Hi, I’m Blake Boles, the creator of Off-Trail Learning.

I’ve worked with unschooled and self-directed teens since 2006. I love hiking, running in the mountains, and off-trail backpacking… hence the title.

Most importantly: I believe in the power, genius, and necessity of self-directed learning.

Why I Created Off-Trail Learning

Back in college I was studying physics and astronomy. I thought I wanted to become a high school science teacher. Then, out of the blue, a friend handed me a book by the famous schoolteacher John Taylor Gatto. Gatto had taught for 30 years in New York City, won a bunch of awards, and then quit because he “no longer wanted to make a living hurting kids.”

I was completely captivated.

Soon I found myself—someone raised in suburban public schools—diving deeply into the world of alternative education. I discovered unschooling. Sudbury. Summerhill. North Star. Ultimately I ended up designing my own college major to study this stuff full-time.

When I graduated I knew I wanted to contribute to the world of alternative education, but I wasn’t sure how. I became an outdoor science educator for a few years. I worked at Not Back to School Camp (for teenage unschoolers) and Deer Crossing Camp (my childhood wilderness summer camp). I ran away to South America and wrote my first book (College Without High School), which helped me become a public speaker on the topics of unschooling, college, and self-directed learning. Soon thereafter I started my own travel/education company for teens, Unschool Adventures, and wrote two more books (Better Than College and The Art of Self-Directed Learning).

Blake with the Unschool Adventures Nepal 2014 group
Blake (bearded) with the Unschool Adventures Nepal 2014 group

In my years working with self-directed young people, I noticed a few things that they’re often searching for:

  • Inspiration: Taking an alternative path through one’s education and career can be difficult and anxiety-provoking. Self-directed young people need positive examples and moral support to inspire their continued journey, especially from those who have walked as a similar path.
  • Community: Self-directed learning is difficult when you feel isolated. Teenagers especially need lots of chances to connect with each other, face-to-face. If you have a supportive community, you’re more likely to choose (and stick with) self-directed learning.
  • Resources: There are lots of great resources for self-directed teenagers and college-aged people out there, but there’s no single website that contains them.

That’s why I started Off-Trail Learning: to offer a single website where young people can find the inspiration, community, and resources they need to choose the self-directed path.

That’s why Off-Trail Learning exists. Learn more on the FAQ. Thanks for reading.