Up until now, my 3rd grader has never missed a day of school due to family travel plans but many of her classmates have. A recent opportunity arose for me, and our family, to travel to Disney World in Orlando. And by opportunity, I mean that we were not able to choose dates of travel that did not conflict with school. In this instance, it did not seem morally right to go without my daughter. Come on, it’s Disney World!
For our family, travel is always a good thing and although we have never planned a trip to conflict with school, for the right opportunity we would never hesitate. At a recent school event, I had the chance to ask parents what they thought and how they dealt with the logistics of homework during vacation or travel. The overall majority said that travel was important for children and they would definitely take their kids out of school. About half said they would only do so if the destination was a learning experience rather than travel for relaxation such as at a resort. None said they would never take their kids out of school to travel.
What to consider before you book your tickets:
- Is there a performance or special event that your child has worked hard on and that s/he would not want to miss? Be sure to ask your child(ren) if they in fact want miss school.
- Is your child struggling academically? This is not a deal breaker – if you can do some one on one tutoring with your child, it may even be helpful.
- Upcoming tests: our daughter faces her first statewide tests the week after our return but we are still going for it.
- Make sure your children understand that you take their education very seriously and that any decision you make for them to miss school is not made lightly.
- If your child is in public school, check how many absences are deemed excessive. In New York City, kids have to apply to get into middle and high school. It is very competitive and some schools look at days absent.
Develop a plan of action:
- Communicate with teachers. With email, this is much easier to do than in the past. Teachers are usually open to meeting with parents in person as well.
- Create a breakdown of what work needs to be done. Lists are my favorite way of keeping organized and it feels so good to check things off.
- Write out a homework schedule ahead of time: have your child commit to meeting homework goals. Time waiting in the airport, on flights, and during airport transfers can be used to study with no fun activities to distract kids from focusing.
- For assigned reading time, let children choose what books they want to read and plan a scheduled family reading time during your trip (e.g. by the pool to take a break from the sun).
- Apps: testing skills can also be strengthened by playing game-based skill games and are fun.
- Most important: stick to the schedule. Once you put it off it will be very difficult to get back on track.
- Don’t try to fit in any extra work. Once expectations have been met, allow unfettered fun.
- Look for educational opportunities during your trip–even resort towns have historical museums.