Issue 38 | December 21, 2012 | Featuring Imagine Rigney


I'm sure you know that home schooling occurs in a variety of ways.  One type that we have not mentioned before is "free schooling".  Read about a student who has benefited greatly by this home-based style of education.   
INSIDE NARHS: Christmas Break
What is the value of the logbook?  Much!   Many families use it for lesson plans that can be written in and then checked off.  Because it comes in many colors, families will select a different color for each student so they are identifiable.  But the biggest benefit is that the logbook verifies the hours invested in self-designed study.  When an advisor checks on hours in order to award proper credit, she will look through the log book carefully to see how the hours were accumulated.  Some self-designed studies occur in bunches through a short part of the year (like sports teams or paging for a senator).  Other courses will be logged sporadically such as sound-board work at church services.  Volunteer work can be logged in the book or on the very handy community service form available on the website.  However the logging occurs, the advisor gets a very interesting snapshot of the student's year by surveying the logbook.  

Also, with Christmas coming up, be aware that the office will be closed from December 24 through January 1.  From time to time, someone will check phone messages.  If you really need to get in touch with your advisor, email will be the best option.  If you have a general question, email me:     



Imagine Rigney

1. How long have you been home schooling?

 I have never been to school. I was free schooled until age 14, when I started working on my high school diploma with NARHS. Lots of people don't know what free schooling is, so just to explain, my mom and dad let me do what interested me each day. For me, this meant building with LEGO. We lived in several places while I was growing up - Illinois, Maryland, Hawaii, and now Colorado. I taught myself to read and do math by playing strategy games and building with LEGO.


2. When did your interest in legos emerge?

First of all, you have to know that using the word "legos" is frowned upon in the LEGO community. The plural of LEGO is just LEGO or LEGO bricks if you want to be specific. I started building when I was three. A lot of LEGO builders start at that age, if they are lucky enough to have parents who will buy them the regular bricks without worrying about them being a choking hazard. My mom remembers that up to that point I really loved doing puzzles, but she had bought me all the puzzles she could find and just ran out of any to select from. So she took me down the LEGO aisle in the toy store one day and I reached out for a Star Wars LEGO set - the Naboo Starfighter. She helped me start building that set and one other, but after that I built them myself. When I was about five, I started creating huge LEGO theme parks and setups, using sets and my own adaptations. By then I was designing my own builds too, but they were on a small scale. I didn't have a very big collection yet.


3. What opportunities has this LEGO-interest brought your way?

Well, I won a trip to LEGOLAND California when I was nine, for a build I did for the LEGO 50th anniversary contest. I went to compete against other builders, all older than me, for a $5000 prize. I didn't win, but I they gave all of us about 20 LEGO sets to go home with. I turned 10 by the time the trip took place. Here's the article about that:


I have also been invited to run workshops with kids to teach them how to build, at many places. Here in Colorado I have taught at the Denver Public Library and the History Colorado Center. Lots of newspapers and magazines have featured my builds and written articles about them. The coolest article was a two-page spread in a British magazine (PlayStation UK Issue 61.) You can read a copy of the two page spread on my Flickr site here:  And the other page here:


I received a cool letter from the architect who built the Denver Public Library, Michael Graves, when I built a LEGO version of the building for a show at the Colorado Governor's Mansion. You can see a comparison of the real building and my LEGO design of it here:

The architect basically said in his letter that I did a pretty good job on his building. The library also exhibited the build for a month after it was done showing at the Governor's Mansion.

Denver Public Library

Everyone always asks me if LEGO knows about what I build. The answer is yes. They keep an eye on all the TFOLs and AFOLs (Teen Fans of LEGO & Adult Fans of LEGO) out there and get our feedback all the time. After showing at the Brickworld LEGO convention in Chicago a couple years ago, LEGO contacted me to be a part of the Beta team for the new LEGO website, ReBrick. I had to sign an NDA (Non-Disclosure Agreement) and keep information about the site secret until it went live to the public, so that was kind of fun. I still give them feedback on the site as they add new features to it.


One of the coolest things about building things I like is that lots of other people like them too. I get comments every day from people online who have just found one of my designs and wishes they could build it - or buy it! Some of my most popular builds were a modular Hogwart's Castle that I built for my cousin - and Rapture, from the video game Bioshock - The first design I did that got a lot attention was Howl's Moving Castle from the Miyazaki animated movie -  


4. What obstacles have you overcome in order to get where you are today?

Money. LEGO is expensive. All the money I earn teaching LEGO building to kids goes back in to buying more LEGO. Every time I create a new, large-scale design I end up ordering more brick to complete the build. It's really hard to estimate how much I need for a build. My mom complains sometimes that I should be better at that part, but the truth is, I just don't know how something is going to turn out until I start building. The other obstacle, at least for my mom, was public school. She had to find ways in every place where we lived to keep me legal with free schooling. She didn't want me to have to do testing or to track hours. So I'm not sure how she did all that, but I just kept building.


5. What do you wish you could do over again?

I wish I could have been able to convince my parents to buy more LEGO when I was little. There are a lot of older sets I wish I had that I didn't get back then. In fact, I could list many of them off the top of my head. Oh well, I'll just have to save up my own money and try to find them on my own. I wouldn't change anything about my free schooling or high school days. Working on high school in the NARHS program is really the only way I could have done it. I spend so many hours building for shows I had to have the flexibility. There were some weeks, before a show when all I did for 10 hours each day was build. Try doing that while going to a regular school!


6. How has home schooling been an important ingredient for your interesting life?

I think that because I didn't have to spend a lot of time studying things I wasn't interested in, I was able to really focus on my passion for design and building. I have an inventory in my head of every brick/element there is to build with. I've always been an extremely visual person, thinking and figuring things out in a sculptural way. I'm also dyslexic. Maybe that has something to do with how I create. My parents worried about it when I was younger, but I did finally learn to read at age 10 and love to read. Up until that point, my mom read to me all the time and we listened to tons of audiobooks. The influences in my life have not been other kids or teachers. It has been the work of artists, architects, my parents, books, and the places I've lived. I don't think I would be so open to trying all the difficult designs I've built if I had gone to school. I think freedom is important. I've seen kids whose artistic nature is crushed by regular schooling. But I've also seen kids who blossom in school. I just think that it's not for everyone and some of us need the freedom of homeschooling.


You can view all of my past LEGO designs online at these places:



Disclaimer: LEGO is a registered trademark of the LEGO Group, and NARHS makes no claim of ownership or affiliation to the LEGO Group.