🕴️ Official bio
Blake Boles is the founder and director of Unschool Adventures and the author of Why Are You Still Sending Your Kids to School?, The Art of Self-Directed Learning, Better Than College, and College Without High School. He hosts the Off-Trail Learning podcast and has delivered over 75 presentations for education conferences, alternative schools, and parent groups. Blake and his work have appeared on The New York Times, The Christian Science Monitor, BBC Travel, Psychology Today, Fox Business, TEDx, The Huffington Post, USA Today, NPR affiliate radio, and the blogs of Wired and The Wall Street Journal.
In 2003 Blake was studying astrophysics at UC Berkeley when he stumbled upon the works of John Taylor Gatto, Grace Llewellyn, and other alternative education pioneers. Deeply inspired by the philosophy of unschooling, Blake custom-designed his final two years of college to focus exclusively on education theory. After graduating he joined the Not Back to School Camp community and began writing and speaking widely on the subject of self-directed learning.
In his previous lives, Blake worked as a high-volume cook, delivery truck driver, summer camp director, Aurora Borealis research assistant, math tutor, outdoor science teacher, camp medic, ski resort market researcher, web designer, and windsurfing instructor. His biggest passion is sharing his enthusiasm and experience with young adults who are blazing their own trails through life. He was born in 1982.
- this 2016 profile
- this 2019 podcast interview
- my introduction in pictures
- and the longer story in my own words
🎩 A few hats that I wear
Ever since college I’ve written extensively about alternative education and self-directed learning, leading me to publish four books and a bunch of articles.
Real-life experiences are the best teachers, which is why I’ve always loved working at summer camps, outdoor education programs, and running my Unschool Adventures programs.
Advocate for Self-Directed Learning
To me, self-directed learning isn’t anti-structure or anti-teacher: it’s about fully consenting to whichever educational environment you find yourself. In Why Are You Still Sending Your Kids to School?, I encourage parents to think like an unschooler but pledge allegiance to no specific educational methodology.
After college I began traveling extensively, leading me to embrace a nomadic existence and create temporary homebases across the United States and abroad. I’ve never had a 12-month lease, and all my possessions fit into a 5’x5′ storage unit.
I tend to “crush out” (forgive the 90s lingo) on people, places, and ideas, seeing the world with the optimism of somebody who is in love. My close friends once wrote some sweet dating endorsements for me.
I’ve long dreamed of working for myself, and since 2010 I’ve been fully self-employed. I’ve never held a year-round, full-time, 9-to-5 type job.
After growing up a non-dancer, I discovered Argentine tango, got deep into it, and later found a home in the fusion dance scene.
🧐 Questions about education that motivate me
Q: Why has dissatisfaction with public schools been the norm since their inception?
Q: What other paths can a young person take if they hate school? And later, what options do they have for rejoining the “normal” worlds of college and career?
See: College Without High School, Stop Wasting Your Time in High School, Blake Boles on Quitting High School, Can Unschoolers Get into College?, Antonio Buehler on Competitive College Admissions for Non-Traditional Students, and Why Are You Still Sending Your Kids to School?
Q: What if college doesn’t seem like a good fit for you (now, at least), but everyone is telling you that you must go to college in order to be successful?
See: Better Than College, Really Good Reasons to Skip College, Hail the Almighty Diploma, What Could You Do with $20,000?, Maya Landers on Postponing College (Perhaps Forever), T.K. Coleman on the Best Arguments Against College, Sean Ritchey on Learning Through Work Instead of College, William Deresiewicz On Excellent Sheep, and Why Are You Still Sending Your Kids to School?
Q: How do unschoolers (and other highly self-directed learners) turn out as adults?
Q: What empirical research supports self-directed education?
Q: Lax homeschooling regulation allows unschooling to exist in the United States; it also allows a small number of parents to horribly abuse their children, free from oversight. What’s the proper way to address this tension?
See: Jim Dwyer on Homeschooling Philosophy, Law, and Regulation, Elizabeth Bartholet And Rachel Coleman On Homeschooling’s Potential For Abuse, and Pat Farenga on the Post-Pandemic Future of Homeschooling (Part 2) + the Harvard Homeschool Summit
Q: What options do families outside of North America have for self-directed learning?
Q: Is it possible to offer a highly self-directed environment through the public education system?
See: Gabe Cooper on Starting a Public “Unschool”, Catherine Gobron on Promoting Inclusivity in Self-Directed Learning, Kate Friedman on Promoting Self-Direction in Public Education, Wes Beach on Building a One-Man High School, and Joel Hammon on Quitting Teaching
Q: How do you stay motivated as an unschooler / self-directed learner without teachers or parents breathing down your neck?
See: The Art of Self-Directed Learning, Why Are You Still Sending Your Kids to School?, How to Be a Badass Teen Homeschooler, Give Kids Control, Ned Johnson on The Self-Driven Child, Nathen Lester on the Challenges of Total Freedom, Who Should Unschool and Who Shouldn’t? A Conversation with Liam Nilsen, Dev Carey on the Perils of Goal-Setting, Launchpad, and Self-Directed Learning 101
Q: How much of what we consider “parenting” is caused by purposeful parental molding, how much is a by-product of genetics, and how much is due to peer groups and culture?
Q: How do the modern varieties of “free schools” and “self-directed learning centers” differ and overlap?
See: Agile Learning Centers, Liberated Learners, and Sudbury Schools: What’s the Difference?, Matthew Gioia on Sudbury Ideals vs. Reality, Alexander Khost on Education as a Political Act, Ken Danford on Liberated Learners, and Tomis Parker And Nancy Tilton On Agile Learning Centers
Q: How can the different players in the alternative education movement find common ground?
A few posts that explain my somewhat weird lifestyle:
- On the Kerouacian Lifestyle
- In Praise of the Low-Income, High-Purpose, High-Freedom Career
- Pay Yourself in Time, Not Money
- How to Pack Blake’s Life Into a Subaru Forester in 12 Easy Steps
And don’t miss How to Live Nowhere.
🤓 Personality types
I geek out on personality typing systems. Here are my types:
- MBTI: INFP
- Big Five
- Agreeableness: Moderately Low
- Conscientiousness: High
- Extraversion: Very High
- Neuroticism: Exceptionally Low
- Openness to Experience: Moderately High
- Enneagram: 7 with 8 wing
🙏 A few people to whom I’m indebted
- My smart and supportive parents.
- Jim Wiltens and Grace Llewellyn for guiding my young adult career path, and for building the Deer Crossing Camp and Not Back to School Camp communities, which have given me so much .
- The Berkeley Student Cooperatives for my social transformation in college.
- Every parent who ever sent their child on an Unschool Adventures program.
- My readers, all of whom are highly intelligent and good-looking.
- Everyone on the internet who consumes, supports, and shares my work—and who I’ll never meet.
📆 Year-in-review posts
The narrative story of my year: an excellent way to get to know me.