Why we take our kids out of school for vacations

This is a bit of a hot button subject. & when it comes to hot button subjects, I generally go out the door. But, this is something I feel strongly about & get asked about often when we are on trips during the school year or asking "should I take my child out of school for vacation", so I wanted to address it.

Taking your child out of school for vacation, like most hot button subjects, generally, you feel pretty heavily about whichever side you believe in-- which is probably why it's considered a hot button subject, but I really pride myself on seeing both sides of any situation & I am going to try to highlight both the best that I can.

First let me say, I get it. I'm not a rule-breaker, at all. In fact, rule-breaking gives me IMMENSE, crippling anxiety. I do not like the idea of anyone telling me what I can and can not do with my children {safety etc aside} But, I know schools have absence limits for a very good reason. There has to be some kind of structure & repercussion if children are gone weeks or months missing school. I get that missing school consistently can have adverse effects on children's educations. I by no means want to suggest breaking the rule for the sake of breaking one {or for the sake of vacations for that matter} well... I guess I kind of am, but not without a lot of thought. Life is moving so fast, & somehow it seems to move faster when you have children & as people say if you don't stop & look around once in a while, you could miss it. & sometimes there are good reasons to miss school.

Gateway Arch -- ST. LOUIS,MO

Grotto Falls -- GATLINBURG,TN

Why travel?

A common theme among people in life-ending situations is, they say they wished they had traveled more... taken the trip..worked less, spent time with family more... took more family vacations-- & at the end of my days, I don't want that be one of my regrets. Whatsmore is while our vacations themselves are creating such wonderful memories that we can look back on, I personally feel they do so much more. They can be highly educational, & I thoroughly believe, with my whole self, that because of all of these factors they help as an overall student, be the best that they can.

Providence Dam -- GRAND RAPIDS, OH

Make your own candy bar @ Hershey Chocolate World -- HERSHEY, PA

"I want my children to grow up knowing that different isn't scary, that it's okay if people don't look like they do or eat the same foods or speak the same language,..." 

What's educational travel?

Some define educational travel as a family trip to historical spots, with tons of museum trips, grand historical monuments & cities. But I believe that travel, in itself is education. Even a trip to Disney World is educational, don't @ me ;)

So much is being learned from, little ones learning to wait in a line. Counting things around them, reading signs, reading a map of how to get to the next ride or land, using math skills on figuring out how many snack credits are left among so much more. These are a little Disney specific, but you get my drift. Even going to the beach, kids are studying ecosystems, weather, and sea life. 

Something huge to me is teaching them the acceptance of new things and new experiences. They are exposed to different cultures, races & languages along the way as well. I want my children to grow up knowing that different isn't scary, that it's okay if people don't look like they do or eat the same foods or speak the same language, that they can be friends with them & play with them. For us, in a small non-diverse town, that is hard to provide. 

Once in line at Disney World, the girls befriended a little girl that spoke no English, they couldn't communicate through words but somehow they were communicating. It was beautiful.  They played forever together & it was lesson I was so glad to have facilitated for them that they didn't even know they were learning from. 

So, even though we as a family, try to add in historic elements to all of our trips, things are constantly being learned. Being exposed to different places, people and food, serve lessons. Seeing history, environments and cultures in person, is immensely more valuable than reading them in a book. Which is why schools take field trips, after all.

It shouldn't be a regular occurrence to pull your child out of school for a family trip, but it can be such a great tool.

Disney World -- ORLANDO,FL

Great Smoky Mountains -- GATLINBURG,TN

"I don't want to blink and find my children have grown up & I've missed spending time with them because I was worried about them missing a few days of school."

Time spent together. 

Family time is especially important to our family & so many others. So yes, the things mentioned above can be learned in books in classrooms. But, in a world of constant rushing, there are families where many parents both work full time or activities take up evening hours, not to mention if homework is involved & just everything else we do, we sometimes don't get to have much true one on one time with our kids. 

So, doesn't family time win?

Studies show that even dinner with family 5 nights a week, a child is more successful than a child who scores all A's in school! Time spent together as a family, experiencing travel together and just being together as a family, has just as much impact if not more, on a child in school & who they are in as a student.
Time to bond as a family is crucial to me. Whether that time is exploring a new city or riding rides at theme parks, we get to do it together, & that is incredibly important to me. I don't want to blink and find my children have grown up & I've missed spending time with them because I was worried about them missing a few days of school. No, we don't need a weeklong vacation to accomplish that, but if we can continue to do it, I'll take every opportunity I can.

Historic Penn's Cave -- CENTRE HALL,PA

"Like with most things, one size doesn't fit all."

Why can't you just go during spring break?

Now, I know what you are thinking {well maybe}. This is why we have built-in breaks into the school year. & you are correct.  But not every family, for many varying reasons, can travel during those times. For me, my husband's work schedule & also because I blog on family travel, I am given certain dates for those work trips. Other reason are: kids could go to different schools and be on different schedules for breaks. Crowds levels. For some, their budget may not allow them to travel during those peak traveling dates because that also means peak prices.  Like with most things, one size doesn't fit all.

Education Appreciation 

I hear also, children will not respect school, if you are telling them it's okay to not to school to go to Disney World or the beach —but tell them they can't stay at home to watch movies all day. That is a bad example to show children. & I sort of understand this. But, I have a hard time with this argument because we are very involved in our children's educations. Our day to day life reflects that. & I think because of that, our girls have never asked to skip school just to skip it. Not once. They know school is important. They know their education is important and priority to our family.  They know you can't just skip school for no reason. We don’t feel we are putting education aside to travel but more so, adding it on as an addition to their studies.  We communicate the privileges that our family is allotted often & one of them is traveling. It is not just an excuse for skipping school. 
" Don't expect the teacher to do extra work for you to go on vacation."

Things to consider

All that to say, I am certainly not suggesting pulling your child from school with no other thought than the memories and above-mentioned reasons, we take much more thought into our decision.

Here are some things you want to take into consideration before you take your children out of school for a vacation.

- Look up your school's attendance policy. You don't want to end up with an officer at your door. Every school has a max amount of days your child can miss. It seems bizarre, but know the legal ramifications you might face. Some private schools have a truancy board you have to answer to. This can hinder acceptance to come back, or work is given a zero.

- Find out how to get absences excused if possible. Check their vacation policy. Some schools have forms you can fill out to see if your vacation will qualify as excused. Some you can write a letter highlighting your trip & why you think it should be excused.

- More than anything, take an honest look at your child's schoolwork. Are they struggling? Speak with their teacher and have open communication so that you are aware of how they are doing at school to determine if days/week will negatively affect them.

- Grade & Age. Academic implications of missing school vary greatly on your child's grade & age. Take into consideration that a child in 2nd grade is going to have an easier time catching up than a high student taking a full slate of classes.

- Look for opportunities in short weeks. See if you can make your trip during scheduled short weeks for smaller trips, to make for a long weekend trip.

- Watch out for Testing, Exams & Activites. Look at the school's schedule & make sure you are not planning when there is exams or testing. Activities that could be going on that aren't crucial like testing can be hard on kids to miss like fun parties or projects in school. Also, check when tryouts or things alike that may affect your child's extracurriculars.

- Makeup work responsibility. Don't expect the teacher to do extra work. Communicate with the teacher with ample time about makeup work. Keep in mind, teachers are busy to the max, while having their work before you go on vacation would be nice, know that teachers sometimes don't have their lessons planned out far in advance. It's a lot of work to get all of that together for one student. Don't expect the teacher to do extra work for you to go on vacation. When emailing my children's teachers I ask if they have makeup work they would like them to do, but stress that we are not expecting them to pull all of that work for us. It's our responsibility as parents to show our children the accountability of having to catch up. Another great lesson of the real world. As adults, we take vacations away from work. Even with someone covering critical functions of a job, there is still plenty of work to get done ahead of time or make-up when we return. This is another thing you have to really be honest with yourself on deciding if your child is able to do makeup work on top of their daily school load when they return.

- Catching up. When communicating with your child's teacher, ask if they will be missing any crucial learning of a certain topic or skill. I’d your learning to ride a bike, one skill each week and miss the week of how to pedal; it’s going to be pretty vital to know that info. So, if there is and you decide to still travel, realize the pressure that a teacher can have to catch them up while additionally continuing with the class, at the hands of your vacation. Don't expect that and set up outside help {tutor, Sylvian, Kumon etc} to catch your child up to speed with the class.

- Offer a child doing a project or report on their trip. Something this extra work can help make up for some work that is being missed in the classroom.

As you can see, there is no right or wrong answer when it comes to pulling your child from school to go on a family trip. There are so many variables at play & only you know if it is worth it for your family. We choose to take our children out of school for certain vacations & family trips, we know what a privilege it is to even be able to travel with them. We also understand the cons that from doing it as well, & as of this point in our lives we feel for our family, the pros outweigh them. That's not to say a trip may come up that we feel it would not be worth them missing school. But, for now we will take them out of school when we feel it is right and make no apologies.
 Not everyone agrees with my mindset here & that's okay.