Have you ever wondered how our children go to school when we live 3 hours from the closest little school? It isn’t your usual run of the mill school drop off and there are no school buses that’s for sure. They don’t need a backpack or a school uniform and I don’t even have to pack the dreaded school lunch box every morning. Life is good at Woop Woop and I think our children are very lucky to be educated right here on the station.
There is no need for alarms or rushing around. The boys saunter out of bed when ever they feel like it, which is pretty early usually. They laze around watching ABC 3 while waking up. It is then time for breakfast. I whack on some toast, pop some weet-bix in a bowl and make a few milo’s. Done.
The boys start school at 8:15am. So at about 8am the nagging starts. “brush your teeth, wash your face, get dressed, make your bed…” – I usually have to say this about 4 or 5 times, so no different to all of you out there really. Are you hearing me (because obviously the kids don’t)? So that is about the only stressful part of my morning, if you could call it stressful, ha ha ha.
Mr 10 year old is ALWAYS dressed perfectly as if he is going out mustering for the day. Workshirt, jeans, boots, hat and belt, all tucked in ready to go – it doesn’t matter if it is 45º or 18º this is what he wears every. single. day! Mr 8 on the other hand is more of a shorts and t-shirt kind of guy – which he has worn to bed the previous night, so he is good to go as soon as he wakes up, all he has left to do is pop on his thongs and he is off.
“By Mum, it’s school time” they yell to me. They have watches so they always know when it is time to go, they are very rarely late. Off they trot, the big long walk to school. No, just kidding, down our steps and across the lawn to the school room. It takes them all of 10 seconds and it is in our house yard, see….
The school room is nothing to look at on the outside but we feel very blessed to have it. On the inside it is warm and inviting, colourful and quite big. Just perfect for 2 children.
Their school day is 8:15am – 3:30pm. The boys work from 8:15 – 9:30. Miss Gabby, our Governess, takes the boys to the station kitchen for morning smoko from 9:30am – 10:00am. Once back Tom has his “On air lesson” from 10:00 – 11:00. This is where he dials in to the school (Mount Isa School of the Air) for a lesson with his teacher and classmates. There are about 6 children on his Air Lesson. It is like a teleconference. They all have a headset on and can all talk to each other. They can’t see each other but they do have the computer set up in front of them and hook into iConnect for the lesson. During on air the children do English with their teacher. This is fantastic because it is one less subject the Governess has to worry about and it is probably the biggest subject.
As soon as Tom has finished it is time for Harry to start his lesson……it all starts again…head set on and dial in. The teachers in at the School of the Air sit in a soundproof studio with their own headset and a microphone. It is a lot like a radio station. There are about 4 studio’s in at the school.
The boys come home, here to the house, for lunch from 12:30pm – 1:30pm. Then it is back to school from 1:30pm – 3:30pm. Although, on Monday’s Tom has French so he only gets 1/2 hour for lunch before he has to be back and dialled in for this lesson On Air.
During the week our Governess sends any “send in tasks” into the teachers via email. Any other work that needs sending in goes in the school mail bag. If the children need library books they pop their little calico bag into the school bag and send it in with a list of books they are interested in. This bag then comes back out filled with a selection of books chosen by the librarian.
Teaching your own kids (or having a Governess do it) is a huge responsibility. We are basically the Principal of the school here on the station. Their education lies on our shoulders. It is a big deal. Before each school unit starts the Governess has to go through the work and do A LOT of reading. There is so much work to get through (and this is all sent out to us from School of the Air) and this involves a lot of preparation on the Govie’s behalf. We have been so blessed to have a long line of great Govies and this year is no exception. Miss Gabby has 2 years Governessing experience and is also doing her teaching degree externally. The kids just love her. She is fun and very patient. This takes a lot of pressure off me. Having the wrong teacher in your school room is very stressful. So we know just how lucky we are. Oh, and she cooks a mean Brownie too.
During the year we have a few trips to town for school days. In May we all head in for Home Tutor Seminar/NAPLAN testing/Activity Days/Sports Day. This is basically a whole week in town. We look forward to it because we stay in a cabin at a lovely caravan park with all of our friends. The park is swarming with bush kids when we hit town. I am sure the grey nomads don’t know what is happening. The kids haven’t seen each other for 6 months by this stage so they are pretty darned excited. Of a night the Mum’s enjoy some catch up time over a cheeky glass of wine and perhaps some take away Chinese – what a treat.
At the end of this week the Sports Carnival is held. Just your usual run of the mill sports day really, but most of the kids have ditched their shoes and are running around like little ferals.
Throughout the year there are also a few “Group Day’s” which are held on various stations in your region. This is where you head over to another station (which could involve driving for 3 or 4 hours one way) so the kids can get together with each other and a couple of teachers. They do fun activities together, we have lunch and then we all drive home again.
We also have Mini School. Because the families of Mount Isa School of the Air are spread out over such great distances there are quite a few mini schools held, you just choose your closest one. We go into Camooweal for a week in September. We all camp at the racecourse in our horse trucks, caravans or tents and the children do school with their teachers for 5 full days. They just love it. It is such fun, catching up with everyone, camping together and eating together. The Mum’s sort out the food for the week which is a huge deal. Feeding about 60 – 70 people each day is no walk in the park. Breakfast, smoko, lunch, smoko, dinner, dessert. No one goes hungry I am telling you. And I somehow managed to get sucked into the role of Food Co-ordinator.
So, school in the bush is pretty unique and special. Our kids have it pretty good I think. The Governess provides one on one teaching with the child. There is no bullying and it is just really laid back.
There are a lot of Mum’s who teach their own children and I really do take my hat off to them, it is no easy gig. And the bush “School Room” comes in all different shapes and sizes. From a separate fully set up school room, to a spare room in the house to the dining room table. Every family is different.
Sometimes my children will go for months without going to town. That is just how it is and they never complain.
In 2 years time Tom will leave home and head to Boarding School. For this he will probably go to Brisbane. A very long way from home. They have always known this is what will happen. We have talked about “Boarding School” from a very young age, they know that is just what happens. For bush kids this is one of the few options for them. They can complete the high school years via correspondence but I would say you would need a pretty focussed kid to do this. But some children do it and do very very well. I also take my hat off to them. My boys are pretty excited about Boarding School. They will get to meet so many kids and do all sorts of sports. I keep telling them it is just like a resort….. it has a restaurant, a pool, footy fields, cricket ovals etc. I think I might like to go back.
God I can ramble on can’t I and I do applaud you if you have made it all the way through this post. But hopefully that gives you an insight into outback schooling. Lucky I can type like a maniac.
If you would like further information about Governessing there are a couple of websites you can check out (and if you are ever going through Mt Isa you can do a tour of Mt Isa School of the Air):
You may also like to read THIS POST about the time I was in the school room teaching my children.
Do you have any questions? I am sure I have forgotten to tell you something. Fire away, no question is too stupid.