While spending many hours reading and researching for this trip I noticed that educating children while travelling was an area of concern for a number of people. It is something I myself have spent a large number of hours thinking about and planning and will use this page to share some of what us Cussies will be doing while on the road. I also encourage anyone to pass on any pearls of wisdom or recommendations to share. Teaching, after all is a collaborative process.
No doubt the life education the kids will be getting over the coming months is immeasurable, however I am acutely aware that there also has to be some structured learning so the kids remain at level, with our focus being Math and Literacy.
The first thing I did was to download the scope and sequence syllabus documents from the education department as a guide to see what the kids should be achieving. You should be able to do the same for whatever state you are in.
I have included a page with useful websites. These include sites associated with curriculums and syllabus, sites that deliver lessons or sites that provide ‘educational’ games , because no doubt some days this will be all that we manage.
As the kids will be travelling interstate we were not eligible to register for traditional homeschooling as we would be unable to attend scheduled meetings etc with a Department Representative. I then focussed my attention to SIDE (The Schools of Isolated and Distance Education). The staff were extremely helpful and explained that our kids were eligible to enrol and if we did so, then they would receive a school pack every fortnight to work through. They also offered help with access to The Australian Curriculum along with other resources including assessment. The SIDE website is very comprehensive and along with detailed information offers many links to other helpful websites. I would recommend that you be confident in determining your childs learning level, perhaps asking their teacher for guidance, as I have read of children receiving work that was too easy, although I am sure SIDE are also well equipped to help with this. Although ultimately we have not gone down this road either I would recommend it to families. If anyone has any experience with SIDE, let us know.
Given that I have Teacher Training and have gathered a number of resources over the last couple of years we have decided to take over schooling the kids. We will stay in contact with their teachers and they will be recorded as having an explained absence. Naturally if we are in one place for an extended amount of time – for work etc. we will consider enrolling them in a local school.
The kid’s school have interactive whiteboards as a classroom resource and follow an online math program which supplements lessons in their Student Guide. This is a new process to the school and appears to be working generally well. As with any program there are drawbacks and limitations. We have chosen to follow the program while we are travelling, following roughly the same structure as their classmates. The Student Guides are divided into modules with regular assessments to track the kids progress. In case the kids have trouble grasping a particular concept then I have another student book I purchased from Wooldridges which will enable further work with that concept. If need be, good old google will help! Search engines are great for entering a particular concept or learning strategy – you will always find something.
Math should be hands, on using lots of concrete materials. This isn’t easy when you are living in a caravan. Instead of the traditional materials you might find in a school such as unifix cubes etc, be inventive – use shells or pebbles from the beach for counting, measure the caravan dimensions, time how quickly you can set up and then try and beat it next time. It all counts!
Dice and card games are also great for Math with many books available that have scores of games for all levels of learning. Practise your times tables or number facts as you spend all those hours in the car. Count the number of cars, trucks, kangaroos etc discuss how fast you’re going and the distance to your next stop. This will engage the kids and pass the time and they may not even realise they were doing Math!
Our children LOVE to read, which is a real bonus when it comes to schooling. The boys are both great readers with good levels of fluency and comprehension. We listen to audio books in the car and discuss what we listen to. This is useful as the kids are able to make connections to the stories and we encourage them to visualise the story and make predictions and they also actively retell the stories – particularly if there is a part that has piqued there interest. These are all recognised reading strategies. The boys have discovered the Warriors series by Erin Hunter and are constantly taking about the characters, what they are doing and on occasion we have seen them acting as the characters in games they play.
An author study is something else that is fairly easy to do. If there are books by a particular author that children enjoy, they might like to learn more about the author – what they have written, their interests, family history etc. I have seen this work well with younger students on authors such as Mem Fox and Pamela Allen. Older kids seem to enjoy books by Paul Jennings, Emily Rodda, JK Rowling, R.L.Stine and many more. Most authors have their own website, encourage children to have a look. This may also encorage to do their own story writing.
As Emma is a beginning reader we will be doing phonics work as well as learning sights words. Go to the post office where you should be able to pick up packs of flashcards with sight words on them to practise reading along with hints for games that parents can play with the flascards. Don’t forget the value of environmental print either – Emma loves to read road signs, signs in shopping centres, at touristy places, even at the petrol station.
As for writing, the kids will be encouraged to keep a journal of sorts. This will also be great for them to look back at when they are older and some of the trips memories have faded. The boys will pretty much be left to their own devices with Emma having more hands on help from us. This way we can talk about grammar, punctuation etc. I have also got a couple of writing exercise books where we can look at text types – reports, procedures etc. This can be found at most school supply shops or perhaps from your school itself.
A great spelling and reading resource I came across and will be using for all of the kids is Sound Waves. Have a look at their website which explains their approach in developing reading, spelling and writing skills through phonics. There are sample pages that you can look at like this one here. Basically each of the kids has their own student book to work through. The units in the books all follow the same sequence so that they will all be looking at the same sound at the same time. A group of list words is provided for each sound and I will use these to produce a bank of spelling words for the kids to work with. Each unit has age appropriate activities associated with the relevant sound. Once the kids are familiar with the program I expect that they will be able to work independently for a large portion of the time. There is also a teacher book to go with the student books which provides a suggested program to follow, gives instructions on pre and post testing the list words as well providing extension activities and games that can be played to consolidate learning. I like the fact that at the back of the student books there is a helpful hint section which lists various spelling rules and definitions. I also like the fact that various grammar activities are also included so that there is only the need to purchase one book for each child rather than 3 of 4 to try and cover everything.
Oh and lastly, buy a map of Australia and stick it up somewhere. We got a laminated one from Officeworks and the kids love to draw where we have been on it. Every so often we grab it off the wall and discuss the states, capital cities, landmarks etc.
So, there you go – that pretty much sums up how we will tackle things but fully expect that it won’t always go to plan. One way or another the kids will be learning something, somewhere, somehow!