Our Abot Tala High member with her portfolio mentor, musician and producer, Mikey Amistoso of Ciudad


How exactly does Abot Tala work?

The short answer: Schedule a meeting and let’s talk!

The long answer: We don’t subscribe to a one-size-fits-all approach for learning. Instead, we aim to empower learners through personalized classes and holistic mentoring, so that they can pursue what they are interested in and embrace self-directed learning.

You can also watch this video about the Abot Tala process!

How much does this cost? What are your payment options?

Our rates are flexible and affordable. You can check out our class programs and payment options here.

Can you explain how these personalized, self-directed, and interest-led classes go?

The classes feature a mix of topics that our members and mentors have suggested and voted on, based on their interests and desired career industries. While there will be activities and required output for the classes — such as homework or projects — our classes aren’t graded. The motivation to be part of a class is purely to learn and eventually produce good output, not to earn grades. That’s what makes our learning model self-directed!

Members have the freedom to design their personal schedule around the classes they’ve chosen, so they also have time to collaborate with others and work on their passion projects and other requirements (for those who are currently homeschooling, enrolled in a traditional school, or part of another program).

Members are also encouraged to join or start clubs based on common interests with others, as well as take part in our community events when they want to.

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Where do the classes take place?

Members will have classes via Zoom or Gather and official communication and announcements are done on Slack. This year — in accordance with the current safety guidelines and restrictions — we plan to have scheduled meet-ups in outdoor areas and some private venues that follow the necessary safety protocols.

Abot Tala on Gather Town
How does this Slack thing work? Is there any other way you can communicate?

Once a member has signed up, they will receive an invite to the Slack online workspace. Each class will have a channel on the workspace where members can receive announcements and class-related communications. There will be other channels as well that make up the Launchpad community, such as those for general announcements, clubs, interest-specific channels, and so on.

We communicate with the parents via email and Viber.

What does my child need for the classes?

Basically, a laptop and a stable internet connection. You might need some specific software or apps for some classes, but that will be announced beforehand.

Aside from the classes, what else do we get when we sign up with Abot Tala?

We’re glad you asked, because there’s more to Abot Tala than just weekly classes! Each member also has access to:

  • The Abot Tala space on Gather
  • Regular one-on-one mentoring sessions
  • Teen-led classes and activities, like Connect and Free Flow Friday
  • Interest clubs, e.g. debate, chess, knitting, writing, and more
  • Community events and activities, like the Community Huddle, Game Show Hour, SDL Mondays, and Freedom Fridays
  • Occasional masterclass pop-up classes conducted by industry leaders and special guest mentors
  • A whole range of expertise from our mentors, guest speakers, and community members
  • Exclusive announcements and opportunities for apprenticeships, internships and OJTs from our partners and network of industry contacts
  • Access to online learning resources

And much, much more!

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What about if a member is late or absent for class?

Since Abot Tala is not a school, members are not penalized for being late or absent. The members sign up for the classes that they are interested in and once they decide to attend a particular class, they are expected to be responsible for being on time and for fulfilling the requirements of the class, since they have personally chosen to be there.

How do we know that our kids are actually learning anything if you don’t do tests and grades?

What a member learns and experiences is only equal to the amount of time and attention they put in, and we want our members to really learn this.

Let’s turn this question around: Even with tests and grades, how do we know that they learn anything? Think about your classes in a traditional school, with all the tests, quizzes, and exams. How many of us, even the ones who got good grades, really learn everything? How much info have we retained from those classes and how has that impacted our lives? How many of us fill out our worksheets on time, memorize info for tests, and then immediately forget everything after we get our grades? How much have we really learned even if we passed the class? Learning is based on how the learner engages with the material, not the grades they get.

In Abot Tala, we feel that the best way to support real learning and growth is to start with a young person’s strengths, abilities, and interests. Then we build from there.

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But what if we need output for our homeschooling portfolio or documentation?

If a member needs specific output or documentation concerning their progress for their homeschooling provider, it’s best that they talk to their mentor about it. The member and the mentor can work together to see if there are works or activities from classes that can be included in the portfolio. Do take note that the member must be the one to build their own portfolio, though.

Sounds good! How can we join Abot Tala?

Great decision! The first thing you can do is contact us via DM or email to set up a meeting. During this meeting, we can get to know you and see if Abot Tala is a good fit for you.

After the meeting, once you decide to join, we will send you a link to our sign-up form where you can select the program you will be taking.

We will then send an email confirmation once you have signed up, along with your invoice and payment details.

Upon payment of your fees, please email us a copy of your proof of payment. After we’ve received proof of payment, an invitation to our Slack workspace will be sent. You can begin getting to know the community through the non-class channels, and checking for announcements on your class channels on Slack.

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What’s mentoring? How does it work?

Mentoring relationships are at the heart of Abot Tala. It’s hard to overestimate how important it is for young people to feel that they are heard and known. Having a caring, supportive, and knowledgeable adult as an ally helps teens to make the most of their time at Abot Tala.

Mentors can also help connect young people to other learning opportunities online and in the wider community. Mentors can help their mentees keep track of what they learn and encourage them for whatever next steps they are planning to take after Abot Tala.

We offer two types of mentoring: holistic (for members of Abot Tala Junior, Abot Tala High, and Launchpad) and special (for Launchpad members only).

Holistic mentoring

Each member is matched with a full-time staff mentor (their holistic mentor). They conduct regular one-on-one sessions where they can connect and talk about how their classes and activities are going, what keeps them busy, what projects they’re working on, what support they need for a better learning environment, tips on how to maximize their time at Abot Tala, and so on.

Special (business, portfolio, etc.) mentoring

This type of mentorship is available to Launchpad members only, as it is more suitable for older teens preparing for their next stage in life (college, university, internships, entrepreneurship, and so on). It is more specific, and the member is expected to have some output, depending on the arrangement with the mentor.

For special mentoring, we discuss with members and their parents what the goals and expectations for mentoring are, and what particular career or industry the member is interested in exploring, and work from there.

When members are ready, they can choose to avail of a specific mentor for their portfolio, internship or business start-up — to guide them as they build their portfolios, work on projects, begin their internships/apprenticeships, or start their business — as needed.

Please take note that the fee for special mentoring will be in addition to the Abot Tala membership fee.

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Our Launchpad member who wants to be a voice talent with his portfolio mentor and professional voice talent, Joyce Buen
Who are your mentors?

We’ve got some wonderful people that we’re excited for you to meet! You can check out who our staff mentors are here and who our other mentors are here.

For holistic mentoring, we do our best to match members with staff mentors who share their passions and interests, if possible. Our staff mentors encourage their mentees to be self-directed learners, develop their skills, and explore various opportunities for learning. They can also sometimes connect a mentee to other resources and persons in the industry that the mentee is curious about.

For special mentoring, mentors can be any of the Abot Tala staff, (past or present) guest mentors, Abot Tala parents, or an appropriate member from within our community/network. These mentors are usually practitioners (and sometimes experts) in their field, and are able to give valuable feedback and tips.

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Can you tell me a bit more about your community? What’s it like?

Our community is really active and what makes our members stay with us block after block. Who wouldn’t want to be part of a community where you are welcomed, can meet new friends, can learn about things you are interested in, and have time to laugh, play, and enjoy yourself?

We intentionally keep the community small, and haven’t gone beyond 64 members in a block. We want everyone to feel like they matter, and that they aren’t just a cog in a machine.

While no community is perfect, we work really hard to keep ours empathic and inclusive. For young people who have gone through some hard social situations in traditional schools, the relaxed yet respectful atmosphere that we try to nurture can be a valuable and refreshing experience.

How do you deal with disciplinary issues?

Most of the things that cause children to act out in school are absent in a self-directed learning environment. No one is telling you to do things you don’t want to do. Kids have freedom of choice and don’t feel trapped. If they are struggling or having a bad day, they are not forced to sit through class after class as their stress and discomfort increase.

The relationship our staff have with the members is guided by care, respect, and concern. When problems arise, we don’t deal with them via a punitive mindset. There are no suspensions or public shaming. Instead, we want to understand where members are coming from, and try to help them see the consequences of their actions — on themselves and others in the community. Then, if the member is willing, we work with them to repair relationships that might have been damaged.

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My child has some learning differences or special needs. Can they still join Abot Tala? Are your staff trained to handle them?

The answer to the first question is: Maybe. We accept teens and young people who have learning differences or special needs on a case-to-case basis. Please schedule a meeting with us so we can talk about this, and see if Abot Tala is a good fit for your child.

The answer to the second part of this question is a bit longer.

Self-directed learning centers are not therapeutic programs. Our staff do not have specialized training. Because of our structure, members have to be able to care for themselves and not be a potential danger to themselves or others. If a family has concerns about what their teen would do if left unsupervised, a self-directed learning center might not be the right environment for them.

That being said, the way that Abot Tala operates often results in what would be called therapeutic outcomes. For example, if your teen has a lot of anxiety because of the amount of homework or number of classmates they interact with in a traditional school, then being part of a more relaxed place like Abot Tala can help improve their mental health. Almost all the classes and activities at Abot Tala are small and personalized, so teens with learning differences can move at their own pace.

What does it mean to be part of the Liberated Learners network?

Liberated Learners is an international network of self-directed learning centers with member programs across the United States.

Liberated Learner’s mission is to help create self-directed learning programs in as many communities around the world.  Abot Tala is the first Liberated Learners Center outside North America.

As a member of Liberated Learners, we are leveraging over twenty years of experience in running self-directed centers for teens.  Abot Tala gets to be part of a dynamic network of centers and people passionate about making this model of education available to as many teens as possible.  Liberated Learners has been giving Abot Tala much needed advice and guidance throughout the process, making it possible for us to hurdle many challenges.

Check out the websites of Abot Tala’s siblings in Liberated Learners. Click here.

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Are you a DepEd registered school?

Abot Tala is a self-directed learning center. We aren’t a school. We do have members who are homeschoolers, unschoolers, and currently enrolled in traditional schools, though.

Okay. Are you connected to a DepEd registered homeschool provider?

Abot Tala is partnered with Gopala Learning Haven, a DepEd registered homeschool provider. We can refer you to them. They can ensure that the proper documents are filed and the end result is a report card, transcript, and senior high school diploma (for those in senior high).

Can homeschoolers and unschoolers still go to college or university?

Yes of course! There are many homeschoolers and unschoolers in the Philippines and around the world who have gone to university.  Abot Tala is based on the North Star Self-Directed Learning for Teens in Massachusetts, which was founded in 1996. The alumni of North Star have gone on to universities such as Columbia, Brown, MIT, and so on.

We also do not have to look far to see that homeschooling is a viable path for going to college and embarking on a successful career. Donna Pangilinan-Simpao, who runs the support group Homeschoolers of the Philippines on Facebook, has kids from their homeschooling group who go on to attend universities like Ateneo, De La Salle, and UP.

Unschoolers can take DepEd’s PEP Test but this is only until Grade 10. Teens can also register under the ALS program of DepEd, which was really designed for unschoolers.

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Does the self-directed, interest-led learning model really work?

Parents often ask for statistics and probabilities of success. We can refer you to a two-part report written by Ken Danford about the alumni of North Star Self-Directed Learning for Teens. You can click here for Part 1 and here for Part 2. You can also listen to the real-life experiences of those who followed the self-directed, interest-led learning model in this video, “What Still Matters? North Star Alumni Over Age 30”.

If you look at homeschooling in general, the answer is, “Yes, this works.”  Homeschoolers go to college, start businesses, have families, raise children, and have life outcomes similar to people who stayed in school. There is no doubt about that.

The long-term results for teens who join self-directed learning centers are basically the same as the results for homeschoolers in general. They go on to university, build a career, get employment, or become entrepreneurs. Some bypass college and enter their chosen field immediately, working as interns then building their career from there.

At the end of the day, success depends on your own definition of it and a host of other factors. Abot Tala is here to do its best to support families that embrace self-directed, interest-led learning, and point them towards opportunities that may be beneficial for them and their children.

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Trivia: Not everyone in this photo is a teen. Can you guess who the mentors are?
Won’t giving kids and teens too much freedom promote laziness?

This is perhaps the biggest fear people have about self-directed, non-coercive education: If we don’t force young learners to do things, like math or writing, there is no way they will choose to do things that aren’t “fun.” They will just spend their time on YouTube or playing video games.

Every teen reacts differently when given the newfound freedom to direct his or her own life and learning. Some often go through a de-schooling process and need that time to “bum around”, while others enthusiastically fill their schedule with all the classes and activities they’ve always wanted to do. In our experience, the teens who “bum around” eventually reach a point when they realize that they want to start getting involved in activities, finding interests, and taking steps towards becoming an adult.

When you strip away all the required formalities and apparent “busyness” of a typical school schedule, you are confronted by three questions almost daily:

  • Who am I?
  • What do I want?
  • What do I want to do with my time?

We think it’s better to face these questions when you are a teen as opposed to confronting those questions much later in life. The goals of self-directed learning are to help young people take responsibility for their lives, and realize that their life is their own — and will be what they make of it. It is nearly impossible to bribe, threaten, or coerce people to come to this realization, so it’s important to allow them to have their own process, at their own pace.

Don’t kids/teens/young people need structure and supervision?

Well, everyone — even kids, teens and young adults — respond to structure differently. There are those who thrive under structure and prefer to fill their schedule with activities. Other kids wither under too much structure but thrive when they have greater personal control over their time.

There can be as much structure or as little structure as a member wants in a self-directed learning environment. Members are free explore and find their own balance between the two extremes.

Figuring out how to be intentional with how you spend your time is one of the greatest skills anyone can learn in life. In self-directed learning centers, this is practiced on a daily basis.

As for supervision, our mentors are there to help guide members. We believe that, in contrast to micromanagement and over-supervision, teens need trust, time, and support. They need adults who are involved in their lives and who they can come to for advice and support, but don’t control their time or fix all their problems for them.

We’re homeschooling/unschooling just fine. So why should we join Abot Tala?

Families can homeschool or unschool independently without the help of Abot Tala, for sure! Families shouldn’t join Abot Tala unless they want to.

We believe that joining Abot Tala is worthwhile because we have great, educational classes, fun activities, and an amazing community of people. If you’re feeling lonely in your homeschooling or unschooling journey, want to connect with like-minded people, or are simply curious about what we really are, then come join us!

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I’m currently in trad school/homeschool OR I have another course/workshop I’m doing right now, but I’m really interested in Abot Tala. How many hours do I need to commit?

That would be up to you. Our programs are designed to be flexible, so you can choose the number of classes and activities that you want to take part in for the block.

How do you help teens prepare for college/university?

We can help these teens by connecting them to resources and people that can prepare them. For example, we’ve had classes that talk to teens about what to expect when it comes to college entrance requirements in the Philippines, and we’ve had guests who are fresh grads talk about their experiences. Some teens also do co-studying sessions together as they prepare for tests and the like.

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Will Abot Tala help my child find a job or help them get funding for their start-up?

We can’t give you a job on the spot or any money, but depending on how long you’ve been part of the community, your interactions, and your output, we can recommend you for internships or help you look for funding.

We’ve had classes where members come up with resume and cover letters, take part in mock interviews and pitches to help them practice, and meet industry practitioners and leaders who give helpful tips for launching one’s career. We can’t guarantee you’ll get a job offer instantly, but we will do our best to support you while you are with us. And if you maximize your time here — apply all the things you’ve learned, nurture the connections and relationships you have made, build a strong portfolio, and play to your strengths and skills — you’ll have a head start in building a meaningful and sustainable career!

What are some opportunities that my child can have in Abot Tala that they might not find in other places?

Many people are astounded by the number of opportunities there are for young people to learn outside of the traditional school system. Abot Tala can show members these possibilities.

Since Abot Tala is a small community, there are many leadership opportunities, such as being a teen coordinator or leading an interest-led club. Our members have tried leading classes, organizing a fundraiser, creating their own podcast, joining a production team, and so much more!

We also have a big network of families, current and past mentors, partners, and friends, so young people can have a chance to connect with industry practitioners they wouldn’t necessarily meet this early on in their lives. This can give them a head start as they figure out their education and career goals.

Young people who choose to self-direct their own education can live empowered and interesting lives, whether they attend college or university, start their own business, get their first full-time job, or volunteer for causes they care about.

Do you have questions that aren’t covered here? No worries! Contact us to learn more.

NOTE: Some of the answers here were adapted with permission from Joel Hammon’s The Teacher Liberation Handbook.

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