Today’s post is an interview with Blake Boles, director of Unschool Adventures, host of the Real Education Podcast, and author of The Art of Self-Directed Learning, College Without High School, and Better Than College.
What is Unschool Adventures? Who is your customer, and what is your value proposition?
Unschool Adventures is my little travel, education, and adventure company for teenagers and young adults (ages 14-20) who don’t go to traditional, full-time school. We offer multi-week immersive trips and programs during the school-year, which gives non-traditional students a chance to build peer community, explore the world, and challenge themselves in ways that are otherwise quite difficult to do on their own.
In addition to directing Unschool Adventures, you are also a podcaster, a writer, a world traveller, and an explorer of many other fields. What ties all of these interests and pursuits together for you?
I did well as a K-12 public school student, but that never made up for the feelings of (1) deep boredom and (2) waste of my time that permeated my school-life. Why do we waste so much potential of young people by letting them sit bored, I eventually asked myself? There’s a big fascinating world out there, yet we sit idly in classrooms. Why is this? What’s a better approach? What could we offer young people that they would spontaneously sign up for, without coercion? These are the questions that have always driven me.
What in your own experience made you question the traditional schooling model?
Halfway through college a friend handed me a book by John Taylor Gatto called A Different Kind of Teacher that took my breath away. A quick Amazon search then led me to the works of Grace Llewellyn, A.S. Neill, the Sudbury Valley School, and many other radical educational innovators. That, as they say, was the beginning of the end.
What personal practices have you adopted that you feel have contributed to your continued self-education?
Well, the podcast Econtalk has been my #1 influence for sharpening my thinking skills since I discovered it in 2007. Beyond that, I’ve developed a rough daily schedule that seems to maximize my productivity as an entrepreneur and self-directed learner (It involves spending most of my afternoons outdoors!).
What advice would you give to young people who want to begin the process of becoming self-directed learners?
My first two books—College Without High School and Better Than College—tackle those questions directly. But if I had to give only one piece of advice, it would be to seriously ask yourself the question: “For whom am I currently pursuing my current educational path?” Are you doing what you do for your own throughly researched and considered reasons? Or are you doing it because your parents/friends/teachers/society are telling you (implicitly or explicitly) that you’re sure to become a failure if you take any other route?
What upcoming or current projects are you most excited about?
Slowly but surely, I’m working towards building a long-term sleep-away program for teenagers who don’t go to school. The project is currently code-named “Hogwarts for Unschoolers“. That’s still in the future; this fall I’m running a really cool new 10-week program in Colorado for 22 teenagers called the Adventure Semester —I’m super psyched for that. Finally, my new podcast gives me an excuse to have awesome conversations with fascinating people, like your own Isaac Morehouse! Life is good.