We are all individuals, with distinct and dynamic combinations of strengths, weaknesses, preferences and goals. Learning pathways can be customized to match. But people also crave community and feeling part of something bigger.
Independent learners (a.k.a. homeschooling minors, or people of any age who are “hacking” their educations) have access to a wealth of resources that can be leveraged to create deeply meaningful customized learning pathways, driven by who they are now and who they want to become. The missing piece, for most people, is a hub where one can follow that pathway in regular communion with others.
The plan is to fill this void by creating two hubs—one in the cloud in 2020, and one in a physical space in Washington, D.C. in 2021. They’ll each start off small, but eventually grow to offer a modular menu of educational offerings for all ages (from children through retirees), as well as co-working and community spaces. (If you're wondering how this might look in the physical realm, take a look at the draft conceptual floorplans.) The next step will be helping others set up their own hubs—on a totally customizable, open-source basis—in their own communities.
This is all being driven by these foundational values and principles:
Learn more about the inaugural program launching in Fall 2020 here.
If you’re new to independent learning and just need support with the customization side of things for now, we can help with that too.
My childhood was spent between the jungle and beaches of Maui, where I learned to listen to the earth, love the ocean, and wear sunscreen. Later on, while living and working in Beijing, I found my footing as a performative educator and expanded my ability to navigate a complex city, language, and culture.
I create the space to facilitate growth in cognitive understanding, physical ability, emotional awareness, responsibility, relational sensitivity, and ultimately for kids to know themselves and the world around them.
It's important for me to create. Making something brings an authenticity to my role as an educator, using art and tinkering as a pathway to development. I create art, photograph people, make videos, build interactive sculptures, and I love to make a mess.
My work experience includes serving as a museum educator at the Exploratorium in San Francisco and as the creative director of the KID Museum in Bethesda, Maryland. (Read more about me and my work here.)
I am passionate about the new generation and creating spaces for people of all ages to explore who they truly are through playful learning, community sharing, and celebration. I believe that the future of learning is in more choices, self-awareness, and strong community building.
Originally from Moldova, I immigrated to New York in 2002. I studied International Economic Relations (Moldova), Educational Psychology (New York University), Waldorf Education (Sunbridge Institute), Remedial Education (Association for Healing Education), Agile Learning Facilitation (New York and Barcelona), and Non-Violent Communication (New York).
I have been working with children from ages two to 16 throughout my life. As a teenager, I organized games with children in my neighborhood. As a result, several of them learned to speak basic English in just one summer. Later I taught English, French, and Romanian at a private school in Moldova. In New York, I worked at the Brooklyn Waldorf School for seven years as a class teacher; a founding librarian and reading groups teacher; an assessment and learning difficulties teacher; and a homeschool group teacher. Over the next five years, I was fortunate to work with about 200 homeschool families throughout New York City, designing and leading small homeschool coops and teaching all the subjects.
Over the last four years, I have been exploring the vast and diverse world of self-directed learning, both personally and professionally. One summer I immersed myself in a Spanish-speaking environment. It was my first-ever experience learning something in a non-traditional way. It was a challenging and mind-opening experience. As a result, I improved my Spanish and learned a lot about the culture and history of Spain and Mexico, but most importantly, I learned so much more about myself and how I learn best! In my current work with children and their families, I am emphasizing connections to nature, intra-personal and inter-personal skills, and emotional intelligence as my main tools to create a solid foundation for a more natural and deeper way of learning throughout life.
I have been a coach since college. I am passionate about coaching children to become self-directed learners, whether it’s through physical activities or art or academics. After finishing my bachelor’s degree in education, I developed a popular training program at the Walden school in New York City. The children brought their families to the gym to meet me, and eventually the children, parents, and I decided to start a school. In 1984, Life Sport Gym was launched. Since then, parents have introduced us to schools and community centers, where we have created programs that provide a range of opportunities for children to growth and develop.
I believe that a good coach is someone who is interested and observant, connects with children, senses their needs, and helps them know and express their true selves. I coach to acknowledge and maintain a child's self-respect. This is the best way for children to find out who they are and develop the resources to take care of themselves. I also believe that the best learning is built on a foundation of good feelings. These build on themselves when children—through their own efforts, plus the support of caring adults and peers—develop more and more skills and knowledge. The goal is to help children become not just well educated, but also well-functioning and healthy, with the ability to take care of themselves, and to know where to find the necessary resources and support.
A: For its inaugural year (September 2020 through May 2021), The Hub's programming will be centered on an online micro-academy. It will cater to children ages 9 to 12 who want the best of both worlds: customized learning and community. They may be bored or disengaged in a one-size-fits-all setting, but come alive when given the opportunity to develop important skills and knowledge at their own pace, within the context of pursuing authentic interests. Or they may already be learning in a customized way that engages their minds, but be craving a more consistent cohort experience.
The first year's cohort will play a key role in establishing The Hub's culture, and laying the foundation for future years. As such, the first year would be best suited for families that see themselves as community-minded builders or co-creators, are open to new experiences, and are drawn to interest-based learning.
The Hub's focus will broaden as it grows, and it will cater to a wider range of families and individuals in the future (please see further down the FAQs for more details).
A: For the first year, the plan is to focus on offering a vibrant, part-time and mostly online micro-academy, as well as support (as needed) for integrating the micro-academy plus other à-la-carte experiences to create a comprehensive whole.
The micro-academy will aim to expose children to a variety of useful skills and bodies of knowledge. It will also facilitate deeper dives into those that feel relevant and in alignment with children's interests at each stage, which sets up the optimal conditions for them to not simply memorize things, but to integrate and retain knowledge. It will also focus on developing the “5 Cs” that are essential to a lot of success in life—critical thinking and problem solving; communication; collaboration; creativity and innovation; and citizenship.
There is ample time outside the micro-academy to acquire the other skills and knowledge that will be needed to meet each child's and family's goals. The Hub will also begin offering its own select à-la-carte offerings in the afternoons, in response to member and community interest in classes and activities that aren't already available through third-party providers.
The Hub's wraparound support services are designed to help families who would like some assistance with finding resources, putting the pieces together, and/or documenting what's being learned. Examples will also be provided of curated learning pathways and portfolios.
A: The micro-academy is the heart of The Hub’s program, and is designed for people who consider themselves independent learners, and who enjoy having a communal base that: serves as an extension of their family’s home base; provides consistent social connections; amplifies deep, interdisciplinary learning opportunities; and offers opportunities to work on group projects that are vehicles for learning important, higher-order skills, such as how to manage projects and work effectively as a team. Enrollment in The Hub's micro-academy can be paired with enrollment in any other programs, as long as engagement and participation levels can be adequately maintained.
It is up to enrolled families to research and ensure they’re following state and local regulations regarding homeschooling, if they're not fulfilling their state or locality's requirements for enrollment at a school. A site that contains a lot of information about requirements in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia can be found here. You can also feel free to contact us with any additional essential questions about this.
In the future, The Hub will also start offering select à-la-carte classes, workshops and activities. Those will be made available on a more casual enrollment basis, and will be suitable for anyone.
A: In the micro-academy, the facilitator’s role is like that of a conductor, helping everyone co-create a beautiful piece of music together. It means being attuned to what’s happening with everyone within the group, and modeling and helping others to develop the skills that foster a healthy balance between meeting individual needs for self-expression and creating a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts.
The facilitator will also be like a "guide by the side" on the broader learning journey, working in partnership with parents and children to really get to know each child and what makes them tick, and to use that understanding to help the child develop their unique set of strengths and interests, while also helping them manage or overcome weaknesses that are standing in the way of them reaching their goals.
A: To foster the desired level of personal relationship-building, the facilitator:student ratio for The Hub's micro-academy will be capped at 1:8.
For future à-la-carte activities organized by The Hub, the person leading each activity will decide the minimum and maximum size they believe will allow them to offer a quality experience.
A: Grade cutoffs are arbitrary and limiting. Children learn things (in a meaningful way) only when they’re ready, and no two 10-year-olds are the same, whether they’re in the same “grade” or not. On the other hand, children progress through developmental stages that start and end roughly around certain ages, and mixed-ages learning has many benefits, for younger and older children alike. Like human-development age ranges, The Hub’s age range is “ish”—it’s more about maturity level and maintaining good group dynamics, rather than calendar age.
A: The Hub's focus will broaden as it grows, so that it will eventually cater to individuals of all ages who are seeking a range of educational experiences that combine customization plus community (at different levels of commitment to each of these two principles).
The intention is to also launch a streamlined physical hub in Washington, D.C. in Fall 2021, for those who prefer more in-person experiences. The upper age range will gradually expand, until a full program for teenagers debuts in Fall 2022 (with online and in-person options).
Learning is part and parcel of living, and formal and informal peer-to-peer and inter-generational learning opportunities abound if we bring ages and functions together. So we plan to add educational programming for younger children and adults to the mix, and to also offer co-working and community spaces. (For a glimpse of how this might eventually manifest, see the conceptual floorplans.)
The standalone à-la-carte classes and activities will respond to community interests. They may run the gamut from math circles to improv classes; physical-movement workshops; unique academic classes; open office hours with subject-matter experts; special-interest clubs; and parenting and other practical, skill-building classes. We will offer thoughtfully curated packages that will have taken care of a lot of the mixing and matching for those who prefer to be faced with fewer choices.
A: Glad you asked. The three main elements needed to achieve this vision are people who resonate with the concept, space (for Fall 2021 and beyond), and resources. Get in touch to find out about the current list of priority needs and/or to tell us what you might be able to contribute to the effort, and we’ll see if there’s a match.