As a kid, I had this reading interest. Already by age ten...I had an interest in history, geography, cultures, etc. I was lucky, this rural school I attended....had a decent library. It might have been on a twenty foot by forty foot room....but they had an ample amount of books. Added onto this, my mom would take me by the county library, which had a larger selection.
I never thought much about this interest or curiosity of mine...even after I left home and went off to the Air Force. They offered various training segments, instruction in odd things (assembling and disassembling rifles for example), bigger libraries, and I simply broadened out my prospective.
I had what you'd call autodidacticism. Autodidacticism is typically a behavior where you are self-educating yourself, proceeding through life with some instructors, or an entire lack of instructors. Autodidact people tend to pick and chose their interest. They are typically terrible students for the system used in most schools today.
An Autodidact kid might come up and shock you because he's actually interested in ancient Rome. He wants to know about the construction of the Colosseum.....it's intended purpose....how they operated....who came out for the events.....and how the Colosseum fits into the spiral of the Roman Empire. Naturally, 99-percent of high school teachers can't answer these questions. In fact....probably over 50-percent of college history professors....can't answer his request. This is the kid who reads forty books over the period in question....memorizes the names that matter....and has some poster over his bed of the Colosseum. At some point, the kid will grow up....travel to Rome, and stand in awe of the Colosseum for several hours.
Autodidacts tend to skip regular college because they really can't provide an adequate education. If they do attend college, you tend to notice that they may pick and choose various classes which don't fit to any major. For example, you might have some kid who picks two or three economic classes just to understand capitalism, it's history, and the logical anti-capitalist motivation. Beyond that, he has no other interest.
This is also the kid who might take a community college class on how to build a log cabin, but never actually go beyond that point or ever build a log cabin.
Education went through some odd periods. The Catholic Church picked up education and operated a number of instructional programs, and ended up starting the college system as we know of it today. Up until the mid-1800s....if you went to any US or European college program....what you found was a simplistic program built upon five central themes....debate, ancient history, Latin, philosophy, and theology). Engineering and science got added in the mid-to-late 1800s.
What you found a huge growth pattern upon in the 1800s were Autodidact people developing their interest....going out to study things on their own, and building a reputation as an expert.
You can find cases where people would travel for miles to hear so-and-so speak to some topic, or some expedition to Africa, or some new medical idea.
Oddly enough, if you peel away a lot of the Batman character displayed over the past twenty years....he's a Autodidact. He is self-taught to some degree, and using masters to provide an education in other areas.
The world ahead for the Autodidacts? That's an interesting topic. The internet basically offers this vast landscape to go and learn odd knowledge that was difficult in the past to gain. You can sit now via a YouTube lecture and get a two-hour lecture by some noted British professor from Cambridge on Roman war techniques. Or you could sit and hear a sixty-minute talk by some Japanese professor on herbal remedies that were commonly practiced in Japan's 1600s. Or you could hear some gifted guy talk about horse-shoe procedures and how they differ from one culture to another.
In some ways, we are opening up a vast door now for Autodidacts. They could go way beyond anything that we'd ever dreamed of.