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An education in ‘adulting’

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An education in ‘adulting’ (Graphic courtesy of The Adulting School)

The Adulting School offers life skills assistance

PORTLAND – The phrase “adulting” has become a popular one in recent years, a sort of shorthand catch-all for assorted basic life skills that are key to functioning as a grown-up in the world.

However, there are many people out there who, for whatever reason, simply missed out on acquiring those skills along the way. Financial planning or parenting or personal health – there are so many components to adulthood. And the truth is that some people – particularly young people - just don’t feel adequately prepared.

That’s where The Adulting School comes in.

Founded in Portland in the summer of 2016, The Adulting School has been offering seminars and workshops aimed at helping people to get a better grasp on those gaps in their personal knowledge base. Now, they’re bringing the online component of the school to bear in an effort to spread their efforts to students beyond the city limits.

Co-founders Rachel Weinstein and Katie Brunelle came together in an effort to help people navigate the sometimes-turbulent waters of adulthood. The pair – along with some assistance from actor/improviser Rachel Flehinger – have been slowly and steadily expanding their offerings over the past few months.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, there are those who are dismissive of the idea of an “adulting” school. Some would argue that the notion of needing to be taught these seemingly rudimentary skills is indicative of some larger issue that falls under the umbrella of millennial entitlement.

But the reality is that the way the world works – and how education works – has changed significantly in recent years. It’s far easier for important concepts to slip through the scholastic cracks, leaving students underprepared when they eventually do move into the real world.

With the varied backgrounds of the founders – Weinstein is a psychotherapist; Brunelle has a background in education and entrepreneurship; Flehinger’s skills set is performance-based – The Adulting School is uniquely situated to conceptualize and develop the sorts of classes, seminars and workshops that might prove especially helpful to those lagging behind in the adulting realm.

Offerings are broken down into four verticals: Financial Basics; Relationship and Community; Health and Wellness; and Make-It/Fix-it. The specifics that fall within these categories run the gamut. Some are basic, others are complementary, still others are a bit silly – but all are intended to help people feel more comfortable with the nuts and bolts of being an adult.

The TAS crew makes one thing clear – they don’t believe there’s anything to be embarrassed about here. Their take is that there is no shame in asking for help. One of the school’s foundational principles is that if you’re struggling, it’s OK to admit that fact. Their goal is to provide an informative, helpful and fun way to help shrink or even close these informational gaps.

While the school has been built around (very successful) live events thus far, the launch of the online school changes everything. Interest has been expressed by people all over the country and beyond, people who have been encouraged to discover that they are far from alone in their struggles. Now, the work done by Weinstein, Brunelle, Flehinger and all the rest can reach an audience well beyond Portland.

Perhaps you’ve sometimes felt like you can’t even adult; I know I have. Well, now there’s a place that can help you to do just that.

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Rachel Weinstein took the time to answer a few questions about The Adulting School. The following Q&A breaks down some TAS fundamentals – the inspiration that led to it, the people behind it, some of the more popular offerings, the considerable media attention and much more.

What has the process been like in growing the Adulting School? 

​It’s been a whirlwind! ​We started planning the Happy Hour Workshops to spread the word about the November Summit. When word got around and Allie Jones from NY Magazine’s The Cut came and reported on the Summit things went media viral! We didn’t have the online school open yet but kicked things into overdrive and between fielding international interviews (Australia, Canada, Ireland, Chile, etc.) and building the online school - we’ve just been trying to keep up! Our first live webinar took place on Feb. 7; we’re launched! Everyone who enrolls gets a free 7-day trial.

How much of your time is devoted to building the school?

​I see about 20 clients a week in my private pr​actice and I work 20-30 hours more on the school each week. [Adulting School co-founder Katie Brunelle] is working full-time on the school now (and by full-time I mean probably more like 60 hours a week!)

Where do you find your instructors? And how do you decide which subjects are covered?

​Our instructors largely find US online and locally. We are lucky to know a lot of great Maine professionals who present at our Happy Hour Workshops and other wonderful teachers have found us through the media exposure. Anyone can apply online to be a teacher and we vet teachers through our teacher enrollment process to make sure they are experts in their field and have a great way of presenting their material.

Who are your most frequent collaborators? How frequent are your live events?

​We’ve done a lot of work so far with Britt Bolnick from In Arms Coaching here in Maine. Our live events have been once or twice a month but we also have a monthly live webinar which will be broadcast to the online community. We have an Annual Summit, at least monthly Happy Hour Workshops, and other smaller, more intensive workshops (e.g. with personal access to financial counselors or on first time home-buying).​

Why do you think something like the Adulting School is necessary?

​I saw my clients​ struggling with missing knowledge and skills that are central to living a successful adult life. I also saw them feeling alone and ashamed about it. Seeing how they actually weren’t alone and knowing how crucial it is to have challenges normalized - to know you’re not the only one struggling - I wanted to help.

What made you want to do something like this?

​Katie and I thrive on having conversations about taboo subjects and breaking down barriers that contribute to people feeling alone or insecure. We also love thinking outside the box and Iwe love a good glass of wine or beer. We wanted to put all that ​together to learn in a way that gave people an opportunity to connect, feel supported, and learn while having fun!

What’s the breakdown in involvement as far as live events vs. online participation?

​Our online launch just took place on Feb. 7. We have many students pre-enrolled online who’ve been waiting patiently with no school!​ We’ve had live events at least monthly since July 2016 and the online school will be huge!

What are some of the more successful offerings thus far? And what future sessions are planned?

​People loved the Network Like a Pro Happy Hour Workshop we help last Fall at Sur Lie presented by Maggie Ellis. They loved Britt Bolnick’s presentation at our Summit - Time-Management for the Chronically Over-Busy - and Allison Bishop’s presentation Paying Off Debt While Saving Too!

In the near future, we’re [having] Britt’s time management presentation again since it was so successful and we’re also organizing the smaller, more intensive workshops where people can ask their financial questions ahead of time and get them answered by a Financial Counselor. Each person will have one-on-one time with the counselor to discuss their personal challenges and get advice. We’re also planning a First Time Home Buyer’s Workshop.

How do you decide what topics/skills/etc. warrant coverage by the school?

​Some of it is based on our own experiences and challenges with adulting. Some of it is based on my observations as a therapist and Katie’s as a teacher for 13 years.​ And a lot is based on what students say they’re struggling with. All online students can request TAS content on the topics with which that they need the most support.

What do you say to those who dismiss this concept out of hand, the people who scoff at the very notion of an “Adulting School”?

​If people are having a hard time with any aspect of adulting (and really, who doesn’t struggle with SOME aspect of it?), we think it’s a waste of time to shame or criticize them. If people need help learning - we want to help. And the criticizers are often people who simply forget that they used to gather around the water cooler and talk about how paying bills or parenting can be hard. They might like to blame millennials for “complaining” but the fact is, the social media platform is just more visible than the water-cooler. People shouldn’t have to learn things ​the hard way if there’s an alternative.

Are there any plans to expand your physical reach beyond greater Portland?

​Absolutely. People have been requesting TAS across the country and around the world! Once we’ve got the school rocking next month, we’ll be ​keeping our eye on what other cities would be a great home to TAS.

How have your own backgrounds (and that of your collaborators) influenced the course of the Adulting School?

​Yeah. My background as a therapist and also my desire to learn by doing has influenced TAS. I used to change my own oil and I sew and such--I like learning hand’s on and we love to help people do that at our live events. ​Katie’s work as a teacher influenced her desire to help people figure out their individual learning style to help them learn as successfully as possible.

How would you rate your own adulting abilities?

​Katie’s more organized than I am; I’m more punctual. Katie had a group of women-friends working on financial empowerment as early as 24, [a group called] the Sugar Mommas.

We’re not perfect - my car’s a mess for instance and my library books are overdue - but we’re doing pretty well.

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