Afterschool activities, homeschool get-togethers, and coffee with friends while the kids played were a large part of our pre-travel days. Melbourne has an abundance of activities, excursions, and groups for homeschoolers, spoiling us for choice of activities to participate in. We usually went along to along to a few each week. Then there were the afterschool activities; swimming, tennis, drama, pottery, gymnastics, dancing, violin lessons etc that we did at various times. How would we go without these?

We have missed the homeschool get-togethers, and gatherings at friends’ houses. There isn’t actually a substitute that we’ve found for them ‘on the road’. HEA have a wonderful resource on their website for finding other homeschool groups as we travel. We haven’t actually done much of this, though, there is the potential there when we feel the need. There have been phone calls and emails at times back to friends in Melbourne, who are still thought of as if we had seen them only a few weeks ago.

We thought that kids would probably appreciate being able to converse with other travelling children. That’s a bit harder to do than say, as travelling families in Australia are spread out across the country. Therefore, the ability to have an online chat in a protected environment for registered users only here is a promising new resource. It has been organised for the kids to be able to chat at 9am on Friday mornings, and 5pm on Monday nights (Melbourne time) We are homeschoolers, even before we started travelling, but have tried schools a few times so that the kids can interact with some other children. Peter and Susan tried two different country schools in Victoria for two weeks each to have a play. Peter really liked one of them, and found that he was included well in the group. Lucy went to the local preschool and had a ball. All three children went to an amazing one-room school in Andamooka, South Australia. It was such a child-centered school that it actually reminded us of a homeschool group rather than a school, and the kids thought that the swimming pool there was a bonus. The school community was so welcoming and friendly that everyone felt at home. We were there at the end of the school year for three weeks, so our kids were able to join in the Christmas festivities and the end-of-year concert. The school was so welcoming that when each child was presented with a merit medal, our children were presented with a welcome medal. These medals are now hanging up proudly in the caravan.

We spent winter in the high country to ski, so there were very few times that we saw other families in the actual campground there. We have diesel ducted heating so we were fine to be in sub-zero temperatures, but without that you would be rather uncomfortable. There was another travelling family that came in for one week, and the seven children (our four and their three) played whenever they weren’t on the slopes skiing. The other family had a quad-bike, so our kids thought that was rather exciting to ride around on. Despite there not being many other kids in the campground, there were always lots of kids up at Mt Hotham. Peter, Susan and Lucy would frequently find a friend that they would chat to and ski with for a few hours at a time, or a few days. They did a few days of lessons, and on those days would chat away happily all day.

There aren’t always activities nearby like skiing that are an obvious magnet for kids. Visits to even the most amazing playgrounds are often empty of children during school hours, and campsites are not always busy so we are often the only ones there. This doesn’t bother anyone, though, as these nights we have a campground to ourselves the kids ride around on their bikes, explore, help cook dinner, read, sew, write, play with mud, or find some other activity to amuse themselves. A great favourite is always the campfire and roasting marshmallows over it, or in winter cooking a casserole in the dutch oven on the embers. There is a great diversity of people in campsites when there are other people around. We have met young people backpacking around Australia in a car and tent or a campervan, families that are away for a weekend with the kids, grey nomads, and other people taking a month or two out to travel. On our way to Central, we met a few other families who we kept seeing at campsite after campsite. These were families on long-service leave, annual leave, or away for the kids school holidays. The discussions around the campgrounds were some of the best ways to find places that you should visit as people swapped stories about some of the things they had seen. It was thanks to forewarning of this nature that we stocked up with an over-supply of food before heading to Central; not for the difficulty in finding food but rather the expense. Seeing the same families over the period of a month at different campsites from Port Augusta up to Coober Pedy, Yulara, and on our way up to Kings Canyon meant that the kids were familiar with the other children.

That familiarity doesn’t seem as important any more, though. The kids have all grown in confidence and are all happy to chat to anyone. They make friends quickly and seem to have very little concerns about meeting a child only for a few hours or a few days. They are delighted to see a friend again, and it is always a pleasant surprise. The kids enjoy the company of anyone from a small child to the elderly, and don’t take long to start playing with another child they see anywhere.