It’s ironic really. When your kids are little and not restrained by the confines of a school calendar, they are generally too young to appreciate most of your adventures in travel. Taking a 3 year old to Disney World, or the Southern Cape of Africa, is sort of a waste of time and money considering they will likely not remember it in the years to come. (Not to mention a headache for mom and dad). And the truth is that you can in fact generate the same excitement for your 3 year old that comes from Disney by spending an afternoon at a local water park or Chuck E Cheese.
Then, the kids get older and are able to travel more easily as well as appreciate the things around them – and you have limited time during the year to go anywhere. And of course scheduling travel during Spring Breaks and the weeks over the holidays as well as summer vacations equate to much, much more expensive ‘peak season,’ rates for your family, that can make vacationing unaffordable. Plus, using up all the family ‘off time,’ can mean there is limited time to spend relaxing and just hanging around at home. This all leads to the debate about whether taking your kids out of school to travel during the year is an acceptable thing to do.
Obviously, one of the major lures to taking kids out of school to travel is the off-season rates and available commodities families can experience during the school calendar. The bottom line is you can get more ‘bang for your buck,’ so to speak by planning a trip during October than you could during July. Yet, educators and many school systems frown upon the idea of a school-aged children-missing school to be travel with their families. In fact, in most school districts across the United States – especially with the implementation of the No Child Left Behind Act, parents are only allowed to write a certain amount of absentee notes for their child. Once that number is exceeded, professional excuses from school must be written or else parents can face truancy consequences which can land them in court.
Yet many parents feel that their 6 year old missing one week of 1st grade in order spend quality time with their family definitely ranks high on the priority list.
According to educational experts from the US Department of Education, parents should think before they travel. They encourage parents NOT to take their children out of school to travel. However, parents may find that talking to their child’s teacher and looking at the school curriculum – there are optimal times for travel where the child won’t be missing much of a workload. If you have found a deal that is just too good to pass up, talk to your child’s teacher, get all schoolwork ahead of time, and make sure that the dates don’t overlap any important testing dates at school. Additionally, keep the trip short. Most teachers wont look poorly upon parents that take their kids out of school to travel if it is an occasional experience, so parents should NOT make it habit. And, you should ensure that your child is performing well in school before simply yanking them out of class. The last thing a parent wants to do is be responsible for their child’ poor academic progress due to travel. Age is another consideration. Truth is, a child will miss less academic studies in kindergarten than they will in middle or high school. Depending on your child’s performance and workload, a missed week or two in upper grades can prove detrimental to their report card. Again, this is why it is key to plan ahead and to talk with educators about work so that your older child can stay on top of their studies even while they are abroad.
And of course, you have to be respectful of the laws and rules of your school system. If parents are too lax or indifferent to the attendance requirements of a school system, their child can adopt those feelings and lose respect for the requirements of the school calendar.
Many parents who take their kids out of school to travel – (think about Brad and Angelina), believe that jet setting kids around the world is a learning and educational experience in and of itself. If you want to take your child on a mission trip, or to an exotic destination somewhere in order to teach them and pass on your family values – who is to say that they are not being educated? They are in fact receiving education that cannot be found within the brick and mortar walls of their school. This of course is a valid point. And if dad has a once in a lifetime chance to visit Japan and wants the kids to experience a different culture, should it really be passed up because of school – knowing that this opportunity may never exist again?
The best rule of thumb is to use your best judgment as a parent and plan ahead of time before pulling a child out of school to travel. Often, the travel deals offered at certain times of the year are simply too good to pass up. And, for many families, it is these off-season deals that make travel a possibility. With careful planning, articulate communication between the parents and the school system – the whole scenario can work out well for everyone involved. And, bringing back the teacher or principal a small token or keepsake of your travels – well, it sure as heck won’t hurt anything.