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.