeld Institute, she seeks to help parents and professionals better understand youth from an attachment based developmental perspective. Adrienne is an experienced high school teacher, ex-home-school parent, lecturer in human development and is mother to two adolescents of her own.

Adrienne is taking the workshop on Anxiety.

Marian Lane has homeschooled for over 18 years. She has a passion to encourage each person, young and old, to identify, understand and leverage their unique giftedness for the benefit of their relationships, their role and the world around them. Marian believes that as we understand the giftedness of others and ourselves we become more productive, more satisfied and more content in all we do! Marian has three daughters who are now working and/or at university, and a young home-schooler man who loves to work hard, loves to work with wood and loves to inspire others.

Marian is taking the workshop Strengths-Based Learning

Nathalie Thomas is a homeschooling mum as well as a qualified science teacher with a degree in physical chemistry. She regularly runs science workshops and chemistry labs around the country. She lives in the Bay of Plenty with her husband and youngest son. Her oldest son is currently attending university in Auckland. Her website is

Nathalie is taking the workshop Don’t let High School Science Scare You.

Adrian Koit is dad of four home-educated children aged 5 to 13. He and his family began their home schooling journey over 6 years ago while in London. They have subsequently travelled through South East Asia and now returned home to New Zealand for almost a year. Adrian was previously a European Managing Director in a Fortune 500 company, now back in Auckland he is a Business Advisor & Consultant to small businesses.

Adrian is facilitating the panel-workshop Home-schooling, a Dads’ Perspective.

Heidi Schmidt has five children ranging from one to ten. She’s been doing this home-educating gig for five years now, so still kind of a newbie (though she was home-educated herself). Heidi tries to come up with a keyword for each year and this year she has two: listen and laugh. Schooling her kids is a job that she takes seriously, but within the bounds of the schedules she has taped up all over the house is a whole lot of spontaneity, fun and clutter that she’s hoping will shape happy healthy humans! Heidi’s into keeping fit, doing mud runs, hanging with her siblings, playing music, creating the perfect cup of coffee, making raw cheesecakes, gardening, books…she’s a trained teacher and taught violin for around 14 years. 

Heidi is taking the workshop Let It Go!

Penelope Dawson had five children in six years, followed by 25 years of full-on, family-fun, and home-education – rich, wonderful years. She and her husband have had a strong entrepreneurial approach to life – involving their children in life and business while also focussing on academics and service. The ‘end of the road’ came suddenly five years ago – leaving Penelope without a vision, without a purpose or much of a sense of her future. This took her by surprise and was much more difficult than she anticipated. It has taken time to re-discover a new sense of purpose. She is making her way on this new road and adventure in life – and is keen to encourage other mums to manage this transition well.

Penelope is taking the workshop End of the Road.

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