Hitting the road for an adventure of a lifetime with your family is the exciting part. Schooling on the road might not be as exciting! Many families have the same concerns: Will it take up too much time? Will it impact on our adventure? Will the kids love it? How will I handle being a full time teacher and parent? Here is another ripper article from our “Road Schooling” Series – this time by Rana from Round the Kookaburra.
One of our first concerns during our light bulb “let’s take off around Australia for 6 months” moment was definitely what to do about the girls and schooling……we have two children who are literally chalk and cheese so really had to weigh up the best option for us as a family! We wanted to look at learning holistically rather than focus entirely on school work. After some initial research into home schooling and chatting to others online who were both supportive and struggling with it we decided to wait until the New Year and discuss with our school to find a mutually agreeable solution!
Liv (11) is more academically inclined than her younger sister so our focus was to challenge her with different ways of learning and improve her maths skills i.e. $1 gets you how many minutes in a caravan park washing machine?? Probably the most important learning experiences we wanted for Liv leaned closer to social and “life skills” i.e. making new friends (has had the same awesome little group of friends for a long time!), learning to make good decisions, problem solving and being accountable for all these new decisions she had to make!
At the time (due to a number of anxiety issues) we had trouble even getting Maggie (8) to school – and were really starting to notice the effect that was having on her emotionally, physically and academically. Maggie is a complex wee character with more willpower in her little finger than I have in my whole body but the facts were plain to see, she was falling behind – struggling with no confidence more than anything and we really felt that 6 months with some 1:1 in the areas she was struggling in, away from a classroom situation (that she seemed to find distracting) could only be positive in the long run.
With all due respect to those families who are in the home schooling system – we decided it wasn’t for us. Perhaps if we were going away for longer than 12 months it might have been different……personally both Leigh and I are employed full time and have been working so hard toward this trip – we wanted to reconnect as a family and enjoy spending time with our girls…..taking that into consideration I didn’t feel I was ready to jump into being a full time parent AND teacher……
The girls attend Buninyong Primary School in Ballarat and the Principal (along with the girls 2017 teachers) were incredibly supportive. We all agreed that a simple consistent approach would work best and that the girls would email the following to their respective teachers each Friday:
1. Cover Sheet, ticked off by student and parent
2. Reading log (at least 20 minutes per day)
3. Homework sheet (provided by the teacher to ensure parallel learning with classroom)
4. Travel Journal (for week)
5. Naplan worksheets (x2) – bought from post office
6. Map of road travelled (teachers then share this with the class weekly)
7. Spelling (I look over their homework before sending off and note down any spelling mistakes – viola these are our spelling words for following week!!)
Then we skype into the classroom each week if possible so they can update the class on what they have done and learnt through the week!
It might sound like a lot but we are talking about literally 30 min per day. How do I get them to sit down and do it you ask? I don’t….they have a choice! They can break it up or do it all at once……..I want them to learn to be responsible and accountable for their work. Liv is really conscientious about getting everything done in order and emailed on time. Maggie not so much…..I’ll be honest – it’s a battle of epic proportions most days. But I have a card up my sleeve….horse riding- it’s her one true love! I resorted to the most common parenting low of lows……bribery! Yes. I have promised her that if she does her homework each week then she earns a trail ride or lesson once per fortnight….. So far I owe her two, so had better pay up soon or she will cry foul play …
I am naturally pretty organised so we just make sure that all their books and sheets are ready to go each Friday – I do find that sitting with Maggie (not helping because apparently she doesn’t need it LOL) helps move things along – her handwriting improves dramatically if she slows down and concentrates – it goes without saying that lots of praise does wonders! Leigh has the patience of a saint and answers their 500 billion trillion questions every day calmly or helps them research the answers…….I have lost track of how much they have learnt in the last month!
It is incredible to see how close our girls have become – sharing information, helping each other out – they have become a little team and without even realising it, Liv has become somewhat of a mentor for Maggie – she will ask her older sister for help with spelling before coming to us! Or even better she just has a crack, this is a major improvement! Maggie is also enthralled with what Liv is learning at school – for instance for Health Education in Grade 6, the kids were given a hard boiled “Egg Baby” to care for over a week – it was definitely something we could do on the road and Maggie insisted on having one too!
I think Liv enjoys the freedom of choosing when she does her work – off her own back I noticed that she has been linking the books she chooses to read with activities we have done and is intrigued about the “olden days”…..which isn’t the 1970’s – don’t worry I quickly steered her straight on that one.
Pros and Cons?
Well to be fair we haven’t got anything to compare it to but the school is happy, we are happy and most importantly the girls are really happy. It’s a win/win! They love going to museums, Liv has developed an interest in history. Maggie is obsessed with all things animals and if it weren’t for Leigh’s “don’t give it a name, it then becomes a pet” rule we would certainly be a travelling menagerie.
Without being surrounded in constant technology, their imaginations have gone into overdrive – any situation can become a game, something to create or learn from.
Don’t get me wrong, it is not rainbows and unicorns every day and I won’t pretend it is – the confines of the caravan have pushed us to our limits a few times……..so we let it go and try the homework the next day.
We are four weeks into this trip of a lifetime and learning to roll with the punches. My best advice is DO WHAT IS RIGHT FOR YOU. Every child is different, every parent is different and every family is different. I highly doubt our children will look back in 10 years and feel bitter and twisted about missing all those classes in long division, they will however be able to whip up an Expanda awning in record time, hold a lengthy conversation with someone 5 times their age and expertly diagnose the signs and symptoms of tinea!
We feel incredibly lucky to be able to give this opportunity to our children – who cares if we still have a hefty mortgage at 85, by then we will have a famous Historian and Marine Biologist to keep us in the lifestyle we are accustomed
Our Travel Journals are Australian made and contain 92 pages of journalling…get yours here: