If you want to be caravanning around Australia as a family, you’ll have no choice other than to pull the children out of school. So how easy is it to meet your obligations and their homeschooling requirements while on the road?
There are legal requirements that each Australian child be enrolled for schooling, and an equal requirement on you as parents to ensure your children are not falling behind their peers while travelling.
What are the Options?
The details vary from one state to another, but basically it comes down to three ways you can have the kids away from school for any length of time:
Basically a branch of your state’s department of education, distance education offers lessons following the regular curriculum, in the form of online lessons and hard-copy packages. You register your children (contact your state’s education department for details on how to do this), the authority provides the lessons and timetable and you provide the supervision while they work through the set lessons. You will need to have a forwarding address for each set of work then make sure the current set is finished and ready to send off on time for marking.
It may seem there’s quite a bit of work to do, but you can tailor sessions to ensure the work is completed, and when the kids go back to regular school again they often find they’re way ahead of their peers.
If you choose this way, you’ll need to formally enrol as a home educator (contact your state’s education department for details) and meet ongoing evaluations. Being registered as a home educator usually means just that – you’re at home, not travelling around the country because the department visits regularly as part of the monitoring process. You’re also on your own so you’ll need to devise the curriculum, timetable, resources and set the lessons yourself. It’s perhaps a little over the top if you’re just on holidays for a few months, but it does give you the freedom to tailor your children’s education to suit your travels.
If it’s just for a short time, you can visit their school and talk with the principal about how you can manage your children’s educational program while away. The school will provide guidelines and then it’s your responsibility to keep up.
Take a look at what your state education department says about homeschooling:
- Western Australia
- New South Wales
- South Australia
- Northern Territory
Resources are Everywhere
As part of your child’s ongoing education, read books and poetry that relate to the places you’re visiting. Depending on age, look for titles that will infuse a sense of adventure, whimsy or history, such as Banjo Patterson’s works, We of the Never Never, Snugglepot and Cuddlepie, The Goldseekers and A Fortunate Life. Don’t feel like you have to carry an entire library – buy and swap at secondhand stores as you travel through towns.
Town libraries are great resources as alternative ‘classroom settings’ and provide an internet connection when you need to deliver lesson material.
Learning apps are handy but can chew through your data allowance and power, so use them with caution, whereas maths and English activity books are inexpensive, good for practice and are available anywhere.
Schooling or Education?
Your children will have set lessons to complete, but the education can happen everywhere. You’ll see mining towns, animals, rocks, deserts, museums, the night sky – so much to learn about.
- Relate lessons to immediate experiences. How many kangaroos did we see? If each was carrying a joey, how many is that?
- Use maths to share food, calculate distance, height and depth, budget or count birds, animals and bugs.
- Take turns in making up a story using set parameters (e.g. five words each, has to contain an adjective/verb/noun) and record it on your phone for later.
- Make writing practice take the form of a travel diary/journal.
It can be hard at times to sit down every day and get lessons done, but it shouldn’t be a problem as long as you make time each week to get the formal tasks out of the way.
Be prepared – preview your kids’ lessons and be ready to help them. This could involve anything from a simple refresher on how to do algebra through to seeing ways you can incorporate concepts being learnt into daily adventures.
However you choose to school your children while travelling, you can be sure everyone will be in for some fun times together. They’ll have one-on-one teacher interaction while developing handy skills such as independent study, responsibility, observation and a sense of belonging within a wider world.
If you’re going to be spending time with the kids in the caravan, you’ll want to make sure it’s safe for them.