What is Unschooling and Self-Directed Learning? Blake Boles Explains
My guest this week is Blake Boles, the self-directed learning advocate behind Unschool Adventures and the author of several books on unschooling, including The Art of Self-Directed Learning, Better Than College, and College Without High School, as well as the host of the Off-Trail Learning podcast.
Now… you may be reading this and thinking, I’m not homeschooling my child or “unschooling” isn’t my thing. But I’m going to encourage you to listen to what Blake has to say. Because regardless of your child’s educational circumstances, there is wisdom to be gleaned from Blake’s philosophy on self-directed learning and helping our kids grow up into intrinsically motivated humans who understand themselves and are driven to seek out the information and resources they need to achieve their goals. I also love that Blake’s approach beautifully challenges those traditional timelines that our differently wired kids often don’t meet anyway. So… have a listen and let me know what you think. I’m curious to hear how this lands with you.
About Blake Boles
Blake Boles is the founder and director of Unschool Adventures and the author of The Art of Self-Directed Learning, Better Than College, and College Without High School. He hosts the Off-Trail Learning podcast, speaks for alternative schools, writes for The Alliance for Self-Directed Education, and has keynoted multiple homeschooling conferences.
Blake lives without a permanent home base. He enjoys working from coffee shops in foreign lands, following summers in the southern hemisphere, and going on long adventures in the mountains.
He 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 study education full-time. After graduating he joined the Not Back to School Camp community and began writing and speaking widely on the subject of self-directed learning. His biggest passion is sharing his enthusiasm and experience with young adults who are blazing their own trails through life.
Things you’ll learn from this episode
- What unschooling actually is (in comparison with traditional or eclectic homeschooling)
- The most common myths and assumptions surrounding unschooled kids
- How intrinsic motivation is the key to helping a student learn what they want to learn when they’re ready to learn it
- The ways in which unschooling and self-directed learning respects a child’s unique timeline
- What the transition from a traditional educational model to unschooling might look like might look like
- What a transition to university looks like in the U.S. for children who’ve been homeschooled, and how to do it
- How parents who are homeschooling their child can play the role as “consultant” rather than teacher, and giving child the room to become truly self-directed
- Tips for parents looking to dip their toe into unschooling
Resources mentioned for what is unschooling?
- Off-Trail Learning (Blake’s podcast)
- The Art of Self-Directed Learning: 23 Tips for Giving Yourself an Unconventional Education by Blake Boles
- College Without High School: A Teenager’s Guide to Skipping High School and Going to College by Blake Boles
- Subdury Valley Democratic Free School (Massachusetts)
- Excellent Sheep: The Miseducation of the American Elite and the Way to Meaningful Life by William Deresiewicz
- Teach Your Own: John Holt Book of Homeschooling by John Holt
- List of Democratic Free Schools
Debbie Reber 00:00
Today’s show is brought to you by Audible. Audible is offering listeners of the tilde parenting podcast a free audiobook with a 30-day trial membership. Just go to audibletrial.com/tiltparenting. Browse a selection of audio programs, download a title for free and start listening. It’s that easy. Just go to audible trial.com/tilt parenting.
Blake Boles 00:22
I call this the folk psychology of unschooling. The principle is that when the kid really wants to learn something, and they have their own chosen reason to learn it, then they will do it rather quickly. And that’s the power of self-directed learning.
Debbie Reber 00:39
Welcome to Tilt Parenting, a podcast featuring interviews and conversations aimed at inspiring and forming and supporting parents raising differently wired kids. My name is Debbie Reber and I’m the host of this show and I am really excited to share this conversation with you. My guest is Blake Bowles, the self-directed learning advocate behind Unschool Adventures and the author of several books on unschooling including The Art of Self-Directed Learning, Better Than College, and College Without High School as well as the host of the Off-Trail Learning podcast. Now you may be listening to this and thinking I am not homeschooling my child or unschooling is just not my thing. But I’m going to encourage you to listen to what Blake has to say, because regardless of your child’s educational circumstances, there is wisdom to be gleaned from Blake’s philosophy on self-directed learning, and helping our kids grow up into intrinsically motivated humans who understand themselves and are driven to seek out the information and resources they need to achieve their goals. I also love that Blake’s approach beautifully challenges those traditional timelines that our differently wired kids often don’t meet anyway. So have a listen and let me know what you think I am curious to hear how this interview lands with you. And two quick announcements, there are more independently organized and run Tilt Together groups getting started around the US. And I know that many parents and caregivers raising differently wired kids are looking for that in person connection. So after I heard from people that these groups were organically popping up, I wanted to make it easier for people to get started, and also help others find and connect with groups. So to do that, I have just started a tilt together a Facebook group. So this is a place on Facebook, not a page, but an actual interactive group, where people can ask for local resources, share recommendations for services in their communities, and connect with other parents and caregivers in their community in real life. So this is a place to go and find is there a tilt together group in my community and ask for help on the ground where you live. So to connect with that group, you can go to facebook.com/group/tilttogether, or just search Tilt Together in the search bar in Facebook. Just in the past few weeks. New groups are getting started in Miami, Florida, Baton Rouge, Louisiana and Louisville, North Carolina. Again to learn more and get involved with one of these groups. Or if you’re interested in starting up a group in your own community, you can check out that new Facebook group or go to the Tilt Parenting/together page and you can get all kinds of resources and also see a listing of existing groups. Lastly, if you enjoy this podcast and would like to support his production and support all the work that Tilt Parenting is doing, please consider joining my Patreon campaign and supporting the show with a small monthly contribution. The money that comes in through Patreon goes directly toward covering the production costs for this show, and for Tilt Parenting. Thank you so much for considering. And if you want to learn more, or sign up, just go to patreon.com/tiltparenting or look for a link on any of the show notes pages. Thank you so much. And now here is my conversation with Blake. Hey, Blake, welcome to the podcast.
Blake Boles 04:14
Thanks for having me.
Debbie Reber 04:15
And I just so listeners know that I’m recording this in the evening in New Jersey and I’m talking to Blake who is in New Zealand right now. So the audio quality sounds great. And I just have to give a nod to Skype and modern technology.
Blake Boles 04:31
I will also give a nod to communication technology. Thank you very much.
Debbie Reber 04:35
Yes, thank you. So before we get started, I always like to just give guests an opportunity to introduce themselves a little bit about, you know, your personal why and I’m sure this work is very personal for you. So can you tell us a little bit about what you do and why you do it.
Blake Boles 04:52
I’ve been working with teens who don’t go to regular school for most of my adult career and I didn’t get into this as a young person myself. I went to public school in California. I went to university because I thought I wanted to be an astrophysicist. And very quickly, I was mugged by reality, and instead got into alternative education and designed my own degree, to study education full time, because that just seemed a lot more interesting and relevant and important. And I started working at a summer camp after university called Not Back to School Camp, which is the preeminent summer camp for teenage unschoolers in the US. And that’s where I got to really meet a lot of these kids face to face. And it was so inspiring to meet them and to experience what it’s like to work with teenagers in this more, I guess, authentic setting. And that inspired me to, to write books about them, and for them and to start a company called Unschool Adventures, through which I’ve taken teenage unschoolers on long term international trips for the past 10 years. And that’s how I’ve been making my money. And that’s the short story, Debbie.
Debbie Reber 05:58
I just love how you designed a life for yourself, that is, you know, I’m sure you’re able to do the things that you’d love to do and you’re serving kids at the same time. So it really seems like the ultimate win-win.
Blake Boles 06:13
Yeah, it’s been a great ride. That’s awesome.
Debbie Reber 06:16
So well, let’s just even look at the concept of unschooling. We were talking before I hit record, and I haven’t done many podcast episodes on homeschooling altogether, you know, a lot of our listeners don’t homeschool a lot are considering it. And then there’s a handful of us that do so I’ve shared my experience with that, but we haven’t even looked at this idea of unschooling So can you explain what it is? How do you define it?
Blake Boles 06:44
Homeschooling is legally the same thing as unschooling, and so there’s no separate designation between unschooling and homeschooling. But unschoolers reject this word, homeschool, because it implies school at home, and that conjures this image of mom teaching algebra at the kitchen table, and the parent who has to be an expert in all these different subjects. And really, most people who start out with traditional homeschooling, they migrate away from it, there’s studies that confirm this, within a few years, most families move towards something that looks more like a eclectic homeschooling, and some move straight into unschooling, especially with older kids, I think younger kids are much more adult and more parent oriented. But as soon as you hit adolescence, they become more peer oriented. And really, YouTube becomes the better teacher than mom or dad. And so unschooling is really about embracing this whole idea of self-directed learning, and saying that my kid is a self-directed learner, and I’m going to support that and nurture it, I’m going to be their consultant instead of the boss of their education. And we’re in this together. And that’s, that’s pretty much as far as I can generalize unschooling, Debbie.
Debbie Reber 07:56
Well, that’s interesting, I thank you for that definition. When I was living in the Netherlands, I was homeschooling my son there, and that there are very few homeschoolers in the Netherlands, the government makes it really difficult to get to do so. And the homeschoolers that I did connect with tended to be, you know, very much in the unschooling category, you know, I think I’m more of the eclectic and probably also have become less structured as the years have gone on. But I think there is an idea, maybe, and I wanted to ask you about some of the myths I’m sure that you get asked questions a lot about, you know, there’s a lot of misinformation out there about what it means to be unschooled, you know, and the word on the street, at least in the Netherlands is that those kids may not learn to read till they’re teenagers, or, you know, the parents kind of are so hands off that the kids aren’t learning, I guess what would be considered more typical things? Right. So what do you hear from people? And what are some of your thoughts on that?
Blake Boles 08:57
Well, some of the myths are true. They’re not myths. So for example, kids who don’t learn to read until later, I think teenagers would be a pretty strong exception. But definitely kids who don’t learn to read at the normal age, but instead, they’re getting up into age 7,8,9. I mean, that freaks people out, right? And those kids do exist. And so it’s not a myth. But the myth is that they will be irrevocably damaged by this experience. And the assumption is that when you look at that kid, who didn’t learn to read and until age eight, because that’s when this kid got into Minecraft, and all of a sudden decided, oh, my gosh, I have to be able to read all this stuff online to be able to, you know, participate in the world of Minecraft. The myth is that that kid will be somehow categorically different at age 15. From kids who are forced to read at the normal age, and that’s in my experience, not true and in the unschooling world, there’s no great you know, cover up of kids who can’t learn to read are permanently disabled by this early unschooling experience. And so I think we’re speaking more towards fear and anxiety instead of the myth. I think socialization is another big one. I’m sure if you’ve talked about homeschooling, you’ve had to deal with this forever and ever. And, again, I’ve met, not just homeschoolers, but unschoolers, who do have challenges with socialization, because they’re relatively isolated, because they don’t have opportunities to make many friends, because their friends are online. And so that is a real challenge. But these kids still go on to higher education, they go on to get normal jobs. I think that, for me, after being in this unschooling world for more than a decade, what I’ve seen is that unschooled kids don’t face seriously different problems from other kids in their same socio-economic demographic. And so when people say, oh, my gosh, if I don’t force my kid to learn math, right now, or, you know, my kid is essentially an eighth grade. And all these other kids are doing pre-algebra, and my kid won’t touch pre-algebra with a 10-foot pole, this idea that the kid will never be able to get into college. That’s something I’ve been pushing back against for a long time. Because, again, it’s true. Yes, there are unschoolers, who don’t know math, when all these other kids know math. But when this unschooler decides that she wants to go to college, the same story happens over and over again, they figure out very quickly what they need to do to achieve this longer-term goal. For example, I want to go to college. So I can study marine biology, because marine biology is cool. That’s something that they’ve figured out in all of the freedom and self-direction that you’ve given them, then a kid has a serious, intrinsically motivated reason to get their act together, and learn math. And this happens super quickly. The Sudbury Valley School, a famous democratic free school in Massachusetts, has a wonderful story about a multi-age group of kids at their school where no one is forced to learn anything who said we want to learn basic math. And they asked one of the founding members of the school to teach them math. And the founding member was like, I don’t think you really want to learn math, like somebody’s putting you up to this, right? And they said, no, we want to learn math, we want you to teach us and he said, All right, I’m going to choose the most boring 1898 math primer, you know, that I can find? And we’re just going to do drill and kill, you know, it’s going to be pure math. And you got to do your homework, you got to show up on time. And if you don’t, then I’m not going to teach you. So they all said yes. And essentially, these kids covered, I think six years of academic of school math in 20, contact hours. And so yeah, so perhaps that’s an exceptional story. But the principle, I call this the folk psychology of unschooling, the principle is that when the kid really wants to learn something, and they have their own chosen reason to learn it, then they will do it rather quickly. And that’s the power of self-directed learning. That’s why unschooling can lead to highly asymmetric kids in terms of their content, knowledge, they might be really into Pokeman Go, they might be really into studying marine biology, and they might be completely devoid of these other subjects. But you know, what, so are most adults, like, I’m pretty good at thinking and writing and speaking about alternative education. My marine biology is in the tank. And, and that’s, that’s a good pun. I didn’t even try for that one. Gosh, and, and but that has not been a major liability for me. Because the way that modern life works is we find something that we’re good at, that we can excel at, where we can form a community and have connections. And we focus on that. And that’s what unschoolers are doing. They’re just practicing 21st Century Skills for survival a little bit earlier than the rest.
Debbie Reber 14:04
Thank you. I love that answer. So much. I mean, one of the things that jumped out to me early in your response was just this idea that it is so respectful of kids timelines, that’s something I talk a lot about in the tilt parenting community is because our kids are already often developing very asynchronoustically They are maybe socially in one place and intellectually completely different stratosphere. And they may have some, you know, delays and a lot of areas. And it is really wrapped up in fear. But you know, I’m always trying to encourage people to respect our kids timelines and know that when they’re ready, and they learn it and they and they’re ready to make that leap on their own. They can feel really confident about it as opposed to feeling like they’re not meeting expectations, you know, which is a message they may hear a lot in a traditional system.
Blake Boles 15:00
That’s right. And when you take a kid who’s been in the traditional system for a long time, and you do give them a little dose of freedom, maybe you’re thinking about dabbling with unschooling, you say, let’s try this for three months. And most parents see their kids do nothing for three months. Because that is the first taste of freedom that this kid has gotten, you know, if you were in jail for a long time, you probably want to go in and relax a bit, too. And so there are these short term tests that that parents do that often look like failures regarding unschooling, but what you’re really seeing is the deschooling process, which the rule of thumb is for every year that kids been in school, give them a full month to do absolutely nothing, because they need to decompress, they need to experience boredom, they need to experience, you know, the reason why they should be intrinsically motivated, because otherwise life is boring and pointless. And yeah, that self-direction tends to pick up.
Debbie Reber 15:53
You just answered one of my questions, I was wondering if there is a detox period, but you call it D schooling, which I like. So that’s pretty standard, then I would assume, and maybe again, for differently wired kids who may be leaving the school system feeling especially depleted or you know, not in a great space because of high anxiety or things that have happened, even trauma that may have happened at school, they might need even more time for that adjustment period.
Blake Boles 16:21
Yeah, and this happens with kids who might be neurotypical but are stereotyped as the good students. This happens for kids who are stereotyped as the bad students, like the amount of labeling that we take with us from school lasts a long, long time, to the extent that many parents push their kids to do a certain thing in school, because of their own labels that they have been kind of not dealing with. And so I was one of the good students, I got A’s in school, I was good at pleasing my teachers, I was good at picking up academic work and figuring out how to play the game. And you know, that’s a very satisfying thing to be the person on top of the pile in this kind of weird false hierarchy that we’ve created called school. But I remember at some point, maybe in high school, looking to my left and right and seeing the kids who were in the middle or the bottom of that hierarchy. And really, you know, what have I done to earn this place as the star student? I really feel like I just sort of stumbled into it kind of, because my personality matched the kind of personality that school demanded, and to be one of the other students who’s constantly being chastised and reprimanded and being told either explicitly or implicitly that they are dumb. They are stupid, then really worthless, year after year. Yeah, that’s a traumatizing experience. I’m working on a new book right now. And the premise for the introduction, is that one day, we’re going to look back on institutional schooling, the same way that today we look back upon child labor. And we look back upon foot binding of women in China, which happened for almost a millennium, slavery, even, it’s going to look like this thing, where we’re going to think Oh, my God, you know, how did most people just accept this as like the normal default, okay thing to do? Almost everyone was complicit in it. So that’s, that’s the gravity of the situation in my eyes.
Debbie Reber 18:31
It sounds like a revolution that you want to start, or probably already have started.
Blake Boles 18:37
Many other people started it a long time before me. I’m just picking up the pieces and trying to put them together in a new and interesting way.
Debbie Reber 18:44
Yeah, well, I’m excited about that book. So I want to talk a little bit more about self-directed learning. I love the example that you shared about the kid who, you know, may decide all of a sudden, they want to apply to this school, or maybe a certain program and they need something that they don’t have, and they can very quickly get the knowledge that they learned and it’s at their own requests that you know, they are self-directed. In your experience. Do you feel that kids that were unschooled, you know, launch into adulthood, being better equipped to be self-directed in their lives in general?
Blake Boles 19:24
Yeah, definitely. And I think we need to be careful about kind of cause and effect here because it might be that unschooled kids succeed as highly self-directed adults because they were born that way. They were just born wanting to take a more creative or entrepreneurial path or just being more nonconformist in general. And so what we see is success really might just be a selection effect. So it’s hard to tell whether that’s true or not. There’s no good research. There’s no good data on unschooling. There are some surveys of those who have been unschooled. For a long time, and those surveys look a lot like, yeah, these kids go on to do normal things, normal, relevant, relevant to their sort of socio-economic brackets. There are also surveys from these democratic free schools and other sorts of learning centers where you’re essentially doing unschooling, but you’re doing it in a community center. And those say that, yeah, all the kids do fine. Also, I think there is a good, measured tilt toward being a little bit more creative, being a little bit more entrepreneurial, when you’re a grown unschooler. So again, whether that produces that skill, or it’s just fostering their preexisting attitudes, I’m not sure.
Debbie Reber 20:41
And now a quick break for a message from our sponsor. Today’s show is brought to you by Audible. Audible is offering listeners a free audiobook with a 30-day trial membership. Just go to audible trial.com/~parenting, and browse the selection of audio programs, download a title for free and start listening. This month, I’m reading two books with Audible one is Wuthering Heights, because I’ve assigned it to Asher for school, and there is no way I can read it as fast as he can. But I can listen to it. I also downloaded Trevor Noah’s Born a Crime which Asher and I have started listening to while we were on a road trip, and we are working our way through while working on a jigsaw puzzle. So to download your free audio book today, go to audible trial.com/till parenting. Again, that’s audible trial.com/tiltparenting for your free audiobook. And now back to our show. So I know that you’ve written about going to school to college, you know, higher learning as an unschool. In your experience, is that a hard transition? You know, if a child’s never been in a formal school setting? And are there limitations in terms of what schools are available to kids who have been unschooled?
Blake Boles 22:03
Sure, I’ll answer that second part first. There is no formal restriction. There’s no institutional barrier against unschooled kids. You know, kids who have never spent a day in school and have never used a formal curriculum at home. There’s no barrier that will stop them from enrolling, like there are other countries where there are actually pretty serious barriers to homeschoolers going homeschooling all the way through high school and then going into university. And so we’re pretty lucky in the United States in that regard. Essentially, colleges hold unschoolers, and homeschoolers, and alternatively schooled kids to the same standard as everyone else. And so you still have to play by the rules of the game, you know, they have to take the LSAT, if you’re going to get into a really competitive school, you have to take SATs Subject Tests, some schools might do AC T, instead, you have to show that you’ve covered the bases. And so what a lot of unschoolers do is that they enroll in community college classes, you know, almost every community college will let you enroll, starting at age 16. Many of them you can start younger, and you take most unschoolers I know it takes a few part time community college classes. And if you ended up with a class in English and a class in math and a class in history, and you have decent grades in those classes, then essentially, most four-year universities are convinced that you can handle college level work. And anecdotally speaking, the kids I know who have gone on to universities are their number one comment is like, wait a sec, I thought this was supposed to be harder. Like there’s a lot of people here who aren’t taking this very seriously, these kids are going to college because they have made you know, a more serious, more informed, more conceptual choice to go there instead of what a lot of kids do, which is just, you know, they’re checking off the next box. And so unschoolers tend to do very well in college. And you know, they’re not going to Ivy League’s in droves, you shouldn’t unschool if you have this, this hidden wish to, you know, ensure that your kid will get into every top college, if you want to do that, then send them to the best prep school that money can buy. That’s what wealthy families do. And so unschoolers do go to college, they go to all sorts and all ranges of colleges. There are no big barriers there. And they don’t have problems integrating or socializing or handling the academics as long as they have had a little bit of exposure to formal academics before that.
Debbie Reber 24:32
Okay, so I wanted to go back to self-direction a little bit. I was poking around on your website, and I found a great post about giving kids more control. You reference the book, the Self-Driven Child, which I loved. I’ve been talking with Dr. Stixrud to get him on the show. I think it’s such a relevant, fantastic book. So as a homeschooling parent, this question is partly for me, but also So I know that it’s something that my audience will want to know as well, because this is kind of a common thing. And I’d love to know your thoughts. So, after reading the Self-Driven Child, I was really feeling this kind of desire to give a lot more control to my son, Asher, he’s 14, and trying to, you know, give him that, that freedom to kind of make his own decisions about what, you know, what should he always, it’s always been a collaboration, but I still was hounding him a lot about things. And so I took a big step back. I’m also, as his homeschooling administrator, I feel responsible, you know, in a way that I’m responsible for his education. So even in asking that question, maybe I’m not, but I wanted to know, your thoughts on that balance between, it feels like a little more, if he was in school, I’d be like, hey, man, it’s your thing, you know, figure it out, I would maybe have an easier time. But because sometimes I’m also his teacher, or, you know, I feel like his coach or consultant, I never know what that balance is.
Blake Boles 26:05
One of my favorite lines, which I can only paraphrase from the Self-Driven Child, is when they’re talking about the parents acting more like a consultant than the boss or manager of the kids’ education. And if I think specifically about homework, they say, if your kids are not doing homework, not doing their homework, you know, you can make all these offers and incentives and suggestions. But fundamentally, you have to let them fail. And the counter to that is well, you know, but what if my child will then fail in their life, and their rebuttal was, well, it’s your child’s life, it’s not yours. And so the message, one of the messages I took away from that book is that there is this kind of fundamental decoupling between parent and child. And often this means between mother and child, that needs to happen in order for this kind of parent as consultant, ideal to flourish. And really, what the self-driven child is striking against is the whole philosophy of intensive parenting, which doesn’t, you know, it’s not even a phrase that’s popular in the lexicon, because it’s the air we breathe, it’s the water we swim in. It’s just the standard way of parenting that’s been developed ever since the 80s. And now, it’s not just for upper middle-class families, it’s the gold standard for everyone, it’s in which a parent is highly invested in the life of their child. And again, it’s more often the mother than the father. And there’s a high degree of identification between parent and child. One of my favorite authors who writes about this is William Deresiewicz, who wrote the book, Excellent Sheep, which is a must-read book for anyone who is kind of really obsessed with making sure their kid can get into top colleges. It’s like a nuclear missile directly aimed at that assumption. And what the rest of its says is that we have these two phenomena in modern life, one of which is, is overparenting, or helicopter parenting. And that’s, you know, I think we’re all kind of familiar with what that looks like. And then he says, there’s overindulgent parenting, which looks like the parent who’s way too lax and hands off. And, he says, there’s really a connection between these two, that they’re actually one in the same. And it’s all about the over identification of parent with child and the projection of parental needs, and kind of desires for, you know, maybe unfulfilled objectives for our own lives, to be projected onto children, essentially, children are here to be our saviors, and they are the primary kind of spiritual purpose of our life. And it’s such a radical departure from how parenting was conceived, just in the 70s. But definitely 100 years ago, where children were essentially looked on as economic assets, and you go back even farther, and it’s there is no, you know, single parent with an intense relationship with their kid, it’s the kid has been raised by all sorts of extended family and allo parents, you know, non-family or extended family. And so, what we consider normal parenting nowadays is actually a recent invention, which is called intensive parenting. And it’s, I think it’s at the root of the anxiety and concern that you describe.
Debbie Reber 29:45
Wow, it’s so fascinating. And now I want to read that book and that I’m not the core audience, but I love the concept for it. And I love this idea of decoupling, because I think that is, you know, it’s pervasive and it’s to not be enmeshed with your child, socially can be really tough to right because there’s so much judge judging that goes on
Blake Boles 30:09
If you’re fighting against the whole culture, it’s an extremely hard thing to do. I think it gets a little bit easier when you opt out of the school system. But you’re still there, you’re still surrounded by all these other parents, and I know many unschooling parents who are still practicing intensive parenting. And so it’s, it’s not easy by any stretch.
Debbie Reber 30:28
Yeah, it’s a work in progress, I’m sure. So, if there are people listening to this, and they are, their interest is piqued again, a lot of listeners I hear from are considering homeschooling because for whatever reason, school is not working well for their child. And maybe this feels like a match for what might help their child thrive. Do you have any tips for getting started if they haven’t, in a traditional school system, besides that de-schooling and period you mentioned,
Blake Boles 30:58
There’s lots of great writing out there. A few places to start is with the works of John Holt, who is kind of the father of the unschooling world, his book Teacher Owned is good and it’s he’s not a radical in school there. He’s more like an eclectic homeschooler. And so he’s a pretty solid intro to the whole world, there’s a website to go to call the Alliance for Self-Directed Education. And they have a lot of resources, not just about self-directed learning and unschooling, but also about learning centers and alternative schools where these, these principles are put into practice, because a lot of parents just right off on schooling immediately, because they say, well, we need one parent to be at home to do that, or any other version of homeschooling, and therefore it won’t work for us. Because, you know, I’m a one parent family, or both, both of us work. And so you know, don’t write it off. So quickly, unschooling might not be in the cards for you practically speaking. But if you can send your kid to a Democratic Free School, an Agile Learning Center, a Liberated Learner Center, these are all over North America, and increasingly in other parts of the world, too. And so that can really enable self-directed learning for families that can’t do homeschooling per se, are just not interested in it. Yeah, those would be the first places to go. And I think of the stuff that I’ve written that’s been most helpful to families that are brand new to this, probably my first book College Without High School, that is also a nuclear missile directly aimed at this assumption that if you don’t send your kid to regular high school, then they can’t go to a four-year college. And so I’ve got a basic introduction to the ideas of self-directed learning and unschooling and then like, a step-by-step process for how you prepare for going to college, and you do it without having a coercive relationship with your kid. At the same time,
Debbie Reber 31:11
Not having a coercive relationship with the teenager sounds perfect. Sounds like. So okay, you have your College Without High School book, and then also Better Than College: How to Build a Successful Life Without a Four-Year Degree. And then your most recent book, The Art of Self-Directed Learning, has great resources that you just shared, like thank you so much. So I will have links to all of these in the show notes, pages, everything that Blake just suggested, as a starting point as well. So just go to the show notes pages to grab those. But is there anything that you’d like to leave us with or a way that people can connect with you and follow? I know, you’re very active on social media. What’s the best way for people to connect?
Blake Boles 33:31
You know, I’m only active on Facebook, because that’s where all the homeschooling moms hang out. That’s true. Yeah. That’s right. That’s right. And not on Snapchat. I’ll tell you. Yeah, the one place to find all my stuff is Blake Bowles, b o lds.com. And that’s like, I’ve got my email newsletter. And so that’s the easiest way to find out about my next book coming out. I’ve got my podcast also called off trail learning. So all that stuff in the articles that I’m writing for the Alliance for Self-Directed Education, which are free. That’s all on blakeboles.com. And, yeah, I’d love to see you there.
Debbie Reber 34:04
Well, thank you so much. This has been a fascinating conversation. I’m sure it has lots of people thinking, I’ve just added at least half a dozen books to my night.
Blake Boles 34:13
I’m so sorry to do that to you, Debbie.
Debbie Reber 34:14
It’s okay. It’s exciting. But I’m a really slow reader. So it could take me a while. But thank you for all of this. And thanks so much for taking the time out of your day around the world to talk with us.
Blake Boles 34:27
It’s been my pleasure, Debbie. Thanks for asking good questions.
Debbie Reber 34:32
You’ve been listening to the Tilt Parenting podcast for the show notes for this episode, including a link to Blake Boles website, his books, his podcast and all the other resources he shared today. Visit tiltparenting.com/session146. A quick reminder that my book differently wired is now available as an audiobook narrated by yours truly, to listen to a sample or to purchase it just go to amazon.com or audible wall.com And don’t forget to leave a rating or a review or both for to parenting on Apple podcasts if you haven’t done so already. Ratings and reviews help keep this podcast visible in that ever-growing sea of podcasts. So thanks so much for taking the time to support the show in that way. That’s all for this week. Thanks again for listening. For more information on Tilt Parenting, visit www.tiltparenting.com