I’m constantly amazed by the community and support networks available to teenage unschoolers. For grown unschoolers, it’s a different story.
As a teen, you’ve got summer camps (NBTSC, ETUSC), conferences (LIG, NEUC, HSC + more), regional resource centers and free schools (like North Star in MA, Tall Grass in IL, or Open Connections in PA), and tons of local support groups. I’ve added to this mix, too, with Unschool Adventures.
Such options make it easy to build community as a self-directed teen. Yes—it’s still difficult if you’re rural, shy, or don’t have the resources to bounce between camps and conferences. But the options are there.
Turn 19 or 20, and the game changes. You drop off a cliff, community- and support-wise.
You can still attend conferences—some may even court you—but you’ll pretty much be the only person between age 20 & 30. You’ve aged out of the camps and alternative schools, unless you become a staff member. Support groups start looking like collections of little kids and parents.
College becomes your best option, and many unschoolers do go to college and find great community and support there. But the four-year college price tag is quickly departing from the value it provides. If your interests aren’t academic, will you pay $5,000 – $30,000 per year for the privilege of hanging around other people your age?
This isn’t just an issue for grown unschoolers. Some 18-22 year-olds from traditional backgrounds discover their autodidactic natures in college. I did. Lots of others do too. They crave a community of fellow self-directed learners but have no idea where to find it.
I think we need more self-directed learners in the world. We’re doing a good job of supporting such learners at the teenage level. We could be doing better at the young adult level.
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To this end, I’m designing a big new annual event for 18-22 year-olds. Its explicit mission: to offer community, direction, and inspiration to the North America-wide community of young adult self-directed learners.
Unschoolers and the avowedly unlabeled… college students, college drop-outs, and college never-beens… entrepreneurs, artists, makers, travelers, and those without a clear direction: all will be welcome.
I’ll post more about this event very soon. (You may also join the Unschool Adventures notification list to get an e-mail when it launches.)
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To promote self-directed learning as a viable approach for young adults, we will need more than an annual gathering. But it will be a step in the right direction.
What other steps can we take?
[Cross-posted on Blake Boles dot com.]