Every year, thousands of families set out on their big lap of Australia. While so many people are looking to get on the road and escape the monotony of regular life, there are certain aspects of ‘normal’ life that everyone must consider even if you are miles from home. If you’re travelling with children, one such thing is thinking about their education.
There is no regulatory body governing the schooling of young Australian travellers, meaning that if you have no fixed address, you are not legally obligated to educate your children. That said, there aren’t many people who would choose to forgo this important aspect of your child’s upbringing. In spite of the lack of regulation, the Australian school system is set up to help parents to teach their children from the road.
You need to determine whether you’ll actually need to formally enrol in any kind of education service. If you’re planning on travelling for less than 100 school days, you might just be able to apply for extended leave with your child’s school. And if you set off when Summer Holidays begin, 100 school days could see you through until June.
But, if you are planning on travelling Australia for more than 100 school days…
Education Options Available For Travelling Families
There are a few different options to choose from and which you choose will depend on your own personal travel style and teaching style. Each option will affect your travels in different ways so understanding what you and your family want to get out of your Big Lap when considering your child’s education is important.
It’s also important to note that you are not tied to one or the other. If you make the ‘wrong’ decision, you’ll be able to change to another method of schooling your children.
Distance Education vs Homeschooling
The two major methods of schooling your children from the road are Distance Education and Homeschooling. Which one you choose will be entirely down to your personal style and what fits your family‘s needs when it comes to both learning and travelling. Your state of origin may also affect which option you choose too.
Distance Education – sometimes referred to as School of the Air – is a form of distance learning whereby children follow a rigid curriculum set out by their distance education provider in their home state. The curriculum is set for the year and you will receive teaching and learning packs filled with lesson plans, worksheets and other resources.
What are the benefits of distance education?
With Distance Education, you don’t need to pre-plan lessons or come up with creative ideas for your children to learn. Everything you need is provided by your education provider.
Although you have to do a lot of the teaching yourself, one of the other advantages of Distance Education is that your child will generally have access to face-to-face learning as well. This can be via phone, Skype or other video-conferencing software. Sometimes this is one-on-one, sometimes this is with a group of other distance learners.
With children following the same curriculum of their school-based peers, many parents like that their children will not fall behind and will easily be able to slot back into school when they return to normal life.
What are the disadvantages of distance learning?
Many families travelling Australia do so with flexibility, adventure and spontaneity in mind but with Distance Education, the degree to which you can be flexible is often reduced. Since you are working around a rigid school curriculum, you must keep up with the lesson plans and submit work according to specific schedules. The system is designed to emulate the real school experience as closely as possible and as such, the workload can often drastically impact the travelling experience.
You may also be restricted in where you go and when since you must be in a location where you can receive your school packs. While you don’t need to be in the same location all the time, as you can change your mailing address when you move to the next place, it does take some planning to let your education provider know which post office they need to send your packs to.
It also means that you cannot go off the grid or move onto the next place before receiving your packs.
How To Enrol in Distance Education
There are a number of Distance Education providers, namely state schools, in which you can enrol your child. These schools are set up to support distance learners. The following are all of the current Distance Education providers in Australia.
Seven Queensland state schools provide Distance Education
- Brisbane School of Distance Education
- Cairns School of Distance Education
- Capricornia (Emerald Campus) School of Distance Education
- Charleville School of Distance Education
- Charters Towers School of Distance Education
- Longreach School of Distance Education
- Mount Isa School of the Air
There are also a few non-government schools registered too, including:
- Australian Christian College – Moreton
- Charlotte Mason College
- Faith Christian School
- Groves Christian College
- Jubilee Christian College
- Riverside Christian College
New South Wales
Students in Victoria can enrol in Distance Education via Distance Education Centre Victoria (DECV).
Distance Education in South Australia is provided through Open Access College.
The ACT has two Distance Education providers:
- Queanbeyan Primary School DEC for primary school children
- Karabar High School DEC for secondary school children
The Tasmanian eSchool is Tasmania’s Distance Education provider.
The School of Isolated and Distance Education provides Distance Education in WA as well as two non-government providers:
How Much Does Distance Education Cost?
Fees vary from provider to provider but generally between $1,000 and $2,000 per year.
How Should I Choose An Education Provider?
Well, think about how you would choose a normal school for your child. Are there certain criteria the school needs to meet for you? Are there specific subjects you need the school to excel at? And then think about how you need the school to fit in with your own personal travel style too.
That said, Sydney, Kalgoorlie and Port Macquarie schools have been recommended many times as the best providers.
What is Homeschooling?
Homeschooling is another form of distance learning but unlike distance education, with homeschooling you have the ultimate flexibility as you are not bound by a specific curriculum and rigid schedules.
You are able to plan your lesson around what your child wants to learn, what you want to teach them and what is most relevant to teaching them during your travels. This means that you can pick and choose which subjects you choose to teach and when.
You can also implement aspects of your trip into your learning. For example, if you are visiting historical Indigenous sites, you can take this as an opportunity to teach your children about the culture of Australia.
Homeschooling generally has a lower workload on a day-to-day basis, but you do have to plan the lessons yourself so pre-planning can be time-consuming.
What Are The Advantages of Homeschooling While Travelling Australia?
Homeschooling offers much more flexibility than Distance Education. If you’re planning to have a spontaneous trip filled with twists and turns and want to make plans as you go, then homeschooling might be the best option for you.
Since you do not have to follow a specific curriculum, you are not bound by someone else’s schedules and deadlines. Nor are you restricted in where you go and when. You can set your own school hours and choose your school style to fit around your travel style. The workload is generally less meaning you can enjoy more spare time to explore Australia.
What Are The Disadvantages of Homeschooling While Travelling Australia?
Not everyone wants to have this flexibility when it comes to schooling. For some people structure is paramount to actually getting the work done.
With homeschooling there is a greater degree of responsibility on the parent to set lesson plans, come up with ideas for learning activities and make sure that they are teaching their child the things that they need to learn.
Although can access helpful resources, with homeschooling you do not get any real help in the way of lesson plans and pre-planned curriculum like you do with Distance Education.
How To Enrol In Homeschooling
Each state has their own enrolment process and you must apply to the state in which your home address is located to school your child from home. Depending upon the state, there is a differing degree of evidence you need to provide to show how you’ll educate your child at home. Generally, you will need to demonstrate how you plan to implement your child’s learning program, how you will provide a suitable learning environment and how you will support all their learning needs.
For many states, you must have a fixed address in that state to enrol in homeschooling. Victoria is the only exception to this.
Here is how you apply to homeschool your child in each state.
So, if you’re about to embark on your education journey around Australia, we hope this guide gave you a good insight into which step to take next.