With a plethora of families travelling Australia in a caravan, the question of ‘how do I school my children?’ is asked frequently.
There is no one ‘right’ answer, and there are a number of options available. As a teacher myself, I can confidently say that there is no ‘better’ option. Every child and family is unique. Some of us learn best with hands on activities, others enjoy an academic focused program. Many parents find the concept of creating a curriculum daunting and prefer to follow a planned program, whilst others are confident and happy to use their experiences as the basis of learning, perhaps supplemented by numeracy and literacy basics. To top it off, each state in Australia has its own guidelines and requirements. Learning whilst travelling is complex!
If you are confused, read on! Below, I will give an overview of the different options and make the muddy waters of education a little clearer.
Distance Education is the closest option to a traditional classroom program, outside a bricks and mortar school. Your child is assigned a teacher who sets their work. Work may be set and completed online, on paper, or perhaps a combination of both. The teacher, child and parents communicate regularly, through phone calls, online lessons and email. Work is submitted digitally or by post. Some states have a Distance Education school, that is part of the public education system. There may be enrollment criteria, and travelling is usually acceptable. There are also some private Distance Education schools. Your role as a parent is to support your child by developing a routine and assist them with their learning. The extent of assistance will vary, depending on the age and stage of your child. Instructions for parents are also provided. A regular time commitment is required, and schools usually follow the normal term and holiday schedule, but many are flexible and work with the needs of each family.
Home Schooling (or is it Road Schooling?)
Many families choose to Home School whilst on the road, as this format lends itself to following your own timeline and focusing on content based on your location and the needs of your child. Most states require you to formally register for Home Schooling and have minimum standards for record keeping that are checked regularly. Having said this, it is quite a flexible option. Some people love the open-ended possibilities, whilst for some, it can be hard to know where to begin. You will find that there is so much learning every day, for example, calculating the cost of fuel based on the quantity purchased and the per liter price. Or adding up the total kilometers travelled, whilst keeping track on a map. Not to mention the general, history and geography learning that happens every time you visit somewhere new. This truly is ‘hands on learning’ and can be supplemented by programs such as ‘Reading Eggs’, levelled workbooks that are available in many newsagents and book shops, and private educational suppliers. The time you spend on ‘school activities’ is flexible and can work with your travel schedule.
Unschooling is a term used to refer to learning through unplanned, everyday experiences. Whilst not recognized formally by governing educational bodies, it is often used by travelling families as there is truly so much to learn whilst travelling. Families who practice Unschooling are usually flying ‘under the radar’ in terms of enrollment, and most choose not to register their children with any governing bodies. Parents do not keep any records of their children’s learning, and trust that the process of everyday living will provide adequate learning opportunities.
Short Term Travel
If you are travelling for a short period (say, up to 6 months), in most cases your child may remain enrolled at their current school. Your children are going to learn so much whilst travelling. Alongside keeping a journal and reading regular, this is usually ample to keep your child ‘on track’. Your child’s school may also suggest activities to maintain their learning. The best starting point is to have a chat with the Principal at your child’s school.
I hope that this helps somewhat with understanding the different educational options whilst travelling Australia. Feel free to message me for clarification or if you have any questions. Rest assured, your child is gaining amazing life experience whilst travelling with you as a family.