Homeschooling, Roadschooling, Distance Education, School Exemption. It’s hard to even know where to begin when it comes to homeschooling while travelling Australia.
There are a whole range of ways to tackle education while travelling Australia with kids. Some of the most common ways to school the kids is via homeschooling, distance education or by receiving a school exemption.
There is no one-size-fits-all approach as it really depends on the ages of your children, how long you’ll be travelling, plus the style of travel you plan on doing.
I spoke to five other families who’ve done it, just to get a wider perspective on what homeschooling and travelling Australia really looks like.
Here you’ll find information, experiences and advice from all of their journeys. Included are some of the registration processes, day-to-day learning and how they arrived at their particular mode of education.
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Homeschooling and Travelling Australia
School Exemption – Certificate of Extended Leave
Sharon and Adam from Galways Go Round took their three children out of school to conquer the Big Lap for 6 whole months! As an educator herself, Sharon was fully aware of the process to gain an exemption from homeschooling and travelling around Australia. Read on as she shares her knowledge with us here.
Getting an Exemption
In 2015 NSW Public Schools changed the ruling for parents seeking an exemption for their child from school for travel purposes. Since the change, parents are required to apply to their child’s principal for a Certificate of Extended Leave (Travel).
Along with the application paperwork, which can be found via the Department of Education’s website, parents will also be required to include an itinerary and documentation regarding the trip.
As a general rule, parents can apply to take their child travelling for up to 100 school days of leave, which is equivalent to two school terms. Keep in mind that you can add the school holidays on top of this time. So, our advice is to make it stretch over the summer break, which with the two other term holidays gives you around 8 months to wander!
Principals have the right to decline the application, so best be well prepared. Talking to the Principal in advance of applying can help also.
Keeping up with Schooling while Travelling Australia
For families travelling up to 6-8 months, we highly recommend this option as your child stays enrolled in their current school but isn’t obliged to complete school work. A 6-8 month lap of Australia is fast paced and kids are learning on the road everyday in every way.
Having our children enrolled in Distance Education or homeschooling during our 6 month lap would have meant we would have had to slow our travels to take time out to complete mandatory school work. This would have resulted in seeing much less of the country.
Instead, we provided our children with grade appropriate text books as well as some iPad apps – mainly to help them keep up with their learning in maths. There was plenty of time for reading and incidental learning of other curricula.
We couldn’t recommend this option more highly as it really allows families to reconnect without the pressure of any schooling.
Recommendations from an Educator
As an educator of 16 years, I suggest that 8 months be about the maximum time to ‘unschool’ in this way and that beyond this time period it would be wise to plug into some other educational modality.
I also recommend that if you have a child with a learning difficulty that you talk to your child’s teacher about appropriate work that you can do with your child as there is likely to be learning regression in some areas… in other areas though, it’s likely that your child will absolutely blossom more than ever!
Refer to the Student Attendance in Government Schools Procedures document for more information and to locate the application (even schools find this document hard to locate so you might need to send it to your principal or print a copy!).
Find ‘Galways Go Round’ – Facebook
Getting Started With Schooling On The Road
Niki from The Daly Trippers takes us through her experience of figuring out their approach to homeschooling while travelling Australia, what the process was like for her.
When the Principal said “no” to our 12 month exemption my heart sank. How the hell was I going to teach my children while we travelled Australia? Just the thought made my pulse race. I envisioned arguments, tantrums and copious amounts of alcohol.
Researching the Options for Homeschooling and Travelling
I had never even thought about homeschooling and really had no idea where to start, so I turned to good old Facebook. I had recently joined the Travelling Australia With Kids group, so I put up a post saying, “Help! I have no idea what I am doing or where to start.” The comments came thick and fast, with people all sharing their own experiences and recommendations, which may have just added to my confusion.
This idea of asking for an exemption kept popping up and I thought, surely just taking a year off isn’t in the best interests of your kids… or is it? I am a full supporter of learning life on the road, but a whole year off? Was it irresponsible, or maybe just Mum guilt not knowing if I was doing the right thing.
Asking the Principal for an Exemption
Anyway to cut a long story short, I asked the school for an exemption, but the principal said no. The overwhelming prospect of teaching my own children suddenly became very real.
The responsibility felt heavy and I honestly didn’t know where to start.
Our eldest had just been assessed with a confirmed Dyslexia diagnosis making this all the more daunting and if I was going to do this schooling thing then I wanted to make sure I did it right, especially for her.
Considering Distance Education
After asking lots of questions in Facebook groups and messaging mums privately, I was starting to think the idea of Distance Education sounded appealing. They would send us a box of stuff, we would complete it and then send it back. It almost takes a bit of the responsibility off your own shoulders. So, we contacted NEPSODE, which is highly recommended by a number of people.
We received our registration forms from NEPSODE and the process all seemed pretty easy, but I sat on those papers for a few months. I would look at them and think, “I really need to sit down and get that sorted.”
Settling on Homeschooling and Travelling Australia
A month before we hit the road I changed my mind and enrolled the girls into homeschooling through Victoria.
Something just didn’t fit for us with Distance Education. It might have been the whole having to know where you are to receive your box of goodies each month, but after talking with a few more Mums we decided to give homeschooling and travelling a shot.
At first Homeschooling was ridiculously intimidating to me, having to source our plans and resources but after speaking to one Mum in particular (Allison from Shotgun Odyssey) we felt confident with our choice and so far it is going really well. The part I find the hardest is recording what we have done, but I just need to get into the habit of doing it.
I guess at the end of the day whichever way you choose to go, if it isn’t working you can always change. And then there’s always wine!
Find ‘The Daly Trippers’ – Facebook
Distance Education Wasn’t For Us
Allison from Shotgun Odyssey tells us how they started off with Distance Education, but quickly realised that it wasn’t for them.
We started off with Distance Education and didn’t even last a week! But I don’t think Distance Education suits everyone.
Our Reasons for Leaving Distance Education:
- Internet reception can be poor or non existent at the best of times. We found that because of that, DE was useless and added stress because we couldn’t submit work (as most of our work was online).
- My youngest just wasn’t up to level and he could not do the work provided for him, which was a waste of time for us and him.
We ended up doing homeschooling while travelling Australia – we used the IXL program which covers the Australian Curriculum. On top of that we also did Fitzroy Readers, their Reading App, plus some workbooks. The App was really handy as we didn’t have to carry a million readers around with us!
Find Shotgun Odyssey – Facebook
Homeschooling Through Western Australia
Rochelle from Love Family Life Travel shares their experience of travelling and homeschooling through the Department of Education WA.
We’ve been homeschooling and travelling for 6 months. We left half way through Pre-Primary and will return to school part way through Year 1.
We are registered as homeschool educators by the Department of Education WA. To register, I contacted my local Education Regional Office to make an enquiry and they provided me with an application.
I spent quite a few hours reading through the WA curriculum and writing my own educational plan, which I submitted with my application. Then I met with the Education Department who told me what was expected of us and they provisionally registered us for 3 months. After 3 months we sent a report and examples of work we had done. We then received a further 12 months registration.
Most of the work we do is effortless and based on where we travel. We do try and do a bit of book work and reading most days. Our biggest struggle is trying to keep our daughter focused and concentrating on the task at hand. We have found the best way to manage it is to try and be consistent (i.e. doing it regularly) but not doing it for too long in each session.
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Distance Education While Travelling Australia
Bec from Towns Travel Oz recommends schooling through NEPSODE while travelling Australia. “They are very easy to deal with and provide so many resources for the students.” Read on to find out how it’s going for them.
We were lucky enough that although we are from Queensland, Wayne’s Dad is based in Newcastle, NSW. That meant we were able to use his address to enrol within the NEPSODE catchment.
Distance Education Enrolment
We are currently doing Distance Education through North East Public School of Distance Education (NEPSODE) for Henry, who is in grade one this year.
The actual enrolment process was really easy, I spoke to the principal over the phone, who was lovely! They gave me the information I needed and sent me the enrolment packs. It was just a matter of filling out the paperwork and two days later we had a call to say Henry was accepted.
Distance Education Workload
The schooling itself is great, well laid out and not too much workload. They really understand that travelling families and students already learn so much on the road, so it really is a simple workload that’s easily managed. Henry’s workload for grade one (and Kinder last year) is roughly 3-5 hours per week.
Distance Education Challenges
The biggest challenge we have found is physically getting him to do it! There is always so much going on outside so it’s sometimes hard to get him to sit down and want to do the school work.
We have found that alternating the times we do his work and trying later in the day seems to be best for him.
Find ‘Towns Travel Oz’ – Facebook
Roadschooling While Travelling
We’d also like to share a bit about schooling our own kids here at MY RIG Adventures, while travelling Australia.
First with Unschooling
The first thing we did when the kids left their mainstream school out in the country was to unschool. If you haven’t heard of this before it’s basically where no formal school work is done. This may sound super crazy, but there is a method behind it all.
You see, when the kids have been going to a formal school for a number of years, they end up being predisposed to see learning in the way that schools teach. That is, inside a classroom where you sit down at a desk and complete tasks.
Once you hit the road you quickly realise how different learning while travelling is to that of the classroom. The idea behind unschooling is to give the kids (and parents, as we went through the same learning process) time to shed that layer and expectation of formal learning.
It allows you all to begin to approach education in a completely new light. When you homeschool or learn through life, you realise that almost everything turns into an educational opportunity. That’s the sheer beauty of learning through travel and just life in general!
I highly recommend reading up on Unschooling and starting your new educational journey in this way. From a legal standpoint, you still need to have your child enrolled in some type of education, but you can tie this style of learning in with homeschooling.
Registering with Home Education QLD
Once we’d had some time to deprogram ourselves from the ‘system,’ we enrolled with Home Education within our state.
The process for registering with Home Education Queensland was fairly simple:
- Print out application forms
- Write an initial overview of how you plan to education your child for the year – include subjects, resources, activities and where they’re currently at (academically, socially & mentally)
- Once your application is received you’ll be sent a ‘Provisional License to Homeschool’ as the application process can take up to three months
- Begin your homeschooling journey
- Once approved, you’ll be sent a ‘Certificate of Approval’ for the year
- At the 10th month of your first year you’ll need to write a report for the year gone by, plus another for the year ahead (construct your own report or print out the template and fill it in – both must include samples from the year)
- Your reporting will be done annually thereafter
I know how daunting the reporting process can be, but once you get started it’s not as bad as it seems. The main thing that you need to demonstrate is that your child is going to be receiving a quality standard of education.
TIP – You do need to have a permanent postal address when registering for Home Education and some states don’t like to accept people if they mention they travel full-time. However, extended holidays are permitted and encouraged for less than 50% of the year 😉.
What we did day-to-day
As the other families have already mentioned, the kids are learning so much throughout their travels and many subjects are naturally covered in a fun way.
They learn history through Museums, Aboriginal sites, coastal shipwrecks and more. Geography is covered by mapping out our travels, following our travel routes and exploring the different landscapes that we visit.
Science and nature are covered in so many different ways through the world around us, which changes from town to town. The list goes on!
The main things that we focussed on with the kids (in a more ‘formal’ capacity) was reading, writing and maths. We always had a little library of books for the kids’ daily independent reading, which we found in Op Shops along the way.
Sometimes we used educational games and apps, plus we had maths and english workbooks to cover the basic techniques that they needed to learn.
Workbooks for primary school can be found at Officeworks, Kmart, Big W, Post Offices and educational stores. We had a great whiteboard-style book to help the kids with their times tables, which was from Kmart.
One way that our kids enjoyed learning was through hand-written tasks, questions and activities. For some reason they preferred that method over straight out workbooks. I was always on the lookout for a subject that interested them, which I could turn into a learning activity.
For example, Dom was particularly fascinated with the tides coming in and out at a river, which we were camped by. So, he and his dad jumped into the river and floated down it to really get a grasp with how tides and currents work. Meanwhile, I found a local tide guide online and wrote up some questions for him to answer, based on the tide chart and his own observations.
The key is to find what works for your children and run with it. Homeschooling while travelling Australia doesn’t need to be all textbooks, worksheets and memorising. It’s about tapping into what your kids are interested in and turning that into a learning medium.
The kids won’t even realise that they’re learning half the time! Just remember to document things and keep lots of examples to make reporting a much easier process for yourself.
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A Roadschooling Week Example
First off, here’s the thing. There is no such thing as a ‘regular’ week when it comes to homeschooling while travelling Australia.
For two kids being educated while travelling, their classroom can look vastly different from one day to the next. The random opportunities that arise simply cannot be preordained.
From the point of view of a parent and an educator, I think spontaneity is a great thing! It meant that we could just go with the flow and trust that a large part of what the kids have the ability to learn will all happen in good time, as long as we were flexible enough to allow it. And you know what, it made the whole learning process such a joy – which is what we all want for our kids!
Here, I’d like to share how one particular homeschooling week looked for us, while staying in The Gemfields, Central Queensland.
The week begins..
The week started out like any other. After brekky on Monday morning, I pulled out the kids’ folders and went through some maths and English with them, followed by some reading. Then they went off to play.
By lunchtime they were down in the campground greenhouse helping David and Jin (caravan park crew) shovel horse poo into the new garden beds to be watered. They had a great time and went on to clearing out new beds to be readied for rich soil and planting.
How the week panned out…
By the end of the week, that one afternoon of helping out around the Caravan Park had turned into a full week’s worth of vocational experience.
Each afternoon David would tell the kids what time work would start the following morning and the kids would be there early with gloves and beanies on, ready to go! They would come back at morning tea and lunch time to put some food into a lunchbox and head to the camp kitchen with the ‘team’ for break times, before heading back to do more work.
Suffice it to say, we didn’t get much book work done that week, but really, could I pass up such a great hands-on opportunity such as this?
The kids had so much fun and learnt an incredible amount of new skills and knowledge that their little brains soaked up like sponges. Why? Because they were genuinely interested and were able to put into practice the very skills that they were learning, so it made sense to them.
What did the kids learn?
Beyond learning a new word (manure), they constructed a veggie garden, shovelled dirt, wheelbarrowed rocks, used an array of garden tools, patched holes in the fences to keep out possums and wallabies, removed and replanted plants and found toad holes.
Dom and Indii also felt very accomplished with starting and completing projects. They felt the worthiness of being a part of a team and were proud to show people what they’d achieved, plus explain the process of how things were done.
On top of the practical skills, they also got to have an introduction into what a work environment looks like. They had ‘start’ and ‘finish’ times, ‘break’ times and even payment for hard work. The kids gratefully accepted earnings in the form of lollies and lemonade – which was a nice surprise and one they weren’t expecting!
To sum it up..
You can see why we often prefer to use the term Roadschooling, as it more accurately sums up the experience of learning through life on the road, with a bit of the boring maths and English in between.
Some weeks are quiet while homeschooling and travelling, however, other weeks the kids are walking through a Sapphire Mine, trekking up an ancient gorge or digging up garden beds. That’s the beauty of life, one never stops learning.
I hope this article helped inspire you and give you a bit more information with your own decision of how to homeschool the kids while travelling Australia.
- Home Education QLD →
- Home Education NSW →
- Home Education ACT →
- Home Education VIC →
- Home Education TAS →
- Home Education SA →
- Home Education WA →
- Home Education NT →
- Home Education Association →
Distance Education Links
- Distance Education QLD →
- Distance Education NSW →
- Distance Education ACT →
- Distance Education VIC →
- Distance Education TAS →
- Distance Education SA →
- Distance Education WA →
- Distance Education NT →