Want to travel Australia? When it comes to the kid’s education, travelling Australia with kids for any extended amount of time can be confusing for parents who often wonder what will happen to their children’s schooling. I’ve mentioned before, I use the terms homeschooling and distance education interchangably on that it can work well for your family also when spending time travelling, the first step is understanding the types of schooling available for travelling families, and then deciding which option suits you.

Education Options for Travelling Families in Australia

When investigating education options, the first thing that comes to mind for most parents is homeschooling. While it’s true that education when you’re travelling as a family takes place as a homeschool style scenario, in reality there are 2 options available and which one you choose is dependent very much on both your needs as a family, and the trip you are planning to undertake.

In Australia, there are 2 systems for children to learn outside of the generalised school environment:

  • The first being homeschool (this option is restricted in some states and unsuitable for long term trips) and
  • the second being distance education.

Without prior knowledge, many parents don’t realise that while the 2 options sound the same, there are actually huge variations in the learning style, resources, requirements and outcomes of each education choice. More than anything else, these 2 choices will control the flexibility especially in,  time, curriculum and learning style of the child.

What is Homeschool & How Does it Apply to Travelling Families?

Homeschool is generally the practice of a parent or caregiver educating a child or children based on a curriculum of their choice. This curriculum can be largely chosen to suit the child’s learning style, interests, strengths and weaknesses, and is often tailored specifically to each individual child.
Homeschooling for the travelling family requires both pre-planning and organisation, but as a bonus, it allows a much greater flexibility as to when and how schoolwork is achieved. Rules and regulations vary from state to state so there may be an application process and approval needed or it may just be advising the education board if that. I’ll try to cover the current basic regulation information for each state in the near future and upgrade this overview with links to those sections.

What is Distance Education & How Does it Apply to Travelling Families?

Distance Education is a process where each student is registered with the Department of Education in their state and receives their curriculum and educational activities pre-organised and allocated. The child will follow a pre-designated work routine and may also link up with teachers or other students via internet, phone or other means.
Distance Education is a much more rigid form of education on the road. It allows for much less flexibility which means, some families who are travelling choose this option but later switch over to homeschooling as the workload and inflexibility becomes too great. There are other families however who love the fact that everything needed is provided, and it can give great structure.

What are the Differences that Most Affect Travelling Families?

The main difference between homeschooling and distance education is the sometimes rigid structure. It is often feels more suitable to the travelling lifestyle to undertake a homeschooling journey while exploring Australia for extended periods. There are several reasons for this, with the main ones being:

  • Homeschool can enhance the travel experience, by allowing children to focus on learning about the culture and environments they are experiencing, without having to focus on irrelevant subjects at that time. This is not to say that children aren’t still learning fundamentals, they may just be learning them in ways other than prescribed worksheets and texts. Sticking completely to classroom style learning can deny travelling children the experience of a more worldly style of learning.
  • Distance Education can present difficult logistical problems for a travelling family. The requirement to be able to receive and send postal packages of schoolwork, and often attend link ups with teachers and other students can dictate where a family can travel and how long they will have to stay. Keeping in mind that many areas of Australia have limited access to good internet, and extended postal times, issues such as these can cause major hassles and remove some of the spontaneous fun of exploring the country.
  • Homeschool takes a little more pre-planning. It may seem difficult, but it isn’t once you gather the tools and resources that you need. Most travelling families will focus heavily on the basics of reading, writing and math, and allow the other subjects to develop naturally as a part of their travels. There are great books available in your local bookshop that will help you to teach subject materials appropriate for your child’s skill level, as well as some great online resources too.
  • There are some really great distance education programs available to families, for example NEPSODE in Port Macquarie, NSW offer a flexible learning experience for travelling children, the key is to talk with the distance education provider to understand the requirements before signing up.
How to Choose Which Style of Schooling Suits Your Travelling Family?

The choice for how you educate your children is absolutely personal and no matter which option you take,  there are amazing resources available, and the internet is such a great place for gaining assistance and information. Some questions to ask yourself when choosing the best education options:

  1. How long will we be travelling?
  2. Would we prefer flexibility or school style structure?
  3. Would we rather freedom or being tied to the post office and schooling assignments?
  4. Are we happy to pre-plan or would we rather have everything provided ready to go?
  5. What are the requirements for homeschooling in our home state?
  6. What are the requirements for Distance Ed. in our home state?
  7. What experience would suit our child better?
  8. What experience would suit our family better?

It’s important to consider style and type of learning you would like your children to undertake as they are exploring this amazing country, as well as the lifestyle your family is hoping to achieve during your travels, as well as maintaining a well rounded education for your children. One huge benefit of distance education is the fact that curriculum and materials are provided, so parents only have to implement and supervise the learning, and not create the program and materials.