Seven months in and we haven’t mentioned the kids schooling yet!
Before leaving Sydney we met the kids teachers and they provided us with learning materials, pencils and bags. It was good for the kids to meet them in person at the start so they who they were working with.
Sydney Distance Education Programme (SDEP) provide all the work packs and reading books in fortnightly folders and send these to us to pre-agreed post office addresses. Whenever we can we arrange to phone the teachers, though given the lack of Telstra coverage in the outback it tends to be sporadic, or an opportune call from the teachers catches us in the car with a single bar reception making communication patchy.
We then have to ensure the work gets done which can be quite a challenge when other kids are running around the campsite playing, or a new exciting beach, river, or forest beckons beyond the canvas awning. The best time of day for them to focus is after breakfast rather than tired in the afternoon, but often we find ourselves de-camping at this time so it is very hard to get a consistent routine going.
Our best results, which are few and far between, are where we have a big camp kitchen table that we can occupy and spend a couple of days catching up (or getting ahead). Every two weeks we have to find a town post office to send everything back.
In between, where we can, we send photos or voice recordings to keep up the communication with SDEP and they are very accommodating and flexible letting families do what works best for them. They have been providing reading books on a regular basis and sending the kid’s favourite authors on request.
We’ve had a couple of mad scrambles to make post offices before they close, twice entering less than 5 minutes before closing, after hours of driving. On both occasions it was in a town where we had no intention to stop so missing the post office could have really put a spanner in the works. One of those times required banging on the closed door when we discovered we were one package short, missed by the lady, who based on her demeanour clearly wanted to go home.
Another self-imposed challenge we have is data! We underestimated the amount of data required on our mobile plan, especially when skyping. Twice we have used Skype early in the month and ran out, which then restricts how much we can email back to the school (not to mention silence on the blog publication!).
That said we are very happy with SDEP and their flexibility, and we fully appreciate how hard a teachers job can be. We have even considered swapping supervisor roles with other families we have met using SDEP, as kids don’t listen to their own parents as much as other peoples.
Any tips from readers would be much appreciated!!