Educational Choices for Travelling Families
The biggest concern when deciding to travel with our children is education. How will we continue to educate the kids and keep them up to expected standard? What choices do we have? The questions and concerns relating to this are endless, ongoing and require research and decisions that will fit your situation and your needs as a family.
After making the decision to travel Australia, the first thing I did was consider the schooling options available to our children. Here is what I found out:
Home Schooling (NSW CRITERIA)
In order to home school, I had to have a dedicated home school area in our house – we were not going to have a house, so I could not do this. I looked at our caravan and realised that there was no way we could cart a school room around the country with us.
I also needed to ensure that home visits were able to conducted at least once a year, and
sometimes at short notice throughout the year if the education department decided that they wanted to check in. Knowing that we were not going to be at a fixed address, meant that we could not meet this criteria.
Then the biggest nightmare for me was that I was expected to write my children’s learning journey in accordance with the current curriculum. I would have to write a learning plan for year 7 and for year 2, submit them to the NSW Home Educator department and cross my fingers that they agreed with them, or I would be back at the drawing board.
Panic set in, and I realised that there was no way I was able to do this. I think it was a lack of self confidence in my abilities and also a fear of letting my children down by either expecting too much or not enough from them.
I decided to investigate further, and I learnt about:
Unschooling (NSW Criteria)
Now, here is a term of contradictions if ever I heard one. But let me explain.
The term Unschooling, to me, conjured up images of allowing my children to not enter any form of formal education and would allow them to basically go uneducated unless they chose to learn about something. Could I really do this, was this something I could allow, how would this affect my children and their leaning journey, their future? Oh the questions and concerns were endless.
Well, after lot of research, reaching out to people in our community who taught their children in this way and asking lots and lots of questions I found out the following:
The children are still enrolled with the Department of education as home schoolers. The parent still needs to write an education plan that aligns with the curriculum, however the plan includes that the child will engage in self directed learning.
So, what the hell is this Self directed learning and how is it going to fit in with the required curriculum. Well, it does and it seems to work seamlessly. You see, a child needs to learn to read and write, to add up and be exposed to music and drama and all those things that help to develop them into adults that can function in a positive way within society.
You see, if a child is fascinated with spiders, you can teach them to read while they are learning about spiders. You can get them to write stories about spiders and they can learn spelling surrounded by words related to spiders. Children can learn numbers through the study of spiders – lets face it, spiders are full of numbers from 8 legs to 6 eyes to 100 spiderlings in each sac. The can write a play involving spiders and put music into the play – there is so much that can be done, and the child stays engaged with the subject material because they have a personal interest in that subject.
The only problem I had with this area of learning for our two children, was the fact that we needed a permeant address and the education department needed to do home visits, and I needed that dedicated learning space.
I also thought that I lacked the imagination to help my children with their self-directed learning journey’s – I have since learnt that I haven’t and we have incorporated it into their free time on our journey around this country. (Just take a look at this website – created and maintained by Liam in his after school hours.)
So I then looked into:
Distance Education (NSW Public Education)
I picked up the phone and contacted Port Macquarie School of Distance Education and Dubbo School of Distance Education in NSW. At the time we were living three hours from Dubbo and four hours from Port Macquarie, so we had the choice of which school we went with.
I had to leave a message at Port Macquarie for the enrolment officer to ring me back, however I was put straight through in Dubbo, and the decision was made there and then. Dubbo DE was the school that the children were going to be enrolled in. The decision was made so quickly, because the teacher and enrolment officer was supportive, encouraging and a wealth of knowledge in relation to why we wanted to enrol and how we could make it work for us, as an individual family. We were not a number, the kids were not just another child in the system and there was not a cookie cutter criteria I need to fit us into.
Dubbo School of Distance Education caters to families from all walks of life for a large range of issues – from isolated families to travelling families (national and international) to kids in the entertainment industry and children with anxiety, depression, illnesses and the list continues. Their program starts for preschool and continues to year 12.
We travelled to Dubbo for year 7 orientation for Liam, and while I was worried that we were doing the wrong thing, I also knew that we needed to make some big changes for Liam’s education, no thanks to living in a small town and dealing with bullying and lack of mainstream schooling choices.
I was instantly put to ease, not only by the teachers who were friendly, but who were extremely supportive in what we were doing. They assured me that the best education we could give our children was not only in the classroom, but also out there in the world.
I had a small freak out when they handed out the timetable that the children were expected to follow – yes, a five day study timetable similar to what a mainstream school would follow. Ohhhh No, this would not work. We will never see anything, I have to re-think this. Were we making the biggest mistake of our lives?
However, the deputy principal pulled me aside and told me to make our own timetable and plan for Liam. The supplied timetable was for kids living in isolation or with other reasons for not being in a mainstream school. She even took the time to go through how we might be able to fit the system in around our travel, and I walked away feeling confident.
Well, the first year went like a dream. Our first stop on our trip was to Dubbo to meet the teachers. Mia and her teacher Hayley hit it off straight away and my concerns relating to Mia’s sound distortion were listened to and identified. Plans were put in place to help Mia on her learning journey and to help her gain confidence in learning her sounds, pronouncing her sounds and learning to read.
Liam met all of his teachers and hit it off. Not only that, but he was also given the responsibility of being in charge of his school work. He set his lesson times with his teachers, he had to maintain contacted with the mail room to ensure that they had updated locations to post items to and he left knowing that returning his school work was his responsibility. He also was given options on how he did his school work, how he received it and how he returned it. Receiving a USB with a whole years worth of work on it, split into weeks and terms has been the best the option so far. He does however, request some subjects in paper format and these are received at the end of each term for the following term.
We have had everything from sporting equipment to art supplied posted to us, and Mia has engaged in self-directed learning through the support of her teacher. This coming term (2017 term 3) Mia will be concentrating her whole learning journey around Ned Kelly and other bush rangers, as with our travelling she has developed a keen interest in this area of Australian History.
The last option, which was not an option for us is:
If you plan on returning to your current house and the children will return to their current school after your travel has finished (whether this travel is for 1 term or 1 year) then you can approach the school for an approved absence. This means that you don’t have to do any of the above. It also relies on your principal being supportive and the school may provide work for your child to complete along the way.
Good luck with your educational journey, as the journey is not just one that your child will be invested in, but you will be as well.
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