Wildwood ALC is a non-profit, agile learning community in Watauga County, NC, for homeschoolers who wish to engage in collaborative, service-based, self-directed learning. At Wildwood ALC everyone is both a learner and a teacher, everyone is fully valued for who they are, and everyone has a meaningful voice in creating our community. Our mixed-age learning environment embraces choice and freedom along with collaboration between peers, facilitators, and the local community.
We are currently open 3 days a week M, Tu, Th from 9 am until 3pm through the school year for homeschooled children ages 7 and up.
What does self-directed learning look like at Wildwood?
Education is the sum of everything a person learns that enables that person to
live a satisfying and meaningful life.
Self-Directed Education is education that derives from the self-chosen activities and life experiences of the person becoming educated, whether or not those activities were chosen deliberately for the purpose of education. In other words … learning is natural and happening all the time, whether we intend to or not. At Wildwood, this may include organized workshops or offerings, but mostly it comes from everyday life, as people pursue their own interests and learn along the way. Research shows that the best learning happens when people are free to pursue their own interests. There are no tests, grades, or required curricula. Classes/Workshops are held by request and provided by those within our group and in the larger community.
Children (and all humans) are naturally curious about the world. We are literally wired to learn. At Wildwood, we aim to create the environmental conditions that maximize their ability to assert and learn from their natural educative drives.
TRUST & RESPONSIBILITY
At Wildwood, relationships are built on trust in ourselves, each other and the community. We trust & empower young people to be leaders of their own learning and caring, contributing citizens who can succeed in an ever-changing world. We believe education has more to do with children’s natural desire for autonomy and self-empowerment, than the imposing of a certain educational agenda.
UNLIMITED TIME TO PLAY, EXPLORE & PURSUE ONE’S OWN INTERESTS
Studies show that play is deeply involved in child development and learning: Play improves memory, creative problem solving, and self-regulation. Adults in our culture often assume that it is their job to keep children more or less constantly busy. But children must learn is how to take control of their own life, and for that to happen children need great amounts of free time—to make friends, explore, play, get bored and overcome boredom. They need time for fleeting interests and to immerse themselves deeply in activities that engage their passions. They also need space—to roam, explore, get away, and experience the sense of independence and power.
Children learn best from other kids who are just slightly ahead of their own abilities. In a mixed age setting, older students have the opportunity to mentor younger children. Age mixing also allows for nurturing relationships between older and younger children, and is an effective anti-bullying strategy. Easy access to older and younger children allows for the spontaneous formation of mentoring relationships that support the maturation of both mentor and mentee.
Everyone participates in the co-creation of community practices and healthy culture, and everyone has a real and meaningful voice. At Wildwood, children learn to care for one another within the community and for the community itself. They are involved, democratically, in making and upholding the community rules. In that process they hear all sides of every disagreement and the moral and logical arguments related to it. Their own views are taken seriously by others and influence the community’s decisions, which motivates them to think more deeply about those views than they otherwise might. As social creatures, we thrive in this kind of vibrant community which builds our confidence, heightens our communication skills, and calls forth our best selves.
CARING ADULTS AS PARTNERS AND HELPERS, NOT JUDGES
Young people feel more at ease and free to seek support from helpful adults who are not focused on evaluating, testing, grading, praising or criticizing. At Wildwood, adults/facilitators uphold safety, facilitate learning in partnership-based way, and develop kind, authentic relationships with kids. Adults in the space are knowledgeable helpers, guides and supporters who often learn alongside kids.
We use adaptable tools and practices borrowed from the Agile Management/Software world to help individualize learning within the context of an intentional community.