One place to start looking for Learning Opportunities is in your local community.
Remember, you are on a Learning Journey. That journey can include traditional classes, too. There are a number of good reasons to take a traditional class, in person, at your local high school. Perhaps you saw a class that looked interesting. Maybe you want to be in a classroom with peers. Maybe you want to have the experience of learning in a traditional classroom. You can start by contacting the counselor's office at your local high school and ask how to go about registering for individual classes. The procedures will vary by district but our experience with other students seeking to take individual classes is that the school can usually find a way to make it work for you.
This can be trickier. There are tons of reasons you might want to participate in a sport or activity at your local school. Perhaps you want to try out for a play, sing in the choir, be a part of the school newspaper, or join a club. You will need to check with the school to see what the rules and procedures are for the activity you are interested in. You can start with the counselor's office but don't be surprised if it takes a few calls and talking to a few people to get an answer. It can be complicated. Some activities have to follow state-wide rules (especially competitive activities like sports and debate) that might limit outside students participating. Some activities might require permission of the coach, leader, sponsor of that activity. I have seen it work out but it can get complicated. It will help to inquire early and be specific about what activity you want to join.
Check with your local Community College or Junior College to see if they allow high school age students to take on campus classes. Most Community Colleges welcome high school age students but make sure and check with the rules. It is not unusual for them to have a minimum age requirement. They might also limit the courses that you have access to. We have had a lot of students take on campus classes through a local Community College over the years and they have been very positive experiences. For the most part, the fellow students (and sometimes the instructors) have no idea that you are a high school aged student. Check the website or contact the admissions office of your local Community College to find out what options exist.
Not every class has to be "for credit". You can often find what are sometimes called "enrichment" or "community" classes through various organizations. These classes are aimed at the community and are not meant to give you credit towards a diploma or a degree. They are just "for fun". You can find them through Community Colleges, libraries, Art Museums, History Museums, Science Museums, Zoos, Aquariums, School Districts, Parks and Recreation Departments, and other community organizations. Since your Learning Journey isn't limited to "for credit" classes these programs can be a great introduction to a topic, can connect you with your local community, and can make a lot of sense as part of a Learning Journey.
In addition to sometimes offering enrichment classes, libraries, museums, zoos, aquariums, parks and other community organizations are themselves great places to add to your Learning Journey. They can be good resources for research, discovery, and exploration. They usually have experts on staff that you can connect with for deeper learning. They often have guest speakers, special programs, and curated exhibits. They have resources and expertise that you can design your own Learning Opportunities around.
Many local communities have community theatre, community choirs, history societies, hobby groups, etc that are open to the public. These types of groups and organizations aren't always aimed at teenagers but many are open to any age. Some of them might have student memberships and might even be associated with regional or national organizations.
Another way to be involved and learn in your local community is to volunteer. There are often all kinds of ways you can get involved from direct help, office support, to raising money. Some organizations might limit official volunteer activities if you are under 18 years old. Even if that is the case, ask how you could help out and perhaps together you can find a way to be involved even if they officially require volunteers to be 18.
Piano lessons, tennis lessons, math tutoring, dance class, etc. A lot of people learn from a teacher or coach but outside of a traditional school setting. Don't forget to include these are part of your Learning Journey. Even if your uncle is teaching you to juggle, you can still Record and Reflect on it as part of your journey. In fact it could end up being an important part of Your Story.
Sometimes we overlook the obvious. If we remember the idea that a Learning Opportunity doesn't need to look like a class, doesn't need to be any specific length or form, we can open up all kinds of Learning Opportunities that are right in front of us.
Fiction, Non Fiction, Biography, Reference, Graphic Novel, Comic Book, Audio Book. We sometimes overlook and under appreciate how wonderful a book can be as a Learning Opportunity. It isn't necessary to find five related books on a topic and turn it into a class. It isn't necessary to write a book report (although thinking about Evidence of Learning is always recommended). Just reading a book is Learning Opportunity itself. And if you have a library card, it can be free, too.
Like a book, a movie or documentary can introduce you to a topic, take you on an adventure, let you time travel, visualize a different world, develop empathy and compassion, understand a different point of view. A movie can be a jumping point into a deeper dive on a topic or it can stand alone. By the way, most libraries have DVD you can check out for free.
Computer games, apps, board games, card games, checkers, chess, Dungeons and Dragons, and a million more. Games can be see as a "distraction" that takes you away from "work" or they can be seen as an opportunity for teamwork, strategy, creativity, patience, social learning, planning, solving open ended problems, and much more. If you play a game and then take the time to Record and Reflect that Learning Opportunity you might discover that games have a lot to teach us.
You don't have to be a part of a formal sports team or in a PE class to gain the benefits of sports and exercise. You can strap on some shoes and run a trail without needing a teacher or a coach. You can play a pickup game of basketball. Play tennis with a friend. Hike in the woods. Practice yoga. Meditate. Ride a bike. Climb a tree. Play a round of golf. If you are motivated to do so, there are many, many ways to get some exercise. Find something that is a good match for you and your life and make it a part of your week.
Because of the relative simplicity and low cost of producing a podcast, you can find one on just about any subject. Some are interviews with experts, some are long form conversations, some are highly produced audio documentaries. The amount of high quality knowlege and wisdom available for free is staggering. Like watching a movie or reading a book, you don't need some "excuse" like a formal class to make podcast listening a part of your Learning Journey. They can be a Learning Opportunity unto themselves or they can be combined with other research or activities.
We have to learn be an adult somehow. Why not make it a part of your Learning Journey. Somethings are just basic skills that are part of life but somethings can become your passion. You can learn to plan and prepare a dinner for your family but you could also learn to be a chef. You can do yard work around the house but you could also plant a pollinator garden. You can learn to change a flat tire on a car or you could become a vintage car restorer.
Knitting, photography, model building, soap making, robotics, quilting, stamp collecting, cryptocurrency, music, you name it. Hobbies require research, planning, persistance, passion, and a growth mindset. Hobbies can enrich your life, help you build positive habits and skills, and connect you to social groups.
The internet is full of a wide variety of Learning Opportunities that you can join. Here are some places to look and some strategies to consider.
Many states and school districts have public, online programs. Some of these are full-time programs that require you to be registered as a full-time, online student but it is worth researching to see if they have options for taking individual classes. You can search for public, online high school in your area or you could call and talk to a guidance counselor at your local school district. Some programs require you to register with your local school to have access to the classes.
Some online high school programs are offered through universities and colleges. Many of these programs have costs associated with them so keep that in mind. We have had students take high school classes through BYU, Northwestern University, Stanford, and the University of Missouri. Many of these programs do not require being a resident of the state. Again, you will need to do some research to make sure that you can take individual classes without being a full-time or diploma seeking student.
There are many private schools offering high school classes in an online format. There are too many to name here and we do not have enough experience with any of them to make recommendations. It is an option to consider but be careful as there are many less-than-legitimate players in this area.
Many community colleges, public, and private colleges/universities offer online classes that are open to high school students. We have had students take online college classes through local Community Colleges, in state Universities, and out of state Universities. These are typically classes that earn college credit and the student/family is responsible for paying tuition. The rules and procedures vary by institution and it can sometimes be hard to find information about it on the college website. You can try searching "high school" on the college's search function or contact the admissions office and ask them how a high school student could take an online course at their institution.
If you would like to be able to take a college level class but don't want or need "official credit" for the class, many colleges have course content available for free. MOOCs (Massive Open Online Course) are versions of (typically) college classes that are free and often self-paced. The content is usually adapted from existing courses offered at public and private universities. For some courses you can pay extra to receive a certificate and in some cases credit. Some MOOC providers that we have experience with include:
In addition to MOOCs, some colleges and universities have course materials, lectures, and syllabi online but not structured or organized into a MOOC format. These are sometimes termed Open Courseware. In addition to the providers listed below you can often find recorded lectures on Youtube.
Universities are not the only ones providing access to classes, courses, workshops, and lectures. Some of the the providers listed below have fees associated with them. They are also not necessarily structured to be followed like a college or high school course. These providers are typically focused on "academic" subjects.
Open Culture is a great resource for online educational materials. They run some big lists of online courses, programs, books, etc. It is a good resource to check with if you are looking for options.
The following providers are focused on providing shorter classes and workshops with a focus on developing specific skills (art, design, crafts, technical, business) or enrichment. Many of these providers charge a monthly fee or a per class fee for access to their materials. You might check with your local library as sometimes they have a community license to some of these services.
Don't discount what online resources might be available through your local library. Many libraries license with databases, archives, class providers, newspapers, genealogy resources, book collections, and more. Check with your library website or talk to a reference librarian to find out what is available for you.
There are mobile apps and websites that are designed specifically to help you learn skills and content. These are not necessarily structured like classes. Here are a few that our students have used over the years. This is a very small list. There are apps for all kinds of learning. Do some research and see if there is a good fit for you. Some apps have one-time or monthly fees.