#53 - Jo Isaac | The Transformative Power of Self-Directed Education

E53 Jo Isaac

🗓️ Recorded January 16th, 2024. 📍Playa Dorada, Lengüeta Arenosa, Baja California, Mexico

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About this Episode 

"I remember the day I threw the school bell out the window – figuratively, of course. It marked my family's leap into unschooling." Jo Isaac shares her journey through the transformative world of self-directed learning, where children lead, and education is as dynamic as the rhythms of life itself.

Stepping away from the conventional classroom, we share how our roles evolved from enforcing lessons to fostering a nurturing environment ripe for curiosity and growth.

Unschooling isn't merely an educational choice; it's a voyage of mutual discovery and personal development. In this episode, we explore the power of unschooling to shape relationships, with anecdotes about learning history through interactive play, assembling computers, and even those heart-pounding first driving lessons.

It's about taking your child's hand and stepping into a world where learning is not confined to textbooks but explodes with vibrancy in every shared experience. We also touch on the emotional rollercoaster that comes with watching our kids mature into independence, an experience both sweet and poignant.

Every moment holds the potential for learning, growth, and a deeper connection with our children.

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With love


Jesper Conrad 

See Episode Transcript


00:00 - Jesper Conrad (Host)
Welcome to Self-Directed. We are your hosts, cecilia and Jesper Conrad, and now it's time to welcome this week's guest. Today we are together with Joe Isaac, and my English will be even more difficult for me today as I just came from the dentist and I'm like numb in half of the face. I wouldn't try to drink coffee if I can without spilling all over myself. But welcome, joe.

00:29 - Jo Isaac (Guest)
Thank you very much. Thanks for having me.

00:32 - Jesper Conrad (Host)
Yeah, joe, the reason we would like to talk to you is that you also are a fan of unschooling and have been unschooling in your life. And on the way here back from the dentist I was thinking I think this will be our around 51 or 52nd episode and I'm like how much can we talk about unschooling? But let's see if we can. We can A lot yeah. Yeah, so what does unschooling mean to you, joe?

01:09 - Jo Isaac (Guest)
Well, unschooling has been our life for 15 years, so it means a lot. It's been mostly everything that we've done. Since we found unschooling when my son was three, our life has pretty much focused on that and de-schooling, and learning about unschooling and writing about unschooling and most of that was me, not my son. He was just doing his thing Meeting other unschoolers, organizing unschooling meetups so yeah, it's been everything until my son's 17, now nearly 18. So good, not so much anymore, but yeah, it's been a focus of our life well over a decade. So it's a lot.

02:14 - Cecilie Conrad (Host)
Well, that's a parallel story to ours, so we are on board, except we still have younger children also. So yeah, we just turned 18 last week. Oh yeah, technically it's not unschooling, is it, or is it?

02:33 - Jo Isaac (Guest)
No, actually I was thinking about that when I knew I was going to talk to you and I was like are we actually unschooling anymore? I don't know. My son is working pretty much full time and doing his own things, so I don't really think of it as him being school age anymore, but I guess technically he is, so I guess it's still unschooling until he turns 18.

02:57 - Cecilie Conrad (Host)
I don't know. I mean technically, where we come from, it would be until he's completed nine years of not being in school, because that's the mandatory. It's not about the age, it's about how. For how many years did you get an education? Okay, so he's been off the hook for a few years actually now, but I don't feel a change in real life. Unschooling is, I mean I suppose you feel, as you don't get up in the morning, and then you think, okay, today I'm going to unschool. Unschooling is more something you don't do. You just get up and get on with your life. You go, do the things, and for us it really didn't change. When he was off the hook we didn't feel, oh, now we're unschooling, one child less or whatever. It's more like a lifestyle or a philosophy or perspective than it is a to-do list.

03:56 - Jo Isaac (Guest)
In my experience, yeah, I guess, I guess. Yeah, I don't feel like anything's really changed, no more than how my role has changed as I got older anyway. So you know, I'm less the organizer of things now he organizes his own things and but support looks different now, but it's still there Lots of ways. I find finding that having an older teenager is a bit like having a toddler, but just in that he needs a lot of support, but it's very different, yeah, so a lot of thriving around.

That's where my job is at the moment is driving him to places until he can take his test. Can't take his test until he's 18 here. So yeah, within another few months.

04:58 - Jesper Conrad (Host)
So yeah, Joe, what attracted you towards self-directed learning and unschooling back in the days?

05:07 - Jo Isaac (Guest)
My own school experience. I did terribly badly at school. I didn't like any think about school. I didn't learn the way that school teaches. I was pretty miserable. I did very badly. I failed all my English exams when I was 16 and basically came out of school thinking that I was stupid. I was about 18 and I learned there was such a thing as homeschooling and I was quite angry with my mother and said why didn't we do that? And she said I could never homeschool. And from that day I said if I ever have children, I'm going to homeschool them. But I didn't have children until I was 35. But it was still in my head that it was something I wanted to do. But I just finished a PhD and was working in academia and it all seemed a bit impossible. And then we moved to America and I was not working. I was working from home. And so that's where we, where I, decided that we were going to give it a go. And that's around the same time I discovered unschooling as opposed to homeschooling.

06:28 - Cecilie Conrad (Host)
So yeah, that's when your son was three years old, yeah.

06:33 - Jo Isaac (Guest)
Yeah. So you've been we moved to America two days before his third birthday and I'd already been researching on schooling a little bit and when we got to America we found a big on schooling group and I guess that was the start of our journey. So that was a really they were really important for us early on, yeah, so so that was where I sort of learned about on schooling in the very beginning.

07:04 - Cecilie Conrad (Host)
Yeah, so you are now a senior. I mean, you have one completed. You can sort of tick the box. I guess, I guess you're the kind of person you know I would have liked to talk to. First time, I stumbled upon the idea of on children. Well, they ever get a job, Do they have any friends? Or they read all these things. Am I doing everything? How can I? How can I explain this to my relatives? All these things, yeah, yeah, yeah.

07:41 - Jo Isaac (Guest)
It was great. It was great to have people when we moved, when we lived in Colorado. They were people with older kids. I mean, they weren't really super old, but they were a lot older than three and just to see those kids was really was really great, that they were great kids and you know they had learned to read and you know they couldn't talk to people. You know those those kinds of things. So, and it was always really important to me when I found online community, like mostly Sandy Dodds groups, there were other people that wrote a lot, that had boys that were that much older than my son, Kai, and it was great to see what they were doing and and that kind of thing.

So yeah, those were really important things that we all worry about. I guess, yeah, and it's great to have people out there who are writing about it and updating, which I don't do so much anymore. But yeah, I really appreciated that it was really important.

08:41 - Jesper Conrad (Host)
Stop me panicking about the panic in Joe. I think that is A fun mix of being a parent already. You can be very afraid am I doing the right stuff?

where will I how have I failed? Will they ever succeed? Am I a shitty dad? You know, it's possible to go down all these roads and then we, as people who decide to take control not control, but to take home the education of our children and let them be on school we just put this extra layer on where we will also have this can. Will they ever learn? And for me it's a little mixed, because I can be. You know, in the start my fears were more around would they learn, and all this. But I think it's natural as parents to fear in our parenting role. And when you look back at your journey, did any of the fears come true or are you quite happy?

09:56 - Jo Isaac (Guest)
No, no, fears came true and very happy, yeah, no, I mean I guess you've got all those milestones and you know. You know learning to read and my son didn't. You know, he didn't like to be. There was kind of all these things that that I remember reading when he was really small. You know, make sure you read to your children and they'll learn maths from playing with Lego and all those kinds of things. But my son hated to be read too and he hated Lego. I was like, oh, but he did learn to read and he can. You know, he can add a little bit of. You know, he can add up and subtract and do all those things. And we didn't need to read to him and didn't need to play with Lego. So I think it was interesting just to see that. You know he wasn't. He did a lot of all the stereotypical things where people go.

Oh they'll learn from doing this. Or you know, I hated craft, like like craft, and actually made him anxious, like you, really, you know, like just no craft at all. So yeah, all of those things we just didn't do. But we did our own things and we found the things he did love and he learned from doing the thing, all the things he loved, even if they didn't look like the things everybody else loved. And so yeah, but yeah, there were certainly, you know, panicky moments and you know, probably Chilly was about, I don't know it was, I mean it's con the school in this constant.

And even now that he's older, there's still things that you move through and it's just differently. You know, once he learned to read, that was like okay, he learned to read and and then there was always something else to move through and you know, then he went through a kind of the cocoon stage where Liberty's bedroom on computer games, for you know, two years, when he was sort of 12 and 13. And you know, we moved through that and I was glad that we were pretty de-schooled by then, like that was not, I was expecting that and it was all. It was all good and he's always been a really keen gamer and he has a really amazing community of gamers all over the world. A lot of them are on schoolers that we've met through, you know.

I've met their parents through Sandra's groups and then the kids have all come together online and they, they also talk to each other. They used to play Dungeons and Dragons together, you know. Lots of them live in Canada and so that's been really great. And yeah, and then and now we're moving through the you know, all the more social teenage years where he's, you know, wanting to go to parties and that kind of thing. So yeah, but yes, that was a long outside, but yes, we're very happy and nothing terrible happens.

12:59 - Cecilie Conrad (Host)
I think I sometimes. I sometimes go through the same stages. It's just as if the circle is much longer. So in the beginning I would have my. I called them black days, dark days of darkness. I did call it something in Danish that I'm trying to translate right now and they would happen now, then, and now they happen, I don't know, once a year or twice. Yeah, it's not like it will ever stop. I think sometimes I will revisit the decisions and feel the doubt. And I'm not worried about academia anymore at all. Our youngest has turned 12. So we're still in, we still have our hands on the years that would be schooling years. But I don't worry a second about the academia anymore. But sometimes I do think about I don't know, I wouldn't want them in school. What I do think about these days is more you talk about all this community that you've had and I think it's hard. It's been hard for us to find it.

14:13 - Jo Isaac (Guest)
Yeah, other people. We we've moved around a lot, not not for the last nine years, but early on when Kai was little. We we moved country and states and all over the place With America we came back to Australia. In some places we were really lucky. So I guess my first experience when we found on school then was in Colorado where we had this amazing community. And then we came back to Australia and we moved to Tasmania and it wasn't like that at all and that was hard. Having had that support in the community and then not being able to find it was really difficult. Then we moved to Adelaide and we had a little community, but it was still. It was still really important. But where we live now in Melbourne is there's a really when Kai was younger, that was a really big on school in community and we all knew each other from online. And then Sandra came to do Always Learning Live in 2014 or something. 10 years ago.

My goodness and we all met with Sandra and and yeah, so our kids at that point were all similar ages and all unschooled.

A lot of them went off to school and stuff over the years. But but that was really good and my son he's still best friends with some of those kids who were still on school. So, yeah, melbourne's, melbourne's been really good. And he expressed that he didn't want to keep moving when we moved here. He was like, okay, like I want to stay still. So, yeah, and it's also very easy to to homeschool in Victoria. So all those things contributed to I'll say okay, we're, we're going to stay here until, yeah, until you're over school, right, which which we have.

16:15 - Jesper Conrad (Host)
So yeah, and I will put you on the spot here with the question. I'm not even sure how I myself would answer. So, you cannot fail at all.

16:28 - Cecilie Conrad (Host)
So, this is a test, yeah this is a test.

16:30 - Jesper Conrad (Host)
So how would you do? Yeah, how would you define unschooling or self directed learning? Yeah, I'm not sure how I would answer it.

16:47 - Jo Isaac (Guest)
I don't know. In my head I'm seeing like bumper stickers, you know, like school doesn't exist.

16:53 - Cecilie Conrad (Host)

16:54 - Jo Isaac (Guest)
Which is true, but it's more than that. It's more than just living like school doesn't exist. Because school doesn't exist, you can't live like it doesn't, because everybody else is doing it, so you know your family and things. I think how would I define in school? I guess from a learning perspective, it's learning from doing the things that you love. From a parental point of view, it's supporting the kids to learn from the things that they love and helping them do the things that they love and not judging the things that they love Definitely.

17:32 - Jesper Conrad (Host)
That one can be hard sometimes.

17:35 - Jo Isaac (Guest)
Yeah, yeah, it can, but it's the key and I think it's what a lot of parents struggle with, especially when your kids don't love the things that you love and you're not familiar with the things that they love.

17:51 - Cecilie Conrad (Host)
You just have to knit all by yourself, right.

17:56 - Jo Isaac (Guest)
And I really hated history at school, like just the way that school taught history and my son loves history and like that's been. It's actually been quite healing in the end that I have learned to love history through, you know, doing fun things with him and going to museums and expeditions and all those kinds of things. So but in the beginning it was, it was, you know, I expect to have a kid that did like Lego and did like craft and didn't like any of those things. Yeah, I think defining on schooling is really it's really difficult and I think it's there are like multiple definitions depending on who you're talking about, like what's the definition for the on school child? What's the definition for the parent?

And a lot of it is having a ridiculous amount of self confidence or else just faking it. Faking that that, yeah, like faking your confidence, faking till you make it, because everybody will judge you. You know, and you have to explain to everybody that you meet ever and still I mean still with a, with a nearly 18 year old. I'm sure you get it to. You know new people at work when they ask if Kaisen so if I were at school here, he would be in year 12, which is the big years when you have the big exams. Well, people ask that all the time. You know as he doing his, you know VCE, which is the big Victorian, you know final exams and I'm like no, he's home schools, and then it's like Groundhog Day explain it all again and yeah, so, yeah, and so I think that's all I'm just calling to me is really just having faith in the process and fighting yourself and and your kids. I think that was a terrible answer, so sorry.

20:04 - Cecilie Conrad (Host)
Now you're past it.

Yeah, because in any way is how do you define something you don't do, the interesting, or what we do do and and and that's a lot of other things. And Groundhog Day wise, if we were talking to someone who'd never heard about the concept before, we would have to explain these things, that we don't teach these ways. We don't have a curriculum, we don't do exams, it's everything you think of at school. Just take that out of the equation and then I'll start explaining to you how we do it. And also, you talk about he learned in this and that and the other way, but really I suppose that was not the focal point of your lifestyle. What he would learn or not learn, maybe the beginning, but then you, the shoulders, come down and you start trusting the process and you start just living life and that becomes actually so much more interesting. And my, my children, our children, of course, they can do some math and they know about whatever history, geography, these academics, these things that they learn in school, and I think what, what is the juice of it is the things we learn about life, about what keeps us happy. How can we be, how can we be the, the, the, how can we be the people we really want to be in our relations with our friends, each other, the grandparents, the people we meet in the shops. How do we handle our white privilege, europeans as we are, all these things? How do we manage, how do we, how do we get up in the morning and make sure we're still happy when we go to bed at night? That's just yes. So much more interesting, level five or six to even start talking about these things. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

And you said having having faith. To me it's a centerpiece, the trust thing. We trust each other, we trust the process, we trust that they will come to us with whatever worries or needs or ideas that they have and they trust us to love them, no matter what, and support them, know what it matter what, and help them to achieve whatever it is or try things out, even if it's something. I can't see the point of it. I don't see the point of it. First person shooter games let me just put it out there. I struggle to see the point of it, but I do see fun. I see my sons laughing and I, yeah, I mean. And I also see that I enjoy knitting a lot and people that I respect don't. Yeah, I mean. I do know that we're different.

22:52 - Jo Isaac (Guest)
And I think that in the beginning that's that's hard. I found that hard to yeah, to get excited about things I didn't think I was excited about. You know, like things he was excited about and you know when gaming I mean I started gaming when he was like five or something. I think we got we got our first console when he was five or six and that was a steep learning curve for me. You know like learning to. You know I remember like way back in the day when Minecraft was sort of first came out and you had to install mods and yeah, like install mods in Minecraft.

23:40 - Cecilie Conrad (Host)
And I was like I'm just going to do.

23:41 - Jo Isaac (Guest)
My engineer friends. I mean, I really have a game, I will admit, and all those things. And yeah, well, he got his first gaming desktop and we had to put it together and you know like set it all up and get in online and all those things and not things that I ever saw in my future that I would learn to do, but but we did it together, yeah, and now he doesn't need my help. So, yeah, now it's just learning to drive that he needs my help, and that's a new journey.

24:20 - Jesper Conrad (Host)
You mentioned your own, on your own journey, how you didn't have a good experience in school. So you have this process of going through it with your son. Has it healed some of your own wounds of learning? Or was it just a school that you enjoy learning back then but just didn't enjoy school? Or was it mixed so you didn't?

24:47 - Jo Isaac (Guest)
know, I think school really put me off learning. I think when I left school I said I'm never going to go to a museum again and all these like school ruins, all of that for me.

So yeah, it has been really healing, all those things as a parent of an unschooler that you know. Like there was, say, a museum exhibit on the Roman Empire, you know Ky would want to go to that and so, yeah, we did all that and lots of ways I mean I went back to university as a mature age student anyway, so, but that was to do something I loved. So I'm an ecologist, so I'd already kind of refound my love of learning things that I wanted to learn about. But with Ky I was. I found the love of learning things that wouldn't particularly I would have thought were interesting to me, so things outside of science, I guess.

So, yeah, it has been really healing. And you know I can safely say I do love history now and you know we've been to some amazing exhibits and I'm still not quite as into it as he is, but yeah, he's, it is. We've done so many things that I would never have done otherwise if we hadn't unschooled, I would never have gone to, you know, comic Con or PAX or, you know, learn all these things about gaming and cosplay and all those kinds of things. So yeah, it's been. It's definitely broaden my knowledge as well as well as his. So, yeah, it's definitely definitely being healing.

26:46 - Cecilie Conrad (Host)
I also think now that our sons have almost the same age.

So, yeah, I think we have a parallel thing going on, but I also have a almost 25 year old daughter and then younger kids also, so we sort of have two adults and two children.

Yeah, mom, and I think that all of these things that I've learned to, to be interested in or at least supportive about, and that I've learned about not because I wanted to, but because this was part of my child's life it has also put me in a situation where I now have these young adult people in my circle and I know them really well and we have a lot to talk about and we can go for a walk for the next five hours and not run out of things to discuss, or yeah, yeah, or together, and I just feel that the relationship we have is so much more powerful because we've done all these things together during their life and also because we know that if we sometimes this happens sometimes with my son, who is the same age as your son Sometimes we run out of things we do together because really he's into reading and he reads a different kind of literature than I do, so we don't read the same books and he will absorb a lot of hours doing that.

And then he's studying math and I can already do the math, so I'll help him, but it's not like really an adventure for me. But then we can sit down and say, hey, we need, we need, we need something we do together and we come up with some weird idea about embroidered broidery or or studying Roman Empire, whatever, because we've learned this. You know, whatever it is, we just need some common ground. And what would have happened had we not had this experience of all these years of doing things together and doing things together.

28:49 - Jo Isaac (Guest)
Yeah, yeah, I guess lately, especially, you know, over Christmas. We're still part of a quite big homeschooling community and my son and I have ended up at the same parties because you know like, yeah, the adults and the kids are all at the same parties and it's kind of like, yeah, I don't, you know, that wouldn't have happened if he was at school. You know, I knew his E, we were at the same New Year's party. Yeah, it's funny actually. He said, yeah, my son reads completely different literature to me. He just finished War on Peace and I have never in my life wanted to read War on Peace, but he loved it. He's sitting on the shelf and I've not read it. And he's also learning some higher math. Now I don't know what he's doing, but he occasionally calls me in for some helping.

I'm not usually very helpful, but it sounds like a song to do in similar things. So, yeah, my son has actually been away for the last two weeks on his first holiday with a friend, so he's actually coming home today. So that's been a really big thing for him and me. Yeah, so he's, yeah, he's due back today and they've had an amazing time and so that's been, yeah, I guess, something for me to work through and big road trip and they've been driving and surfing.

30:26 - Jesper Conrad (Host)
They have had that time of their life. They have.

30:29 - Jo Isaac (Guest)
I think they have yeah.

30:33 - Jesper Conrad (Host)
I'm guessing, but doesn't make it easier. I remember when I was 18, when she was 18, our daughter moved away from home. Yeah, she's 24 now, so In a while. Now, yeah, it's been a while, but the first couple of months was weird.

30:51 - Cecilie Conrad (Host)

30:51 - Jo Isaac (Guest)
Yeah, yeah, I don't know it's, it's been weird but I did all day long. Yeah, we'll have lots to talk about for a while.

They'll be filling me in gradually on the trip and all that kind of thing and we find things to do, you know, during the day we usually I work a lot now Now, if I was older and he's usually he works most days. Now he's a lifeguard at a local pool, so he's working a lot but we come together at night and we watch shows, like that's kind of our time together and we'll watch a show and have hot chocolate and, yeah, that's kind of our evenings are our time together. So that's been. I really miss that the last two weeks. So, yeah, he's coming home a day early. I have to say I'm a little bit happy he's come home a day early.

31:48 - Jesper Conrad (Host)
Joe, for the big, the people wanting to start on this path of homeschooling, on schooling, and who are curious. What are your advice to them?

32:04 - Jo Isaac (Guest)
I think if you've got little kids, you know go slowly. You know read from it's difficult because there's so many sources of on-school information and they're not all equal. So you know I don't want to, you know, go into that too much, but you know, find a source that you think is, you know, reliable. Someone who's who's writing you like to read. Everybody likes. You know, bring in a different person. You know join some groups, ask some questions, and I always think it's the kind of basic thing that is always. You know how do we start like start like you're on a holiday, like start like you're on school holidays. You know what would you do on school holidays? You let your kids sleep in. You know you don't make them do work, hopefully, um, I guess some people do.

You know, when you do fun things, you go out and you go fun places, um, do that and then just carry on so um yeah, you know, and, but while you're doing that, you know you, de-school is real, you know, and, and you will panic and um, and that's all normal, you know. Don't panic because you're panicking. It's everybody panics, um, you know, and and if you can, you know it's not available to everybody. You know, we've gone through places where we've had amazing community and places where we haven't um, it definitely helps um, but you know it's not the end of the world if you don't have a local community. There's online communities. You know, utilize them and and you know, um, like I said, like from from all over the world, we've gone and visited people in Australia and all over the world.

Um that I've met online in the unscalling community and, and that's been amazing. Um you know, people in England and Canada, people from Canada have come here and visited us in Australia.

You know we met Sandra and um and and a lot of the, I guess, older unschoolers, um, you know, with grown kids now, but you know, and they're traveling and they've come over and I've met them and um, you know that that's been um really valuable and and really important to me and um, I guess another piece of advice would be to join a group. I guess Facebook was the place to do that. I don't really know. Things have sort of changed in Facebook now, but but um and and keep reading and when you feel more confident, um, start responding to people. Um, I think I a lot of my de-schooling was came out from me responding to other people, um, because you kind of work through your own problems by answering somebody else's or there was a whole lot of years there where in my head, if I was worried about something, I'd go.

What would Sandra do? So I would try and channel Sandra, the answer in my hair. We go okay, sandra would do this, so yeah, um. Or Sandra would say this and so um. That was that was really helpful, and I think I wasn't the only person that did that.

35:21 - Jesper Conrad (Host)
Um, yeah, it's um your story about sleeping in reminded me of uh. We love to co-live with friends and family when we travel. Right now we are together with some wonderful people. We met at a world schooling event, um. But in Denmark we also have friends who have their kids in public school or private school, and I remember often we have hung out during the holidays, but then we stayed with my good friend uh during um the weekend and then the monday came and I was like, why are you waking your kids up so early? It was it. It was so weird for me the idea that you should be somewhere at eight o'clock in the morning.

I was like, oh, yeah that's why are you doing that to kids and pretending they should be awake enough to learn something? It was just uh, I. This is like 12 years down the pad or something. For us it's like what's happening?

36:26 - Jo Isaac (Guest)
it's really weird, yeah yeah, yeah, no, my son has taken to setting an alarm for like 6 am. I don't know why he wants to get up at 6 am, but I'm just like, don't wake me up, I just start. I mean, I mostly work from home unless I'm out, so I start work, uh, whenever I feel ready. So, uh, which is fabulous. And I don't know how I'm coping by having to be in an office at 9 o'clock because all these years of on school then we've just woken up, yeah, when we wanted, um, and had breakfast when we wanted.

I really um, I really hate to rush breakfast now, like that's like my pet peeve. I'm like I know I'd rather not have breakfast than have to rush breakfast. So, yeah, allegedly breakfast and and all those things, and I think you know you're so much more ready to start your day and and know what you want to do for the day when, when you've got time to, you know catch breath in the morning and and you know really, and um, yeah, we use our breakfast together at the table now and um, yeah, like it's kind of an important time.

37:31 - Jesper Conrad (Host)
It's one of the freedoms that would be very hard for me to give up uh, you have to change our lifestyle is the freedom to decide over my day and my morning. I really enjoy waking up, um, and doing my yoga. Now I need to reschedule a little because I have suggest to a task where it is I need to be available for some, uh, wonderful people in Denmark, uh, two hours every morning, and that is we are in Mexico. So that that's just stupid, wow, yeah, so I would be the wake up half past four and then have a good morning with some meetings and stuff, and then I will do my yoga.

38:17 - Jo Isaac (Guest)
So yeah, last week I was away for work, which was actually really good because it was Kai's first week away, so I was actually busy doing work and and we were doing bird surveys, um, so I was actually having to get up at yeah, like 4 30 to be up with the birds, uh, and that's fine to do for work for a week. But, um, you know, I'm back to my normal routine and that's good. So, yeah, you know, I think we can all get up if we have to.

38:47 - Cecilie Conrad (Host)
I really prefer not to yeah, I think the privilege of time will be put right next to the privilege of trust as one of the core elements if we're trying to define unschooling, or at least talk about the center pieces, the fact that we I think it goes for the evenings as well.

39:15 - Jo Isaac (Guest)
People are rushing to get their kids in bed because they're going to get up early for school, whereas if you're not doing that and people can go to bed, then they're actually tired or you can spend really important hours, like we do, watching shows and chatting and just spending time together. It's just so valuable and I just can't yeah, like you said, 12 years on, I just can't imagine that whole life being a rush and a battle for everything, a battle to make your kids go to bed and a battle to get your kids off in the morning, and you'd be just fighting about everything and food and all those things, and it's not easy. I work with people who?

39:59 - Cecilie Conrad (Host)
Sorry, I'm just saying it's not easy. It really is a trap. No, I just it's a whole trap-mill kind of situation. It's very hard to get out of it.

40:09 - Jo Isaac (Guest)
I think that's something people can say I could never homeschool or I could never do that, and I'm like I couldn't do school.

I couldn't do the school run and get up and then force my kids to bed and I just, yeah, I couldn't do that. Most of the women I work with I've got kids in school and at the moment they're all desperate for the it's school holidays here. It's summer, obviously in Melbourne, so it's the big summer school holidays and they're desperate for their kids to go back to school so that they can do what they want. It just makes me really sad.

Yeah, they're like how are only two more weeks left and I was like, yeah, my son's been away for two weeks and I can't wait for him to be back. Yeah, it's just not. Yeah, it's, I guess, yeah, having the privilege of having the relationship we've had and all the time. I just can't imagine it now. But I guess that's why they can't imagine what we do either. It works both ways, I guess.

41:20 - Cecilie Conrad (Host)
Yeah, I. I think you're sitting on something, yeah yeah, yeah, but just this.

41:33 - Jesper Conrad (Host)
When we started homeschooling I remember the a sentence I said was I was still the dad going to work and Cecilia was staying at home and it felt like I had holiday all the time because even though I needed to go away from the family and I could be a little not sad but sometimes in the winter I looked at them snuggling under the under the duvet and I had to go out and bike to work and stuff like that, but I didn't have to rush anybody, I didn't have to.

I just had to be quiet because I was still sleeping. Yeah, they were still sleeping in here just doing that, and I was in bed sometimes. Yeah, but I didn't need to rush anybody. I didn't need to take the kids to an institution. We had them in.

42:25 - Cecilie Conrad (Host)
You had the easiest life of a father of four. It was so easy Not to scare anyone with anything in the door. No, no breakfast no I just no hands to wash I went to.

42:35 - Jesper Conrad (Host)
I went to Warrish and when I came home I had stunt tire children.

42:39 - Cecilie Conrad (Host)
Where are my socks from? You know all these things.

42:43 - Jesper Conrad (Host)
Yeah, yeah, it was good, it was so easy.

42:47 - Jo Isaac (Guest)
No, but then also the value of coming home to someone who was not tired, so I really enjoyed the evenings we had together and also, I mean, and you're happy, you know, if you've got kids, particularly older kids, in high school, you know they've got so much homework and you know it's kind of a rush, you know, get in the dinner, do your homework, go to bed and just no downtime. And you know, I feel like particularly at that age, those teenagers, they really need that downtime, they need a lot of thinking and things.

43:21 - Cecilie Conrad (Host)
Oh, my God.

43:22 - Jo Isaac (Guest)
And if there's no time to do all of that? You know mad stuff that goes on in their brains as teenagers. Like you know that causes problems. You know they really work through things and to not have time to do that is a real problem, I think.

I think it's a real, real problem, and we also see teenagers with real, real problems, absolutely yeah, I know, you know I've watched my son and yeah, he spends a lot of time, you know, mulling things over and then when he's ready, he'll come and talk to me about it, you know. And he's got other friends. He's got a lot of older friends who were also home or on schools and he talks to them and that processing in older teenagers, yeah, it's so important and to not, you know, have any downtime or space to do that. Yeah, like he said, it's a real problem.

44:18 - Jesper Conrad (Host)
I'm just thinking back to when I was in high school and we were 24, 28 in the class, all those social interactions. It's crazy to imagine that you have time to take it all really in and work through the different emotions.

44:43 - Cecilie Conrad (Host)
Yeah, yeah, yeah but back in our days we didn't have smartphones, at least you know. You had to cope with what you heard with your ears and so with your eyes, and situations where you were physically present or someone. Someone, a person in front of you talked about it and shared with you what happened, and I would walk home or bike home. I'd be on my own with my own thoughts. No one would call me or text me or whatever I could.

Email didn't even exist, or it was a new thing. I didn't have an email in high school. I think it was just out there at university I got that. So the piece that we had even though you think about it and you think you had no piece, but we did have a lot of peace yeah, in reality I could go home and read my books and, yeah, get about high school. When I was home, I could walk in the park. But they are online all the time now and it's not just people they know, it's also people they only know online, which can be a nice and good thing. But it can also just be an overwhelming massive influence of half anonymous people. You don't really know who are, but they have opinions and they I think it's changed a lot how it looks today.

46:11 - Jo Isaac (Guest)
I don't, that's not something we're really out to deal with like cause, not really. I mean, he's gaming all the time but he's not he'll really use his phone much. He's on Instagram and he never posts to the point where I'm like, please post something about your trip. I'd like to see some photos. But I do know, you know, he's got friends generalizing widely, but mostly the girls. That seems to be more of a thing that they're. They're online on their phones a lot and Instagram and Twitter and all those kinds of things. But yeah, I have to admit that's not something we've really dealt with specifically. So, but you're right, yeah, I mean, but yeah, I think, and also we didn't have as much homework, you know, like there's just so much work now, you know.

47:08 - Jesper Conrad (Host)
But it's magical when you make a test and see that the level of learning is going down, then you just add more homework or something else to see if that would work.

47:18 - Jo Isaac (Guest)
I mean it's good to see now that a lot of schools are trying to realize that and that there are schools that would say but then you know, I mean I've got friends whose kids go to private schools and you know they expect that, they want it because that's what they're paying for. So, you know that's a thing too. But yeah, I just think giving kids downtime is just yeah, it's yeah.

47:43 - Cecilie Conrad (Host)
I think it's the changing gear from being to doing and back which is a lifeless and many adults need as well.

Yeah, yeah, me at least. Unschooling is very much about being and allowing for the being and for the young persons to walk through life. Understanding that being is enough, and I think that's what I'm trying to show, while at the same time, I do recommend my children to do things. If you want to learn to speak Spanish fluently, you'd have to study or in some way. You know, I'm not saying it has to be in a school-based way, but I'm just saying that I do recommend them to do things. But I think the core of our unschooling journey is very much to try to show them that being is enough. I think so.

48:48 - Jo Isaac (Guest)
I've always had like, particularly in the beginning. It was kind of like people are really quick to say, oh, you just watched TV. You're like, what a waste of time, you're wasting time. And that was, you know, the mind shift was is it really a waste of time? Like if you watched a TV show and you really enjoyed it and you got to relax, like it's not a waste of time at all, like that's a pretty good, you know focus and spend up your time.

And I guess my son I don't know whether you're all the kids as they went through their older teens, like he's quite often feels like he hasn't done enough in the day, like he'll go, oh, I wish I'd have done more. And you know, I'm kind of I think it's kind of a normal teenager-y thing to go through and you know I wish I'd done whatever. And he's like, oh, you know, wasted all morning playing video games. I'm like, but did you waste the time? Like I feel like you know you had fun and you were laughing and talking to your friends and it's not a waste of time, like it's a truly important time. I think that that's and that's a really school-y thing, like it kind of is like, you know, wasted time or wasted food or any of those things Like, and they're all things you need to rethink as you go through the de-schooling process. Yeah, what's you know? Downtime is important, not a waste of time.

50:11 - Cecilie Conrad (Host)
So yeah, it's just being time. Yeah, being time, yeah, exactly, yeah, yeah, that might be the point of the whole thing to be yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. You said you're working with women. What kind of work is that? So that's not the biology thing, I think.

50:33 - Jo Isaac (Guest)
I'm an ecologist. Yeah, yeah, A couple of years ago, myself and another woman started our own Ecology Consultancy. So yeah, we're the only female-owned and operated ecological consultancy in Melbourne, and yeah, so we don't just employ women. We don't just employ women, though. But yeah most of our team are women at the moment.

50:59 - Cecilie Conrad (Host)

51:01 - Jo Isaac (Guest)
But yeah, it's been really amazing that again, that was not something I imagined I would do in my 50s, but here I am and yeah it's. You know, obviously not something I could have done when Kai was smaller, because it's quite time intensive now. Hence me not managing to talk to you until now, when you've been trying to. Yeah.

51:29 - Cecilie Conrad (Host)
Well, here we are.

51:31 - Jo Isaac (Guest)
Here we are. Yeah, so, yes, so yeah, that's what I'm doing. Kai has actually worked for us a little bit and helped out with some surveys and things, but he wanted to do his own thing. I think myself and his dad are ecologists and I think he was like that chill thing and I want to do something else.

51:54 - Cecilie Conrad (Host)
Yeah, yeah, that would be great he's really.

51:58 - Jo Isaac (Guest)
It's actually an unscalled-in friend who got him the job as a lifeguard, so he's really enjoying lifeguarding. It's summertime, so the outdoor pool's open and he really loves it.

52:10 - Cecilie Conrad (Host)
It's summer time.

52:12 - Jesper Conrad (Host)
Yeah, he has, here we are. Yeah, it's a good time in Mexico it's so cold there, not where we are.

52:16 - Jo Isaac (Guest)
Oh you too, I know right. So it can't be cold there.

52:19 - Jesper Conrad (Host)
Yeah, it's a little cold, Cold, yeah, yeah.

52:23 - Jo Isaac (Guest)
Is it?

52:23 - Jesper Conrad (Host)
No wait.

52:25 - Jo Isaac (Guest)
We're in the middle of a storm in Melbourne, even though it's summer, we've had a very rainy summer, so it doesn't look like summer today.

52:31 - Jesper Conrad (Host)
No, no, it's very changeable. If the sun is out, you can really enjoy it, and when there's clouds it gets cold and in the night it's cold, but we enjoy it. We enjoy the traveling a lot, yeah, yeah, I would love to end up with some advices from you to new on-schoolers, home-schoolers out there. We talked a little about finding the sources and the community. When you look back at your life, is there anything you now can say to yourself, if I have new dad or done that about homeschooling, unschooling, then so what would you say to yourself is maybe my answer.

53:19 - Cecilie Conrad (Host)

53:20 - Jesper Conrad (Host)
Yeah, question, yeah, that's it. I can't blame Anastasia on that one. You can't tell.

53:30 - Jo Isaac (Guest)
I don't know how you can talk after being to the dentist. What would I say to myself? Relax, I think, yeah, just be more trusting. Trust that humans are hardwired to learn. You can't stop us. We're going to learn, even if we don't think we are. I remember saying to my son when he was learning to read I said soon there will be a time when you look at that sign and you will read it without even thinking. You won't be able to not read it. That was such a weird concept to him. Here we are, but I think relax, really, work on your own self-confidence If something doesn't feel right.

I guess my biggest regrets were actually before we found unschooling, when I first had Kai community, where not many people had kids and the people that did have kids were more authoritarian parents. They smacked their kids, they did cry to sleep and for me I didn't know any attachment parents. I didn't know anything about it. I didn't know anything about it. I wasn't really a thing where Kai was born. We lived in Northern Australia at that point and none of that felt right to me, but I didn't have anybody to talk to about it and I didn't know about the online community really then. So I wish I'd listened to myself more back then. I wish we'd co-slept earlier than we did. I wish I'd breastfed on demands and I didn't. All those kinds of things. If you keep questioning things, figure out why. Why are you questioning it? Work on your own self-confidence and trust in yourself and the process, and that yeah.

I think grow a thick skin is really important Because, yeah, you need a thick skin. People are going to argue with you all the time no, no, no, that's right, and for us it was absolutely more probably also for you.

55:57 - Jesper Conrad (Host)
In the start you had to talk a lot about it and explain. Now I'm like, yeah, we can talk about it, but we have been doing so much, we've been doing so much, we have been doing so much reading, so much thinking. Do you really want to have this conversation?

56:18 - Jo Isaac (Guest)
Yeah, yeah, I've got friends who are much better at talking to new people than I am. I tend to just I don't know, I just go. I can't have this conversation again there. Yeah, I mean even Kai, you know he gets. You know people are like you know, where are you going to school? Like you know, he's got a whole new you know social circle of work friends that they're like assume that he's in high school and assume he's in his VCE year and so he's got to tell them and he's coming back and going. Oh, I'm so sick of talking about it. So, yeah, it's. I mean, it's a little bit easier here because Annie, who is also an unschooled, she's the one who got Kai the job and her son also works as a lifeguard, so they're all unschooled and so it's most of the people at the pool at least know that we homeschool, so it's not quite the big deal that it might be elsewhere, but yeah.

57:22 - Jesper Conrad (Host)
But I think it was some wonderful advice to once, for myself and to the people out there listening trust more in yourself and relax about it. It will come, joe, it's about time.

57:37 - Jo Isaac (Guest)
Easiest said than done to relax. But yeah, if you can oh, yeah, yeah, yeah.

57:42 - Cecilie Conrad (Host)
Advice, you know, maybe make a sticker note and put it everywhere and say relax.

57:49 - Jo Isaac (Guest)
Relax, I've got Sandra's magnets on the fridge.

57:51 - Cecilie Conrad (Host)
Still, yeah, exactly.

57:55 - Jesper Conrad (Host)
But, joe, thanks a lot for your time. It was wonderful talking more about this wonderful subject once again.

58:03 - Jo Isaac (Guest)
And thank you for having me. Thank you so much.

58:08 - Jesper Conrad (Host)
Thank you for listening. We hope you enjoyed today's episode and if you liked that, then please share it with all your friends and family. We would also love it if you gave our podcast a review. Thanks, and if you want to support our podcast and work, then you can find us on patreoncom slash the Conrad family. We will continue to travel full time and if you want to tag along, then please follow us on Facebook and Instagram at the Conrad family, and you can also read more than 100 blog posts on our website, theconradfamily. Until next time, make a wonderful day, thank you.


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