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What About Their Education?! Learning While Travelling

When making plans to travel the world, one of the biggest considerations a family will make is their children’s education.

No parent wants their child to miss out on valuable education, nor a life changing opportunity.

So, how did we work it all out?

When we first thought about travelling in mid 2014, we decided it was likely going to be a good time for the kids. My daughter (the eldest at 12 years of age) had just completed her final year of primary school, and was due to start high school the following year. She had a scholarship to go to, but the only implication was that she’d have to re-sit the scholarship exam when she got back.

My son was due to start year five in 2015. He was unsure about travelling for a whole year, but open to the experience, which is wonderful. At one point before we left, he said he would miss his dad in Sydney and wanted to go to school there. However, he decided to come along and he’s been having a great time.

Our youngest being 2 did not have any formal education considerations.

In some countries and states, it’s illegal to take children out of school, so the next step was to find out where we stood with the Victorian education department. We needed to know if there were any laws or educational obligations we had to follow. So I called the head office of the education department, only to be told that we’d have to refer to our local area office.

When I called the local office, they were unsure if there were any implications of worldschooling our children for twelve months, and said they would have to get back to me.

After some follow up calls, I was told that I should refer to the school principal for guidance, which I thought was very odd. But nonetheless, it started to become clear that it wasn’t an issue to take them travelling for 12 months, allowing them to learn on their own terms. Hallelujah!

On speaking with the school principal, who was equally surprised that I had been told to ask him about it, I was so relieved to hear that he thought it was a great idea. He thoroughly supported the idea of world travel as he’d done it himself. He offered his blessings, as well as some guidance on what to do when we return.

What will we do when we get back?

When we were discussing what we might do when we return to Australia, we asked the kids to share with us how they felt about recommencing school in 2016. I think it’s important to involve older children with decisions about their own education. As parents, we should always listen to their feelings, because there are not only academic factors to consider, but social too. What choice is made will either result in them thriving or diving. At their age, they can clearly communicate how they might feel in either situation, which is of course going to be a big help with their re-entry.

When I asked them what they think they might like to do, the results were surprising. My daughter (who is also blogging her journey at Girl Around The World) said that she’d like to start high school as normal when she gets back.

My son, on the other hand, wanted to start at the year he should have been in if he did go to school – but we were pretty sure that came from a place of wanting to finish school as soon as possible!

Either way, it always reminds me that world travel is such an amazing opportunity for them, because when they go back to school, they’ll have history lessons, geography lessons, projects to do – and they’ll be able to complete tasks having been to those places they read about in their text books. They would have visited the countries, cities or historical places of interest and met the people who live there. It’s an extraordinary opportunity, and such an educational advantage!

What options are there for education?

There are many options for families who want to educate their kids while travelling.

Some states like New South Wales and Victoria offer distance education. This is going to be very difficult in the countries that have poor wifi. In the South Pacific, it made it very difficult for me to work, and Skype calls were impossible, even in places I had wifi.

If you’re doing slow travel, you could enrol your kids in a local school. A great way to learn a language is by immersion, but many schools speak and teach english too.

You could pack school books to take with you… if you dare. But be warned, i’ve heard several stories of parents — often whom are teachers — taking their children on world travelling trips, loaded up with books and study plans, only to throw the books away after a week or two once they realise how much the kids are learning without a classroom.

Some families choose to completely worldschool their children, as they know and see how much their children learn — and want to learn — in the real world. Parents usually see their children’s passion for learning blossom, because kids have the freedom and independence to choose what they want to learn and when. Often they learn without even realising it, and when they are having fun. Not only that, worldschooled children have the opportunity to learn  about the things they are most interested in, rather than a strict curriculum that may not be their strength or best mode of learning.

At the end of the day, you need to do what you’re most comfortable with, but have the knowledge that it’s all a huge learning curve. You wont know what works best for your family right away, because you’ve not done it before. Be kind on yourself, your children and your family, and you’ll soon figure out what’s comfortable and working well.

Let’s face it, the worst that could happen is that your children finish school a year later than they would. Armed with an extra year of maturity, let alone a massive life experience that WILL change all of you (like it or not!), it might just be a good thing anyway.

This is what works for us:

* Regular discussions and pop quizzes – randomly during the day, I will talk to the kids about places we’ve been to pluck on their memory strings. I’ll ask them to tell me what the currency was of the last location, what languages were spoken there, and other questions. If they don’t know the answer, it’s their task for the day to look it up and tell me. They’ve been retaining a whole lot more information than I expected.

* Study Ladder – we’ve had a subscription to the Study Ladder website in the past, so I fired it back up again. A couple of times a week, they spend about an hour learning what they would be in school this year.

For those not familiar with Study Ladder, it’s an online education website created by teachers who were passionate about making learning fun. A wide range of topics, for example literacy, mathematics and science, are covered for every school year level. Simply set your child’s year level and off they go. Many Australian schools use Study Ladder and it’s used by parents around the world.

I don’t enforce the use of Study Ladder at certain times or days, but I will let them know it’s time to think about some more work, especially if they are bored or getting on each others nerves (as all siblings do) and they really enjoy it. I’ve had not one complaint when suggesting it.

* Blogging/journaling – as I mentioned, my daughter is actively blogging, which I suggested to her before we left. She’s very creative and a great writer, so I wanted to put an option out there for her that she might enjoy. It also gives her something to focus on when she feels like a bit more structure.

My son isn’t a big writer – he has sensory processing disorder and handwriting isn’t as enjoyable for him. But I do encourage him to do what he can and he loves working on a computer.

* A write up on where we’ve been – every time we leave a country, I ask the kids to do a one or two page write up on some facts, information and things they have learnt.

Kids are naturally curious and hungry to learn. It’s amazing how much more you notice it when they’re out of the classroom and don’t have any homework eating into what should be play time.

They wake up eager to explore, discover new things, contribute to the family and investigate the world and all it offers.

After all, isn’t that what we were born to do?


Kelly Winder is the creator of BellyBelly.com.au, a doula, writer and mother to three awesome children. Currently she's travelling the world for 12 months with her partner and three children, and hopes to inspire more families to do the same.

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