If You Build It Will They Come


If you build it, will they come?  Will they really, really come if you provide them with the opportunities for real, not just-a-blurb-in-the-brochure, truest-sense-of-the-word self-directed education?  Why would I pay for self-directed education if by nature of the word self-directed means you can do it by oneself?   You don’t have to.  You are free to choose.   You can homeschool.  You can unschool.  You can stay in school.  What we provide is an option for those who think this route reverberates with their spirit and the spirit of their child.

Abot Tala Center for Self Directed Learning seeks to provide the following:


  1. Our goal is to support you as an individual so you are THRIVING.  Given the right conditions, humans are amazing!
  2. Each member will be given a mentor whom you will meet with you at least once a week, offering some guidance, a lot of listening, and a helpful perspective. We will work with your parents on how they can support you as a self-directed learner.
  3. It’s always good to set goals and have a plan. In weekly meetings with your mentor, small group meetings and on your own, you can set long and short-term goals. Since the only guarantee in life is change, the planning part is often quite interesting.
  4. You will be encouraged to keep notes and narratives of your work. It’s helpful to step back once you’ve worked for a while to see your process & your progress. Ask yourself how you are doing? You know best.
  5. You will have access to an electronic portfolio system designed specifically for SDL learners. You can experiment with multimedia options as you build your portfolio to best represent who you are. Consider sharing your insights, knowledge, and skills.
  6. Your portfolio (evidence of your insights, knowledge, & skills) will be your ticket to higher education, employment, and or all sorts of entrepreneurial adventures.
  7. Community members will provide additional mentorships, such as sharing a hobby or skill like rock climbing, improvisational theater and chess.
  8. Our focus is on individuals and their particular strengths, needs, and goals. We meet teens where they are and support them in becoming whomever they want to be. Rather than focusing on weaknesses, we ask: “What are you good at? What do you love to do?” and build from there.
  9. By having more personal autonomy – while working within the community – teens can practice leadership, communication and collaboration skills in real ways that reflect what they will need later in life.
  10. Mentoring relationships are at the heart of Abot Tala. Each teen is matched with one of the staff, who sets aside time to meet individually each week. It’s hard to overestimate the importance for young people to be heard and known and not just feel like a number. Having a caring, supportive and knowledgeable adult as an ally helps teens to make the most of their time at Abot Tala.
  11. Mentors help connect young people to the learning opportunities in the center, online and in the wider community. We help them keep track of what they learn and the experiences that they have for whatever next steps they are planning to take after Abot Tala.



  1. Classes represent the interests and passions, interests and expertise of our core staff and extended staff of volunteers. There are a wide range of topics. Most classes have fewer than 10 students.
  2. Rather than attempt to fulfill any particular curriculum, we ask our staff (mentor-facilitators) to share the topics that excite them.
  3. We have a core staff of caring professionals and a large, extended staff composed of interns, and community volunteers.
  4. All classes and workshops are optional and open to every member. Classes vary in length, format, and content.
  5. The format of each class can vary significantly as well, again depending on the vision of the leader as well as the input of the students. We encourage all members to learn about and try as many classes as they can. Once a student decides to be a regular participant of a class, we expect commitment.
  6. There are no grades or punishments, but we expect class members to communicate with the teacher regarding attendance and other issues and to fulfill any requirements such as readings, research, or other assignments.
  7. Some classes will ask for and expect a considerable amount of work to happen outside of class time while others will be more limited. This is made clear in the class description and by the teacher and should be taken into consideration by the student deciding to join the group.
  8. Individual one-on-one meetings are available in a variety of subjects. These are not listed on the calendar. Each teen talks with his or her advisor about what meetings might be helpful and schedules them around other commitments.
  9. Some classes will ask for and expect a work/practice to happen outside of class time, while others will be less directed. This will be made clear in the class description.
  10. Teens can also request to lead a class of their own creation. The teen will present an outline and expectations of the class with a staff member and pitch the class to other members
  11. Teens sometimes lead classes without adults. In addition, members frequently ask for the creation of certain classes and participate in the planning.



  1. Parents usually have questions related to university and career. What steps do we need to take to apply to college? How does a young person get working papers so they can get a job? We can help families do whatever you have questions about. We schedule three routine family meetings throughout the year, but you can get all the help and support you need with just a phone call or email to your child’s mentor.
  2. Many people are astounded by the huge number of opportunities there are for young people to learn independently of the traditional school system. We act as both the provider and connector to this world of possibility.
  3. Many parents worry that leaving traditional schools to use self-directed education will somehow limit the opportunities or choices their children have after they leave Abot Tala. Nothing could be further from the truth!
  4. A large majority of our members plan to attend college after their time with Abot Tala. Many people are surprised that teens who don’t attend school can go to college. There are a growing number of Filipino families who homeschool their children. Our mentors help young people document the learning that they do and create a narrative transcript that translates that into a form colleges understand.
  5. The second most common next step for our members is either to enter the working or entrepreneurial world. Young people can use the flexibility and control offered by self-directed education to start learning the skills needed to be successful in a given career. Instead of squeezing your interests into “after-school” time, you can work on your interests as the main focus of your education.



  1. We intentionally keep the community small, no more than 30 or so at capacity. We want everyone’s voice to matter and not feel like they are just a cog in a machine.
  2. While not perfect, we work really hard to keep Abot Tala community a welcoming and inclusive community where people are respected for who they are. For young people who are coming from a hard social situation in school, the friends and acceptance that they find in the Abot Tala community can be the most valuable experience they have.
  3. Days are set aside for trips and special workshops. Often proposed and planned by members, trips can be anything from a walking in the park, to going out for meals.
  4. Since Abot Tala is a small community, there are many leadership opportunities. Our members organize trips, lead our weekly all-group meeting, take on roles in the community like first-aid and safety manager and even lead classes and offer one-on-one music or other lessons to other members.
  1. If there are students who want to join Abot Tala but cannot afford the fees, it is our policy to find a way to subsidize the member’s fee. North Star, our parent center and the centers that they help start all believe in inclusivity and they turn no one away.
  2. The big message is that anything teens can do by attending school, they can still do through self-directed education. We are here to help provide and connect young people to those opportunities.


Check out: https://abottala.com/

5 thoughts on “If You Build It Will They Come

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