Adventure Travel Guides Lifestyle The Big Trip

Schooling your kids on the road

Top tips from the pros so you get top marks.
By Mandy Farabegoli

You’ve made the decision on which schooling method you are going to use (see issue 004 of RV Daily) and now it’s time to actually school your own kids. But what are the realities of schooling on the road? What is the best way to set up your ‘classroom’? How do you organise teaching more than one child and more than one grade?
There is certainly a lot to think about.

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With older children you may need to get them involved in the planning of their schooling, so that they own it too. After all, no child really wants to have to repeat a year. With that in mind you can encourage them to keep up to date with their work to a level that keeps all parties satisfied. In situations like this, it is best to work with them and not against them. Empower your kids to organise a schooling schedule that everyone agrees to; they are more likely to stick to it if they have had a hand in planning it.

Opportunities as you travel
Let’s not lose sight of the fact that you are travelling Australia, which means you have a plethora of opportunities to teach your children as you travel. Ensure you schedule visits to museums, aquariums, mine sites, science centres or any other educational site an area has to offer. They will learn so much from physically visiting these places and talking about the experience afterwards at dinner. One of the best ways to teach the kids are when they do not realise they are being taught.

You may not ‘school’ everyday, not in the conventional sense; but try to incorporate learning into every day. They can plan the route with you, they can help make shopping lists, chose a meal that they would like to help you cook and you can even set them a budget to adhere to. Use the trip to teach them the things you wish they would learn at school!

Travel days v stationary days
No matter what your set-up, you will find that travel days are hard days to fit a lot of schooling in. Normally, you’ll be up early, getting everything packed away to often travel quite a few hours across our vast land, just to then get unpacked and set up again. Throw in a quick look around the area to find out where you might like to go in the next few days and you may find that it leaves very little time for schooling. On these days it is best to make the most of the time spent travelling in the car.

Learn in the car on travel days
Australia is huge and you will spend a significant amount of time in the car, so use this time to also get some education in. Talk about the experiences you have all had and things you have seen at the place you are leaving. Sneak some geography in and show the kids where in Australia you are now and where you are going. You can even help them to work out the distances you have travelled.

Picking up brochures from visitors centres about the next stops on your trip and use these to chat about what you would like to see and do at that destination. It pays to throw in some maths problems, spelling challenges and maybe a quiz book. The TAWK Quiz book for all the Family has been designed specifically for this – to educate them without realising it with 11 different subjects and they absolutely love it.

Another great idea for learning in the car are audio books or some educational podcasts. You can listen to them together and then discuss as a family, encouraging the kids to have a view or an opinion. This helps to break up this time while travelling and better yet, it will have the kids learning without even realising it.

Stationary days
Routine works for kids so set up times that they know will be their school time. You might like to give yourself some time each school day to prepare what each child will be doing. One on one time is much more efficient and you will be surprised just how much you get through with just an hour or two each day. If possible, setting up each child in their own learning area can prevent them from distracting each other.

If they need help, encourage them to put up their hand as they would in a normal class environment. If you are busy with another child, acknowledge them and have a word search or similar activity for them until you can come over. Another really great idea is the possibility of them helping each other.

An older child might have the answers the younger child needs; not only does this cement the learning of both children it really can foster sibling relationships. When you are together while you are travelling this can have a truly positive effect.

Your chosen schooling method will have an impact on what you do with them and how you do it. If one of your children has something that might need more assistance on one day, then you could set up one child on the computer using one of the many online learning programs such as Spellodrome, Mathletics or Reading Eggs. They could take turns on who would use these programs and at what time. Most programs once set up, can be done by the children independently which then frees you up to help the other children.

Travel journal
There would not be a teacher in the country that would not encourage the children to keep a diary or journal of their trip. Not only is this a great way for them to recall and write about their day, but they really will love this to look back on later. They can draw, cut out from brochures or even take photos to print off and stick in as memories of their travels. A great time to do this each day would be while you are preparing dinner, thereby breaking up a schooling activity and of course an enjoyable time to recall their day.

Endless learning opportunities on the road
Travelling itself gives them endless possibilities to learn. Each area you visit will have its own history and geography that you can teach as well as being able to show them, something they wouldn’t experience in regular schooling. It’s far better to be there, to see it and experience it than to read about it.

The different people they will meet, the new friends they will make and the confidence they will gain with the exposure to people of all ages is an invaluable life experience. Not to mention the life skills you can give them when you encourage them to help with setting up your camp and packing it down again. Give them their own task, yes it takes longer in the beginning as you help and teach them to do it, but it gives them ownership and responsibility and they will be proud of their own achievements.

Make the most of your trip
As long you are covering the basics with them, they will be okay. This is for most, a once in a lifetime opportunity, don’t waste it worrying about the schooling. Make sure you make the most of every moment as not many teachers will say to you that you should have explored less and completed worksheets more. Embrace this opportunity to partake in your children’s education.