If you’ve ever thought about leaving the rat race behind and packing up your family and your caravan and travelling around our beautiful country for an extended period, you are not alone. Hitting the wide-open road in search of adventures is no longer just for freedom-loving singles or the so-called Grey Nomads. You only have to search the popular hashtag #travellingaustraliawithkids on Instagram or TikTok to see that many families are embracing life on the road with children of all ages.
Friends of mine recently returned from the most amazing trip with their young family, and I must admit, I was hit with a not-too subtle case of FOMO. They raved about how they’d witnessed such a remarkable growth in confidence, resilience, and problem-solving skills in their children in the time they’d been away. It really got me thinking about the logistics of taking my tribe on the road for a year, and if it’s something we should start to seriously consider. Of course, there are so many questions to answer, the first of which – how do people navigate taking their children out of the school system for that amount of time and what are the possible benefits of unschooling?
What is unschooling?
Unschooling is growing trend in Australia, and it refers to parents making the choice to let their children learn through self-directed exploration and play rather than traditional schooling methods. This approach allows a child’s learning to be led by their individual interests and passions at their own pace. It is the role of the unschooling parent to recognise when their child shows an interest in something and to provide resources and support that allows the child to learn more. They often act as facilitators, allowing the child to take the lead in shaping their own education.
What do the laws say about taking kids out of school for a year?
Unschooling is legal in all states of Australia. If you do choose this option, you will need to go through the home-school registration process in your state and meet the requirements.
Should you home-school while travelling? What are the challenges?
Home-schooling isn’t the only option for travelling families. Distance education is another viable option. This requires you to enrol your child with a distance education provider, who you are accountable to. In this case your child is still a school student, so although your child is learning from your mobile home, they aren’t technically being home-schooled. If you are staying on the beaten track, and largely visiting larger towns and coasts on your journey distance education can be a good option. However, if your itinerary includes more remote locations that may make being online for regular zoom meetings or submitting work by deadlines difficult, home-schooling is a more flexible option.
What about older kids who hope to get ATAR?
Unfortunately, in Australia, home-schooled children are not eligible to receive an ATAR score. But this doesn’t mean that there aren’t other avenues, there are still ways home-schooled kids can gain access onto the course they want to do. I spoke to a family with teenagers who had spent a year travelling, this is what the mum had to say:
“Our 16 year old studied a business course online while travelling because it meant that she had ATAR credits in her pocket for when she got back to school. One of our biggest hesitations with unschooling was that when it came to return to school, our older kids would lack motivation. Self-paced study absolutely helped make the transition to traditional study much simpler.”
Five red hot tips from unschooling families who travel
What better way is there to learn about something than to listen to the people who are living it? Here’s the top five tips I’ve learnt from talking to friends or reading blogs written by families who are travelling with children.
Choose a spacious camper
Coming in at number one, and the thing that travelling families almost universally agree on is choose a spacious camper with full-sized bunk spaces so that kids can still have their own personal space. Travelling is known to strengthen familial bonds but unfortunately that doesn’t mean that your kids won’t still rub each other the wrong way sometimes!
Check Local Councils for Free Activities and Resource
As Travelling Australia with Kids points out, ‘often, and especially during the school holidays, local councils run free activities for kids. We often joined these activities because the kids were busting to meet the other kids, so it was a win win.
Don’t Worry About Packing Many Toys
“The good old favourites are usually the only toys that will get played with,” advises Emma from My Rig Adventures. “Sticks, water, trees, hills, dirt and rocks are everywhere – they always make the best kids entertainment!”
Devices Can Be Useful for Schooling on the Road
Whilst some people relish the chance to give their children a digital detox, others still see the value in bringing a device along for the ride. “It makes long travel days much easier,” Bec from Trip in a Van explains. “Also, it makes for a peaceful drive and can be very handy when you want the kids to chill out when you don’t have TV reception. And you’ll probably need it for schooling on the road.”
See Set Backs as Part of the Adventure
This pearl of wisdom isn’t from an Australian blogger, but it is very relevant and such an important thing that we can model to our children.
Lainie says on her blog Raising Miro, “When things go wrong, have a sense of humour! Your kids will think it’s an adventure if you think it’s an adventure. The biggest gift travelling offers is the opportunity to be in the present moment, meaning truly experience whatever comes your way and being ok with whatever it is. Travel is truly an exercise in being flexible.”
Now, doesn’t that sound wonderful?
Have you considered taking your tribe on the road for a year of unschooling?
Author Note: Emily is taking time out of her digital nomad life to raise her three kids to be inquisitive, passionate and well-travelled adults. She currently works part time contributing to several of Australia’s most reputable family and travel blogs. Read more of her work here.