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Homeschooling on the road

  • 04 August 2016


The numbers of kids being homeschooled in Australia is on the rise, with 12,000 registered in 2014 and an estimated 30,000 more unregistered students, according to the Homeschool Legal Defense Association.

I used to criticise parents who thought their kids too precious for school. Now, I'm not so sure.

Seven months ago my husband and I left our jobs, rented out our unit, and headed off for a year with a camper trailer to see Australia, visiting deaf schools along the way (our older child is deaf and we use English and Auslan at home). For most of this year, however, Kaitlyn's education is my responsibility.

When we pulled out of the drive in Sydney last December our neighbour asked, 'What are you going to do when it rains?' I was more worried about home school. I teach literature at Western Sydney University, but I've never taught children.

When it rains the girls make up games, inventing worlds with sticks and stones and kangaroo bones. At Ningaloo Station, camped on the beach for five nights with no showers or shoes, we ran out of paper and the girls painted cuttlefish, washed in by the tide.

For Kailtyn, who's eight, I bought a journal, math book and kindle. Thankfully, she reads for hours in the back seat. Because she's not in school, she has much more time to read.

Still, I found teaching tricky at first. In the Flinders Ranges, I biked with Kaitlyn to the ruins of an old homestead and asked her to imagine what life would've been like for those early settlers. She didn't want to write what I was imagining.

Now I let her write her own stories (about zombies or a family of owls) when she wants, in the shade of the trailer when it's too hot to play. Her writing's improving, not from me, but from all that reading.


"Yesterday a six year-old boy on the campsite taught Rhiannon how to write 'poo'. Last night she wrote the word again and again until she drifted off to sleep."


Lessons happen anywhere. While snorkelling at Ningaloo, we had an underwater lesson, in Auslan, about tropical fish and coral. On a recent walk to Manning Gorge on the Gibb River Road, I explained the terms 'first' and 'third-person' narrators. As we strolled past boabs, we discussed the merits and drawbacks of each perspective. Kaitlyn's written four stories on the trip so far and she recalled which