Homeschooling on the go while traveling has risen in Australia, but it is still in the minority when it comes to educational choices. Add on traveling and lessons on the road, and you’re sure to get some raised eyebrows. Sure, homeschooling may seem like quite the undertaking to anyone who hasn’t embarked on the homeschool adventure, and doing it from a car and without a home base may seem downright impossible. Quite the contrary, homeschooling on the road is gaining momentum and can be one of the most rewarding and memorable educational experiences for you and your children, it just takes a bit of planning and an open mind.
If you’re interested in traveling with your family and taking your homeschool out of the ‘home’ for a period of time, read on for some important items to consider, and some inspiration on how to get the most out of your experience.
The legal aspect
A lot of people wonder whether they are actually allowed to take their kids out of the conventional school system, and even more so whether they can do homeschooling on the road. What is important for you to know:
- Homeschooling at your actual house is legal in every state in Australia, you just need to get registered. Registration generally requires submitting an application that describes your plan for incorporating the national curriculum requirements. Some states will offer amendments to your plan and others will approve or deny whichever plan is submitted. At the end of the year, you are usually required to submit a plan for the next year, and so on.
- To get registered, you will need a fixed address and to be considered a permanent resident in some state. This is good to keep in mind if you’re planning on traveling as you may need to make arrangements. Complete Education Australia (CEA) can help in this area.
- In states where you are allowed to travel while homeschooling, you will still need to get an education plan approved. A good way to get approval is to use an online homeschool curriculum which easily shows what you will cover over the course of the year.
- To boost your application, you can describe places you plan to visit and how they will enhance your education plan. This might include historical monuments you plan on visiting or real-life activities that will integrate maths, english, sciences, etc. into the trip, even outside of designated lesson time.
Distance Education: What’s the difference?
Some families who choose to travel with school-age children will choose to follow a Distance Education (DE) plan. It’s important to differentiate between homeschooling and DE as they offer a drastically different experience.
- DE is a branch of the state’s Department of Education and follows the curriculum your child would follow in the conventional school system.
- When following DE, you will be provided with the lessons and materials in both online and paper formats, which means you will require a forwarding address periodically throughout your travels in order to send and receive hard copy communication. Your children will need to send in assessments regularly for marking.
- You will require daily internet access in DE which may restrict your travel plans.
- DE isn’t flexible like a homeschooling curriculum so it tends to separate learning and real-life experiences you will encounter on your trip.
- Many children find DE to be somewhat boring and less inspiring than homeschooling.
- DE doesn’t allow for individualization in subject focus or pace of learning and also doesn’t require as much involvement of the parents.
Choosing to do homeschooling on the road is feasible due to its flexible nature as you can customize your lesson plan and timetable to suit your itinerary. Most importantly, homeschooling on the road allows you to integrate your travel experiences into your lesson plan, and in general, enhances the overall learning experience rather than hindering it.
What to bring when homeschooling on the road:
Planning a trip with your family for an extended time period already requires a well thought out packing list in order to fit the essentials and leave behind the superfluous items. When planning to homeschool on the road, you will be more limited in space for conventional learning materials, so you’ll want to choose items wisely. Here are some recommendations:
- Depending on the age of your children, you’ll likely want to have a small laptop. This will allow them to complete online learning activities since they will likely be learning at different levels. Laptops also allow them to have online communication and to keep in touch with friends or relatives during the trip, and correspondence can easily be tied into English lessons
- Bring some books that you don’t mind letting go of. When you finish books you can leave them in community libraries or try to exchange them at second-hand book stores and get some fresh reading material. Alternatively, many families prefer to choose a Kindle.
- Pack a sketch pad and some empty lined journals. Traveling can inspire spontaneously creativity and it’s important to have an outlet for kids to journal or sketch when ideas hit. They may also wish to keep a travel diary to remember some of their favourite adventures. The Complete Education Australia program allows you to simply print the activity sheet link and have it bound. This means you have 1 workbook per Term, to travel with.
- Make use of natural materials and experiences rather than ‘things’. Homeschooling on the road means space is extremely limited, so you won’t be able to bring many toys and games to keep kids occupied. Use this as an opportunity to harness your kids’ creativity and allow them to make up games or play with things they come across outside. Kids are naturally curious and explorative and will generally find interesting ways to entertain themselves when they aren’t given distractions. Play is one of the most important parts of learning.
Schedule in official Lesson time:
Travelling can be unpredictable and exciting, and that’s all part of your child’s homeschool learning experience. That said, it’s important to schedule in actual lesson time in order to cover some of the curriculum that keeps you registered and allows you to explore on the road. Plan out the time of day where you can spend time covering the online homeschool curriculum and then find ways to incorporate lessons into daily activities that day or during the week.
Flexibility is the key with the CEA program. You can pick and choose which lessons you complete and which you share and move past. This allows you to tailor the learning to your specific journey.
One good trick is to use local town libraries with tables and internet access where you can focus on the material. You may be able to meet some other families, and libraries are also a good place to ask about local gatherings or events.
Homeschooling on the go – Travel experience is a lesson in itself
Outside of your prescribed learning time is often when the most integrating of material takes place. Here are some ideas to incorporate lessons into your daily activities:
- Write emails and postcards as part of English lessons.
- Get your kids involved in the budgeting for groceries, petrol, accommodation, etc.
- Track distance and the petrol used to work out fuel efficiency.
- For younger children, practice counting and categorizing by tallying up various animals or types of cars, etc. that you pass while on the road.
- Visit museums and learn about the history of areas that you visit to incorporate social sciences.
- Visit info centres wherever you go and learn about the geology, geography, historical figures, and flora and fauna of the area.
- Listen to audiobooks during long hours on the road.
- Enjoy bird watching and stargazing.
- Get kids involved in shopping, meal planning, and cooking.
- Get outside and play! Physical Education is as important, if not more, than books and lessons.
Remember that any situation while homeschooling on the road in Australia can become a game, an activity, or something everyone can learn from.
Use libraries wherever you go, visit info centres, make lesson plans, but remember to have fun and let the experience be organic. A great way to socialize a bit is to use social media platforms to find local homeschool groups wherever you’re visiting and to head to playgrounds in the afternoon when schools usually get out. If in doubt about your decision, remember that you’re offering your children one-on-one individualize education, as well as unique life experiences that they will treasure.