The unifying theme of my education has been its variety; throughout my life, I’ve learned through a wide range of different avenues. I never attended school as a child. But I did do many other things. I played. A lot. I went to museums, I went on road trips, I had long conversations with adults who took me seriously, and defended myself to those who didn’t. I learned dissection from a doctor, rhetoric from a lawyer, and drawing from an artist. I lived and worked in New York, Tokyo, Paris, and Sydney. Later, I turned to more traditional schooling in coming to college. All of these things, and more, are part of what I would broadly term “my education.”

The educational philosophy by which I was raised is generally referred to as unschooling, but I prefer to describe myself and my education as having been free range. As the principle actor in shaping my own education, I was free to follow my curiosity and learn about whatever interested me most. That’s not to say that I was never told I had to learn something – learning to read comes to mind – nor that I never studied something I didn’t particularly want to because I knew it would be important later, but even in these cases I learned at my own pace and in my own way. For the most part I was free to explore essentially anything I wanted, which I did by reading copiously, doing research in libraries and on the internet, corresponding with professionals, and holding jobs and internships. My learning was always facilitated by access to a variety of resources and a great deal of support from my family and the larger community.

The flip side of this was responsibility. When the time came to take standardized tests, I was responsible for preparing myself, again with resources and support. I also had a fair amount of responsibility in my family and household, and that too I consider part of my education. In all these cases, the reasons behind things were always explained to me; I never had to do something because someone said so or because it was arbitrarily deemed important. Looking back, this – being respected and treated as an intelligent and capable person no matter my age – is one of the things I appreciate most about my education.

In addition to learning on my own, I frequently learned in groups with other home educated people I knew, often in the form of relatively casual subject-specific workshops usually taught by one of the parents from the group who had expertise in the area. After finishing “high school” when I was about 15, I began working as a fashion model. This gave me the opportunity to travel to cities around the world, often for extended period of time, which in turn allowed me to learn about a variety of different cultures. I loved my career, but always knew it wasn’t my final destination, so a few years later I settled down in New York once again and entered college.

In college, I’ve continued to learn in many different ways. In addition to classroom work, much of my learning has come from reading widely on my own, discussing material with my classmates, and carrying out research projects, and especially from actively working in my field (neuroscience) by holding research positions in various laboratories, attending lectures and reading relevant academic journals. Looking forward to my continuing education – I’ll soon be preparing to enter graduate school to pursue my doctorate – I think that the ability and tendency to seek out knowledge in many different ways will continue to be a vital aspect of my learning.