Jo Isaac

Jo Isaac is an English unschooling mom who has lived in Colorado, and is living in Melbourne, Australia with her husband Brett and their son Kai. Jo writes poetically, philosophically and technically. She is an expert on possums and has a PhD.

(outdated; Kai's about grown, houses and jobs have changed, but it was true in the days of the photo)

a bio from elsewhere

Jo's employment after that (current in 2024): Ecology & Restoration Australia

November 29, 2015, on Radical Unschooling Info:
While Kai and I were watching Inside Out yesterday, they had a part where broccoli is in the 'disgust' part of Riley's emotions. Kai loves broccoli - it's one of his favourite foods and the first thing he eats if it's on a plate. He said that parents make broccoli disgusting in kids heads because they force them (the kids) to eat it.

In the same way we can make broccoli seem 'disgusting' by forcing it down our kids throats, we can make TV seem more 'attractive' by setting it up as a limited resource with apparently magical powers of 'distraction'.

By giving broccoli the same status as candy, and TV the same status as books and board games, children are free to make the choices that are best for them, and learn the way they learn best.


On Jo's 40th birthday, and then on her 50th, with her son, Kai

Links to some things by Jo I've saved:

Research on Children's Eating Habits

Jo's survey with graphs of ages at which unschoolers learned to read: Reading age in unschooled kids, July 2016

Experience with making moving easier for a child/teen: Moving

A "real museum" at home—near the bottom, look for the bone museum picture

Something surprising (a story about Kai, near the bottom—you could search for Kai or Jo)

Moving Toward Less Control, Concerning Food

Jo was interviewed in January 2024 by Cecelia and Jesper Conrad:

To see video, it's on Youtube: Jo Isaac | The Transformative Power of Self-Directed Education

Pam Laricchia interviewed Jo about Redefining Success
Read more below! You can click above to listen to it or read it, or both! Pam's announcement of the interview, in December 2016, is at the bottom of this page.
Jo's own blog, Unbounded Ocean— a blog about life, learning and other fun stuff

Some of the best parts:
Video games are awesome. Just get over it!

Food is awesome. Just eat it!

My talk — for which I can't think of a witty title!
         (presentation for Always Learning Live in 2014, both Adelaide and Melbourne, now with illustrations!)

Learn Nothing Day 2011: FAIL!
July 24th 2012: Our 3rd Annual Learn Nothing Day!
Learn Nothing Day 2013
Learn Nothing Day 2014
Learn Nothing Day 2016

How Kai learnt to read (a story in progress)

Reflections—and on having a "tween" and also Unschooling Tweens — Light in the Dark!

Maths readiness? And Maths "in the wild"!

and a continuation:

Learning to tell time — in 40 minutes!"
By the clock — Just don't! (not exactly a continuation)

Exploring Unschooling #35: Redefining Success with Jo Isaac

Pam Laricchia's announcement of her talk with Jo doesn't appear on the site, so I want to save it here:

Jo has had a fascinating journey to unschooling. She left school at 16 and worked as a typist for a couple of years, as her parents had envisioned. But her passion for working with animals and her dream to travel spurred choices that allowed her to do both of those things over the next few years. Then, at 25, she decided she wanted to go to university, so she did that too! Ten years later, with a PhD and a solid academic career at hand, she again re-evaluated her goals and chose a different path with her husband and young son: unschooling.

We also talked about how the conventional path to success of school and college is wrapped up in the message that school is a child's work, and that anything else is just for fun, and therefore less valuable. In fact, the dictionary lists work and fun as opposites! Unschooling turns that perspective on its head.

Jo shared a great observation: "I think the big thing with work and fun being opposites is the lack of choice." She explained that when she "made the choice to go to university, I was already doing cool fun stuff, I was travelling all over the world! And I made the choice to stop doing that because I really wanted to be a zoologist and that was my choice. And so it never felt—I mean it was work, of course it was, I worked really hard, but I never felt like it was the opposite of fun. I mean, catching possums on a tropical island was pretty fun!"

But when you don't have a choice, you feel powerless. Everything feels like work. With unschooling, we flip that around and open up the real choices that are around us every day. The challenge for deschooling parents is that they may not yet appreciate the incredible depth of determination and learning in their children's days because they don't yet value their choices. That's where the comments like "all he does is play video games" stem from. There are a lot of things going on there, once we start to really pay attention and connect with our children.

She also shares a bit about unschooling in Australia!

Thanks so much to Jo for taking the time to chat and share her experiences. :-)

Podcast / sound file of "Redefining Success" and the link to the "Redefining Success" transcript

more about Jo Isaac

and an early-2014 bio-sketch with photo

Other Voices