Is Wildwood ALC defined as a “school?”
While many ALC’s worldwide are 5 day a week “schools,” Wildwood is not. We are a 3 day a week, resource for homeschooling families who wish to engage in collaborative, self-directed, joy-centered living and learning. All children attending Wildwood must be registered “homeschoolers” in the state of North Carolina and parents are solely responsible for ensuring that all NC homeschooling requirements (of which there are not many) are met. We do not take attendance (although regular attendance is extremely important), do not follow a standard course of study. No tests, no grades, no required classes. 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.
Self-directed? What exactly does that mean?
Our friends at the Alliance for Self Directed Education have a great answer for this. Watch the video below and visit their site HERE
How to they learn things if you don’t teach them?
Well, teaching does happen, it’s just not forced. But we would all learn even if it did not. Learning is natural and happening all the time. Babies learn to crawl, walk, and talk without being explicitly taught these things. They look at who and what exists in the world around them, copy and experiment with what they see, practice and learn the skills they need to grow in independence and connectivity to others. In learning communities that value authenticity and collaboration, it’s inevitable that we’ll teach each other. Sometimes this happens through classes and workshops, sometimes through conversations and modeling. When humans self-direct, learning happens all the time. By not telling kids what, when and how they should learn, they learn faster, and more deeply. Most importantly, they develop a positive relationship to learning (and keep a sense of authentic curiosity and creativity). Self-directed learners are excited about life-long learning and do not view it as something that only happens in school.
But how do self- directed kids learn the “basics?”
If something is actually basic knowledge that you need in order to live successfully in this world, you can’t help but learn it. The “basics” will be captured in kids’ natural learning, which happens through living. We don’t need to force or trick them into learning something basic. Basic knowledge and skills are defined by our current world. Whereas once it may have been basic to know how to saddle a horse, today it is basic to know how to open a web browser. The rich world environment in which we operate sets us up to prioritize knowledge and skills reliably and naturally based on our experiences.
Is there any evidence to support self-directed learning?
Yes there is a lot and its growing every day. Check out our resources page and visit THIS page and THIS page have a lot of great info on research!
Do you sort learning into subject areas?
We don’t sort knowledge into traditional subject areas, as doing so discourages learners from interdisciplinary thinking and exploring innovative applications they may invent. Learning isn’t about amassing data; it’s about making connections, deepening understanding, solving problems, creating, and sharing. Facilitators support students in exploring the relatedness and convergence of learning domains, both in school and in the world around us. Sorting or prioritizing traditional subjects is rarely useful from this perspective.
If you don’t make then learn certain things, how will they get exposed to new things? Isn’t there a chance that they will miss discovering a passion if they don’t try new things?
Children today are swimming in a flood of information. They get exposed to a greater diversity of ideas, issues, cultures, facts, problems and opportunities in a month than most people got in their lifetimes just 50 years ago. A single Sunday New York Times contains more text than a literate person read in their lifetime 100 years ago. Humans today have access to devices with instantaneous access to almost the entire documented history of human knowledge. Yet we plop them in classrooms and spoon-feed them bits of information, isolated and out of context. We tell them that they need to memorize things they could look up in an instant. Then we grade them on whether they can regurgitate the current politically correct answers on a test. The assumption behind this question is upside down.
Traditional schooling cuts students off from the flow of information available to them and divides selections of that information into little boxes disconnected from their lives (English, Math, Social Studies, etc.), then presents this information as if students would never have encountered it otherwise. Knowledge is something holistic and integrated, and students are integrating it all the time — whether or not they’re in school.The real question today should be: In this staggering flood of overexposure, how will my child learn to filter to what is important from the unimportant, to focus on their domains of passion, and to determine “good” information from “bad?” These are the important skills for a modern child…skills they won’t get from some school board doing the filtering for them.
Why are you age-mixed?
Segregating people into age cohorts, a practice that really only happens at school, limits their exposure to accessible role models and their opportunities to teach skills they’ve acquired. In an age-mixed environment, older students learn patience and compassion while supporting the younger students. Younger students watch and emulate older students. Everyone gets practice both teaching and learning from people with varying skill levels, learning styles, and attention spans. The results tend to be awe-inspiring.
What does a typical day look like?
Wildwood is open at 9am. Community members use this time to think about their intentions for the day or schedule any activities that involve other people. The day starts with either a scheduling or intention sharing meeting.
The week starts with a schedule-coordinating meeting that we call Set-The-Week. Everyone gathers to determine days and times for offerings, workshops, trips, projects, and meetings that will take place during the week. These opportunities come from students, staff, parents, and community members. From Set-The-Week on Mondays, or to check-the-day Tuesday and Thursday, students gather in their “Dens.” (similar to homerooms) where they document and declare their intentions for the day, connect and play a short game. Students and facilitators take turns facilitating Den. The meeting is usually ten to fifteen minutes; when it ends, everyone has heard each other’s plans—useful for sharing inspiration and scheduling—and had their intentions documented for checking-in with later.
Sometimes, the description for what happens between 10 am and 3 pm is best described simply as “magic.” It changes monthly, weekly, daily. The days are full of classes, games, discussions, stories, games, creation, collaboration, and surprises. It’s all work and it’s all play. Check out our Facebook page to see what kinds of things are going on.
In the afternoon, everyone participates in a 10-15 minute clean-up. They then move into the reflection-focused part of the day. Monday and Tuesday, students return to their Den. They have a short meeting in which they check in on their intentions from the morning, document the things they did during the day, and reflect on whether they accomplished what they wanted to.
On Thursdays a longer chunk of time is set aside for Reflection/Documentation, during which students and staff reflect, write, blog or find some other way to document their refection.In addition to this daily pattern and Monday’s Set-the-Week meeting, we also gather once per week for what we call Change-Up. Change-Up is a meeting where we create and iterate community agreements together, allowing us to build and evolve our micro-culture. Change-Up meeting can sometimes involve solving problems together, connecting deeper, or coming up with ways to bridge any gaps between the kind of community we are and the kind we want to be.
Do you let the kids do whatever they want?
Yes and no. Our communities have very clear expectations and boundaries that the children agree to in order to participate at an ALC. These include productively engaging with the group process, respecting the space, and respecting each other. Pursuits must be safe and legal. We clean the messes we make and follow a simple conflict resolution process when those messes are relational. We collaborate to build positive cultural norms rather than lists of rules.A maxim we reference when creating new structures is “maximum support with minimum interference.” Our students have a lot of freedom as they get clear about what they truly want to create for and of themselves. With clear boundaries and agreements, they also have the support they need to feel safe using that freedom to question, experiment, explore, and grow.
How do Self-directed children go to college?
If that’s the direction a student chooses, yes. Colleges have been accepting students from homeschooling families and non-traditional schools for as long as colleges have existed.When a self-directed learner decides they want to go to college, they know why they want to go. Many students unquestioningly spend thousands of dollars and several years of their lives going through college because that’s what they think they’re “supposed” to do. Intentionally entering a learning environment to accomplish a specific purpose is more likely to bring about positive outcomes. Check out this longitudinal data on self-directed learning. Most of the kids who want to get into college do. Having alternative forms of record keeping and evaluation has not been an impediment for kids who want to go to college. In fact, there’s a proven advantage for people whose college applications can’t be tidily ranked by GPA and academic track: a human has to actually look at their portfolio. For one parent and former teacher’s perspective on her daughter’s journey from self-directed learning to the college admissions process — check out Karen Hollis sharing her experience in Life Learning Magazine.