Who We Are
For most homeschoolers, homeschooling means community, family, friends, exploration. Different Directions is a place to strive, thrive, socialize and rejuvenate for the entire family.
Who We Are Today
Where We Came From
In 2009, Different Directions, Inc. was founded by three homeschooling parents. They had spent the previous decade producing and directing full-scale theatrical productions in which their children and other students performed. In between they put together classes for toddlers to teens in every subject from fingerpainting to quantum physics. Rita-Jo (R-J) Houston, Erynn Albert and Penny Kjellberg met through NYCHEA (New York City Home Educators Alliance) as they worked together to provide a rich arts education for their children and others in the organization. They started Different Directions in order to offer a wider curriculum to a broader audience. Each brings a wealth of life, education and business experience to our organization.
We have grown to serve more than 180 families a year with over 40 classes, family events, parent support workshops, theatre productions, movie nights, teen programs including; T.A training and professional lecture series. We are a 501(C)(3) Charitable organization dedicated to facilitating socially conscious educational enrichment at low or no cost to the New York Tri State area.
We are a collective of teachers, artists and families that support the ideals of education being a joyful and adventurous journey. All the classes at Different Directions are led by passionate teachers, dedicated to teaching students, where they are in their academic process. Great things happen when children feel they are in a safe environment where passion, imagination and creativity reign.
339 West 47th Street
New York, New York 10036
Tinamarie Panyard, Operating Director
Tinamarie is a homeschooling mom and a professional storyteller whose been working with children and adults throughout the country for over 25 years. For the past 21 years she has worked in New York public and private schools as a teaching artist facilitating literacy and community building through storytelling, family and professional workshops, creative drama and improvisation. She has a degree in Theatre Performance and Music. Before moving to New York in 1993, Tinamarie toured through schools around the country working with children, and communities on violence prevention and literacy. From the mid-nineties to 2002, she worked on Wall Street as a corporate writer, trainer and lecturer. Having been with Different Directions since the beginning, first as a parent and a teacher, she is grateful to see this learning lab expand and grow. In August 2001, while working as the Director of Children's Programing for the New York International Fringe Festival, she met her now husband Elie. Since that summer, they have been collaborating on theatre, art and their most marvelous creation, their incredible daughter.
Board of Directors
See description above.
Erynn is the homeschooling mother of four children and the wife of pop-artist Michael Albert, founder of Sir Real Juice. She taught special education, sold and marketed natural foods, and is currently a business consultant for Tri State Natural Food Products. She spent the last 20 years investigating, creating and facilitating as well as meeting, greeting and experiencing a wide range of people, places and things. While encouraging her children in their educational pursuits, she co-founded and operated Backyard Birds Theater (5yrs), organized many and various classes, and became involved with wonderful organizations such as School for Strings, New York City Opera, Metropolitan Opera, The Pied Piper Theater, NYCHEA and many others. She appreciates the opportunity through Different Directions to connect those who like to teach with those who would like to learn and to help showcase the fruits of their labors.
Eric is an artisan baker, musician and homeschooling dad. In the late eighties and early nineties he worked as an organizer for Peace and Justice issues in Chicago with Committee for a SANE Nuclear Policy, ILPIRG, ACORN and Nicaragua Solidarity Committee. He attended New York State University at Buffalo for legal studies. Eric has stage managed and produced theatre in New Orleans, Chicago and New York.
Melle Randall, Founder and Coordinating Director of The ROC, is a homeschooling mother of three, who works as an independent contractor in administrative, design and events planning with a wide variety of clients ranging from Chase Bank to the New York Lactation Consultant Association. Melle earned her BA from Wesleyan University, MA and PhD Certificates from UCLA and UC Riverside respectively.
Michael Albert is a Pop Artist & businessman who is the Owner and operator of Sir Real Juice Company. Upon graduating from NYU’s School of Business & Public Administration in 1988, he started his first company, a specialty food distribution company .He then set out on his own to found a Natural Food Distribution company called Tri-State Natural Foods. A few years later he created his own brand and in 1993, he started Sir Real TM, a line of All Natural/Organic fruit juices for which he conceived of the brand and created all original art, designed the labels, and today still owns & operates the company. Albert is also an internationally recognized Pop Artist and educator, who travels extensively producing the Michael Albert Pop Art Experience. He is the father of four children and has been married for 23 years.
Rita-Jo (R-J), Co-Founder
With a theater and arts background that includes ten years as a professional dancer with various ballet companies and membership in both SAG and AFTRA, R-J moved behind-the-scenes as choreographer and director of nine student productions before starting Different Directions. She not only directs existing works, but also conceives original shows, tailor-made to meet the educational and social needs of youth. In addition to being a homeschooling mother of four, R-J's experiences in working with youth include being President of the New York, New York Stake Young Women’s Organization of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Erynn Albert, Co-Founder
See description above
Penny Kjellberg, Co-Founder
Prior to co-founding Different Directions Penny produced numerous student productions. She has owned and operated a number of businesses including a marketing and PR agency (The Kjellberg Studio) and a skin care company (Simone France). She is a former beauty editor of Seventeen Magazine, a feature writer for magazines such as Harper's Bazaar and Elle among others and the author of "The Editorial Approach." Penny served as Executive Board Member and Operations Director of Different Directions from its inception through May of 2012. Penny took her daughters out of public school in the third grade and used New York City, national and international travel, and theater as their classroom. She thanks her daughters, Caroline and Jessica, for teaching her what education is really all about.