Learning is for Everyone, Inc. was founded by Steve and Terri Willingham, with founding board members Wanda Barrett, Christy Bebeau and Mary Ann Gray in 2003, and evolved over a period of years, from an informal statewide homeschool support group into a full scale, Great Nonprofits Top Rated (2013) non-profit organization . Mr. & Mrs. Willingham served on the board of LI4E until March 2014.
LI4E incorporated as a Florida not-for-profit in 2003, and received its 501(c)(3) recognition in late 2004. In 2005, LI4E embarked on a short term plan to enhance services and improve outreach in the service of a long term vision to help bring everyone — regardless of learning choice – to the Education Conversation table.
The Curiosity Driven Life
The LI4E transformation from homeschool support to overall learning support was the result of a growing cognizance that many home based learners and informal educators use a variety of resources for learning that often utilize public learning resources, and that many public and private school families are often looking for more effective personal ways to supplement or enhance their children’s learning.
Everyone, for the most part, was willing to explore a variety of learning ideas, resources and concepts in order to help their children learn, or simply because they were interested themselves. A resource that a home educator found useful was often the same resource that a public school student’s family found useful. Additionally, public education resources are often used by home educators and, increasingly, public education was looking to the lessons of home based education.
In short, we recognized that we all want the same thing, for ourselves and for our children: The knowledge we need to live well and meaningfully. Key to achieving those ends is the need for adaptability and an innate curiosity that drives lifelong learning.
Expanding Universal Access to Knowledge
The advent of e-learning, the growth of the DIY maker movement and the increasingly availability of open source learning provided further evidence to support our belief that the benefits of individualized learning could be enjoyed by more people, in public education settings and beyond. As the education conversation continued to evolve with knowledge access, moving from discussion of what method or style of learning is best, to how best to put the many, ever increasing learning and knowledge, LI4E began to take its place at the leading edge of experiential learning support and program development.
LI4E started a comprehensive online Education Resource Directory in 2005, which has grown to include hundreds of free, vetted quality online learning resources for all ages.
• From 2005-2011, we hosted an annual Knowledge Faire (originally known as LIFEFest) , providing the only secular homeschool conference in Florida.
• In 2008, we organized a FIRST Tech Challenge robotics team, which is now in its 6th year and is among the best teams in the state and part of our growing FIRST community STEM education program. We are now fiscal sponsors for the FTC team and an FRC team, and the original FTC team is part of a Brandeis University longitudinal study gathering data on the effectiveness of FIRST programs.
• In 2010, we partnered with organizers to help host Florida’s first TEDxYouth event, with which we continue to partner annually, giving Tampa Bay area youth an empowering showcase for their voice and vision.
• In 2010 we also launched our social media platforms which continue to expand and provide increasing interactivity among constituents and partners.
• In 2012, we began hosting Tampa Bay Mini Maker Faire,the area’s first “Maker” conference, in which we premiered the first open forum for the discussion and creation of public makerspaces.
• In 2013, we embarked on our Big Year – hosting Robocon Tampa Bay, the area’s first tech conference bringing together K-12 and the business community and the launch of the Community Innovation Center.