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.

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 ...
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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 ...
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Beyond Homeschooling

Beyond Homeschooling

Flexibility in academic work is one of the many benefits of choosing to homeschool. You can learn to read when ...
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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 ...
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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 ...
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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 ...
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Our Staff is The Difference

Highly educated, highly dedicated homeschooling parents and education professionals,
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


Linnea deRoche

Linnea deRoche

Linnea has a BA in Communication and a MS in Education. However, the majority of learning in their life has happened (you guessed it) outside the classroom. Linnea has facilitated in a variety of settings as a chef, National Park ranger, and dramaturge. They are a trained Theatre of the Oppressed practitioner and have been creating original theater with youth for many years. They also organize comprehensive workshops for LGBTQ youth, English Language Learners, unschoolers, and other radical groups of all ages. Linnea co-owns Staging Journeys, an organization that leads educational family adventures abroad.

Linnea works to create self-directed learning opportunities with a focus on social justice and playful self-inquiry. Linnea is thrilled that their family is part of the TS community. Linnea is a Trained Talking Stick Facilitator working with our Intermediate Program.

Since 2017

Amy Entrekin

Amy Entrekin

Amy has a B.A. in history with an emphasis on alternative education from Vermont College. Amy is certified (grades K-8 Elementary, and grades 9-12 Secondary Social Studies) 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 is a trained Talking Stick Facilitator working with our Teen Program.

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 working with our Day Program.

Since 2011

Pauline Gnesin

Pauline

Pauline Gnesin has a BA from Bard College in Literature and Gender Studies. She has been a homeschool parent and educator of groups of kids for over 12 years in both Portland, OR and Philadelphia, PA. She has facilitated numerous classes and learning groups both through parent run homeschool co-ops, homeschool resource centers, and out of her home, ranging from the preschool age through late teens. Classes/groups include book clubs, Queer history and culture, women's history, writing workshops, literature, graphic novels/comics/zines, cooking, and biology. She has a special interest in YA fiction focused on social justice.

Pauline currently lives in the Chinatown neighborhood of Philadelphia with her two kids (ages 5 and 12) and co-parents with their dad, Shawn. Pauline is a Trained Talking Stick Facilitator working with our Intermediate Program.

Since 2018

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 working with our Teen Program.

Since 2015

Meryl Hyatt

Meryl Hyatt

Meryl has a BS degree in Hotel and Restaurant Management from Johnson and Wales University. She worked in the restaurant business until her first child was born.

Like many people in the homeschooling community, her love of lifelong learning has taken her down many paths that don’t involve the traditional educational system. A few of her current passions are: traveling adventures with her family; exploring color and design through sewing; hiking in the Catskills; and building a garden nook in their backyard. Meryl is a trained Talking Stick facilitator working in our Day Program and she facilitates the Making and Exploring Workshop. Meryl is a Trained Talking Stick Facilitator working with our Day Program and Maker Program.

Since 2016

Ned O’Connor

Ned O'Connor

Nedim O’Connor has been at talking stick since he was five as a participant. He is a hands-on based learner and enjoys helping participants through conflict resolution which not only assists young people to become more radically empathetic but also encourages them to achieve greater understanding of social interaction. He also enjoys creating visual art.

Ned is a Trained Talking Stick Facilitator working with our Day Program.

Since 2017

Jennifer Rivenburg

Jennifer Rivenburg

Jennifer is a graduate of West Chester University with a BSN in Nursing and works as a Registered Nurse in a hospital setting in the suburbs of Philadelphia. She also has an associate’s degree in Liberal Arts from DCCC.

She has been a homeschooling parent for the last 5 years and evolved into unschooling as part of a natural progression. She is an active animal rescuer and enjoys being home with her husband, her 3 dogs, 3 cats and 3 children. She has been a Talking Stick parent for the past several years and is particularly interested in serving this community of learners. Jennifer is a Trained Talking Stick Facilitator working with our Teen Program.

Since 2018

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 working with our 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

Learning Survival Skills with My Side of the Mountain

Learning Survival Skills with My Side of the Mountain

Last fall we learned survival skills in our Making and Exploring Program. For the class, we read My Side of ...
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New Topics: The Harlem Renaissance, Trip Planning, and Card Games

New Topics: The Harlem Renaissance, Trip Planning, and Card Games

New Topics for Homeschoolers ages 10-13! The Harlem Renaissance, Part I February 15th - March 22 Thursdays, 9-11 am, ages ...
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Reading Shakespeare for Homeschooled Teens

Reading Shakespeare for Homeschooled Teens

We had great success of reading Julius Caesar, and the unanimous vote of the participants is read more Shakespeare. This ...
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A People's History of the United States: The Color Line

A People’s History of the United States: The Color Line

We discussed the formation of racism in the colonies and considered the question of if racism is a natural human ...
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A People's History of the United States: Columbus on Trial

A People’s History of the United States: Columbus on Trial

This week we conducted an involved role-playing exercise created by Bill Bigelow, Zinn Education Project co-director, called "The People vs. Columbus, ...
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A People's History of the United States: Week One

A People’s History of the United States: Week One

We opened up the program this week by discussing our first take-home question: What Is America? And a wide-ranging discussion ...
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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 ...
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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 ...
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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 ...
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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 ...
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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 ...
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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 ...
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