Last week we looked at different ways to save money if you are restricted to traveling during school vacations and holidays. Our post Traveling Around School Schedules: Tips for Travel During Peak Season focused on ways to save time and cash when traveling during peak season, as many parents prefer not to remove their children from school for long periods of time. But many Wandering Moms view travel as a valuable educational experience in and of itself- and many do choose to pull their kids from school for certain trips. If you’re one of those people asking “Should I take my child out of school for travel?” you are in the right place! We’re going to explore this question, plus offer some tips and tricks for working with teachers and administrators if you do decide to take a trip during the school year.
Should I Take My Child Out of School to Travel?
There are many things to consider when asking yourself “Should I take my child out of school to travel?” Here are a few things you’ll want to ask yourself, your child, and your child’s school:
What is the school’s attendance policy?
This is the best place to start when deciding on whether or not you can pull your kid from school to travel. What is the school’s attendance policy? Some schools are incredibly strict and may limit absences that are not excused by a doctor- and your child may risk failing a grade if they have too many unexcused absences. If your child’s school is very strict about absences, you’ll have to decide if you want to take up this fight. Other schools are pretty lax and have a lot of flexibility around attendance so long as students are keeping up with their work. Ask for a written copy of your school’s attendance policy, then start communicating with your child’s teacher and administrators to see just what level of flexibility there is.
How is my child doing in school?
Take an honest look at how your child is doing in school. If your child is a straight A student who breezes through school, missing a week or two may not be a big deal. But if your child is struggling in any way, it may not be such a great idea to miss a big chunk of time for vacation. For kids who are struggling, take a close look at what the teacher and other support staff may be doing to offer additional support and/or help your child keep up. Can you provide that same level of support while your child is out of school and when they return? How much additional work will it take for the teacher (and any support staff) to help your child catch up if they fall even farther behind while out for vacation?
Does my child already miss a lot of school?
If your child already misses a lot of school for illness, appointments, or sports- it may not be a great idea to also take them out for a vacation. If you chose a traditional school, your child does need to be present in that setting as much as possible for them to get the most out of their education. Illnesses and appointments often can’t be avoided, but if you know your child does miss school quite often for those things you can’t avoid- maybe think twice about missing more school for travel. On the flip side, if you have a kid who rarely misses school- a week off likely won’t be the end of the world!
How does my child feel about missing school?
This may be the single most important question to ask. How does my child feel about missing school? You may be all about it- and your child may even LOVE to travel- but how do they feel about missing a week or two of school? For many kids, that can be pretty stressful. The older your child is, the more stressful it may be to keep up with missed work. High performing kids may stress out about keeping up their grades if they are out while kids who struggle may be equally stressed as they are already working so hard to stay on track. So make sure you are able to set your own feelings and desires aside to truly listen when you ask your child how they’d feel about missing school.
What is the cost/benefit analysis of the trip?
We all know there’s a cost to missing too much school. A cost/benefit analysis will help you decide if the benefits of travel will outweigh those costs. There are so many learning opportunities in travel- but all travel is not created equal when it comes to being educational. If you’re pulling the kids out for a week to go to Disney World, there may not be a lot of educational value in that. However, if you’re taking your kid to Gettysburg, to Paris to visit the Louvre, or to the Anne Frank Museum in Amsterdam- the value added to your child’s education may far outweigh the cost of missing a few days of school.
What is the purpose of school?
Now that you’ve asked yourself all of these practical questions, take a minute to ask yourself this philosophical one: What is the purpose of school? The answer to that may be different for everyone. And that’s okay. The purpose of school and what a good education looks like might even be different for each child in your family. Be aware that “school” and “learning” are not necessarily the same thing for many people- and that learning doesn’t take place only within the walls of a school. If you are a family that places a high value on real world experiences, hands-on, and/or passion-led learning, be prepared to articulate that when you meet with your child’s teacher or administrators.
Tips for Taking Your Child Out of School for Travel
If you’ve made the decision to take your child out of school for a trip, here are some tips to help you talk with their teachers and administrators:
Carefully consider just how long your child will miss school. If you’re only asking for a few days to a week, you’re much more likely to have a supportive teacher. Asking for two or three weeks off may raise a few eyebrows. If you do want to take a longer trip, try to combing it with a school vacation. If you take the week before Spring Break off, you’ll have a total of two weeks to travel but your child is only missing one week of school. For older kids, also consider how your trip times out with important things like final exams or exam preparation.
Communicating with your child’s teacher or school will be important. Make sure you communicate clearly what days your child will be missing and where you’ll be going. This is where a short discussion on what kind of learning you value and what learning opportunities your trip provides that your child can’t get in the classroom can be really helpful. Sure, you can say “Where we’re going is none of their business,” but don’t expect schools to be cooperative with that attitude. Communicating effectively and working together will be your best bet! Be sure to explain to them what educational benefits your child will gain from this trip and why that is important to you.
Get Caught Up Before You Leave
Make sure your child is all caught up before you leave. If a student is missing 10 assignments and the teacher is already concerned about their ability to catch up, they may not be so keen on missing school to travel- and the teacher can communicate that to administrators. If your child is behind on anything, meet with the teacher well before your trip to find out what your child needs to do to be caught up before you leave- then put in the time and effort to help them get there!
Ask for Work Ahead of Time
Be sure to ask your child’s teacher for missed work- and give them plenty of time to put it together. Don’t wait until the day before you leave to ask your child for a week’s worth of lesson plans and assignments. Teachers are already working at max capacity and many somehow work beyond max capacity on a daily basis. They will need extra time to get together your child’s work- especially if you’ll be gone for more than a few days. Ask if there’s anything you can do to help. Maybe you can copy a few pages or a chapter from your child’s textbook while the teacher gathers worksheets and such. However you approach this- remember to be respectful of the fact that you are creating extra work for the teacher. Partnering with them will go a long way in gaining their support!
Suggest Alternative Assignments or Extra Credit
If you’re going on a trip that has an educational component, talk with your child’s teacher about creating alternative assignments or doing something for extra credit. If you’re going to a national park, maybe your child can earn a Junior Ranger badge for extra credit. If you’re heading to a museum, suggest that your child could make a video or write a paper on what they saw and learned. Traveling to another country? Suggest a project that encourages your child to learn all about the history and culture while you’re traveling. Most teachers value this kind of learning and will be excited to help you create new learning opportunities to supplement or even replace a few class assignments they may miss.