How to Keep Your Kids Safe: Tips for Sun Safety in a Home Schooling Environment
Even before COVID and school lockdowns, homeschooling was rapidly growing in popularity in Australia. The reason families choose to homeschool can be to spend more time together, to travel, to better educate children with specific health needs or due to a philosophical or religious objection to traditional schools.
However, one important factor that all homeschool families have in common is keeping their children safe — especially from sun damage that can lead to skin cancers in adulthood.
Let's take a look at what homeschooling is and how home-education parents can put a sun safety program into practice.
What is homeschooling?
Homeschooling is where parents take full responsibility for their children's learning by choosing to educate them themselves instead of sending them to a formal institution for schooling. Parents may use tutors for some subjects, and some learning may take place within the community. It is legal in Australia, but families must be registered for homeschooling.
Homeschooling, or home education, is different from distance education, which involves children being enrolled at a distance education school.
How many kids in Australia are homeschooled?
There are currently more than 25,000 registered homeschoolers in Australia. It is estimated that the number of homeschoolers has doubled in the past decade.
Why is sun safety important when homeschooling?
Homeschoolers usually spend a lot more time outside than children who learn in a traditional classroom environment. Some families may live in remote parts of Australia, some may be travelling the country, while others may spend a lot of time in nature at the beach or in the bush.
Homeschoolers may also get a lot more incidental sun exposure when transitioning from one learning experience to another.
By creating a sun-safe environment and minimising sun exposure, parents can significantly decrease a child's chance of developing skin cancer later in life.
What can homeschooling parents do to keep kids sun safe?
Because parents are responsible for all of their children's learning, role modelling sun safety and teaching children sun safety lessons is an important part of any homeschooling curriculum. The more knowledge they have at a young age, the better.
- Encourage children to wear long sleeves and pants when spending time outdoors.
- Dress children in light-coloured clothing.
- Buy wrap-around sunglasses with adequate UV protection.
- Provide children with bucket-style hats that protect their ears and neck.
- Apply sunscreen every morning as a part of your morning routine and reapply sunblock every two hours. Remember that people with light-coloured hair, eyes and skin are at increased risk of developing skin cancer later in life.
- Avoid sunburn and sun damage by staying inside during the hottest parts of the day. Remember, it's not just at midday that you need to be concerned about UV radiation, so check the UV index before heading out.
- Avoid the sun's rays by seeking shade wherever possible, and remember that UV radiation can still be high on cool or overcast days, so you should always wear sunscreen.
- Educate children about sun safety and why it's important to avoid sun damage which can lead to skin cancer.
The importance of sunscreen and sunblock alternatives
When it comes to sunscreen, not only are there hundreds of brands to choose from, many people have concerns about how safe sunscreen actually is. Not only has sunscreen been found to significantly reduce cases of melanoma in adults who use it, but the concerns about sunscreen's safety are also unfounded.
So, how do you choose the right sunscreen for your family? The first step is to choose between a chemical and physical sunscreen, as both have their advantages. Choose one with an SPF of 30+ or more, make sure it's broad spectrum and water-resistant and always check the ingredients before you buy. Also, make sure you use sunscreen that's not out of date.
Why are regular skin checks important?
One of the benefits of being your child's teacher is that they look to you as their most important role model. This means that it is important for parents to apply sunscreen and wear a hat whenever they are outdoors, and that they should undergo regular skin checks with a doctor who is qualified to detect and treat skin cancer. This sends your child the message that the health of your skin is crucial to your overall health, and teaches them the lessons they need for later in life.
More sun safety resources for parents
The Cancer Council has excellent resources for sun safety education available for homeschooling families, including links to online learning modules.
Homeschooling Australia has information on getting started on your homeschooling journey.
Be a role model when it comes to skin cancer prevention
As a home educator, your child relies on you to be at your best every day. Therefore, it's important to put your health first so you can be there for them when they need you.
Skin cancer accounts for the largest number of cancers diagnosed in Australia each year, so early detection is an important part of surviving skin cancer and making a quick recovery. Make an appointment at a SunDoctors clinic near you for a skin check today. It takes just minutes, and it's as easy as calling 13 SKIN (13 75 46) or booking online.