Caravan versus Poptop
We are finally on the road for our second lap of Oz. Last time we travelled in a pop top, beds come out the ends (official title) this time we are in a full van. I am loving the upgrade so I thought I’d share as a comparison for those in the planning stage.
Pop top $24 000 (3 years old)
Caravan $55000 (1.5 years old)
Pop top: the entry door is velcroed in place and if you know what you are doing you can pop your arm through and unlock it from inside. The canvas could be cut open to gain entry too. At times I felt unsafe if there was commotion going on outside.
Caravan: I’m sure if you wanted to gain entry into the van you could but I do feel much more secure with 4 solid walls where no one knows if there is someone inside or not. With the pop top you know someone is in there with the top up and the beds out the ends.
The quick getaway
We only have 15 weeks to do our lap and we like to move on quickly. Not only does the full van enable you to pack up and get going quickly but we feel much more refreshed when we arrive at a new destination because we haven’t done an aerobic workout at both set up and pack up to get all that canvas neatly inside. Not to mention the angst caused from trying to get the kids involved and make sure everyone chips in evenly.
Free camping
Different tow vehicles are set up differently for free camping so I’m not saying a full van is better in this respect …. but … having a toilet inside is great. Not many camper trailers have this option.
The full van moves around a bit more when passing trucks and the extra weight increases the fuel consumption. Over 22 0000km we calculated the increased cost of fuel at about $1450.
The full van has so much storage that we actually have lots of empty cupboards. In the camper trailer we had things packed on top, behind and underneath other things. We were always pulling things out to get to what we wanted. At the time it didn’t bother me but I now realise it was another factor that made the travel that bit more taxing.
I really liked my kitchen in the camper trailer. There was loads of bench space and it seemed to have enough of everything. The kitchen in the full van has a lot less bench space but if you clean as you go it’s no problem you just need to think about how you are going to make it work.
One of the main reasons we sold our camper trailer was because the kids were getting bigger and didn’t want to share the double bed any more. I wish I had tried the swim noodle under the sheet trick but hadn’t heard of it until after we sold. They are loving the bunk beds and the fact that they have a little bit of personal space. Hubby and I like not having to climb over each other to get out of bed in the middle of the night.
Thermal Properties
I’ll never forget the night we spent in the camper trailer on the Murray River. It was 0 degrees and we were free camping. Hot water bottles and layer upon layer were not enough to keep us warm. The beds out the ends allow the air to circulate around you which is ok in the heat but not what you want in the cold. Whilst I haven’t experienced these coldtemperatures this trip, we have all been hot when it’s been about 12 degrees outside.
Lunch stops
Lunch stops are much easier in a van. I remember standing on a slither of shade from a pole while travelling through the Northern Territory in the pop top. Hastily stuffing my sandwich in my mouth as i shooed flies away. Now we pull over, open up the van and choose what we want. You can put it all out and everyone makes their own. It saves us money because we never eat out for lunch. (If we weren’t prepared in the pop top we would sometimes buy take away). You can keep a box of ice creams in the freezer so you don’t have to pay $6 for a magnum in some outback places. Having said that, you just need to be prepared when you are in a pop top and have your systems set up so you have your food on hand. Overall
After our first trip I felt like I needed a holiday. I loved it but it was exhausting. If we had more time things might have been different but like I said we like to move on pretty quickly and we don’t have many down days. If I was on the road full time I would be much more prepared to accept these things but we want to make the most of our time on the road and to do this, a van is definitely our preferred tow vehicle.

Homeschooling vs Distance Education

Travelling families with school aged children are inevitably faced with the question of how they are going to meet the requirements of educating their kids whilst on the road. The question can soon become daunting when we start to unravel the mountains of information that seems to make no sense at all.

Do I Need to Formally Educate My Kids?

Firstly lets establish whether your family will actually need some kind of formal education. If you are travelling less than 100 school days it is quite possible you will not need anything formal. If you make contact with the principal of your children’s current school and obtain permission to have extended leave then you are good to go. The school may have some requirements in this circumstance, they may give you some work to take away or ask you to Skype the classroom teacher to share your experiences with the class. All pretty easy.

If, however, you are taking the kids out of school for more than 100 school days you will need to take responsibility for their education. Put simply, a travelling family has two options in the quest to satisfy the government requirements to educate their children; homeschooling or distance education.

What’s the Difference Between Homeschooling and Distance Education?

Homeschooling and distance education are different in many ways. Homeschooling is more flexible in the content that you decide to teach but the responsibility for this falls upon the parents to prepare lessons that satisfy the curriculum requirements. Distance education basically send out the work that the child is to complete. When it is complete, it is sent back to the office and the next lot of work is sent out. They will usually send it on to the nearest post office for families on the road.

The Nuts and Bolts of Homeschooling

Many states do not allow travelling parents to homeschool their children. A fixed address is required and home visits sometimes occur. Victoria seems to be the only state that will allow homeschooling without a fixed address and from all reports they are very relaxed and there is very little accountability. This suits some families down to the ground whilst others feel they need to be made accountable or the work will not get done.

Homeschooling requires the parent or care-giver to prepare the educational experiences for the child. There are pros and cons to this style of teaching. The onus is on the parents to understand the requirements of the curriculum. To ensure your children keep up with their education the parent will need to have an understanding of the ACARA syllabus and make sure they are satisying the learning outcomes through the learning experiences they provide. The big plus side of home schooling is that the parent can tailor-make the learning programs to suit the needs and interests of their child. Any weaknesses in the child’s ability can be addressed and the lessons can appeal to the style best suits their child. For example self-discovery, hand-on, problem-solving or even constructing and guiding their own learning experiences. The learning can be location-based (kind of like having an excursion to every topic you learn about). Nothing beats quenching the thirst of curiosity that develops as a child travels and discovers the wonders of the world. That knowledge is retained for a lifetime!

The Nuts and Bolts of Distance Education

Distance Education (DE) is very structured and organised. They send you packages of work, which is often very onorous and time consuming for parents and children alike. The DE office will often Skype the family when it is convenient and somtimes you will be required to do tasks online. It is sometimes prefered by parents of older children if they are concerned their children may fall behind whilst on the road.

There are many providers of distance education around Australia and feedback from travellers using them is that there is a vast difference between providers. Some people report the amount of work that is provided takes many hours out of the day to the point that it spoils the traveling experience. Others say the support they get is exceptional and the expectations are flexible and realistic. So my advice if you are considering distance eduaction is to shop around and try to get a feel for as many providers as you can. Some of the feedback is that the best distance ed offices are in Sydney, Kalgoorlie and Port Macquarie.

The upside of DE is that it keeps the kids education on track with other kids of the same age and they should have no problems slotting back into the system on their return. It keeps you accountable if you tend to get a bit slack or the kids wear you down to the point you slacken off. It provides support and some offices will negotiate the number of subjects you do with DE. For example you may be able to only do your Maths and English with DE.

The downside is that you may end up with a work load that is bigger than what you had anticipated and as a result the family argues and does not enjoy their time on the road.

It is a big decision and many families start with one type of education and then swap over.







Top 25 Cheap and Free Things for Kids to do in and around Darwin

Darwin comes alive in the dry season. There are markets and movies, there are holiday activities and open days. So what are the top things to do with kids in Darwin that won’t break the bank? Here we go;

  1. Leanyer water park (free)
  2. Mindil sunset market – take a chair, grab some of the fantastic food on offer and watch the sunset on the beach while the kids play.
  3. Darwin wave pool (family of 5 $18)
  4. Movies under the stars at the Waterfront precinct (free).
  5. World War 2 oil storage tunnels ($8 adults $5 chilkdren)
  6. Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory (free)
  7. Aquascene (family of 5 $43)
  8. Sundays Live at the Lagoon – free local music on the Darwin waterfront lawn from 12 – 4pm
  9. Jingili skate park.
  10. Walk around the board walks to the viewing platforms of Mary River National park to see the birdlife and crocodiles.
  11. Bike trails around Nightcliff
  12. Howard Springs
  13. Plunge into the rockholes of Litchfield
  14. Botanical gardens for school holiday activities.
  15. Darwin Festival (4 – 21 August)
  16. Deck chair cinema
  17. Cool off under a waterfall at Kakadu
  18. Free tai chi at the waterfront precinct every Saturday
  19. Cracker night (1st July)
  20. Palmerston water park (free)
  21. Aviation Museum
  22. Fannie Bay gaol
  23. Fish feeding at Cullen Bay
  24. World War 2 bunkers at the Charles Darwin National Park
  25. School Holiday activities at the waterfront precinct (Games on Mondays, art and craft Tuesdays, archery Wednesdays, circus Thursdays, bubble sports Fridays)