If you have kids, one of the most difficult things to arrange when you do a lap of Australia is their schooling, and in this post I want to share our experience thus far with Kalgoorlie School of the Air.
We’ve been using them for the better part of 12 months now, for two children (Kindy and Pre Primary, now year 1).
Lap of Australia Schooling options
If you are going to do a lap of Australia, and you have young kids, there are a range of different ways you can go about the schooling. I’m going to keep this objective, and factual, and not get too opinionated on what is best as it can be a bit controversial, and that’s not what this post is about, nor my field of expertise.
1 – Ask the schools principle for a leave of absence
The easiest way to travel around Australia for the parents of young kids is to get your principle to sign off on a specified period of time where the child (or children) will not be at school.
This happens in some states, but its not overly common, and the large reaction from school principles is less than positive towards the idea. I know the school our oldest was at would have laughed in our face at the suggestion, but some are more open minded to the idea of travelling.
As a parent, if this works it means your child has no schooling to do whilst you travel, and that takes a lot of stress out of your life. Your child will miss some schooling, and the impact that will have is debatable, with many people suggesting its negligible these days.
2 – Work with the school for the period of your child’s absence
Some schools are happy for you to leave for a period of time, and will support the childs learning by sending materials out that are needed, and getting involved with the education. This seems less common, but it does happen.
3 – Unenroll, and enrol in distance education, or home schooling
We took option 3, which was to unenroll Oliver from the school that he was at, and re-enrol him with Kalgoorlie School of the air. This way, his schooling continues, we meet all of the criteria for travelling and learning.
4 – Unenroll, and ‘relocate’ for the duration of your travels
A huge number of people just unenroll their child from school, and say they are relocating, and never re-enrol them again until their travels are finished.
The ‘relocation’ might take a year or two, but eventually this happens. I don’t know what the legalities of doing this are, but its certainly not uncommon.
Why did we go with Kalgoorlie School of the Air?
In terms of schooling in Western Australia, we really only had two options for getting it done.
I mentioned above that our principle would not have even considered a leave of absence (we know this from his spiel about pre school kids not to miss a day of school unless they are sick!), so we decided to look at the online schooling option.
Kalgoorlie School of the Air is super flexible, does not need an internet connection at specified times and they send the entire semesters’ work to you, which you take on your lap, and work through it as you can. When you complete tasks, you take photos and videos as needed and upload them.
When you do the school work is entirely up to you; it can be done first thing in the morning, after a swim at the beach, on the weekends, at night time or however you please.
We loved the idea of this, because we are often in remote locations where internet is no good, and we don’t want to be tied to having to get kids to ‘school’ between dedicated times (like some distance education options require). At the end of the day our Lap of Australia has to work for everyone, or we may as well just stay at home.
There’s also a huge amount of flexibility in what you complete; you do everything that you can, but if things are missed and not done, you aren’t going to get reamed for it.
How has Kalgoorlie School of the Air gone so far?
Overall, we’re really pleased with Kalgoorlie School of the Air. Their communications are good by phone (less so on their apps and email), the material is decent, and it works as well as it possibly could (from our perspective on their setup).
We’ve had more issues getting Oliver (and sometimes Cooper) to complete the work than anything else, which I’ll cover below, but so far KSOTA has been virtually flawless.
Our schooling on the road
For the first few months of our travels, Oliver was completing the last part of pre primary. In 2023 though, Cooper started his first formal schooling too, doing 2 days one week, and 3 the next.
Sarah initially took control of the education of Oliver and then I took over after it became a battle most days. She’s now doing it for Cooper, which works well some days, and not others.
The relationship that your child has with their teacher is vastly different to their relationship with their mother, or father (or whoever is doing the schooling), and that creates an interesting atmosphere.
Where Oliver would never say ‘I don’t want to do this’ to his teacher at home, he’s got no restraint in saying it to Sarah or I, and it makes a small task often take a lot longer.
We’ve spent a long time explaining to Oliver that the schooling needs to be done, and done well or we’ll have to go home and he’ll have to go back to normal schooling for 6 hours a day, and he understands it, but some days are a big battle to get him to start, or continue his work.
He also seems to be very bright, and a lot of the material isn’t overly interesting to him, which means he gets bored easily, and wants to muck around. We’ve has found the best way is just to give him a task to do, and then to walk out of the camper or away from the table if we’re doing it outside, and come back when he’s done.
He’s at the age where this is starting to work more effectively, as he can read and understand what needs doing (especially when its similar from day to day)
Maths tasks that are written down as 30 minutes to complete are done in less than 5 by Oliver, and he seems to smash through the work at an incredible rate when he wants to get it done.
One way we’ve found that makes life a lot easier (in some ways) is to give Oliver a choice as to what work he does (and we are selective with our options). Some days he’ll just smash through 10 pages of a maths booklet, and do nothing else, and that’s just fine with us as it all works out in the end.
Cooper was initially extremely keen to do school work, but that interest has slowed wavered, and he now hates doing some school work (phonics especially!).
What are the requirements for using Kalgoorlie School of the Air?
If you want to use Kalgoorlie School of the Air, you need to plan to be on the road for at least 12 months, and have a residential address in WA.
How much time do we spend doing schooling?
On average, we spend around 5 hours a week doing the schooling for each child. Sarah spends a bit longer doing the administration side of things, which I’ll go into below, but its fairly quick in the scheme of things (compared to 30 hours of school at home!)
How do you receive materials, mark it and send it away?
Each term, KSOTA send out a box of school work that needs to be completed. We send this to friends or family wherever we are planning to be, and pick it up when we call through. A fair chunk of the work is ‘marked’ by the parent, and Sarah takes a photo of every page, and submits it online.
You can tear pages out and physically mail them in, but this works much better for us, and we just use the school work that’s been sent in to start fires!
What if you don’t get it all done?
You aren’t going to get hunted down and roasted for missing some bits of schooling. We occasionally miss things that have items which we simply don’t have, or we substitute activities.
The art and craft has taken a bit of a beating with our travels, because its often too hard to do whilst we travel, and our kids are always out and about building something anyway.
We do our best to get it all done, but there have been times where we’ve missed certain things, and its not the end of the world.
The core activities are done, and we’re happy knowing that the kids are learning a bucket load of extra life skills, and information on the road which is not considered ‘schooling’.
How stressful is it?
In terms of KSOTA, I don’t think you can get a better setup. I’ve heard of some distance or home schooling requiring hours and hours of internet connection each day, and doing so much work that it becomes incredibly stressful for the student, and the parents involved.
I don’t like the distance education on many occasions, but its got nothing to do with KSOTA; its entirely about how our kids react to having to do school work on the road.
I’m super pleased with the fact that its flexible; we can choose what we want to do each day, and if it’s a bad day in terms of kids behaviour we can grab activities that are more fun, or we can shorten it as needed.
On the flip side, we sometimes do two days of school in one to allow us to have an amazing day exploring parts of this great country without worrying about school work, or we’ll do schooling on a Saturday if we miss a Friday.
Overall, its as good as it can be, but its still frustrating and stressful when your kids don’t want to do the work!
What does it cost?
We pay the voluntary costs of $60 per child, per year. This is a complete and utter steal, given the amount of books and equipment that they send out, and we’re incredibly grateful for this service.
KSOTA are fantastic
If you’re looking for a good distance education option and you qualify for Kalgoorlie School of the Air, we’ve found them amazing, and are hugely appreciative of their support. If schooling on the road was far more difficult (which I know it is, using other providers), it would make our travels much harder and we’d be far more inclined to head home.