So you want to travel, to go and see the country, to take your family to all the wonderful places that Australia has to offer. You’ve made decisions regarding your route, must-see landmarks, and finances, and can debate the merits of camper trailers vs. caravans for hours.
There’s just one major stumbling block – the children’s education.
Everyone tells you what a wonderful educational opportunity it will be for the children, and that they’ll learn so much, and you’re sure they’re right – but it still feels like a major undertaking. For six months, or a year, or maybe more, you’re going to be the one providing their education.
I’m here to tell you that you’ll be just fine. We’ve homeschooled our five children from the start, and we’ve travelled on and off for their entire lives – we’ve been in our caravan for fifteen months now (and the pictures i’m sharing here have all been taken on our travels. Just whetting your appetite!). Homeschooling is fantastic, and when you’re travelling it’s so easy-our main problem has been picking and choosing the best opportunities from a flood!
You have three options – maintaining enrolment at their school, distance education, or homeschooling.
This can be a fantastic, seamless option. The school keeps your child enrolled, gives them an exemption from attending, and usually provides you with some schoolwork to do while you’re away. Scroll down and read the homeschooling section for a comprehensive guide to learning on the road.
For those with no long-term interest in homeschooling it’s probably the best – IF it’s available. It depends on state legislation and the attitude of the school itself – while some schools will send you off with excitement and congratulations, some schools will just not do it.
If they won’t or can’t, then it’s onto the other options.
This will be the first (and sometimes only) option you’re given. My advice?
Don’t do distance education.
Yes, that’s blunt. But distance ed, which is basically public school at home, can be hell for travellers. Here’s why.
There’s definitely some positives too – you don’t need to worry about writing a homeschooling plan or being approved, and all the work is provided for you complete with schedules. You can also access teacher help when you need it. However, I really don’t think that it meshes well with travelling, and many travellers i’ve met have only spent a few months on distance ed before becoming frustrated with the limitations and changing to homeschooling.
If you’re interested in educational autonomy and freedom, keep reading!
There are limited, usually Christian, options that are more flexible (and expensive) and provide a school-at-home experience. With these, you won’t have to think about coming up with a curriculum plan or worry about homeschooling registration. Many will host sports days or camps that you may be able to slot into your travels. You’ll need to contact each one to find out whether they have any attendance or internet requirements, but to my knowledge there’s usually not any.
Homeschool Christian Academy | Groves Christian College | Riverside Christian College | Australian Christian Home Schooling | Australian Homebase Academy | Seabrook Christian School | South East Home Education | Homeschool WA | Jubilee Christian College | Australian Christian College
Basically, you need to register to homeschool when using these companies, but it should be as easy as providing their curriculum as your plan. Australia has limited numbers of these-if you know of any more please tell me so I can add them to the list.
Now onto the option that is generally the cheapest and most flexible, but does require you to plan (but you can get lots of help with that).
Distance Education does have one advantage – it covers the legal side of things automatically. However, homeschooling is legal everywhere in Australia, and here’s what you have to do to register in each state and territory. You don’t have to register in each state as you pass through, you just have to be registered somewhere. Start by reading about your home state (there’s a quick summary afterwards if legal websites leave you in a tizzy).
Quick Summary – Most states require you to submit an application, with a plan of what you’re going to do. In some states, someone will meet with you to discuss that plan, then either recommend changes that need to be made to it, or approve the plan. If they don’t meet with you they review the plan that you send it, and will either approve it or reject it. That’s all for 12 months. At the end of that year, you’re expected to provide the next year’s plan, plus examples of the work your children have completed in the last year (just to prove you haven’t been staring at the wall for 12 months).
Victoria is great, because they don’t require anyone to meet up with you. Submit your application, promise you’ll cover the learning areas, and get started. (Note: This is currently under review, and they’re considering reviewing plans like the other states).
NSW is a pain, because they want you to only homeschool in your ‘approved learning environment’. Someone will come to your house and make sure it’s suitable for learning. Seriously. They don’t think you can learn anywhere else. If you go travelling you’re meant to register with Distance Ed – because who can learn using their own resources at picnic tables, or museums, or by doing stuff?!?!
If you’re feeling discouraged (and if you’re in NSW, who can blame you?) here are some tips.
Although I can’t recommend it, there are hundreds of people homeschooling without registration. It’s not at all out-of-the-ordinary, it’s not something that gets chased up and enforced, and if you’re facing a process that is being deliberately obstructive for no worthy reason it may be worth considering. People who have done this have reported minimal to no problems when it came to re-enrolling at school.
Now we have the radical rebellious stuff out of the way, let’s get down to writing your plan.
Writing a plan doesn’t have to be a horrible, agonising process. It’s simply to show the authorities that yes, you have thought about this, and how you’re going to make sure your child learns what they ‘should’. Remember, you don’t have to stick slavishly to the plan – if resources and plans don’t meet your needs you can change them.
Picking an Australian Curriculum approved resource for core subjects can be a great easy way to get your plans done quickly. Your child’s school may be able to recommend resources, and if you’re planning for them to go back to school this will help keep them in line with their peers. Ask the Fearless Homeschool community members if you need suggestions for resources.
You can then supplement these core resources with activities you plan to do – for example, put a visit to Questacon into the science section, and a visit to the National War Memorial into the history section. Any activity widely accepted as educational will enhance your plan.
Most of the websites listed in the state resources give you guidance, so make sure you explore your state’s resources thoroughly – or simply ring and ask for assistance.
Real plans that have been approved on The Educating Parent
Still stumped? Contact the HEA for more help in writing a program – they’re a lovely bunch.
Now you have your basic plan, it’s time to enhance it with real-life activities.
The more you can tie your child’s education to their interests and life and show them the practical applications the more they’ll remember. Travelling offers an unbeatable way to do this-as you explore different areas you’ll incidentally learn about history, geography, geology, science, meteorology, natural resources, sociology, politics, economy. If you dig a little bit deeper than the surface you have a curriculum that may not be particularly organised, but ranges far wider and deeper than anything school can provide.
Honestly, as long as they’re covering the basics don’t worry about spending endless hours each week on bookwork. When you’re in fascinating, beautiful areas with dozens of interesting, incidentally educational activities to do no-one wants to do worksheets! Instead, add quality activities to your daily life.
You’ll be surprised how much fun you can have and still be able to categorise it as educational. Here’s ideas for the key learning areas to get you started.
This is so easy to cover when travelling. Physics via riding rollercoasters anyone?
Although many school children don’t have the opportunity to learn a second language (two schools I went to didn’t have a LOTE teacher), it’s a core area and a valuable one. This one’s a bit tricky to tie in with Australian travel as we’re essentially monolingual, but here’s some ideas.
If that’s not enough for you, here’s some extra travel-specific homeschooling tips!
Visit the information centre in each area and you’ll be able to collect most of what you need for a thorough education – they usually contain information about the geological and human history, flora and fauna, and notable citizens. The maps, pamphlets and other resources are great for journaling! It’s also the easiest way to find out what there is to do in an area and plan your time accordingly.
Many homeschooling groups will be happy for you come along to their outings if you’re in an area for a while. They can provide a fun day out, give your kids a horde of other kids to play with, give you other parents to chat to who are also homeschooling, and introduce to you an area in a way that only locals can.
The best way to find local groups? Definitely Facebook. Try searching for the town + homeschooling. If that doesn’t bring anything up then try other terms that the area is known by – for example, Far North Queensland for Cairns, or Limestone Coast for Mount Gambier.
Australia is a big country, with lots of empty space – you’ll be spending a lot of time in the car. In the car you have a captive audience, so make the most of it.
Audiobooks are wonderful, and it’s so easy to download classic stories and listen to them as a family. It’s even free through most libraries. Honestly, we’ve reached the end of a 500km trip and had the kids complain about getting OUT of the car because we’re at a riveting part of the story!
As mentioned earlier, we have laminated pages with Auslan songs and poetry to memorise, plus logic and word puzzles. The kids will also pack what they want to take on that trip – card games, craft projects etc.
What we DON’T have is electronic babysitters. No iPads, no DVD players, no phones. If you’re convinced you HAVE to have them for your sanity (you really don’t) then please make sure you fill them with quality options – documentaries, ebooks etc. Yes, children really do find all that stuff insanely interesting once they develop a taste for it – and far more rewarding than inane games.
If you need more ideas, there’s even a book specifically about carschooling. Enjoy!
Personally, I think homeschooling older kids is great. Preschool and early primary can be so boring as you go over and over (AND OVER) basic skills. I’ve just about finished teaching my five children to read, and I never want to do it again. But my daughters are so much fun to work with! They’re doing work at a level that interests and challenges me, and they’re very independent – they generally just need me to help them find resources and to lend a helping hand.
Worried you can’t teach your kids something because you don’t know it? It doesn’t matter, there’s always a way to learn. The ability to teach yourself new things is an invaluable skill, and one that will be useful for their whole life. Help them find quality resources, help them learn to use them, and be around to bounce off ideas and listen to discussions.
MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) are online courses typically provided by universities. They’re wonderful, and they’re FREE! My girls have done courses about anatomy and physiology, ancient history and archaeology, and Spanish.
Nothing beats one-to-one tutoring.
If you know your child is struggling in a certain area, travelling provides a great opportunity to help them master it. It doesn’t matter if you haven’t mastered the subject yourself – one of the myths of modern education is that you need to be an expert to teach anything. Learning alongside of your children can be just as much help, and an awful lot of fun. Find videos and tutorials online that cover the skill they’re struggling with (Khan Academy is great), buy a few basic workbooks, and help them combat their problems. They’ll feel so much more confident when they reach the a-ha moment and can confidently do tasks they once struggled with, and it will empower them to teach themselves.
And I think that really should do it. I hope you now feel inspired and empowered to take charge of your child’s education. Travelling really is a wonderful lifestyle, the learning and experience you will all gain on it is invaluable and I hope you take the big step and have a wonderful time!