When it comes to school attendance, I’m a stickler. Or at least, I like to pretend to be. If my child is running a low-grade fever, I usually wait until we are in the school drop-off line (with thermometer in hand) before giving the final verdict.
But when it comes to taking my kids out of school for a trip out of state or overseas – WAIT, wait, here comes the crazy – I’m not too preoccupied with their attendance record. Traveling is an essential part of my DNA, and since my kids are a part of my DNA too, they go wherever I go.
My family must endure the side effects of my serious case of wanderlust (poor, poor things). I’m openly addicted to the excitement that comes with forgetting what time zone I’m in and eating exotic culinary delights I can’t pronounce. Since multiplying, our travels have been slightly restricted, though. We can’t use certain skymiles during the summer, airfares and hotel accommodations are more expensive during the school breaks, and it’s not as easy to take your kids to a wedding or funeral during the school year. Plus, we always travel on a budget as a family of four.
A recent article in the New York Times highlighted why taking your kids out of school for a family vacation can be beneficial for you, but a nightmare for teachers. Blogger Jessica Lahey, who is both a parent and teacher, says that while she’s taken her children out of school for events she deemed valuable enough to warrant a school absence, it’s also caused somewhat of a headache for those teachers who have to pre-plan packages of work for student absences. A few educators have even deemed it “illegal” and labeled such absences as truancy.
The subject seems like a hot debate. Some comments on the piece included:
Jan Priddy, Teacher: It’s true that absences for missed school are inconvenient for teachers. As a teacher, I can attest to that. But observation and recent research suggests that it’s worse for kids. Missing school for a family vacation might send the message to teachers that school is not a priority, but it certainly sends that message to students.
Sabrina, Parent: How many times have any of you asked your child what did you do at school today and was told, that they watch a movie with no educational value. I do not understand how missing school to go on a family vacation is not allowed but schools are allowed to have children attend school to watch a movie.
While I understand both sides of the argument, there are at least four factors to consider before booking those all important tickets to Rome or heck, even Orlando: frequency, length, ability and grade. How long are you taking your kids out of school? Is the trip going to cause them to fall behind in school? And most importantly, what grade are your kids in?
In the past, I’ve taken my daughter out one week early from her Christmas break to go to Spain with our family. She was in kindergarten and considering that most of the activities she would do that week revolved around holiday crafts and movies, I figured applying some of those Spanish vocabulary words learned at school in real life was more beneficial, no?
I’ve also taken my children out of school for trips to Walt Disney World as well. While spending a hot day in line waiting to ride Aladdin’s Magic Carpet or a meet-and-greet with Anna and Elsa might not sound like a good excuse to skip on math and science work, I’m giving my kids something more than an education: an opportunity to bond together as a family. Sure, we can do that at home, but during our family vacations, we don’t have as many day-to-day distractions. My kids aren’t learning their fractions at Disney, but they are spending time with their parents, and that’s just as important.
Now, I know I won’t be able to take my kids out of school for family vacations forever. By the time they reach high school, their midterms and college assessment tests are going to be much more important than going to an amusement park. And if their grades were below par, we wouldn’t be booking any tickets either. But if I have an opportunity to take them to Rome for Easter or to Washington D.C. for a long weekend and I can instill some educational value into our trips, I will. There’s a good chance that they’ll recall what they saw at the Lincoln Memorial with their parents than that one textbook chapter they didn’t read at school.
What do you think? Is it wrong to pull your kids of out school for a family vacation?