A question I ask most families I meet along their travels is “How do you educate your children?” I find this an interesting question, that has so many varied answers. One thing that really surprised me when we were travelling was the idea that homeschooling was not an option for many families as the state that they were in stipulated that you cannot homeschool and travel. This is the case for the Northern Territory. It states on their home education website that you cannot home educate whilst travelling and then refers you to your principal and distance education if travelling for longer periods of time.
In one of my earlier blogs I touched upon the idea of getting an exemption form schooling as one of the options of educating your child/children when travelling. I’d like to take this opportunity to go into a little more detail about this.
In truth, had I known this was an option, I would have chosen to do so. When we first started planning our trip I was of the belief that my choices were to either homeschool or enrol in distance education. Now, at the end of our travels and having met so many people choosing to educate in such varied ways, this is what I have found out.
A school principal can approve your child to not attend school (but remain enrolled) for a selected period of time if the principal deems the activities that you wish to participate in to ‘be in the best interest of the child’.
What are the advantages of this?
- You have the opportunity to work with your school and teachers along your journey and have their support in educating your child.
- Your child remains connected to their school, friends and network.
- You are not required to plan, program or write a curriculum to teach your child. The teachers at your school should direct you to resources and inform you of how they wish to monitor your child’s progress.
- You have the freedom and time to plan valid, real-life learning experiences for your child and won’t need to spend hours and hours a day doing book work!
- The application process is much easier than a homeschool application.
What are the disadvantages of this?
- You are bound by the regulations of that exemption and any conditions attached to it; including dates of return.
- If your principal does agree that your activities are in the best interest of the child and does not approve it, then you will need to seek an alternative.
- You can only get an exemption for a child who is currently enrolled at a school.
What is involved in getting an exemption?
Firstly, prior to making any concrete decisions about departure dates, etc. you must first make an appointment to sit down with your principal and discuss your ideas to travel. Go in prepared and talk to them about why you are choosing to travel and what the benefits would be for your child/children. Ask your principal about the possibility of an exemption, discuss time frames and requirements. Complete the exemption form with proposed dates and information and return it to your principal. Depending on the state in which you live, either your principal will approve/reject your application or they will pass it on to the necessary person for approval. From the research that I have done, it is seemingly largely at the principals discretion as to whether or not they approve the travel. This will be based on whether or not they believe it to be in the best interest of the child. If you are granted approval you will be given a certificate that you must carry with you on your travels and produce if requested.
*If your child is not currently enrolled at a school, then you cannot apply for an exemption. You would first need to enrol them in a school.
From my own experiences meeting people and research, what I have found is that every state is different in their process of approving exemptions, their conditions and the length of duration for approval. Queensland documentation does not state any specific number of days that you can obtain approval and upon inquiry with the education department, they too could not find a specific number of days. South Australian policies state that you can obtain approval for an exemption up to 12 months by a principal.
If you are planning to travel our beautiful country with your children, please go and see your principal first and talk to them about your options. Make it a priority part of your planning. Whichever option you choose; homeschool, exemption or distance education, it takes time to obtain approval and appropriate documentation. Don’t forget that you also need to produce your identity documents in order to enrol a child in any form of schooling.