Meet Our 2021 Speakers

Be Not Afraid: Homeschooling and Classical Education Lead the Way

The theme of this conference is “Be Not Afraid.” That is perfect for this time in our country and our world, when we have a particular call as Catholics to exercise our faith. We must put our trust in eternal realities, not in secular powers. This is an opportunity and a gift, even though it comes to us because of real problems, physical and political, that have surfaced in our culture. We can take joyful advantage of the opportunities we have to teach our children in our homes. We can intentionally teach them the truth about their cultural, familial, and religious heritage. Most of all, we can form our children for eternity by giving them an education ordered explicitly to eternity.

Toddlers to Teens and Teaching Time for All

Homeschooling mothers of large families often wonder how on earth they can accomplish all of the tasks they need to do. When we have questions about how to do something, a logical first move is to ask advice from those who are doing it. I am blessed to live in a community with many large families, so in preparing this talk I asked a number of the teaching moms to share their wisdom about dealing with multiple grade levels simultaneously. Each family is unique, so what works with one may not work with all, but it is a good idea to accumulate tips about various techniques and keep a list. Then when you need help, try one or another of these suggestions, until you find a procedure that works for you.

Mrs. Laura M. Berquist founded Mother of Divine Grace School, an accredited distance learning school now serving more than 6300 students. Inaugurated in 1995 with 75 students, MODG now offers various levels of programs for students, summer classes for students and parents and workshops for parents throughout the year. Mrs. Berquist founded the school after writing Designing Your Own Classical Curriculum. The response to her book convinced her that there were many other mothers, like her, who wanted to provide a Catholic Classical education for their children. The mission of Mother of Divine Grace school is to help Catholic parents educate their children in a living Catholic culture.  Based on the philosophy of education articulated in The Method and Division of the Sciences, but adapted to younger students, Mrs. Berquist developed a classical curriculum for grades K-12. That curriculum has since been enhanced with online classes, teacher support and many years of experience.

Mrs. Berquist is a graduate of Thomas Aquinas College in Santa Paula, CA. She home schooled her six children for 25 years. All six graduated from Thomas Aquinas College, four have earned advanced degrees and five of her children are married. She has 14 grandchildren.

Rimini Esser is serving her first term at the President of the Southern California Catholic Home Educators.  As a seasoned veteran to homeschooling, Rimini brings unique insight into beginning this new journey into education and family life. Rimini is a mother of seven children ages 6-24, grandmother of a 1 year old, an has been homeschooling for 20 years.  Her eldest is a recent graduate of Thomas Aquinas College and her second and third re currently attending Thomas Aquinas College.  Homeschooling has brought many blessings and joy to her family and she is eager to share this with others.

Especially for Moms

Especially for Dads

Homeschooling high school is manageable and achievable! Just like homeschooling through the elementary school years, homeschooling through high school has its advantages and joys, as well as its challenges. And, as with homeschooling the elementary school years, resources are out there to support your high school homeschooling journey! Come prepared with your questions and concerns, as Barbara would like to address them during this talk.

Barbara and her husband decided to try out the mysterious art of homeschooling in 1999, shortly before the first of their six children turned 5. As their children continue to grow, they keep at it, with Barbara homeschooling the children through high school; each high school graduate (4 so far!) has not only been accepted into the university of his choice, but has earned academic distinction there.
Whether tutoring mathematics or teaching Bible Study, RCIA, or supplemental adult catechesis at her parish, teaching is Barbara’s passion. When she graduated from Loyola Marymount University in 1993 with a BS in mathematics, summa cum laude, Barbara had already worked in the college classroom, teaching math courses and developing math curriculum.  After one year of teaching high school math, Barbara switched to tutoring math (Kindergarten through Calculus) so she could focus on her family.  
With 21 years of homeschooling and 25 years of mathematics tutoring under her belt, Barbara looks forward to helping you flourish along your homeschooling journey!

Is living the moral life a joy-killer? Can we be truly happy and truly moral? Or is the world’s message right—that we should eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die? In this short presentation, Fr. Goldin will show how the teaching of St. Thomas Aquinas can guide us to be both good and happy at the same time.

Fr. William Goldin is a priest of the Diocese of Orange in California – Parochial Vicar at St. Irenaeus Catholic Church and graduate of the Pontificia Università S. Tommaso d’Aquino.

My trust in the Holy Family provided the strength I needed to start and continue homeschooling.  The decision to pull my daughter out of the public school system in 1993 became a lifelong journey that changed the fabric of my entire family’s lives.  Come listen to my story and prayerful tips so that your life can also be empowered by the blessing that is homeschooling.

Ginny, the mother of 7, made the switch to homeschooling from the public school system, in 1993. Ginny withdrew two of her oldest children from the public school system as an escape from bullying. Since then, she homeschooled her four youngest children from K through 12 and had a significant hand in homeschooling her oldest grandson. 
After 16 years of administrative work for Saint Michael the Archangel Academy, Ginny has continued to consult and guide various families on their educational journeys. As a strong advocate, she has translated her endless passion for alternative education into Holy Family Institute with her daughter, Nicolette Marshall. Through HFI, Ginny hopes to continue to support and advise families in the freedom, independence, and blessings that she has found in homeschooling.

This enlightening talk unpacks the role of the father as the spiritual head of the household and how Saint Joseph is both an obvious and unlikely role model for Catholic homeschooling dads.

Matthew Arnold is a lay Catholic speaker and the author of Confessions of a Traditional Catholic (Ignatius Press). He has appeared on EWTN-TV and hosted programs for EWTN Global Catholic Radio and the Radio Maria Network.
Matthew’s “no nonsense” approach to Catholicism has informed, inspired, and entertained audiences on four continents for over twenty years. His popular CDs and DVDs on the Catholic Faith are currently available in over 8,000 parishes around the world through the Augustine Institute’s Lighthouse program.
In March of 2017, he was honored with a “Catholic Man of the Year” award presented by Bishop Timothy Freyer of the Diocese of Orange in California.
A husband and father of six, Matthew can be heard every Wednesday hosting his live podcast No Nonsense Catholic on Virgin Most Powerful
For more information about Matthew Arnold, please visit

Going through Aquinas’ Summa to learn how the body, mind, soul work, according to Aquinas and how the first couple steps of the thought process rely on our body.  That is usually where the learning disability comes in, either poor sensory integration, poor imagination, or insufficient practice.

Margaret graduated with a Bachelor’s in Liberal Arts from Thomas Aquinas College and went on to receive a Master’s in Special Education. She has also received specialized training in different therapy programs. While bringing professional services to families, Faith is of utmost importance to her and she strives to see each student in the light of God. She is a kind and understanding teacher, while at the same time encouraging high standards, and loves to have fun with and see her students succeed.

Be Not Afraid: A Conversation Between Catholic Men

As head of the household, there is a Godly mandate for men to be not afraid. What is fear and what tools are we given to combat those often, self-defeating obstacles? The Sacraments and calling upon Jesus Christ and His church, are the way.

Scott Bryan grew up playing in the woods and tidal rivers of southeastern Virginia, where he was greatly influenced by the firm and loving presence of his Presbyterian and Episcopalian family & community. He transplanted to Southern California as a young adult, where he spent several years involved in youth ministry as a Presbyterian youth group leader and a YMCA camp counselor. Scott graduated from Whitworth University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Speech Communication (Rhetoric) and a minor in Religion.  He planned on attending seminary to become a Presbyterian pastor, but through study and prayer, he found the fullness of the Faith in the Catholic Church. Scott and his wife both “came home to Rome” and were Confirmed together in 2000. Scott is a homeschooling father, 4th Degree Knight of Columbus, and a member of the Norbertine Lay Order. 

Mary-Mark Haggard will discuss how food, exercise and life choices can enhance or weaken your resolve to live your vocation to the fullest in God’s plan. And the results can bring more peace and joy to you and your family. Life can be holy and fun.

Mary-Mark Haggard was born in Chicago. At the age of seven, her family landed in L.A. and she was raised in the Hollywood/Los Feliz area. In High School, she attended Free Enterprise seminars and classes on Saturdays and in the evening. She went on to earn a degree in Economics from UCLA.
After college, she was a professional model and dancer until she started having children. Once her oldest was three, she began educating him. Then she proceeded to home school her six children all the way through high school. She homeschooled for 30 years. They have all gone to Thomas Aquinas College in Santa Paula, California; the first five have graduated and the youngest is a sophomore.
During her years of homeschooling she often taught classes to other homeschooled students – sometimes art, sometimes sciences, sometimes dance, and of course economics. She also produced and directed plays. She still fixes the hair for the actors in a Shakespearean group at a small private school.
She loves to share her passion by teaching and speaking.