The Harmony Learning Community Blog

News, Updates, Program Recaps, and Homeschooling Information

2017 Spring Fundraising Campaign

We Appreciate Your Support

Hello Talking Stick Families and Friends!

We’re pleased as punch to be writing our annual fundraising letter from a place of financial stability unlike we’ve ever had! In 2016-2017 enough families enrolled and paid tuition in full that the budget was basically in balance all year. This is great news for those of us in charge of keeping things going, but it’s also great for all of us to have a such a thriving and fully-engaged community.


The board decided to have an annual fundraising campaign this year anyway, even without the motivation of impending doom.

Instead of merely keeping us solvent, your donations will allow us to offer financial aid to more families who need it, as we continue to make Talking Stick available to a more diverse range of people. We don’t want homeschooling to be limited to those in upper-income brackets; we want it to be an option for everyone who wants it, and this kind of growth will make for an even richer learning experience.

This year we were able to provide partial scholarships for three young people and would love to expand this program. In addition, we would also like to upgrade supplies for our Maker Program, both for the Day and Intermediate Programs. We need your financial support in order to make this happen – so thank you to everyone who can send a little something extra this year.

Another way you can help us have a stress-free financial situation next year is by paying your full tuition in advance. This gives us the ability to be flexible with families who may experience a hard month or two, without putting our own financial integrity in jeopardy.

A third way to keep us going strong is by spreading the good news. When we have full enrollment, our books always balance – it’s as simple as that. And not only that, but a full classroom means more friends for your young people and more families in our wonderful community. If you want to entice your schooling friends to start homeschooling, or your homeschooling friends to start attending Talking Stick, consider inviting them to an open house or informational session, share your positive experiences with Talking Stick on social media, or send your friends a link to our website. We want to get the word out that homeschooling is awesome, and that Talking Stick is here to support families all along their homeschooling journey.

Thanks again for all the ways you help to make Talking Stick a great place for everyone to learn and grow!

All the best,

Amy Childs, on behalf of the Talking Stick Board

Our Story

We would like to share the story of Talking Stick -- about our commitment to financial and geographic accessibility, and about why it’s such a special place. In 2013, Talking Stick moved back to our roots: the city of Philadelphia. We enjoyed our time in Fort Washington but wanted to return to the city where we could be accessible to more families. We searched for a way to balance cost with ample indoor and outdoor space, and finally found a new home in Awbury Arboretum, an oasis of green in the Germantown neighborhood of Philadelphia. By partnering with Awbury we have been able to get back into the city (with a Septa train stop on the grounds); we’re able to keep our costs down and therefore our tuition accessible; and our young people now have an amazing natural playground to explore. Our partnership with Awbury also helps the arboretum’s bottom line as well. They wanted to strengthen their tie with homeschoolers, and Talking Stick answered that call, joining organizations like Weavers Way and The Pennsylvania Horticultural Society in sharing space at the arboretum. We have been at the arboretum for four years, and are pleased that both organizations are stronger because of this partnership. Talking Stick continues to work with individual families to create a tuition payment program that is as affordable as possible. And we also do whatever we can to keep expenses low. Most of our supplies are donated or culled inexpensively from thrift stores and garage sales.

Our Growth

Talking Stick has grown with our young people, sticking to our mission of self-directed learning while incorporating new information on best practice learning strategies, like Maker and DIY programs. At Awbury we have also expanded our Naturalist program and made use of access to the train to take young people on field trips into the city. The oldest of the Talking Stick kids have now become Talking Stick teens. In 2014 we worked with a graduate student from University of Arts, using design-based learning methods to envision a new program for homeschooled teens. Informed by that workshop, Talking Stick rolled out our first teen program in the fall of 2014. It was very popular, and we expanded on it greatly in 2015, and in 2016 conducted programs focused on social justice, activism, and adulting. And we have even more ambitious plans for our teens in 2017.

Our volunteer Board of Directors has also grown considerably in the last few years. We have brought parents and members of the community on board, including an unschooling podcaster, experts in alternative economics and gifted education, and a teacher at The University of the Arts. We’ve also worked hard to grow the Talking Stick community by hosting homeschooling workshops and parent discussion groups, building our natural playground, expanding our service projects, and connecting Talking Stick to the larger community of alternative education. Our board is committed to expanding these efforts in the coming year.

Our Staff

Because of our emphasis on self-directed learning, a high ratio of facilitators to young people is absolutely essential. We provide one facilitator for seven young people, enabling the young ones to engage in their own learning and exploration safely and with constructive supervision and support. Each of our facilitators is hand-picked by our founder and co-director, Katie O’Connor. Many are highly credentialed professionals in their field and are then trained to facilitate self-directed learning. Even the language our facilitators use is carefully chosen, and the activities offered are thoughtfully designed to encourage open-ended exploration. Furthermore, our staff goes above and beyond for the young people and our community. Katie wrote The Homeschoolers Guide to the Galaxy, a resource for homeschooling families in Philadelphia. She is also presenting a workshop at the AERO (Alternative Education Resource Organization) Conference in New York this year. All staff pursue continuing education studies on their own time and dime, and bring their individual passions for birding, nature studies, poetry, engineering, cooking, filmmaking, history, and justice to our community. We want to retain our excellent facilitators, and want to pay them fairly as a matter of principle. And yet we want to make sure that our programs stay as affordable as possible.

Talking Stick and Your Family

In considering how you can support Talking Stick, we ask you to think about what Talking Stick offers to you and your family:

  • A community of families dedicated to nurturing their children’s home-based education
  • A place that nourishes curiosity and exploration with other learners
  • A variety of programming supporting a diverse range of skills and interests
  • A continued focus on collaboration and partnership, rather than on competition and testing
  • A safe place to take risks, which encourages the trial and error required for growth and learning
  • Stimulation of complex and critical thinking through authentic interactions and experiences
  • Facilitators modeling effective non-violent communication and problem-solving skills
  • Access to materials, spaces, and programs that provide a rich environment for learning

How You Can Help

Gifts can be made on our website, using the “donate” option under the main menu. Also, spreading the word to those who can contribute financially or become members of our community helps set the stage for a successful year ahead. Talking Stick has always been an innovative, resourceful organization with staff, directors, and board members giving so much to create a space and community that is committed to self-directed, experiential learning. We thank you for helping us continue our mission. Regardless of the amount of the donation, your contribution and support are very important and deeply appreciated.