Crash Course 2016

Crash Course is a 5-day program for teenagers who want to kick-start their next year of self-directed learning—and parents who want an adventure in Lake Tahoe—led by Unschool Adventures director Blake Boles.

[Program Cancelled]

 When: September 18-23, 2016 (Sunday evening to Friday morning)

Where: South Lake Tahoe, California (elevation: 6,200′)
South Lake Tahoe is 3 hours from San Francisco, 2 from Sacramento, and 1 from Reno

Who: 10-12 teenage participants (ages 14-17, flexible) with 1-2 parent(s) each
A minimum of 10 teenage participants is required for this program

Program Leader: Blake Boles
View leader profiles

How Much: $1,175 [total for teen + 1-2 parent(s)] includes lodging, workshops, welcome dinner, and lunches for participants
Breakfasts and dinners are provided by families.
Returning Unschool Adventurers receive a 10% discount.

Nearby Airports: Reno, Sacramento, and San Francisco

Priority Application Date: July 18th, 2016
We’ll make a “go” or “no-go” decision about running the program on this date based on applicant numbers.
Skype interviews with participants will take place in late July.

Application Status: Closed – Program Cancelled
Crash Course did not receive enough applications by the priority application deadline to run. Sorry!

Kick-Start Your Self-Directed Learning

Crash Course is an intensive program for teenagers seeking a big jolt of inspiration, a new set of helpful tools, and a tribe of motivated peers to help kick-start their next year of self-directed learning.

Crash Course is also an experience for parents. Each day while Blake works with the teens, parents will have the freedom to explore beautiful Lake Tahoe (either by themselves or with other parents): hiking, swimming, paddling, biking, or simply relaxing at our communal lodge.

Who’s It For?

Crash Course is designed for both new and established teenage self-directed learners, such as:

  • Teens who are just beginning to unschool (whether transitioning from school or formal homeschooling)
  • Established unschoolers (and relaxed/eclectic homeschoolers) who are feeling directionless, unmotivated, or ineffective in their learning
  • Students at alternative schools (like free schools and independent study programs) who want to take more advantage of their freedom

If your educational situation provides you with a large degree of personal freedom and responsibility—in other words, if you’re largely in control of what, when, where, and how you learn—then you’re a good fit for Crash Course.

What Do the Teens Do?

Tahoe Mountain Lab conference room

Tahoe Mountain Lab conference room

Each full day (Mon, Tue, Wed, Thu), Blake meets with the teen group at the Tahoe Mountain Lab where we enjoy a large, comfy, private conference room with a digital projector, bathrooms, kitchen space, and plenty of snacks and drinks.

From 10am to 12pm we’ll have our morning workshop (with a 10-minute break in the middle).

From 12pm to 2pm we’ll get lunch together at Sprouts Cafe (meal & drink provided by Unschool Adventures) and walk over to the lake (5 minutes) to eat, talk, and relax in a shaded grassy park or on the beach.

From 2pm to 4pm we’ll have our afternoon workshop (with a 10-minute break in the middle).

After 4pm you’ll get picked up by your parent(s) and have free time for the rest of the day to enjoy Tahoe and hang out with other participants.

In the evenings we’ll have a few optional group get-togethers; see details below.

What Do the Parents Do?

Crash Course is an opportunity for the parents of self-directed teens to relax, enjoy the outdoors, spend time with their teens, and connect with other parents. Think of it as a tiny 5-day conference specifically for the parents of independent, adventurous, and self-directed teens!

From 10am-4pm each full day, Blake takes care of your teen. Before and after that, you’re responsible for your teen. All you need to do is feed them (breakfast & dinner) and transport them (10-minute drive to/from Tahoe Mountain Lab; we’ll set up carpooling). Outside of those responsibilities, you’ve got yourself a 5-day vacation in Lake Tahoe!

After enrolling you’ll receive an email packed with ideas for enjoying Tahoe including: hiking, walking, trail running, swimming, paddling, biking, and boating. Enjoy these activities by yourself or with the company of other program parents; the communal housing situation makes it incredibly convenient to find other parents (if you so desire). For those times that you just want to stay inside, the lodge offers free wi-fi and there’s a great local café within walking distance.

The Workshops

The Crash Course workshops are designed to help self-directed teens discover their interests, better organize their learning, follow through on their their goals, and take full advantage of the resources surrounding them (like local businesses, colleges, libraries, and adult experts).

Since 2009, Blake has led five similar leadership programs through Unschool Adventures (including last fall’s Adventure Semester), as well as dozens of workshops for homeschool groups and conferences. The Crash Course workshop series is a distillation of his most popular workshops and adventure challenges, plus a few brand-new ones. They include:

  • Goal-Setting and Dream Mapping
  • Productivity for Self-Directed Learners
  • How to Connect With Anyone
  • Beyond Wikipedia: Finding High-Quality Resources
  • College Library Explor-o-rama (field trip to Lake Tahoe Community College)
  • How to Do What You Say You’ll Do

These aren’t workshops where you just sit and listen: each one involves doing and making. Throughout the week you might find yourself sharing your goals on a personal website, writing e-mails to online experts, publishing a “how-to” guide about one of your passions, creating an online mini-business, or sending a newsletter about your life to your friends and family. Each workshop aims to strike an even balance between lecture, discussion, and actual doing. Because visual engagement is important, most workshops will also be accompanied by digital slides, images, and videos on a large projection screen.

Each 2-hour workshop will have a 10-minute break in the middle. Participants may leave to use the bathroom whenever they need. Snacks and drinks will be provided.

Praise for Blake’s workshops:

Blake Boles came to Los Angeles to do a series of three teen workshops for us.  It was a wonderful success.  Teenagers from all over LA came out of the woodwork to be a part of that week, and left happy, inspired, and energized.  Parents immediately started asking for him to come back to do workshops for them.  We started plotting his return before he left.

– Anna & Brenna, Urban Homeschoolers (2015)

Our 16 and 14 year olds were so excited at the end of that [first] day – talking and researching so many new things that evening. All the apprehension about “what are we going to do for 3 days” was completely gone. They woke up excited to get going each of the following mornings. In the end, they learned a lot about themselves, more about the world and renewed and made some new friends along the way – they have also expressed interest in a follow up workshop series too! Thank you Blake for turning this idea last into an amazing growth experience for our teens!

– Craig Shultz, private homeschool group in Chicago (2015)

Blake did an excellent job with group management. He did not demand respect from the teens, but earned it. [He] never had to raise his voice once, which was very impressive. One thing that made the teen session stand out more to me, was that it was a workshop instead of a presentation. It was engaging for everyone and he made it educational and entertaining.

– Tyler Phaup, teen participant at VaHomeschoolers Conference and Resource Fair (2015)

Communal Lodging at Manzanita Lodge

Crash Course families enjoy lodging that offers the best of both individual privacy and communal/shared spaces. Located just outside National Forest land and short walk from Lake Tahoe, the Manzanita Lodge is your home for 5 nights at the Crash Course. Our group will have exclusive use of this 12-room retreat property, including:

  • Hotel-style private rooms and bathrooms for each family, including a queen bed for the parent(s) + pull-out or futon for the teen
  • Gorgeous lodge with big comfy couches and a large dining table
  • Communal kitchen with 8 gas burners, two large fridges, food storage space, an outdoor gas BBQ, and plenty of dishes and cookware (this makes it easy to cook for yourself and save lots of money in the process)
  • Teen-only hang-out room with pool table and mini-kitchen
  • Outdoor hang-out area for everyone
  • Wi-fi everywhere
  • Hot tub!

Manzanita Lodge is walking distance to the bike path, local beaches, a local coffee shop, a 7/11, a Starbucks, and a big grocery store. It’s a short drive from Emerald Bay, Fallen Leaf Lake, Heavenly Village, and everything else that the South Tahoe region has to offer. It’s a perfect lodging solution for the Crash Course.

Pictures of the Manzanita Lodge coming soon.

Evening Events

Each evening we offer a different optional event. Blake will be in attendance at all!

Sunday night: Welcome BBQ (6:00-8:00pm). Don’t stress about finding dinner on arrival dinner; this one’s on us. Enjoy a big welcome bar-be-que with plenty of options for meat-lovers, vegetarians, vegans, and gluten-free people alike, served at the Manzanita Lodge.

Monday night: Beach trip (~6:30pm). We’ll carpool to a nearby beach (5 minute drive) to enjoy the sunset and casually hang out together. Swimming opportunity!

Tuesday night: Parent discussion (~7:30pm). Blake and parents will gather at Manzanita Lodge to discuss the challenges and opportunities related to raising smart, kind, self-directed teens. Teens: entertain thyselves!

Wednesday night: Teen adventure (~7:30pm). Blake and teens will go for a secret evening adventure. Parents: entertain thyselves!

Thursday night: To be determined.


September is a magical time in Lake Tahoe: the summer crowds have gone home (as have the mosquitos), the mountains are snow-free and accessible, the lake is swimmable, and the days are still warm and sunny. The average high temperatures are in the 60’s and 70’s; the mornings and evenings are chilly and crisp; and rain is rare. The sun rises around 6:45am and sets around 7pm. Get ready to enjoy this magical part of the year in Lake Tahoe.

(Of course, it’s the mountains. Rain, snow, and cold temperatures are possible in September. Come prepared for anything that Tahoe might throw at you!)

The Bottom Line

If you want to launch into your next year of self-directed learning with purpose, enthusiasm, and a memorable week in the mountains of California, join Crash Course.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do we need a car?

Having your own car will be very helpful but not absolutely mandatory. It is a 10-minute drive from the Manzanita Lodge to Tahoe Mountain Lab; teenage participants whose parents don’t have cars can easily carpool with others who do.

Parents without a car will be limited in their ability to explore the greater Lake Tahoe region (although local bike rentals and shuttles are available).

To get to South Lake Tahoe without a car, you can fly into Reno airport and then take the South Tahoe Express bus to South Lake Tahoe.

Can two parents join?

Yes! The rooms at the Manzanita Lodge each include a queen bed suitable for one or two adults. There is no extra charge for a second parent or guardian joining.

What if I have two teens who want to join?

If your have two teens who want to join the Crash Course and they’re willing to share a pull-out bed (very cozy!) or have one sleep on the floor, then we can work out a reduced-tuition deal for the second sibling. Please e-mail Blake directly ( to discuss details.

What do I need to bring?

Beyond the basics (clothing, toiletries, shoes, swimsuit), teens should bring:
$50 of their own money, in the form of a $50 bill. (This will be used for an accountability exercise. It’s best if teens have earned/saved this money themselves instead of just being handed it.)
Laptop or tablet with which to send emails, access webpages, etc.
A basic personal website or blog that you’ve created before the program starts and know how to operate (for example: a site)
Participants will be provided with a notebook and pen.

Is it cold up in Tahoe? Are there bears? What about mountain lions?!?

Yes, Tahoe is in the mountains. But it’s a very developed area. You’re pretty much in civilization. And don’t worry about the wild animals—it’s extremely unlikely that you’ll encounter any. Do bring a warm jacket for those brisk autumn nights! (Or just stay in the hot tub.)

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