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Board Members

Stacey Noffsinger

I’m a mother to three always-unschooled kids, ages 10, 7, and 4. Before my children were born, I worked as a high-school Spanish teacher for a short period of time. I came away from that experience with the decision that I did not want to work in public schools again. I did not want to work in a coercive environment. I remember thinking, “I want to work with kids who are learning what they want to learn, and enjoying it”. I’m passionate about being outdoors, and helping people to enjoy the outdoors. I’ve worked, and am currently working, in the outdoor industry as a kayak guide. I really enjoyed giving nature tours, and teaching paddling skills – I found a way to work with people in an environment where they were seeking out education and enjoying what they were learning. Some time after becoming a mother I discovered self-directed education, and self-directed education centers/schools, and I realized that this was the environment I had been seeking. 

For the last decade I have been fortunate enough to be my children’s full-time partner on our journeys of self-directed education and life! Since becoming a parent I have been steadily involved in organizations dedicated to creating community for children and families. First I founded a “Hike it Baby” branch on the Outer Banks when my oldest was a toddler, then I led a “Free Forest School” branch after moving to Virginia, and now Raw Learning! I am excited to share self-directed learning, nature connection, and fellowship with all of the Raw Learning Families! I live with my husband and our three children on a homestead in Alleghany County, just outside of Clifton Forge. I enjoy hiking, swimming, paddling, foraging, gardening, raising chickens, dancing, making art, and learning new things!

Keely Massie

I owe my passion for self-directed learning to my parents who began homeschooling me and my three siblings in 1984, inspired by the writings of John Holt and others who pioneered the home education movement. Before embarking on the journey of learning with my own four children, three of whom are now young adults, I worked in early childhood development, focusing on emergent curriculum and the power of play. As I became a mother and began to homeschool my own children, I continued to educate myself on many educational philosophies and methods, drawing on ideas and practices from many different sources to support each of my children on their individual paths. I believe in the importance of play, exploration, curiosity, autonomy, and the outdoors. My personal pursuits include photography, gardening, and most recently, woodcarving. Like my children, I am always learning!

Sarah Straw

I’m a mother to two children, ages 11 and 8. We embrace self-directed learning, which for us runs the gamut from days spent absorbed in imaginative play to part time attendance at alternative education schools. I’ve spent my career working for performing arts and education nonprofits, and I’m passionate about children’s rights and incorporating art into everyday life. I live with my husband, kiddos, three cats, two dogs, and a flock of ducks and chickens, on a homestead in Rockbridge County, VA. I enjoy gardening, walking in nature, preserving food, sewing, crafting with my kids, drinking tea, and looking at the moon.

Mark Barnhart

I am ever curious and I want to learn every thing. But, that’s too much—the world is too big. How do I whittle my curiosity down to a manageable size? Following my kids around is one way. Sometimes I teach them a thing or two, but they see things I don’t and ask questions I never would’ve thought of. I’m so grateful to have them around to lead me back to curiosity and question everything.

I grew up on a small farm in Maryland. When left to my own devices, I explored meadows, adventured through woods, dissected gadgets and discovered how to build just about anything. Whether on my own or accompanied by a cohort of friends, it was a blast and my life has been enriched by the experience. I want that kind of opportunity for my kids, all kids and every single one of us.   

I believe we never stop learning: There’s always something new to see, a new perspective and a different way to do something. My favorite question is simply “Why?” I don’t follow recipes and I only read  instructions when someone else really thinks I should. Labeling something mistake is a matter of opinion.

Finally, here’s a thought, “We’re never gonna survive unless we get a little crazy.”—Seal

I think that’s right. So, let’s get crazy, humans.

Aurora McClain

Growing up homeschooled on a farm in Vermont was an amazing experience that has shaped pretty much all of my interests as an adult. Building things with my Dad led me to becoming an architect, traipsing around the woods led to a passion for hiking and plant identification, and regular trips to the local library led to my belief in the power of self-directed learning. I went off to college fueled by a desire “To follow knowledge like a sinking star/ Beyond the utmost bound of human thought.” (Tennyson, “Ulysses”). This desire still drives me, and Raw Learning has offered me an opportunity to share that quest with other adults and children who are also excited about learning and exploring.