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Mission and Values

Mission Statement

Raw learning is dedicated to expanding opportunities for self-directed education and nature connection in western Virginia.

Raw Learning is a community where kids and adults alike can nourish their love of learning–mind, body, and spirit. Through our unschooling co-op, field trips, and other community connection opportunities we aim to create environments where families can find joy in connecting with the wider local community, their shared interests and passions, and nature. 

In addition to our Raw Learning led programs, we also aim to support other organizations who create opportunities for self-directed education and nature connection. These could include public libraries, non-profit organizations, private schools, and homeschool co-ops.

Raw Learning is a non-profit organization with no religious or political affiliation. We have an emphasis on self-directed education and nature connection, and we strive to foster a culture in which differences are celebrated and everyone is valued, respected, and feels safe to be themselves. Raw Learning is an inclusive group, and we welcome everyone regardless of race, ethnicity, age, gender, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, disability, economic status, or educational beliefs.

Self-Directed Education

Self-directed education essentially means that kids (and adults) are given the freedom to identify and pursue their interests without being told what they should be learning and when. We believe children (and all people) learn best through play and engaging in topics that are meaningful to them. Self-directed education provides students with a rich learning environment in which they are surrounded by kids and adults of different ages and interests; within this rich learning environment, they are given control of their learning journey. Allowing kids to guide their own learning journey is a foreign idea for many of us, but research suggests that this self-directed approach yields young adults who are highly self-motivated, have a more seamless transition to adulthood, and are prepared to thrive in college.  In today’s information age, another important outcome of self-directed learning is that young adults develop the ability and self-confidence to learn things on their own and without the need for external incentives (e.g., grades).  

Core Values

  • Freedom: to pursue self-directed learning. We believe we are all born with an innate desire to learn through exploring our world. By enthusiastically supporting children to spend their time as they wish we are nurturing their sense of wonder and passion for discovery and exploration.
  • Collaboration: to interact and cooperate with those across mixed ages and abilities
  • Play: to encourage a culture of playfulness for people of all ages
  • Empathy: to show kindness and compassion toward all living things
  • Diversity: to embrace diversity in people and ideas
  • Nurturing: to create an environment in which our families can thrive
  • Integrity: to establish an open and ethical culture
  • Self Motivation: to encourage independence, accountability, and responsibility via self-directed learning
  • Grit/Perseverance: to maintain determination and passion in the face of obstacles, adversity, and failure
  • Innovation: to foster new ideas and out-of-the-box thinking
  • Service: to give back to others
  • Inclusion: of underrepresented and low-income families in the community.  All costs for participation in community activities will be on a sliding scale so that everyone can participate, regardless of their financial situation. Please let us know if you need help affording any of our programs.


Raw Learning was founded in 2009 in Staunton, VA by Gleamer and Joe Sullivan. They ran a successful, full-time homeschooling resource center and private school for many years, had a thriving network of families participating in their offerings, and gained non-profit 501(c)(3) status in the process. In 2019 the Board of Directors decided it was time to find a new team as passionate as they had been about self-directed learning that could continue the Raw Learning legacy. A group of families from Rockbridge and Alleghany Counties, many of whom are still serving on the board today, took on the Raw Learning mission to provide a space for young people to learn on their own terms. Only this time in the Lexington area. Our mission has changed and morphed some since then, but our core values still revolve around self-directed learning.