Full time travelling family Four Hands in a Tin Can have been on the road for over two years now. But it never would've been possible if they didn't do their research and take a hands-on approach when it came to their kids' education.
Here they answer the big question from their own experiences, can you really school kids on the road?
This was a question we were faced with in 2015, when we first floated the idea of just going for it and doing the lap with the kids. Well, three years on, we can say yes, you can do it and so can your kids.
When we left home in 2016, Liam was 12 years old and going into year 7. Mia was 7 years old and going into year 2. Not only was I faced with a new way of schooling, I was faced with learning to school a child in high school and a child in primary school. How could this be achieved, and how could it be achieved without giving up and running away to hide somewhere with the shame of failure?
Well, being from NSW, I had no choice but to enrol the kids into Distance Education. As we were living in the Hunter Valley, the Education Department told me I could send one to Dubbo School of Distance Education (DSODE) or Southern Cross School of Distance (SCSODE) Education at Ballina for High School and one to North East Public School of Distance Education (NEPSODE) in Port Macquarie or DSODE for Primary School. Of course, I made the phone calls to NEPSODE and SCSODE first (they are coastal after all) and left messages, and then I rang Dubbo.
The best thing that happened, and nothing against the other two schools mentioned above, was that the phone was answered and I was instantly put through to the Deputy Principal. She was passionate, she was supportive and she was very encouraging. I hung up knowing that the kids were going to be enrolled, that they were going be supported in their learning journey and in this journey we were embarking on as a family.
Words to live by
Liam and I travelled a good three hours to attend the year 7 orientation, and one of the teachers pulled me aside and said, “Listen, do not stress when they hand out the timetable for year 7. Liam will have one on one phone calls, and you need to work his schooling around you, not us.” I took a big breath, peeked at the timetable and saw that it followed a normal high school timetable. I held onto her words, as well as many, many words of encouragement from the teachers, the Deputy and the Principal. I had to find a way to make this work. Then, in front of us parents, the Principal addressed all the kids and she something that stuck with us all...
“You are big people when you come to high school here. We will treat you like adults, but that comes with responsibility. That responsibility is your school work. It is not mum and dad's job to make sure you get it completed, it is not mum and dad's job to make sure you attend your classes and it is not mum and dad's job to make sure your work is returned to school. It is your job.”
Those words gave Liam permission to take full responsibility for his school work. It gave me permission to hand him full responsibility, but I also ensured that he knew he had our support and any help he needed. He set his lesson times with his individual teachers (yes, just like regular high school he had numerous teachers). These lessons were either via phone calls or Skype. He set out when he would do his work, what days we wouldn’t travel, as they were school work days, and he worked out his own timetable.
In the meantime, we realised that Mia had a learning difficulty that has been masked and covered over and mostly ignored by her previous school. I had an inkling, and explained my concerns to her new Distance Education teacher. She listened, she tested Mia and she came back with the same concerns as me. So we struck a deal, she would do two one on one Skype lessons a week and work on Mia’s phonics and readings – she has a sound distortion and Dyslexia – if I did everything else in her school pack with her. She gave me strategies to work with and boy did we have an amazing year of learning and progress.
For the first two years, both Liam and Mia and did majority of their school work on paper. Liam was able to do some on his computer and return via email, but majority was paper based. Halfway through last year, Liam went paperless and for year 10, he will be completely paperless in all his school work. Mia’s year 5 and 6 teacher cohort have agreed to do the same for her, so we are going to trial paperless school work for year 5 this year, and I already know it will be a success.
Schooling on the road is not easy, it is a commitment, and we are lucky that we have great support and teachers who let us treat it a lot like home schooling – I just don’t have to create the work or write the reports. Liam and Mia have made it easy, as they realise that to travel we need to school, and that a routine of the same day each week ensures the work is completed.
Doing us proud
They have made us proud, winning academic awards and Liam walking away with Principal Awards every year thanks to his Academic Excellence and Commitment to his Studies.
Liam explains Year 9 schooling on the road
Four Hands in a Tin Can share their experiences on all kinds of topics on their website, from how to travel with a teenager through to many other tips and tricks. You can also follow their adventures on Facebook and YouTube.