Why Are You Still Sending Your Kids to School?

Tells Peak Press, 2020
4800+ copies sold as of 2022.

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For some kids, school offers a positive and engaging experience. For others, it’s a boring, stressful, and frustrating waste of time. If your child is in the second category, why keep tormenting them? Instead, why not help them find an educational environment where they feel genuinely motivated, excited, and empowered?

In this eye-opening book, Blake Boles makes the case for leaving conventional school and taking one of the many alternative paths through K-12 that exist today. He addresses parents’ major concerns about unconventional education—Can my kids still go to college? Will they still be employable? How will they learn to work hard?—while highlighting the hidden benefits of self-directed learning, such as improved parent-child relationships, a more balanced decision-making process regarding college, and a heightened sense of autonomy and connection.

Drawing upon 15 years of work as a mentor and guide for adolescents in alternative and experiential learning environments—as well as his own unconventional life path—Boles weaves together narrative, theory, and research to build a powerful argument for granting children unusual levels of freedom and responsibility.

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Praise from Fellow Authors

This amazing book will give you the courage to think seriously about giving your child a more authentic, playful, and joyful learning journey. It cracked my imagination wide open and convinced me that something radically different is not only possible, it’s necessary. Everything you need to create a better future for your child, by making every day better right now, is inside these pages.

– Jane McGonigal, New York Times bestselling author of Reality is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World

Blake Boles is back with another provocative challenge to parents and guardians. If mainstream schooling isn’t working for your child, maybe it’s time to consider the alternatives. Yes, your kids can still go to college, And, yes, they can have a conventionally successful career. However, once families step out of the traditional education box, they never know where the path might lead.

– Daniel H. Pink, New York Times bestselling author of Drive, When, and A Whole New Mind

There is so much goodness is this powerful, game-changing book! The message (like the title) is bold, and yet Blake’s writing is always thoughtful and nuanced. He offers heaps of friendly guidance and lays out the relevant research with clarity and discernment. Without stooping to hyperbole or manipulation, Blake will have parents wondering why, indeed, they are still sending their kids to school. Better yet, he’ll help them drop unnecessary stress and worry—and help their kids find meaningful, engaged, and joyful paths through life.

– Grace Llewellyn, author of The Teenage Liberation Handbook

Blake’s new book is a major contribution to the growing understanding of Self-Directed Education. It addresses, straight on, in thoughtful, respectful, and compelling ways the major concerns parents have when they think about the possibility of this approach to education for their children. If you care about children and the future, read this!

– Peter Gray, Research professor at Boston College and author of Free to Learn  

This book will push you, provoke you, and quite possibly inspire you to rethink every core assumption you hold about education. Be prepared to open your eyes to radically different ways of preparing kids for radically different forms of “success.”

– Ted Dintersmith, author of What School Could Be and producer of Most Likely to Succeed

Blake Boles offers a stimulating and important perspective on improving the well-being of young people everywhere.

– Johann Hari, New York Times bestselling author Chasing the Scream and Lost Connections

Blake’s well-researched book looks at the intersection of education, parenting, and psychology to show us what is possible when we allow kids to own their educations.

– Lori Walker, Founder, Village Home Education Resource Center

School really isn’t the only viable option for all kids. Some might do better not going to school. With this book, Blake Boles gives a wide-ranging and balanced resource to parents (and kids) who want to think through what learning can look like outside the conventional system.

– Kevin Currie-Knight, Teaching Associate Professor, College of Education, East Carolina University

Kids don’t need school; they need space to explore and time to think. This book will show you how to give your kids a real education by encouraging them to discover their interests instead of merely following someone else’s directions.

– Penelope Trunk, serial entrepreneur and writer @ penelopetrunk.com

Blake poses the $64,000 question and then draws a detailed roadmap for parents to follow, replete with testimonials from self-directed students, the researchers who have followed them, and the educators who have witnessed their journeys.

– Pat Montgomery, founder of the Clonlara School and author of The School That’s Inside You

If your goal is to raise a curious, self-directed child, this is the book to read. Blake Boles makes a compelling case for allowing children and teens to take charge of their own education.

– Gina Riley, Clinical Professor of Adolescent Special Education, Hunter College

Blake’s book is one I wish I had had on my shelf when I was leading my five kids to adulthood. He thoughtfully leads us to consider our preconceptions, beliefs, and aspirations and then gives us a buffet of options that can be paired with a particular teenager—rather than following culturally-derived, one-size-fits-all ideas about education and employment. I especially appreciated how he showed that young people can “signal” a readiness for employment with or without college. A great read and a must-have for the parents of teens.

– Julie Bogart, author of The Brave Learner

Praise from Readers

“I think it’s a must-read not only for any parent who is considering self-directed education for their children, but actually also for parents who haven’t ever considered it.”

– Becka Koritz, founder of Explora, an Agile Learning Center in Mexico

“Why Are You Still Sending Your Kids to School? might be my new go-to book to introduce the uninitiated to Self-Directed Education. Why? Because Blake acknowledges the reader’s conventional beliefs with respect and care, while still disagreeing with them. His approach is unlikely to turn people off at the get-go, unlike many writers who go straight into rant mode.”

– Aaron Browder, staff member at Open School OC

“Richly fortified with studies, books, and articles, Boles’ objective book rallies us toward a vision that offers a lot to digest. . . .His insight and musings communicate a holistic and modern perspective that couldn’t be gained from just one of the authors discussed within. . . .His meticulousness plays out in the presence of the ‘Notes’ section placed after each chapter which, [providing] a plethora of sources for his in-chapter discussion. . . .Whether it sounds like it or not, the book is likely for you.”

– Dan Moeller, Early Childhood Educator & unschooling dad

“This is the resource I’ve been looking for when families struggle to manage the current education system when it doesn’t fit the kids participating in it. Blake takes a multi-faceted and professionally researched approach to sharing his wisdom and experience. He’s done a wonderful job of taking a ‘both/and’ approach to reframing the goals and outcomes of education; education can be individualized and relational, self-directed and community supported. There is hope for the world in educating our next generations and this book is a great place to start the journey.”

– Natasha Morisawa, MA, LMFT (Amazon review)

“Boles’ voice is a bridge between the world of SDE [self-directed education] and the mainstream. I have always thought the quality that best describes Boles’ demeanor is balance; he is a fulcrum of evenhandedness and boldness. He manages to be inspiring and idealistic while remaining fair, critical, and honest. He acknowledges the limitations of SDE while lucidly illuminating its power. And he treats the various models of SDE as tools that families might use in turn, rather than distinct philosophies demanding a lifetime commitment.”

– Matthew Gioia, staff member at Hudson Valley Sudbury School

“I was ready to dismiss a lot of what was in this book for the privileged few that could afford to find alternative schooling options for their children. What I wasn’t prepared for was to have my view of ‘normal’ challenged in a way that genuinely gives the book its title – why do I keep sending my kids to school? Why is it that we think school is the only way to get an education? Blake does an amazing job of breaking down every assumption we as parents have around the notion of what school is (or should be) and why we put our kids there. It certainly made me question our choices going forward. Great book, well written and a fantastic resource for parents looking for education options. I highly recommend it.”

– Stacey (Goodreads review)

“In the 24 years of our family’s home-based learning journey, I have obtained and read at least portions of a great many educational support or guidance books. Yours rises to the very top. It is a book for truly all, yet your references to and quotes from Grace Llewellyn, Alfie Kohn, and Peter Gray felt as though you knew my friends. You began for me on solid footing but just as quickly soared beyond; not a single other such book has so neatly met me just where I am at (and I am not even in your title’s target audience, never once having ‘sent’ a child to school and having long known and championed the power of SDE). Not one other such book has alluded to the precise pull and the tug of the experience we live. The idea of ‘fly no flag.’ Or right ‘for now.’ I read your book cover to cover over a matter of about 24 hours, re-reading much out loud for whomever happened into hearing range. . . .I am feeling further empowered and validated and reminded, by you, that while no one gets a guarantee, there is much that is so very right and helpful within everyone’s grasp. Thank you for your fine work.”

– a reader 

Early reviewers


Roleplaying Q&A with Ken Danford

A full walk-through of the book, part of the 2020 Learning Revolution conference

A short interview with Pia Janzen of EDiT, recorded in late 2019

Links & Resources

(Write me with suggested additions)


  • The 2019 documentary Unschooled offers an excellent perspective on issues of privilege in the self-directed education world.

Chapter 1: High-quality Alternatives Exist

Chapter 2: They Still Go to College and Get Good Jobs

Chapter 3: They Still Learn to Work Hard

Chapter 4: You Have Less Control Than You Think

Chapter 5: You Can Afford to Relax About College

Chapter 6: All They Want is Connection

  • [nothing here yet!]

Foreign Editions

German translation now available on Kindle: Warum schickst du deine Kinder noch zur Schule? (translated by Pia Janzen)

Spanish translation now available on Kindle: ¿Por qué sigues enviando a tus hijos al colegio? (translated by Mica Peker)

I wrote this book with an eye for both North American and international audiences. Those in the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, and some European countries will be able to directly apply the book’s advice. Those in countries with more restrictive laws will still find value in its broader arguments.

(French and Portuguese translations, coming some day!)


The following corrections were made in September 2020. If you find any errors or typos, please let me know!

  • Chapter 1: “On the other end of the regulation spectrum in California” >> “On the other end of the regulation spectrum is California”
  • Chapter 2: “…look at this is just another opportunity…” >> “…look at this as just another opportunity…”
  • Chapter 4: All instances of “Gopnick” >> “Gopnik” (my apologies, Alison!)
  • Chapter 4: “Harris capitalized on the moment by writing The Nurture Assumption that expanded on her research, catapulted her into the national spotlight, and led to her nomination of a Pulitzer Prize.” >> “Harris capitalized on the moment by writing The Nurture Assumption, which expanded on her research, catapulted her into the national spotlight, and led to her nomination for a Pulitzer Prize.”
  • Chapter 4: “…lets you move away from the role of boss or manager”of your child’s life…”
    >> “…lets you move away from the role of boss or manager of your child’s life…”