Self-Directed, Topic Based Programs
for Homeschoolers

55-Acre Nature Parkland in Northwest Philly
Since 2006 Philadelphia, PA

Local Philadelphia Resource

Founded in 2006 in the Mt. Airy section of Philadelphia
Talking Stick Learning Center has been serving the local homeschooling community
for more than a decade.

We Know This Community. We Live Here.

Talking Stick Learning Center is a Philadelphia non-profit educational initiative that offers young people an environment to explore, collaborate, and create.

The Talking Stick method organically develops essential life skills such as decision making, creative problem solving, communication, self-management, and critical thinking. We provide a safe and supportive space that respects the individual and nurtures children's innate curiosity and desire to learn.

It is our goal to support this community by balancing sustainability with affordability, with a focus on making our programming accessible for all families. We partner with longstanding anchors of the neighborhood, like the Awbury Arboretum, to sustainably share space and pool resources.

We are a service group of Mt. Airy Community Services Corporation (MACSC), a 501 (c) 3 organization whose mission is to serve as a stable financial umbrella for nonprofit groups serving the Northwest section of the city of Philadelphia. Other MACSC members are Weavers Way Community Programs, Mt. Airy Learning Tree, Mt. Airy Garage, and the Chestnut Hill Center for Enrichment.

Talking Stick Families Live across the Greater Philadelphia Area

Our current families come from across the city, across the state, and even across state lines. We are very proud to serve as an accessible homeschooling hub for the local and greater Philadelphia communities.

Abington • Ambler • Chester County • Chestnut Hill • East Falls • Germantown • Glenside • Jenkintown • Manayunk • Maple Glen • Montgomery County • Mt. Airy • Northeast Philadelphia • Phoenixville • Pilesgrove • Roxborough • South Philadelphia • Springside  • Queen Village • West Philadelphia • Wissahickon

 

Our Philosophy is Unique

Organic Self-Directed Group Learning Topic-Based
We've successfully navigated and charted the complex waters
surrounding how to effectively homeschool toddlers
all the way through teens.

How can you help children learn math?

How can you help children learn math?

It's no secret that many kids say they hate math. Perhaps what they are saying is that they hate the ...
Read More
A Mixed Bag

A Mixed Bag

My own educational experiences growing up were a mixed bag. It was mostly characterized by sacrificing self-esteem and self-direction on ...
Read More
Beyond Homeschooling

Beyond Homeschooling

Flexibility in academic work is one of the many benefits of choosing to homeschool. You can learn to read when ...
Read More
The Unique Value of Talking Stick: The Facilitator

The Unique Value of Talking Stick: The Facilitator

Over the years at Talking Stick I have come to realize what is the most important aspect of the work ...
Read More
Talking Stick Favorites: Games Worth Acquiring!

Talking Stick Favorites: Games Worth Acquiring!

Labyrinth The board consists of shiftable cards that make up a scrambled maze in the beginning. The object of the ...
Read More
Sticks and Stones: The Pros and Cons of Rough Play

Sticks and Stones: The Pros and Cons of Rough Play

The beginning of this year brought with it an intense love affair between boy and stick. Our little bamboo forest ...
Read More

Our Staff is The Difference

Highly educated, highly dedicated homeschooling parents and education profressionals,
fully trained in our unique philosophy,
and committed to providing a rich homeschooling experience for our community.

Directors


Katie O’Connor

Katie O’Connor

Founder, Co-Director, and Lead Facilitator since 2006

Katie has a B.A. in anthropology from the University of Pennsylvania. She is ardent about the importance of self-directed learning experiences and works to make such experiences as accessible as possible. She has worked in alternative learning environments such as the Albany Free School and Open Connections.

Katie founded Talking Stick Learning Center in 2006 and now serves as Founder, Co-Director, and Lead Facilitator. Katie leads the Day Program. Katie is also responsible for all staff training as well as the development of the vision, mission, and philosophy of Talking Stick.

Angie Hoppel

Angie Hoppel

Co-Director, Facilitator since 2011

Angie received a B.S.E. in Civil Engineering Systems from the University of Pennsylvania and her J.D. from the University of Washington, and is a member of the Pennsylvania Bar. A mother of four with a private law practice, she has been homeschooling for 13 years. She is passionate about alternative education and is committed to facilitating learning through real experiences and interactions.

Angie coordinates much of the administrative and back-office tasks. She is a trained Talking Stick Facilitator, leads several Intermediate and Teen Programs, facilitates the Day Program, and also monitors many of the supplemental programs.

Facilitators


Melissa Church

Melissa Church

Melissa has a M.Ed. from Temple University, and PA certifications in Elementary, Special, and Reading Specialist Education. Melissa taught in a public progressive elementary school for 7 years before having her 3 children. She created and directed a performing arts summer camp for 10 years in Philadelphia, where she worked with children ages 7-17 in building original works of theater, dance and music.

Melissa and her musical family of 5 made their transition from traditional schooling to self-directed learning when they embarked on a year-long adventure through Southeast Asia, instruments in tow and eyes wide open. Since then, she has been on a never-ending journey to understand and respect foreign cultures through worldschooling, and also to understand and respect herself, her family, and her community through homeschooling. Melissa thinks that sharing her passions for adventure, the performing arts, and education with young people is an incredible way to live and learn. Melissa will be a trained Talking Stick Facilitator leading several Intermediate Programs.

Since 2016

Lisa Curran

Lisa Curran

Lisa earned a B.A. in psychology and environmental science from the University of Notre Dame, along with minors in German and science, technology, and values. From a young age, Lisa always said she wanted to be a teacher when she grew up, but didn't imagine all the ways that would take shape in her life. Family and career transitions brought Lisa, her husband, and their three daughters to North Carolina and later, in 2014, to Philadelphia.  They are a family of eclectic life learners who particularly enjoy science, books, music, food and road trips.

Lisa's work experience includes time as a teacher in Southeast DC as well as several years at a nationally-ranked science center, COSI, in Ohio.  There she worked as a mentor for teen volunteers, many of them homeschoolers, before moving into exhibit and program development and acting as a producer for the permanent exhibition, Gadgets. Lisa is a trained Talking Stick Facilitator leading several Intermediate Programs.

Since 2015

Amy Entrekin

Amy Entrekin

Amy has a B.A. in history with an emphasis on alternative education from Vermont College. Amy is certified in Elementary Education by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and also has certification in the Teacher Education Program by the National Coalition of Alternative Community Schools.

Amy has been in the teaching field for the past 27 years. She taught in California, Arizona and in PA at Upattinas School and Community Center. For the past 10 years Amy has been homeschooling her two daughters and teaching at 3 different homeschool co-ops ages 2-18. Amy is an advocate for self-directed interest driven learning. She believes in non-coercive education and has experience with democratic community schools. Amy will be a trained Talking Stick Facilitator leading several Intermediate Programs.

Since 2016

Andy Gershman

Andy Gershman

Andy received a B.S. in early childhood and elementary education from Temple University and her M.Ed. in computers and technology from Arcadia University. She was employed as a kindergarten teacher with the School District of Philadelphia for ten years before the birth of her first child.

Andy is continuing her plans with her husband to live life unconventionally while unschooling their three children, supporting organic and local products, crafting, gardening, listening to great diverse music, and coexisting in this life-long learning process. Andy is a trained Talking Stick Facilitator for our Day Program.

Since 2011

Heather Gray

Heather Gray

Heather earned a B.A. in women's studies, with a minor in game design, from Goddard College, and she is also a trained sexuality educator. Heather practices instructional and experiential design in the tradition of progressive education, incorporating best practice research on theories of play, self-direction, nature (outdoors), games, collaboration, democracy, and, neuroscience. She is an advocate for LGBT youth and for teen rights and health. She is a certified facilitator of Our Whole Lives: Sexuality Education.

Always up for new challenges, Heather has worked as a sports writer, website producer, game developer, and instructional designer, as well owning a bookstore in Southern California Heather, her husband, and homeschooled teen daughter have made Philadelphia their home and joined the Talking Stick Learning Center community in 2011. Heather is a Trained Talking Stick Facilitator and leads our Teen Programs.

Since 2014

Adrian Hoppel

Adrian Hoppel

Adrian received a B.A. in English with an emphasis on creative writing, as well as a minor in history, from La Salle University; after college, he served as an officer in the United States Army. A homeschooling father of four, web designer, writer, and feminist, Adrian is passionate about open source technology, alternate economies, protecting the freedom to create, social justice, and finding time to get lost in the woods now and then.

Adrian owns a web design business, is an Eagle Scout who volunteers in leadership positions with the Boy Scouts of America, manages the Talking Stick website, and is a trained Talking Stick Facilitator leading some of our Teen Programs.

Since 2015

Asha Marie Larsen

Asha Marie Larsen

Asha earned her B.F.A. in theatrical design from Penn State University and traveled extensively throughout Europe, Asia, and South America, designing dance productions and learning in a very non-tourist way how others live and learn.

Asha has been involved in alternative education most of her life-- first unschooling herself, then moving to Pennsylvania to unschool her young people. She practices urban homesteading in a 234-year-old crooked house filled with way too many books. Asha is a trained Talking Stick Facilitator for our Day and Intermediate Programs.

Since 2011

Su Murphey

Su Murphey

Su has been eclectically home schooling with her 3 girls for over a decade now, and holds PA Teaching Certifications in ELED, SPED and Middle Years English and Social Studies. Prior to teaching Su worked as an RN.

Su holds a deep belief that the natural world is the best classroom, and in the joy and growth that happens organically when we all find and follow our own inner compass. Su enjoys spending as much time as possible with her wild and wonderful girls, her backyard chickens and a very special flock of 4-H sheep. Su is a trained Talking Stick Facilitator leading several Intermediate Programs.

Since 2015

Alia Thompson

Alia Thompson

Alia received a B.A. in psychology from Rosemont College and became a Registered Nurse after graduating from Roxborough School of Nursing. Before homeschooling her three children for the last 13 years, she managed multiple alternative education programs in the greater Philadelphia area.

Alia is a Trained Talking Stick Facilitator and facilitates the Day Program as well as the Intermediate and Teen Program.

Since 2011

Each Family is Part of Our Family

We've been serving this community for more than a decade,
we live here and are part of the fabric of the community,
and many of our families have been with us from the beginning.

Program Blogs

Teenagers at Talking Stick

Teenagers!

There’s been a rare sighting of the elusive homeschooling teenager in their natural habitat! So many homeschooled youth choose the ...
Read More
Rube Goldberg Workshop - Week 1

Rube Goldberg Workshop – Week 1

This week we started out our Rube Goldberg Workshop with a game and introductions, including what each person likes to ...
Read More
Wilderness-Survival1a

Wilderness Survival: Emergencies, First Aid, and Knives

Talking Stick is offering a new program this fall: Wilderness Survival, and I am very excited to facilitate it. In ...
Read More
Maker

Maker: Papercraft & Chemistry

Papercraft & Chemistry Week of 4/20/2015 Consider this an open request for ideas using Minecraft as a vessel for making ...
Read More
Maker

Maker: Ornithology and the Art of Stamp-Making

Ornithology and the Art of Stamp-Making Week of 3/23/15 With Spring right around the corner (hopefully!), the Maker workshop began ...
Read More
Maker

Maker: Television Surgery

Television Surgery Week of 3/9/15 It is becoming somewhat of a trend here in the Maker Workshop for us to ...
Read More
Maker

Maker: The Great Toy Remix

The Great Toy Remix Week of 2/23/15 Before we delve into the events that took place on Thursday this week, ...
Read More
Maker Workshop

Maker: Science, Snow Days, and Spice Paints

Science, Snow Days, and Spice Paints Weeks of 2/9 & 2/16 Now that we're in the thick of winter, it's ...
Read More
Maker

Maker: Album Art & Creating with Casein

Album Art & Creating with Casein Week of 2/2/15 On Tuesday, we took a musical direction in Maker this week ...
Read More
Untitled

Maker: Puppetry & Pendulum Painting

Puppetry & Pendulum Painting Week of 1/19/2015 Shadow puppetry originated in China over 2000 years ago. Legend has it that ...
Read More
Untitled

Maker: Sculpting and Screen Printing

Sculpting and Screen Printing Week of 1/12/15 Neither the sculpting nor the "screen printing" were done in conventional ways at ...
Read More
Untitled

Maker: Welcome Back!

Welcome Back! Week of 1/5/15 After what was a lovely and relaxing winter break I am excited for the start ...
Read More