As a home schooled student, Taylor’s mother Bridgette Hobbs, shared that as parents, she and her husband are always looking for experiences to challenge their children through ‘unschooled’ activities. On her quest to keep things engaging for her children Hobbs located Unschool Adventures. The Oregon-based organization was founded in 2008 by Blake Boles and Abbi Miller and works primarily with ‘unschoolers’ between the ages of 14 to 19. Hobbs met the founders while attending a Homeschooling Conference and found them to be not only interesting, but also inspiring.
“I’m always putting stuff out there,” Hobbs said of her presentation to her children in regards to alternative learning experiences.
So when she presented the idea of traveling to Oregon for a month for a writing retreat to eldest child Taylor, the teen admitted to not taking the bait immediately.
“I thought, ‘Yeah right. Like you’re actually going to send me to Oregon to write a book’,” Taylor recalled upon hearing her mother’s initial idea.
Hobbs had learned of a writing retreat arranged by Unschool Adventures as an extension of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), a young writers program.
The NaNoWriMo website describes the writing challenge recognized nationwide as, “a fun, seat-of-your-pants novel writing event where the challenge is to write an entire novel in just 30 days. The only thing that matters … is output. The high-velocity approach forces you to lower your expectations, take risks and write on the fly.”
Taylor shared she has always enjoyed writing and aspired to someday write a novel, but had not given it much thought beyond that.
“I had a few ideas I wanted to write about,” she said of the experience. “I can write 1,667 words a day, that wasn’t hard.”
The teen described the Unschool Adventure trip as an enriching experience. The writing retreat was presented to the group of 17 teens from around the country as an ‘open format,’ encouraging the group to write whenever they chose.
The trip to a vacation home on the outskirts of Seaside, Oregon was the first time the teen had ventured from family for longer than two weeks.
While the family recognizes the retreat as an unconventional approach to a national program observed by teens in traditional and non-traditional learning environments, for Taylor it was about more than writing.
“It was really cool,” she said of the overall experience. “I learned as much about myself as I did about my writing at this retreat.”
The Unschool Adventure website describes the process stating, “By forcing yourself to write so intensely, you are giving yourself permission to make mistakes. To forgo the endless tweaking editing and just create. To build without tearing down.”
The process led Taylor to produce a fantasy book filled with mythical creatures.
“My background line is environmentalism,” the teen said. “The one thing we have to have — the earth — and we are destroying it.
“The idea… the actual writing of it… the characters, that wasn’t so difficult,” she added. “It’s the editing, that’s the hard part.”
The young writer, however, was not daunted by the process.
“I would like to continue to write,” Taylor shared. “I intend to publish this book and another one after that.
“I didn’t think I would write a novel,” she said of the experience and her expectations. “I mean, something a kid like me would pick up and actually read.”
The 17-year-old’s next learning experience will be to travel abroad and spend three months living in Spain, learning to speak Spanish.
“I want to be fluent,” Taylor said. Stating she had little desire in spending eight years in a classroom learning the language and not being fluent.
During this journey, she will be enrolled in a language school studying for as much as five hours a day, five days a week. When not focused on Spanish she intends to continue the editing of her book.
“I’m very excited,” the teen said of the next experience. “I cannot remember the last time I got nervous.”