Schooling kids living on the road

Host: Isolated Children’s Parents’ Association
Written by Tina Sendall

As a family travelling Australia and working along the way, our kids have been enrolled with Distance Education through Hay SOTA in NSW as well as Alice Springs SOTA in the NT. A key factor to this type of schooling is the need for a Home Tutor, and as a ‘parent’ home tutor, this can be quite a daunting thought, even after 2 ½ years and still travelling. I haven’t been to University to master the concepts of Maths, English, Science, History, Geography, Arts, Drama and so on. But instead I’ve gone back to school with my children and am learning all over again.

There’s no denying the value of a Home Tutor’s role in the education of isolated and remote children. They are the vital link that both the child and school teacher (often 100’s km away) rely on day to day. The Home Tutor is the person who keeps a child on track, who marks work, who guides children’s learning and behaviour and is the person who best understands the child in their school environment. Sure, the school teacher is only a phone call or email away, but that’s not much good when the internet is down or the line is busy.

But the requirement of a Home Tutor is a necessity that comes at a price. The Home Tutor could be a parent who sacrifices a wage in order to teach their children. The Home Tutor could be a fully qualified teacher who’s experience and knowledge equates to an income to match, or a govie looking for a taste of the outback lifestyle. All will take up the challenge of Home Tutor, often with younger non-school age siblings in the school room as well. With the addition of food and board, a family will hopefully find the Home Tutor that blends in perfectly.

We met the perfect Home Tutor during travels 2 years ago, when a work opportunity enabled us to learn firsthand about remote education on a cattle station. It also shows how versatile Home Tutors can be. Teaching and supporting a 14 year old (at the time) middle years student in preparation for boarding school, to later taking up the challenge again, but this time for our 6 and 11 year old. We can’t thank Miss Wilson enough for heading out back again, facing many challenges along the way, to give our kids the best schooling experience ever!

Another key feature of schooling isolated and remote children is ‘in-school’ or ‘get together’ weeks. In our experience through Alice Springs School of the Air, these occur for 1 week each term and are such a valuable part of remote education. Not only do they bring children and families together, they focus on skills and experiences that children may otherwise miss out on such as sports clinics, swimming lessons, excursions and workshops for Home Tutors.

Children and their family, as well as the Home Tutor, travel to Alice Springs to spend a great week interacting with friends and teachers and participating in a whole school environment. Activities and learning is designed to bring the kids together and build important social skills, relationships and a sense of community among families. Weeks of planning and the build up of excitement before in-school makes for a great week. Hours of travel shows the dedication and commitment families have, to ensure their kids engage in all aspects of remote and isolated education.

Isolated kids need Home Tutors and experiences such as in-schools to further engage them in opportunities beyond the remote school room.