Neither Home Nor School

These are unique places focused on self-directed learning for children and teens. These are places where children and teenagers can do serious work with adults or hang-out, take courses, work on projects, or play. If you know of more places that welcome young people besides home and school, please let me know about them.—Pat Farenga


Purple Thistle Center
Matt Hern founded the Purple Thistle Centre in 2001 with seven teenage friends looking to start an alternative-to-school community institution for youth on the Eastside of Vancouver. Since then it has blossomed/exploded into a major and many tentacled thing. It really is a piece of work. There's plenty of it to explain, so please check it out.


This vibrant group is creating learning societies, rebuilding communities, and promoting deschooling/unschooling in India. They engage in educational activism that is inspiring and often immediately helpful to the people they serve.

United States

Fab Labs
From the Fab Lab website: "The Fab Lab program has strong connections with the technical outreach activities of a number of partner organizations, around the emerging possibility for ordinary people to not just learn about science and engineering but actually design machines and make measurements that are relevant to improving the quality of their lives."

This place is an "after school" drop-in center, unlike all the others above which can be attended during school hours. However, they have the funding and resources of MIT behind them, as well as the amazing "Personal Fabrication" machine, which makes this group one to watch.

Macomber Center
A self-directed learning center that opened in Framingham, MA in September 2012. Macomber Center is a nonprofit, alternative education center, offering unschoolers and homeschoolers (ages 4–19) a place to come Monday-Friday 9:00am-5:00pm to socialize, play and explore 100 acres of playing fields and woods, and participate in offerings such as movie making, music, cooking, etc. It is staffed, so serves as a drop-off center for kids seeking independent time away from home, or for working parents who wish to homeschool. Children attend as many or few hours a day/days a week as they choose.

NorthStar: Self-directed learning for teens
North Star is a center for community-based education functioning like a YMCA or other member-based organization. Member teens choose from among a wide array of educational options depending on their needs and interests. Founded in 1996 by two middle school teachers, we are now in our 13th year of serving teenagers who prefer to pursue their educations outside of traditional schooling.

Open Connections
Open Connections builds on the conviction that people are born with the desire to experiment, discover, create, understand and play. Located near Newtown Square, PA, Open Connections provides youth with an open environment to develop their foundation for a purposeful, fulfilling and self-directed life. Open Connections offers events and support to the local homeschooling / unschooling community and suggests resources for people everywhere who seek a more natural, self-organized education.

Princeton Learning Cooperative
PLC students coming from traditional schools legally become homeschoolers.  By homeschooling, we do not mean replicating school at home or parents teaching their children.  It is the simplest and most direct way for teens to leave school and create a life and education for themselves.

Sprout and Company
"Whether working with local families, companies, universities, or schools, our focus is finding interesting, flexible contexts to prototype novel tools & materials supporting creative, scientific inquiry. Our mission is to make science a cultural activity. We spend our time developing programs to prototype our ideas for hardware, software, & media which support scientific investigation. "

Village Home Education Resource Center
An inclusive, family-centered learning community focused on providing college-style education for all ages. Over 100 non-credit courses, individualized instruction, peer-to-peer learning, weekly activities and social clubs meet at two locations, NE Portland and Beaverton, OR.

Voyagers is a homeschooling resource center administered by Voyagers, Incorporated, currently operating in Acton, Massachusetts. Voyagers is an all-volunteer, non-profit organization that seeks to provide resources and a sense of community to support homeschooling families in Eastern Massachusetts and Southern New Hampshire.


The Whispering Seed
The Whispering Seed is a village-based sustainable living and learning center and home for children who have been orphaned, abused and neglected along the Thai-Burmese border.