One of the most common concerns from families looking to travel Australia short or long term is how to continue their children’s schooling. Fortunately, there are many options and different approaches to meet everyone’s needs, and you don’t need to be a school principal to do it well!
We have three boys and they’ve been learning on the road for a year. We do the hard stuff from the caravan, everything else is done outside or at some of Australia’s amazing resources.
Children will learn so much whilst travelling, just by being out there and exploring! Travelling Australia exposes children to different environments, history, people and opportunities. Hands-on and experiential learning is by far the most powerful form of knowledge and personal growth acquisition. It’s learning by doing and seeing.
There are so many museums around Australia, each offering unique displays and learning opportunities. They are often free, and sometimes have treasure hunts for the kids.
In addition to visiting museums and information centres, tours offer some great learning opportunities for children and are often free! The opportunity to hear from a different voice other than their parents gives them and you a break whilst the learning continues.
We can all learn so much from the things we see and do, in particular participating in tours.
Literacy and numeracy
Of course, learning literacy and numeracy skills are also extremely important. I would argue that these are the two areas that children need to continually study formally when travelling for an extended period. But helping them do that doesn’t need to be complicated or stressful.
Your two options – distance education and homeschooling
There are two main options for schooling your children remotely, these are distance education and homeschooling. Distance education generally provides a teacher, resources and a curriculum and is fairly rigid. Homeschooling provides greater flexibility but puts more responsibility on the parents.
Distance Education may include online lessons, including video calls with classmates and a teacher.
Considering your options
Educating your child can be a very daunting process. How much time will it take? What do they need to learn? How will I know if they are achieving what they need to? These are just a few of the questions that might come to mind.
It can be hard to know what you need to teach your child!
Across Australia, there is a variety of Distance Education or School of the Air options. These will vary depending on the state that you live in, and each run a slightly different program. Enrollment in one of these programs is as close to a school-based setting as possible on the road. Your child will be allocated a teacher who you will be in regular contact with throughout the year.
They may have lessons online or over the telephone and will submit and receive regular feedback on their work. It is quite formal and structured. This is a great option for families who are looking for support and guidance on their children’s education.
With Distance Education, you may have the opportunity to participate in assemblies and other group gatherings, online.
Alternatively, homeschooling can be a much more flexible option. Some states require you to register with a governing body so if you go down this path it may require you to submit evidence of learning or achievement. With homeschooling, you choose exactly what and when your children learn and study. You may set aside a regular time each morning or fit it in around your travels. This gives you a great opportunity to adapt to the curriculum as you travel to interesting or significant places.
You don’t have to do it alone, there are plenty of resources available both online and in printed form that can help you with ideas, including whole year maths books and comprehension activities.
Australia is a treasure trove of history, waiting to be discovered. If something piques your child’s interest, you can focus on it and develop the curriculum as you go.
Mix up the locations
We love mixing up the location that we do school work, often going to the local library or finding a nice spot to sit outside. Providing new locations or settings can really help with your children’s engagement and focus. It’s also nice to not always be sitting at the caravan or outside table.
Did someone say ‘classroom’? This was one of our favourites up at Cape LeVeque.
Focusing learning around the locations you visit
Perhaps one of the most meaningful approaches to learning is to focus the activities on the locations you visit. For example, if you see a lighthouse, it provides a unique opportunity to focus on. I guarantee they will be engaged if there is a shipwreck involved! Children might write about the purpose or history of that specific lighthouse, build their own lighthouse model or read a story about lighthouses or conduct a light reflection experiment. The opportunities are endless.
Use the locations around you to inspire learning.
Have resources available
It’s handy to have some basic resources on hand no matter your education choice. Lined books are essential and come in a variety of sized line spacing, depending on the age of your child. Other items that tend to be used frequently include dice, counters, MAB blocks and stationery supplies such as pencils (coloured and grey lead), glue, scissors, post-it notes and sticky tape. You will find plenty of resources on the road as well.
Have plenty of resources available.
Incidental learning will happen in many ways too. We have a cupboard full of board games that we often break out, not just on rainy days. These games include trivia games, battleships (great for practising co-ordinates), scrabble as well as playing cards which are great for maths.
Anyone for chess club?
Socialising and communication
Travelling doesn’t mean you are on your own, and your children don’t get the opportunity to socialise and enhance their communication skills. Exposed to a broad cross-section of fellow travellers, they learn how to begin a conversation and make new friends quickly.
It’s common to see groups of children of varying ages playing together, and often opportunities arise to travel with other families and form close friendships quickly. Children can also become more confident and clear when communicating with adults too.
Children form new friendships very quickly!
Flexibility with learning
Travelling full time requires a flexible approach. The same goes for schooling and learning on the road. Some days might include a full day out sightseeing, whilst rest days or bad weather might be a good opportunity to complete extra schoolwork. Sometimes it works out that schoolwork is completed on weekends, it all works out in the wash.
Take a flexible approach when it comes to your kid’s learning on the road.
I hope that you feel a little less daunted after reading this article. When you get out there, it’s amazing to witness the learning and growth that happens naturally whilst travelling. For many, it is a once in a lifetime opportunity that you want to make the most of.
Do you have any other distance education or homeschooling ideas? Please share them in the comments below.
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