Let the unschooling begin


Victoria Park

So I'm gradually getting my head around the whole homeschooling business. Thanks to all the amazingly helpful comments on my article/vent on how hard it's been to find a way to legally homeschool Noah while travelling outside Australia, I've figured out a plan. Basically we just need to move to Victoria where homeschooling is as simple as signing the equivalent of a statutory declaration that you will cover all the curriculum areas to the correct standards! Or at least we need to  intend to move to Victoria once we stop travelling. Considering we have no clue where we'll eventually move I'm happy to call Victoria home for now.

We could also do distance education through Western Australia with a program supplied to us and a teacher for under $400 for the year but that involves a commitment to spent 4-5 hours per day on lessons. We just can't commit to that at this point. I've yet to figure out just how I'm going to teach Noah to read without access to a library full of books and a reliable internet connection, but in the meantime we've had an amazing week learning from the world around us. Here's a summary of what we've been up to.

On Sunday we visited Victoria National Park in northern NSW, one of the last remaining pockets of virgin forest in the area. I had excited Noah with stories of the giant Strangler Fig tree inside the park that was hundreds of years old and seen by Captain Cook as he sailed past in 1788. That's no small thing considering the park is no where near the coast. Unfortunately lightning felled the tree a few years back and even the stump seems to have disappeared since I was last at the park three years ago. We were very disappointed to see no marker for its location or mention of this part of European history in the park. In recent years almost every trace of the parks European history has been replaced by the indigenous history of the area.

While I'm glad Australia is acknowledging it's indigenous history more and more, its sad to see that it comes at a cost.

Noah soon found another giant strangler fig that's not quite as large but still impressive and learnt about the trees unique way of growing. We also practised our bird spotting skills, walking quietly so we didn't scare the animals away (this one needs a lot more work!), dodged spiderwebs and learnt about indigenous food collection methods and beliefs.

Strangler fig at Victoria Park

Our next stop on our Sunday drive: Bagotville Barrage; the floodgates to Tuckean Swamp. Or rather what used to be Tuckean Swamp before flood gates were installed for the benefit of the prime farming land.

Tuckean Swamp?

Along the way we had a quick lesson in local history thanks to Nanna's recollections of growing up in the area and we started teaching the kids about the types of trees Koala's like as we tried to spot them along the way.

Here's the Barrage. We were hoping to continue our bird spotting skills as there are usually thousands of birds here but we arrived in the middle of the day when it was too hot so had to settle for just watching a couple of cormorants diving for fish.

The barrage

Once at the barrage it was time for an advanced lesson in stick throwing, floatation and tides thanks again to Nanna!

throwing lessons with nanna

Hayley and the stick

This helpful sign showed us why it wasn't a good place to go for a swim!

Flood gates

The following day we walked along North Wall in Ballina and spent half an hour watching an osprey (a large sea bird with a wing span of almost 1m) diving into the surf right next to us in search of his lunch. This of course sparked Noah's interest in flying methods, aerodynamics and a discussion on how the heck such a huge bird continues to fly after getting repeatedly drenched by diving under the waves. We also had a great discussion on conservation and helping animals after I told the kids that when I was a little girl there were only a handful of these birds left in the area due to their nests being cut down and how people are now helping them by building and maintaining nests. So of course after watching the osprey it was off in search of his nest, which we found on top of a pole in central Ballina.

On Thursday we packed up the car and headed to Port Macquarie to camp. Camping of course has provided lessons in hammering, team work, knot tying and other useful skills. When we're not on the beach we're busy practising our bike riding, doing our maths school work and trying to squeeze as much education and fun into lego and card games as possible. Over the past year Noah's become somewhat of an expert on Uno, Go fish, memory and poker ... poker teaches valuable maths skills doesn't it?

Speaking of the beach, we're learning more about the tides and exploring different types of matter through sand castle building on the tide line. Of course we're dealing with two very different developmental stages - Noah has hit the 'lets build a huge city and volcano that needs to be perfect' stage while Hayley is still delighting in destruction, messiness and chaos. Noah's getting better a dealing with it. He still has his moments but he's learning to negotiate and when all else fails, join in the fun.

Lighthouse Beach Port Macquarie

partners in crime

We've visited Port Macquarie's Tacking Point Lighthouse and worked out why lighthouses were needed when there are lots of rocks around.

Tacking Point Lighthouse

And discovered a great little rocky beach next to the lighthouse perfect for climbing on and exploring rockpool's in an attempt to understand the tide better.


Rock pools at Tacking Point

Queen Hayley

King of the rocks

It's a fantastic little beach and we're heading back there today to show Colin. Let's see how much Noah remembers of what we learnt yesterday!

Noah's biggest achievement of the week - learning to ride his bike without training wheels! It's only taken him two days and he's off.

So all in all it's been a fantastic week. I'm starting to feel a bit more confident that I can do this homeschooling caper! Of course next week's challenge is literacy and consolidating this weeks learning through more fun activities, watching videos on the internet, reading and some writing projects.

Given how much of a reluctant writer Noah that last part should be interesting! I'm thinking we'll work in a scrapbook and create pages on the beach with drawings, photos and just a little writing ... but I'm open to suggestions if anyone has a better idea! And if anyone knows of some good online resources on the beach, tides, ocean or birds I'd love to hear about them.

Next Post: Camping? What were we thinking? Previous Post: Tallows Beach, Byron Bay: A little bit of solitude

About the Author


Tracy Burns

Tracy always talked about traveling a lot more than she ever traveled. Married to an avid traveler that thankfully changed. After almost two years exploring South East Asia and Australia, enjoying the most amazing food, temples, beaches, and more importantly every sweet food treat she can find, Tracy is keen to explore further afield. Tracy juggles homeschooling, playtime, blogging and learning more about photography while they travel. Some days she juggles them better than others!

Comments (10):

  1. In regards to learning on the road, we are going to download ebooks while we have internet access.
    I'm glad you will be unschooling! I think it is the way to go when you are traveling long term. The kids will learn so much.

  2. <a href="#comment-3961" rel="nofollow">@Amy</a>,

    Thanks, if you find any decent ebooks, let us know. We bought an iPad which I use to read books, but if we can use it for Noah as well with some good educational books that would be fantastic.


  3. Looks great! It is easier than you think, this unschooling lark, isn't it? So glad you guys are discovering Australia in more detail.

    And, hell, yeah: cards are a great way to learn maths. Poker teaches probability, among other things. One good thing we did while doing long drives was speed/distance calculations: 400k at 130kph = how many hours.

    I think the idea of writing captions &amp;c is a really good idea. Lots of boys are reluctant writers, though writing on a keyboard is easier for most than writing... Z likes writing cartoons, for example.

    So you could do a food chain diagram, if you wanted. Picture led, minimal writing, good science learning...

    Off to do some Indonesian verbs now. You can probably imagine how enthusiastic Z is...

  4. Awesome plan guys, the kids are going to do great I am sure!

  5. Indonesian verbs ... gee you know how to show the kid a good time. 'Sorry Z, we've already done waterbom, time for verbs'

  6. Not too sure about online resources for tides beaches etc.. I'm sure there's heaps ofcool stuff on National Geographic homepage. We often watch videos and read info on their website the kids love it.
    Also check out www.readingeggs.com and use their free trials. It's a fantastic reading Program for Noahs age level and can all be done on line.
    Another one is "Boost" program ... A series designed to help with all areas of early childhood learning.
    Now you have an iPad- Im sure the kids can squeeze some reward time in now :)
    Have fun:)

  7. Lovely photos.

    At this age, unschooling is a great option. Have you also looked in to Charlotte Mason approaches to schooling, it looks like they might fit with your approach.
    As for books - Yesterday's Classics have great deals on e-books for young readers: http://www.yesterdaysclassics.com/catalog/catalogepubbytitle.php

  8. Thanks Natalia, those e-books sound great. I haven't come across Charlotte Mason yet ... something else for me to research!

  9. [...] Our Travel Lifestyle: Let the Unschooling Begin I always wondered how we could manage the legalities of homeschooling while taking an extended trip. Food for thought. [...]

  10. [...] Our Travel Lifestyle: Let the Unschooling Begin I always wondered how we could manage the legalities of homeschooling while taking an extended trip. Food for thought. [...]

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