Millions of people participate in the sport of running every year.
Many of these same people devote large amounts of their personal time each day. Spending an hour or two, before or after work, training for an upcoming race is not uncommon at all for many people.
In addition to spending personal time, hundreds of dollars of their own money is poured into the hobby each year. There are shoes to buy, running attire, race entry fees, and other special tools like fancy GPS watches.
Furthermore, for many it is not just about personal development and aerobic well-being, but also social interaction and a sense of belonging to a community of like minded people. People join running clubs that host social runs, train together in groups, even get together online and talk on forums.
Many of these people started running in high school or college with an organized team and a coach. When they graduated, they simply continued what they had been doing anyways. They realized they could find their own races to enter and that they didn't really need a coach to get the enjoyment that came with the challenge of setting a new personal best or socializing with a group of health oriented individuals.
Why is education any different?
This is the approach I am taking with the M.S. in applied economics project I am currently in the process of setting up and planning.
I will be devoting large amounts of personal time before or after work. I am sure that an hour or two, before or after work, studying for the "degree" will not be uncommon during this project.
In addition to spending personal time, hundreds of dollars of my own money (or yours!) will be poured into the project over the next six months. There are many textbooks to buy, each of which are the equivalent of a high end pair of running shoes. There might be some specialized software to buy for several of the quantitative courses as well, unless I can figure out how to ascertain them for free.
Furthermore, the project is not just about personal development, but also social interaction and a sense of belonging to a community of like minded people. People are starting to be more vocal within the self-study and unschooling communities. They are sharing information online and getting together to talk on forums and various websites.
Many of these people learned in highly formal settings for years within organized high school and college institutions (teams) with teachers and professors (coaches). When they graduated, they simply continued what they had been doing anyways. They realized they could find their own curricula (races) to study (enter) and that they didn't really need a teacher to get the enjoyment that came with the challenge of understanding a new and difficult subject or socializing with a group of intellectually oriented individuals.