Being able to take your family on the road and explore our amazing country is such a fantastic experience. We are lucky to be able to have so many choices when it comes to schooling our kids on the road – Distance Education, Homeschooling or Unschooling.
3 years ago when I was in the position of researching the different schooling choices, I started reading a lot of negative comments from other travelling families about Distance Education. It seemed like a lot of their negative experiences was with the schools and the workload they were receiving.
What I found through my research is that no two Distance Education schools are the same. They may be under the Distance Education banner but they have different procedures and rules. By asking the right questions I managed to find a fantastic school that we used for 2 years and had a really positive experience using Distance Education.
Tips when researching Distance Education
What schools are available to you?
Find out all the different Distance Education school available to you in your state. Use Google or check your state’s education website to get a list so you can shop around. The more options you have, the better. Depending on your address may mean you are zoned to a particular school.
Ask other travelling families
Reach out to other travelling families and ask them what schools they might be using in your state. Or better yet, if there is a school you like then ask on the travelling families Facebook groups for some positive feedback about this school. These groups are such a wealth of information.
Do I need to be enrolled with Distance Education?
Is your trip planned for a year, 6 weeks or indefinitely? If you already have a child in school and you are only planning a short trip (say roughly 12 weeks) you may be able to stayed enrolled in your current school as you travel. I have met lots of travelling families that have travelled for a term of school and their principal has given them an exemption or school work for that period of time. So my advice is depending on your planned travel timeframe the first person you should be speaking with is your principal.
Questions to ask when picking a Distance Education School
1. Do they have other travelling families enrolled?
The first question I was asking the schools I was researching was “How many travelling families are enrolled with you?” (What’s the percentage of Isolated students, travelling students and other students) For me it’s was a red flag if they had no/low number of travelling students working with them. How would their program suit our travelling needs?
2. What is the workload?
“How much time each day do you need to allocate for school?” Don’t be shocked by the answer. Some schools are curriculum focused and will tell you, you need 6 hours a day. But is that 6 hours a day all book base or can you alter it around your travelling day? Do they have some guidance on how you can incorporate that into your travelling day?
3. Are they flexible with returned work deadline?
All schools will have some sort of deadlines you need to keep too. They need to see some sort of work based evidence to make sure your child is completing the program. For example, my work is sent to me every fortnight and I have a fortnight to complete it and then send it back. This is great as it helped me understand the structure before increasing our mail bags.
How flexible are the school and the program? What happens when you want to do Cape York or the Gibb River? You have no space for school resources and you are roughing it for a couple of weeks. Will your school reduce the work over that travel time?
4. Do you need access to the Internet?
This is probably the hardest part of travelling around Australia. Internet access can be limiting at times and expensive. We all know that Australia’s internet coverage is pretty backwards compared to other countries, so data usage is precious! So will your child need access to the internet? Will they be doing on online classes and are they compulsory? Do you need to send video evidence of school work via email or USB through the mail?
5. Teacher Assistance
You are a parent and not a teacher, so what happens if your child doesn’t understand some of the learning concepts? How will your teacher assist you and your family if your struggling with some of the modules?
What if you are finding the workload overwhelming? Will your school assist you in finding ways to help you incorporate the school work into your travel days?
6. Reduced Program
Children learn a lot from travelling and experiencing different learning opportunities to a child sitting in a class room. At times trying to combine travelling and schooling can be difficult. Does your child have to do all school subjects or can they do the minimum amount of work required? Will your school allow your child to get an exemption from Science, PE or other classes that may not be relevent when your travelling?
7. How are you going to be receiving the work?
How will your school be sending your work? Email or by post? Via Email will cost you a lot of data plus you would need to be travelling with a printer. It’s really simple to have your mail delivered through the post. If and when you need mail forwarded to you then just google the Australia Post store address in the next town you’ll be staying at and put it in the care of them i.e Traveller to collect, Your name, C/- Australia Post “Town”, Insert Address
Depending on where it’s coming from you need to give yourself about 1-2 weeks for it to arrive. Australia post will hold it for you for approximately 10 days (it can be more if you contact them).
8. How much is the school fees?
And lucky last, How much is the school fees per child/year? Are there any other costs for additional resources?
I hope this helps some families when making their school choice before travelling. Travelling around Australia will teach your child so many things. You will have your amazing day and really bad days. But if you ask the right questions then hopefully you’ll have a positive experience like us.
Please note: These tips come from my personal experience