Interviews with innovative educators, self-directed young people, and others who think differently about learning, teaching, and schooling. Hosted by Blake Boles (blakeboles.com), author of "Why Are You Still Sending Your Kids to School?" and founder of Unschool Adventures.
Olivia Barnes on Self-Directing as a 16-Year-Old
Olivia Barnes (blacklifeblueworld.wixsite.com/blbwofficialwebsite) has always had a somewhat unconventional education, but after a frustrating year at a well-regarded performing arts school, she decided to take the reins of her education. We discuss Olivia’s decision to spend her 10th grade year doing a hodgepodge of activities she called “self-design school”—including biology classes at a local university, online math, Spanish tutoring, and lots of swimming—what she’s doing now (despite the pandemic), what she would be doing if there were no pandemic, her concerns about college readiness, and three big questions that frame her ongoing self-education.
Don’t miss Olivia’s YouTube channel (youtube.com/channel/UC-Nckrk9b4j_c74HrYK85GQ) and LinkedIn (linkedin.com/in/olivia-barnes-59617a200/).
A few more details: The school that Olivia attended in 8th grade was The Saint Constantine School, her math class was artofproblemsolving.com, and make sure to google “vaquitas”—they are adorable.
This interview was recorded on February 18th, 2021.
Love this podcast? Buy Blake a coffee! https://ko-fi.com/blakeboles
Blake's Sabbatical Update
Rivers and bike trips and workshops, oh my! A quick update from my somewhat-successful-sabbatical. Also: new podcast episodes coming soon!
Blake Goes on Sabbatical
Off-Trail Learning is on hiatus! In this brief personal update, I discuss my decision to go on sabbatical in 2021. Learn more at (newly redesigned) blakeboles.com.
Kevin Currie-Knight on Self-Directed Learning in College
Kevin Currie-Knight (kevinck.net) is a philosopher, historian of education, and Teaching Associate Professor at East Carolina University’s College of Education. Following a stint as a high school special educator, Kevin began training future public school teachers at the college level and experimented with giving them high levels of autonomy. We discuss the results of Kevin’s experiments, his unique definition of “self-directed learning,” the benefits of letting students choose their own grades, the tension between learning and credentialing, why students cheat, and whether the Ph.D. model of learning could be applied at the high school level.
Kevin’s 2019 paper, “When College Students Direct Their Learning: How a College Professor Redesigned an Undergraduate Course in Education to Incorporate Self-Directed Learning”, can be found here: https://othereducation.org/index.php/OE/article/view/230
Martina Geromin on Self-Directed Learning in Europe
Martina Geromin is the CEO and Co-Founder of School Beyond Limitations (school-beyond-limitations.com). Originally from Italy, Martina has lived and worked in Austria, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom. We discuss the state of self-directed education in Europe (including homeschooling and alternative schools), cultural differences and institutional differences between the U.S. and Europe, and what differentiates progressive and holistic education from self-directed education.
Naomi Fisher on Whether Parents Matter
Dr. Naomi Fisher is a clinical psychologist, mother of two self-directed learners, and the author of the forthcoming book, "Changing Our Minds: How children can take control of their own learning."
In this deep-dive interview, Naomi and I dissect the modern culture of “intensive parenting” and the research behind Judith Rich Harris’ controversial book, "The Nurture Assumption."
We address some thorny topics including: How much do genes, peers, and parents respectively matter for a child’s long-term development? What kinds of influence do parents actually possess? How much of the nature/nurture research is universally relevant? How does self-directed learning fit into the picture? And what’s the overlap between attachment parenting and intensive parenting?
Don't miss Naomi's article in The Psychologist (https://thepsychologist.bps.org.uk/volume-33/march-2020/schools-out. Her book, Changing Our Minds (https://www.littlebrown.co.uk/titles/naomi-fisher/changing-our-minds/9781472145505/), is now available for pre-order.
To dive deeper into this fascinating and complicated subject, I recommend reading The Nurture Assumption (by Judith Rich Harris), Blueprint (by Robert Plomin), and Chapter 4 of my book, Why Are You Still Sending Your Kids to School?