Is It OK to Take a Child Out of School for a Family Vacation?

Mother and son reading book at tropical beachFor some reason, it seems that my Facebook feed last month was filled with whether or not children should be pulled out of school for vacation. The New York Times even had a blog article about it on January 15. I know this is controversial, but my husband and I have made the choice on several occasions to take our son out of school to travel. I certainly think parents should have that choice, but I’d also like to share some of our “do’s and don’ts” that have made it work well for us (and, hopefully, less painful for his teacher). If you decide to take your child out of school, I hope these work well for you, too.

We DON’T schedule a vacation during school that could be scheduled during breaks. Generally, we only take our son out if the dates for the trip or event are out of our control. For example, I had a business trip to Alaska in mid-September one year. By tagging on a vacation to that trip, we were actually able to go somewhere that we may not have gone otherwise. I couldn’t control the dates because it was a conference I was attending and Alaska was a rare treat. In addition, our son, a first-grader at the time, had some great experiences viewing wildlife and going sledding on a glacier, which could be viewed as educational, especially for that grade, as well.

On that note, we DON’T do it often or for long. He’s never missed more than four days for a vacation and it’s generally only once a year.

We DO understand that we are creating more work or at the very least inconvenience for our child’s teacher and do our best to work with her to minimize it. While our son’s teacher has lesson plans and great ones at that, sometimes what she plans for a day and what actually happens are two different things. As such, it can be impossible for her to send work ahead of time. In addition, if our son misses any tests, she will have to use time outside of class for him to make them up. I do my best to work with his teacher to get my son caught up including coming in to proctor his missed exams in her classroom after school and working with him at home on missed classwork. I also volunteer in her classroom throughout the year so she knows that I value her time as well.

We DO look at the school calendar to make sure our son isn’t missing the “cannot be missed” stuff like mid-term or final exams, state-mandated testing weeks, fine arts programs, or major in-class presentations for book reports or the science fair. The first days of school are also difficult as it’s a time when children get adjusted to their new classroom, teacher, and make new friends. Some things are just too difficult or impossible to make up.  Speaking of which, we DO understand that he will miss some things regardless of when we schedule and regardless of our good intentions.

We DO work with our son, not only when he is going to miss school, but throughout the year to make sure the few days missed won’t overly affect his grades. Getting behind may not only affect his grades, but can easily frustrate him as well making the vacation time a negative instead of a positive. Knowing what he’s working on in class allows us to continue that work through the vacation whether we have the work ahead of time or not.

We DO understand that just like at our places of employment, the days before and especially the days after a vacation can be very hectic with extra work and it’s likely to be no different for our son. In order to prepare to leave and to make up the work when he gets back, he’s going to have to complete the missed work in addition to the regular work resulting in a day or a few days that seem like all we’re doing is schoolwork.

As you can see, we are able to make vacations during the school year work for us, but it isn’t always easy. It takes planning, patience, and a willingness to put in extra time before and after. I, though, think the vacations we have taken when school was in session have been worth it.

 

2 thoughts on “Is It OK to Take a Child Out of School for a Family Vacation?

  1. Tina Martinez

    As a teacher I don’t have problems when GOOD students are taken out of school for vacations, especially when there will be experiences that they cannot get in the classroom. When the GOOD parents are involved, give me time to prepare work, and make sure work is completed.

    I do have a problem when the student consistently doesn’t turn in work, doesn’t complete make up work, parents DO NOT let me know before hand, or come to me in the morning and say “We are going to Disneyland and ***** will be missing 1 week of school, can I get some work for ****, and I will be picking **** up before lunch.” Then no, I can’t have work ready in 3 hours, and yes I do have a problem, especially when I know the work won’t be completed. Yes, this has happened 4 times already this year, same student, and it happened 1 week before fall break, was here for 2 days then we were off for a week. Said student didn’t come back from break on time because, “They went to Disneyland again.” My other issue is when this happens 5 or 6 or more times a year.

    I know you ❤ Disneyland and your son has had some AWESOME experiences with the runs and things. I am sure from this post that you have discussed this with the teacher and made up the work. Not a problem. Also, this teacher is available to carry luggage, cook, be a private tutor, etc. on any of your trips 😉

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  2. this abundant life

    We have also been having this conversation in our home. We do take our boys out of school for family vacations, however we try to time them around a scheduled break. For example, when we took two weeks in Europe, we did it over Spring Break, scheduling for them to miss a few days before and a few days after the break, instead of a full week on either side. Our school was very supportive, as we always try to keep our trips educationally focused. We feel like travel is very important and are blessed to have a principle that feels the same!

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