SCHOOLING ON THE ROAD
Schooling on the road can seem pretty daunting and as a parent, many can be delving into a world of unknown! I sure was and actually thought I wasn’t at all capable of schooling my kids.
When we started travelling I never anticipated that we would STILL be travelling years later, or that I would be schooling our kids on the road. Our eldest was three years old and I was happy that we were travelling before he commenced school. After talking to all the travelling mums out there I soon realised that educating your kids on the road is doable! I regained my confidence, we decided to keep travelling and give it a crack.
So, 2018 was the start of our schooling journey. With so many options out there, including Homeschooling, Distance Ed, School of the Air and Unschooling, it was quite confronting. After loads of negativity surrounding DE, we initially decided to go down the Homeschooling path.
When Jack began schooling for Prep in 2018, I started homeschooling him after his quick stint in a mainstream school. This school allowed me to keep him enrolled as an ‘inactive student’, meaning I didn’t have to register him in Homeschooling and submit the criteria as a mum who was homeschooling (I spoke to VIC homeschooling who clarified this). Yet, I had access to the school website and online resources as well as his teacher if I needed, I felt supported.
I set Jack up with some workbooks I purchased at Kmart and Target which cost me as little as $5 per book (I only purchased three). I had some sight word flashcards from Aldi, craft and an iPad. I signed Jack up for another year of Reading Eggs, an excellent app for children aged 2-13 years. It’s fantastic and it was already being used in the school he attended. Along with Reading Eggs I had IXL Maths which the school gave me access to. We read books, did Maths Quiz’s, practised sight words (a lot!) but as the year went on Jack become bored of me.
HOW MUCH WORK WAS INVOLVED WITH HIS FIRST YEAR HOMESCHOOLING?
In a nutshell, we aimed to do an hour every day. Some days we didn’t get to it and other days we only did half an hour. But we continued to keep it consistent and persist with schooling him. One thing I have noticed, is that if he has had some time off (eg. we didn’t do any on our trip over to Fraser Island) I find we go back to square one. He forgets what he has previously learned and it takes a few days and sometimes up to a week to get back into his groove.
This year our eldest Jack, six, has started Grade 1, Billy, five, is in Prep (Foundation, Kinder for other states) and our girl Charli would be in Kindergarten (pre-prep) as she just makes the cut off of June 30 (she’s 4 in June), however I am still unsure if I will send her to school next year (2020).
Now I don’t have a creative bone in my body and Jack just wasn’t getting the stimulation he needed and craved. So he and I discussed Distance Education and how it would work. After a shout out on our Instagram, loads of people came back with a highly recommended DE program called NEPSODE, which stands for North East Public School Of Distance Education. They are based in Port Macquarie, NSW and school loads of travelling kids. After contacting them and discussing Jack’s education I was stoked to enrol him as we just knew it was for us.
As the first school term approached, NEPSODE were in touch to establish an address to send Jack’s work to. We found out his teachers name and within the week had our first online lesson. Jack loves Miss Jade and she conducts the online lesson through Google Hangouts, where they can both see each other and chat, you require internet for this. Miss Jade and Jack have their lessons at the same time each week and if we can’t make it, it’s super easy to reschedule. When I know we will be out of service I will email Miss Jade and reschedule to a suitable time.
2 weeks had passed and we received Jacks Blue Bag in the mail which houses all his work for the next 3-4 weeks. Also a USB which has some online lessons and videos (they’re short!) on whatever he is learning or required as part of the school curriculum.
I was impressed with the work sent and it has kept Jack really engaged. It’s so appropriate for his interests and academic level. I chatted to Miss Jade about what Jack loved to do and what things he was interested in. So, she sent his school work based on this, which I think is really important.
In the Blue Bag the weekly work is packed in a folder, along with about 10 readers (again, awesome for his interests). Also with this, we received a LARGE postage bag full of craft - paint, crayons, pencils, paint brushes, cellophane, streamers, popsicle sticks and plenty of other crafty stuff. In it also, MAB blocks for Maths and clicking blocks among other things. Literally, I was blown away with the amount of resources that were posted to us (but not too many).
How much work is involved?
With the workload set out by his teacher, we aim to do about 1.5hrs of school work 4 days a week. Plus he has his live lesson with Miss Jade every Thursday which goes for about an hour. He has now realised when the weekends are and we only do work then when we are playing catch up from the week. So, in total 5 days of school per week. This is what Jack handles and me too! This ensures we get all his school work done for the week.
Now that he is in school, it’s funny how your mindset changes, as well as Jack’s and he is all too happy to learn about the situation we are in. Justin and I step up, take charge and endeavour to talk to our kids about our whereabouts. That might be the Victorian High Country and it’s history, or talking about fuel and milage. Therefore, not only is Jack learning through DE, he is learning a whole new set of life skills, history and life lessons without even knowing it. He’s simply interested and absorbing the information without the constraints of school.
I can honestly say both Jack and I are loving Distance Education. We are signed up with the Maths Game ‘Protigy’ which he is LOVING. It’s a game where wizards battle after a maths question is answered correctly.
As for our Prep man Billy, he is doing what I have previously done with Jack in his first year. We do sight words, workbooks and he is way more interested in school work than his brother.
Billy was five in January and if he was schooling in QLD (which eventually he will be) he would be in his first school year. Whereas if we were to school in VIC, I would have kept him back and started him next year. He is all too keen to watch Jack’s DE videos, read books and he has smashes his workbooks that I purchased from Target, seriously though, I wonder how long it will last. He can already write his name, knows a fair few sight words and learning incidentally through his big brother. So, I think this year will go smoothly with him. Once 2020 comes around, I will enrol Billy in Year One with NEPSODE.
The library is also a fantastic place to take the kids and we try to do Museums too. I am finding it much easier to school two kids than one. I think that is due to Jack not getting major FOMO (fear of missing out). I mean, who wants to sit in the caravan and do school work while your brother and sister are at the beach. So now it’s a family affair, the boys do school work with me, Charli draws (gets involved, annoys the boys) and Justin does some computer work/emails/video editing.
So far so good, it’s all working well but not everyday is smooth sailing. I find it is probably the hardest part of our travels (which is pretty minimal in the scheme of things) as we can both get frustrated and lose our patience.
There really is a lot to say about travelling kids! With no help from us, they’re super cool little people. They’ve grown an amazing amount of resilience, extremely social, look out for each other and are street smart. What I love is that they’re so capable, willing to give most things a crack and do things well beyond there young years. They not only adapt to all situations and take everything in their stride, they’re well balanced and open-minded. Such fantastic qualities to have and will most certainly take them through to their adult years. Our kids are not only learning academically but learning important life skills. After a smashing from a wave, bike crash, ant bites, bee stings, fishing hooks, a burn or a stumble while hiking… They might have a bit of a cry and cuddle, but the important thing is that they get back up, brush it off and try again. Making for some well-rounded kids.
Now for the financial part.
1 year through NEPSODE costs us $90!! WOW.
Everything is reply paid postage.
All you need is internet and a laptop for your child to do their weekly online lesson and watch videos from their USB (no internet required).
To begin with NEPSODE you need an address in their catchment which I believe is from around the Port Macquarie area down to Lake Macquarie, however best to enquire there. I used an address in the catchment, although if you aren’t within this, you can apply via some other paperwork to be accepted. Best to get in touch with them, they’re really helpful.
This is our experience only and what works for our family and kids. My best advice is to go with the schooling stream your child and you(!) are most happy with, whether that’s Distance Education, Homeschooling, School of the Air or Unschooling. As long as they are learning happily and feel comfortable doing so. There are many DE programs out there, do your research and ask around. I’ve met so many families who have unenrolled from DE as the workload has been to strict and full on. I mean, that’s not why you left to travel, to sit in your van and do school work for 6 hours a day! Therefore, find a program that suits you.
I have in no way been asked to write about DE and the NEPSODE program. However, I am asked on a daily basis, which kind of education we do, so I thought it was time I write it all down for you.
Please let me know if you have any questions I am only too happy to help. I was in the dark when researching schooling in 2016 and felt so overwhelmed, so I hope this information has been somewhat helpful.