Back when I was a new teacher without children of my own, I started my first school year with the starry eyed excitement that only a first-year, 21-year-old teacher can have. As the year trudged on, students began to disappear for weeks at a time.
They would come back to school with lovely tans and stories of snorkeling with the sting rays and wild water park adventures. Some returned with broken arms and an exciting story about how it happened on the slopes of some far flung mountain. The students would be sporting new Mickey Mouse key chains on their backpacks and brand new wardrobes from stores that we didn’t have.
Once I realized this was happening, I encouraged my students to let me know in advance so that I could help prepare them for being away from the classroom for a lengthy period.
Fast forward 10 years and I am a little bit older and wiser. I have two school aged children of my own. Travel is important to me and I think that travel can give children so much more than sitting behind a school desk for the required 7.5 hours. As a matter of fact, we pulled my kids out early the other day to visit the Denver Mint with their grandparents who are visiting from out of town.
It is my opinion that if you have chosen traditional schooling, it doesn’t necessarily have to trump educational family travel time.
Every School, Teacher and Child is Different
Know the School Policies. Whether you send your child to a private, public, charter or online school, each school and school district are going to have their own policies about attendance. Monique Rubin, Abroad Traveling Mom and author of Mo Travels, shared that her children’s school has very specific attendance policies and that you stand the chance of being fined if you are caught pulling your children out for travel. Also, students are not given permission to take off the days immediately before and after school breaks.
Know the Teacher’s Policies. Some teachers prefer that you tell them before you go out of town. It gives them time to prepare some lessons and also review his or her lessons. If I knew four students were going to be gone during a time that I was teaching an important building block of the curriculum, I would often move it to another day. Some teachers don’t want to take the time to get things together for your child before you leave and, let’s be honest, they shouldn’t have to.
Not all teachers are against taking your children out for travel. Elena Sonnino of Live Do Grow believes that traveling the world has so much to offer in educating children to become 21st century thinkers. She says that travel reminds us that there is always something to learn and that it teaches children to embrace lifelong learning.
Know Your Child. Keeping up with your child’s progress is an important part of knowing whether or not they can miss an extended amount of school time. Every child is different and you will need to determine what is right for you and your child. Farrah Ritter of The Three Under says to take an honest look at your child and their ability to catch themselves up and keep up with the work that will be missed due to the absence.
Before you take your children out of school, consider these things:
Alternative Assignments. I taught high school English for many years. Though the grammar lessons and literature reviews were important, I always let my students off of the hook whenever possible. I would give alternative assignments. Assignments included things like keeping a journal on the trip. Create a travel brochure to share information and history about their destinations. Sending the class a postcard is a perfectly acceptable way to assess grammar. Becky Davenport, Missouri Traveling Mom, had her daughter create a video slideshow to share on Show and Tell day. Heather Barnard, Middle East Traveling Mom, suggests that you download apps like Book Creator and have your child compile a story about their trip. You can import maps, descriptions, video clips and more.
Ultimately, it’s Not the Teacher’s Responsibility. Whether you tell the teacher before or after the trip, it is only the teacher’s responsibility to provide the assignments. It is the student’s responsibility to get caught up in a timely manner. If you tell the teacher ahead of time, don’t expect the teacher to put together a full packet of assignments that they are going to miss.
Get a Homework Buddy. Julie Cohn, Good Living Traveling Mom and author of A Little Bite of Life, suggests that you make sure your child has a buddy who can collect the homework while they are gone. Doing this helps the teacher immensely. I also suggest getting a file folder to store and organize the work.