Sarah Stollery (she/her), Co-Lead Facilitator and Co-Founder

Sarah is the Co-Founder (with Sophie) of the Cabin and currently a Lead Facilitator on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. She became interested in self-direction and consent-based education after becoming a mother and realising that her values and beliefs about education were totally out of alignment with the mainstream system she trained in and if she wanted to continue working with young people, she would have to create something herself. Thus began a years-long endeavour with Sophie to create a space that would enable her to realise her vision of whole person-centred living and learning with a genuine focus on wellbeing and authentic relationships, manifest through The Cabin’s Guiding Principles. 

As well as leading activities herself, partnering with children leading activities or simply joining in, Sarah quite likes the backend operations of The Cabin. She can sometimes be found washing up in the kitchen or staring intensely at a spreadsheet and she is likely the one you’ll hear from if you get in touch with us. 

As well as working at The Cabin, Sarah teaches and practices yoga, passionate about ways to self-care through movement, meditation and breathwork as well other wellbeing practices off the mat. Her background in cognitive neuroscience enables her to approach the wisdom traditions with both a scientific lens as well as a spiritual perspectice. She enjoys bringing her love of yoga to The Cabin – and sometimes her gong too!
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Sophie Christophy (she/her), Co-Lead Facilitator and Co-Founder

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Sophie is the Co-Founder of the Cabin, and is Co-Lead on Wednesdays and Thursdays. From September she will also be Co-Leading at the Lodge. Sophie established the philosophy and term 'Consent-Based Education' in 2016, and with support from Sarah, developed the Guiding Principles (that now underpin the Cabin).

Before the Cabin opened, she ran two projects, one to help establish and stabilise the local home education community, and a second to explore democratic, self-directed and children's rights principles in community with families. Alongside this, she worked together with Sarah on establishing an education setting designed through the lens of the consent, self-direction and children's rights. At the start of 2018 the Cabin opened.  

At the Cabin Sophie loves running the Chair training, that enables anyone in the community that wants to to lead the opening and closing meetings. She also loves working on different ways to support the staff team and community in getting the most out of the guiding principles, by connecting to our sense of self and exploring the world in a way that feels true and aligned, whilst being in consensual, respectful, and loving relationships with others. From 2018 to 2021 she was also a Trustee and then CEO for Phoenix Education.

Outside of the Cabin, Sophie is an unschooling parent, independent feminist scholar and education activist. She works with parents and other people who live and work with children, on integrating Consent-Based Education into their lives, and education settings. She loves going on walks in the countryside and by the sea, leaning up against trees, eating kimchi and other delicious food, and exploring her own self-directed and consent-based education. She also loves practicing yoga with Sarah, and having treats. 

Haifa Khawaja (she/her), Facilitator

Haifa is an artist and teacher with a background in architecture.  Her work has been displayed in various exhibitions, and she is the author of Altair Design Islamic Patterns and Crystal Cave. She is currently working on new Geometric Art activity book and resources. She has been teaching Art & Geometry since she completed her MA in 2002. Haifa is particularly interested in the study of geometry in nature, and in using geometry as a cross-curriculum- STEM- teaching tool.  
Haifa is passionate about Steiner Philosophy and Waldorf education. When she was unable to find local schools with these approaches, she decided to home educate with her three children who are now 16, 14 and 11 years old. She has loved the home ed journey and is an active member in her local home ed group!
Haifa decided to volunteer at the Cabin out of a curiosity to learn about how a democratic learning environment works, and with the hope of extending her son's circle of friends - Oak is now an active member of the Cabin community too. The Cabin continues to be the space where it's fun to BE,  where making friends is based on trust and respect, and learning new skills is based on following the child's interests, also where most valued Play takes place! 

Hannah Payne (she/her), Facilitator

Hannah has a Masters in Mathematics from UEA. She has worked in mainstream education settings, enjoying the relationship and facilitation aspects of working with young people, but struggling with the nature of the system itself. She is excited to be part of the Cabin, where she can collaborate with the children in their play and endeavours!

Hannah is a home educating parent, with many of her own interests and passions. They include crafts such as knitting, crochet, cross stitch, sewing, origami, card marking, needle felting, as well as drawing, painting and mandala designing/sacred geometry. She is also into games, puzzles and astrology! Hannah was a participant on Sophie’s Consent-Based Education course in 2017, and regularly practices yoga with Sarah.

Gem Kennedy (they/them), Co-Lead Facilitator

Gem is a transformational practitioner, activist and podcaster. Their work predominantly supports queer and/or neurodivergent folks working to bring about social change. Gem is also a body liberation advocate and loves holding workshops at festivals and body positive events.


After gaining an Honours degree in Dutch and German from University College London, Gem began teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) and later went on to work as Head of Research in international recruitment. Gem is passionate about supporting people to discover and live a life they love, and in addition to running their 1:1 coaching practice, they work with an organisation supporting young people to develop employability skills and connect with opportunities that excite them.
Gem loves spending time in nature, meeting friends and spends a lot of time thinking about activism and how to live more sustainably. They are a parent to two children who attend The Cabin and as a family, have been unschooling since 2015.
There are so many things that inspire Gem about working at The Cabin, but being part of such a collaborative, supportive and nurturing community brings both Gem and their children a huge amount of joy!
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Gail Gardner (she/her), Volunteer Facilitator

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Gail is a home educating parent and her daughter attends The Cabin. She has a BA in European Studies from Plymouth University and a PGCE specialising in Early Years teaching from London Metropolitan University. She taught primary and early years for six years in Chelmsford before deciding a different career might be a much needed change from the education system. She then spent two years as an education advisor for a working animal charity, travelling across Africa and the Middle East, meeting the most amazing animals and people.

In her spare time Gail loves to run and work out, sports have always been a pleasure and hobby. Gail also enjoys reading, particularly children’s books, and trying to learn to garden successfully. She finds volunteering at The Cabin inspiring as the people, both adults and children, are constantly coming up with such varied activities and interesting conversations. Gail feels The Cabin is truly a wonderful community to be a part of.

Emma Kerslake (she/her), Co-Lead Facilitator

Emma has been home educating her three children for five years. She trained as a primary school teacher and has a BA Honours degree in French. She also taught in France. After having her third child Emma knew she wanted more freedom and bodily autonomy for her own children and their educational journey. She co-founded Nature Rangers, a regular themed session for home educating families to support and nurture the local community with a group of other home ed parents. Emma and her family were part of The Orchard Democratic Families Project. She is one of the admins for the Bishop’s Stortford and Saffron Walden Home Education group and she volunteers with The British Hens Welfare Trust.
Her current passions include learning about and using medicinal plants, painting, running, yoga and baking. Two of her children currently attend the Cabin with her youngest child starting in September. She loves how the Cabin offers everyone the opportunity to stay in alignment with themselves and self-direct their own learning.
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Max Hope (she/her), Volunteer Facilitator and Co-Lead for The Lodge

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Max wants to radically change education. She has seen how damaging a one-size-fits-all approach can be for children and young people who do not fit the mould. She has worked with many young people who are casualties of this system. She has dedicated years of her professional life to being a university academic, driven by a desire to build a stronger and fairer system that works for all children, young people, and adults. She is hugely committed to offering greater freedom in education, to advancing social justice, and to deepening our connections with the wild world.
In joining the team at The Cabin, Max is embarking on a new adventure. Her work as an academic was to research, explore and promote alternative ways of educating. It was aspirational and shone a light on how education could be different.  Her work at The Cabin is in the here-and-now. It is real. It gives her a unique opportunity to create and be part of the world that she has been working towards for so many years. A self-directed, consent-based, democratic setting with an explicit rights-respecting and social justice agenda. A fabulous team with visionary leadership. A chance to be part of something that is cutting-edge and radical. A space for children aged 5-11 that will soon – with Max as co-lead – be extended with a brand-new setting for older children (The Lodge). Wow. Finally. Let the adventures begin.
Alongside her work at The Cabin, Max is Director of Rewilding Education and Co-Chair of Trustees at Phoenix Education. She is also deeply immersed in her own unschooling and rewilding processes. For more info on Max, go to: 

Maria Mathiesen (she/her), Volunteer Facilitator

Maria is an artist, SIM (simultaneous) translator and home educating parent from Sweden who has lived most of her adult life in the UK. She has a BA (Hons) Degree in Fine Art from The Surrey Institute of Art & Design in Farnham. Her art is often based on identity as an emotional response, with the art pieces themselves being informed by memories, stories and/or fairy tales - folklore being another of her field of interests.

Being outdoors, being in nature and spending time with domestic and wild animals are also of great importance to her. When she was younger, she had many pets, including dogs, and in her mid/late teens she ran the Agility youth section, as a trained instructor, and main Agility section, as chair in the kennel club of her hometown. She has worked in mainstream education in an older children’s setting in Sweden as an English/maths teacher and work placement co-ordinator.

When Maria's daughter become preschool age it became obvious to her that the mainstream settings of education were not a good fit, and her family found home education. Her daughter has been a member of the Cabin community since day one, and Maria is very excited to be able to join the Cabin to experience the democratic learning process first hand.
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Alex Smiles (she/her), Volunteer Facilitator

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Alex is a consent driven, unschooling parent of three, who identifies as a queer intersectional feminist.  She is a passionate content creator who supports families around consent boundaries and values. Previously, she co-founded Nature Rangers, a home educating drop-in group to support the local community.

In 2020, Alex began working for Rape Crisis, building on her experience in understanding the area of patriarchy and the history of victim-blaming - and how to combat it.  Alex has been developing her own range of learning materials covering the topics of all-inclusive puberty and menstruation.

Alex works to promote consent culture at home and in the communities she is part of. Some of her hobbies include gardening, nature - especially trees and the relationship between us and the earth - landscaping, interior design and DIY, crafting (especially lino printing) and pottery.

Eloise Connelly (she/her), Volunteer Facilitator

Eloise is a home educating parent who became interested in Alfie Kohn’s ideas on unconditional parenting and the benefits of attempting to parent without punishments or rewards when her daughter, Kyra, was a toddler.  This led her to look for a form of education which was interest led and fun, geared around individual children’s learning styles and that could evolve as needs changed.   

In 2018, this search led her to the Cabin where she feels Kyra has very much found all of this; along with a lovely community of people, a focus on creative, non blame based solutions when people have clashed, and the opportunity to develop the skills people need to negotiate and assert needs within a group.  Eloise is really excited to be a volunteer at the Cabin so that she can gain a greater understanding, first hand, of how the community runs.  

Eloise has a BA Honours degree in English Literature from Lancaster University. She enjoys arts and crafts and has been very involved with running activities and fund raising for her local home education hub group and she is looking forward to doing more of this at the Cabin! She regularly practices Vinyasa yoga and has been taking lessons for the last two years.  
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