Homeschooling vs Distance Education while travelling
Families and travelling is becoming an increasing trend and is growing every month. With more and more families hitting the road and finding comfort with living large with less. We are one of those families who have decided to ditch the white picket fence, sell up all our possessions to make lasting memories with our children.
As we do that we have been navigating our way through the education process of our three children. All of which are primary aged children. Along the way we have come across numerous terminology for ‘schooling’ or ‘educating’ outside the four walls of the classroom.
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There are many options out there. Options being homeschooling, distance education, unschooling, or you might be living in a country where by law you are not allowed to take your child out of school at all. We can only speak from our own experience here in Australia with our family. Please check with your own country on the laws and regulations of your state as well.
Lucky for Australian citizens we have certain freedom choices available to us on how we would like to educate our children. In this article I am going to go through three of the most popular options for travelling families.
Homeschooling was our first choice when unenrolling our three children from the public school system. Dan and I were not massive fans of the school system, so we were happy to have them at home. We home-schooled for 5 months before leaving for our travels we then continued to home school on the road until the end of the school year.
Why we chose to home school first?
Dan and I chose to start with home-schooling first for two reasons. The first being that we wanted our children used to having their days back for more play and less structure. To ease them into their new lifestyle of them making the decision on how their days will go. They essentially were going to be having a lot more free time and they needed to choose things to fill that time up with. Usually if they were at school their six hours was filled for them with not much independent thinking happening.
Now even if we wanted to start with distance education from home, we couldn’t as we were not eligible. To be eligible for distance education you must be already travelling or be living a certain distance away from a school.
Enrollment Process For Home Schooling
It was relatively easy. At the end of the previous year we unenrolled our children from their normal school. The school asked no questions and they just took them off the school list for next year. Our school was the second largest school in WA so they were happy to free up a spot for their massive waiting list.
We rang the homeschooling department and a meeting was booked for me to go into the Perth office to pick up enrollment forms and to have a brief chat. A second meeting was scheduled for a moderator to come to the house in two months time to look over the work I had been doing with the children in that time.
The moderator didn’t expect too much, but did ask for work samples that we had been doing. By now it was April and our enrollment forms had been sent off and approved and we had started the ‘at home learning’. The moderator asked questions and this is where you can state your learning style (if you have or know one). We didn’t have one so ours was eclectic (a bit of everything). She made a report and made some suggestions to help us out.
Is Home Schooling Programmed For You?
No, it’s not programmed. There are resources that you can gather but you still need to put together the learning curriculum and how your day is structured. You are pretty much on your own. There are home-schooling groups that organise events and meet ups. But as far as lesson structures go, that is all the parents responsibility. How you structure your day is completely up to you, you might choose not to do lessons. You might choose to learn in a more child led way outdoors. But you must show proof of your child improving and work samples.
Did You Buy Any Resources?
Yes I did and didn’t use majority of them. I went to the school shop where the teachers buy their guide books, these books can be quiet expensive. The books don’t give you step by step instructions or any lesson plans. I also went to Kmart and brought the cheap math and writing books. They were so cheap and they had activities all laid out in the book. Highly recommend those, we used those as work sheets and our kids loved them.
Did You School Everyday?
No, we didn’t. I was enjoying having the kids home with me and it was a learning curve for all of us to work together as a team. Towards June I stopped schooling all together and took the rest of the year off as we had started our travels by then also. The kids were learning so much about themselves on the road. We did very limited ‘sit down’ school work.
Reporting and Contact With The Home Schooling Department
If you are home schooling in WA, you must finish the year with a moderators meeting at your home to have the final report. This is where you will get the approval to continue being a home schooling parent and feedback on how you can improve. We had already left for our travels by then and were unable to do this meeting. In November the moderator called and asked to book a meeting, I told her we were out of state and without any ask of proof she just said ‘fine I’ll take you off my list’ and that was that.
In the last 18 months no one has sent anything or contacted us at all about the kids schooling. Even while registered with the homeschooling department, not once during the year did we have a check up phone call or letter sent out. We are free to do what we like at this present moment.
A big question is ‘do they still get a pass for competing that current year/grade? No they don’t get any certificate to say they have passed. We were told by the home schooling department that we could skip 5 years if we wanted to and when we enroll into the next public school they will attend the grade the children are up to in their schooling according to their age. It is the parents responsibility to keep up with the children’s education. Legally the public school system MUST accept your children back into the school system.
Although if you are entering or applying for a private school, the principal there might ask for previous school records, although highly unlikely. It is only the public schools that cannot turn your children away when applying for enrollment.
What Was Our Overall Experience With Home Schooling?
I found it confusing. I really struggled with explaining the ‘how’ of the learning. I knew the answers but to get my children to understand was hard. I also struggled with starter activities, I knew they needed to learn to read but where do I start? In the end the children picked up knowledge that I didn’t teach them, they would come out with information that they learnt from other children from our travels or from the places we had visited that day. Fast forward to today, I would definitely be able to take on home schooling again. Together Dan and I have learnt how the children learn and how to teach.
Can I Home School And Travel? Yes and no. Please check your state for the updated regulations and guidelines. Most states in Australia require you to stay within the state you are registered and once you leave you are unenrolled. You could possibly travel for less than a year while still being enrolled in your state only if you are returning back to your current state ready for your end of year report.
After a year of being registered with Western Australia’s home schooling we decided to give Distance Education a go and test the waters here for a year. We chose this for two reasons-
1/ The first was that we were not eligible to home school with Western Australia as we were no longer living in WA.
2/ The second reason was that we wanted the lessons planned out for the early years to include reading/writing/math.
Our children were 7, 5 and 4 when we first started home schooling and we learnt a lot about our children and their learning styles. Within that year I did find it difficult to find suitable resources and to have some back up curriculum behind me. This year we have enrolled them in Distance Education with NEPSODE, New South Wales Distance Education.
Who Did We Choose?
We chose NEPSODE for it’s outstanding reviews. We are not from NSW but we have relatives living there and we could their address which allowed us to enroll. Unfortunately Western Australia DE enrollment process was drawn out and I found it ludicrous the run around I had to go through just to get through the first stages of enrollment, despite having been enrolled in there sister home schooling system. It was an absolute joke!
How To Enrol And The Requirements
What did you have to do to enrol through DE? It was really simple. I had a phonecall with the principal, we were approved and we received enrollment papers. We sent them off, along with photo copies of birth certificates, immunisation records and we were accepted. Everyone was friendly and super helpful.
Do You Get Lessons And A Curriculum?
Do you get lesson plans with DE? Yes, every 5 weeks we are sent a package for each child with their school work inside. It will contain 5 age appropriate books, worksheets, outside activities, art and craft. There is a lot of school work and heaps for the children to keep them busy. We were sent a backpack with all the yearly supplies like paint, pencils, calculator, ruler etc. You name we received it!
The live lessons are great! Once a week we have a teacher/student lesson. This is for the teacher to have a chat with the kids to see how they are going. Three lessons usually go for 1.5 hours, that will do each child back to back. The kids do enjoy these, I think they enjoy showing off the things they have learnt during the week. These can be skipped as well. If you are busy that day or if you forget, it is fine. We haven’t missed a lesson yet and I don’t want to either, we have done these lessons while driving and also in a service station along the Great Ocean Road.
Where Does The School Work Get Sent?
This question gets asked a lot. Most if not all post offices are used to having school packs arrived at their post offices. The address is c/o (insert name and address of post office you want to pick it up from) We must email our teacher with the next postal address for the packs to be sent to. Sometimes this becomes a little tedious as we never usually know how long we are going to be in one place. Sometimes we plan for two weeks but then at the last minute decide to move on. We have already redirected our pack this year because passed through a town quicker than anticipated.
What Is The Cost Of Distance Education
The cost is very reasonable. For each child we pay $90 a year and a $50 deposit which is refunded at the end of the year if nothing has been damaged or lost. All postage is paid for as well. We simply send the supplied postage paid envelope off with the completed work and books off and it finds it way back to the school.
What Else Is There To Know
If the work load you feel is too much or if your child is struggling you can request to pull back a little bit. This is great because and we did this with all our three children. The work load was a little too much and we requested to start off with minimal school work to begin with.
For seven days of the week both Jordan (8) Amity (6) and Cayden (5) do schoolwork for about 1 hour every morning. On the days they have their live lessons is an extra 30 minutes with their teacher.
The above terminology is referred to when a child is not enrolled into any registration. When a family takes 3-6 or even 12 months off and decides to learn on the road and the parents teach them as they travel.
There are many ways in which children can learn outside of the classroom. This is well known right the way around the world.
This will depend on each families values and each families situation. No two families are the same and I don’t believe anyone should judge any parents decision on how they educate/school/raise their child/ren. We certainly will be looking into another option in the future as distance education will only work for us while in Australia. We will see how we go and take it year by year.
If you have any questions feel free to ask them in the comments or contact us directly on our Facebook page @FearlessandFreeRange-Family Travel