Should I Pull My Kids out of School to Travel? Do You?

When my kids were little---one in preschool and one in diapers---I talked a big game about pulling them out of school to travel. My theory was this: not all education happens at school. I felt the benefits of experiencing another culture far outweighed the drawbacks of missing a few days here and there. Besides which, my daughter had her letters, numbers, and shapes down cold. We could afford to miss some school.

A few years later, I hit my first bump. I was trying to schedule a family vacation over spring break using miles, and wasn't the only one with this idea. My only choices were to leave two days early, or two days late. You can guess which option I favored.

My daughter (who was in second grade at the time) had a perfect attendance record that year, and was very proud of it. She had her heart set on standing up with the other perfect attenders at a year-end assembly and accepting an award in front of the whole school.

Did I pull her out of school? Yes. Did I feel good about it? No.

As the years have passed, it's only gotten more complicated. Weekend trips are often thwarted by basketball games and birthday parties. Longer trips can take us away over picture day, or during state-wide standardized testing. And what about those longer trips? Two weeks in Costa Rica or Vietnam obviously have educational value. Two weeks in Hawaii? Not so much. Not the way we do it anyway.

And there are valid reasons not to pull kids out of school. Public schools lose funding when attendance drops. Also, your kids can fall behind. Sure, you could ask for makeup work, but that creates extra work for their already overworked teachers.

So, should I continue to pull my kids out of school to travel? It's obviously a question with no easy answer. What do you do?

Jamie Pearson is the publisher of the family travel website Travel Savvy Mom. Her kids will miss eight days of school for travel this year.

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Comment by Lori Wilson on February 5, 2009 at 10:24pm
My dad always said "Never let school interfere with a good education."

Ha! Seriously there is so much to learn out in the world. I would do it more if I could.
Comment by Soultravelers3 on February 5, 2009 at 10:18pm
Ha, I find the answer VERY easy....absolutely! Um, whose kid is it? What better way to spend time than being together as a family and seeing the world? As Euripedes said long ago "“Experience, travel- these are as education in themselves”,.

But then I think like a homeschooler and want to take full responsibility for my child's education.If schools were smart, they would find ways to better support families and make it a more flexible win/win approach. I love this article by my favorite award winning teacher that explains my view:

We went to one of the top rated schools in California, a tiny rural, very wealthy school with it's own endowment fund and better computer equipment than most Universities. Yet, I could not believe how totally inflexible the public system is and soon realized that it was a prison that I was not willing to participate it. We just called in sick and did as we pleased.

As you know we winter in Spain now and have no trouble with this school at all. They let us arrive late into the school year ( almost December this year!) and take off as much time as we want, when ever we want. We leave before the school is out in April or May where we do the bulk of our learning through travel. That is how all schools should be.

The system needs to be changed. It needs to work better for families, better for children. You shouldn't have to feel bad about taking time to be with your family and to travel the world together. That is something to rejoice about and any thinking school/teacher would realize that and give their blessings and make it as easy as possible.

MONEY has gotten in the way. My parents took us out of school all the time when I was a kid. We were always straight A students as my daughter is. Travel is good for the soul, good for families and good for education.

The system needs to be changed!
Comment by starr728 on January 21, 2009 at 9:12pm
Thank you Michelle for your advice. My stomach hurts over the thought of the teachers getting upset. His teachers are all very nice and I don't think would mind but I hate creating more work on them due to me. At the same time though he will make up his work he misses and he's just in 2nd grade while he is still little I want to enjoy our family vacations and it cost so much to travel so we might as well get our money's worth out of it by enjoying it not being over run by crowds, traffic, high temps and also saving money going in the earlier months on a vacation as well.

Has anyone else tried the Educational Experience Form at your child's school? Its suppose to let you fill out what learning experiences your child will get from the travel and counts the child as present and unexcused the whole time! Sounds wonderful!!

I look forward to any advice! Thanks!!
Comment by michelle lamar on January 21, 2009 at 9:06pm
Do it. We are talking about the very same thing!
Comment by starr728 on January 21, 2009 at 8:59pm
I was wondering the same thing on what to do. We are planning a Disney World trip but during my son's spring break it will be so crowded and then my husbands work scheldule is hard to work around in the summer due to he works in construction so we are trying to plan for March of this year. We called my son's school (he is in 2nd grade) and tried to find out about a Educational Experience Form- a friend of mine was able to take her children out because of this form she filled out prior to their trip and her children were counted present the entire trip! We also have a 2 1/2 year old so I want to go while the temps is not to hot and lines are not too long since its harder for a younger child to go in March would be our very best bet. My 7 year old son does extremely well in school and the way our trip will work out it will be right before his spring break so I will get a friend to get his homework and when we get back he can do it before we go back to school. By going this week it also allows us when we get back to not be in a rush he will have all week to do his homework because the dates we get back will run into our sons school spring break that way he can rest after our trip and catch up his homework so the first day back he will have all his homework completed. I am not sure yet if our school will do that Educational Experience form but some schools do this and its worth checking into. Any advice would be appreciated on if its a good idea to take my son out of school in March. Thanks!
Comment by Beth Ann Bentley on January 21, 2009 at 8:30pm
This past October I took my children out of school for five days. Really it could have been four, but I made it five for a couple of reasons. If you take your child out of school for five days and arrange for independent study your public school will still get their ADA money as long as you hand in ALL of the class work on the day you return. This counts for being in school, and yes my son ended up with perfect attendance even though he spent a week in Mexico. It worked out great for us. As a family we were able to spend my father's 70 birthday together and everyone was there. It was a great time and I would totally do it again. By the way, the extra day offered us a day to regroup, finish school work not done yet and catch our breath....well worth it all around.
Comment by Stephanie on January 21, 2009 at 7:27pm
We're not in the exact same situation, however, we took our kids away from everything for a year to travel in our RV! We have always homeschooled so missing classes wasn't an issue, but we had the educational experience for a lifetime.

I love going anywhere when you can miss the crowds. We got whole museums practically to ourselves or we were able to join a school group that happened to be there at the same time. If you can go to places that they are learning about it comes "alive"

Time spent with family and couldn't be better.
Comment by aida alinsub on January 21, 2009 at 2:11pm
I strongly agree with what you said Kelly. I pull out my kids from school to travel around with myself and my husband. Isn't it wonderful to travel around with your kids and learn together all the new places and things you'd be encountering and seeing? This would also be a learning experience for fact a teacher commented to my son , " You're lucky to see the actual exhibits and places ..." Furthermore as parents, it would be a peace of mind seeing your kids safe with you and not leaving them behind for days, wondering how are they doin while you are out of town ...
Comment by Kelley Skoloda on January 21, 2009 at 12:02pm
My kids are like learning sponges when we travel, no matter where we go. So, I've come to believe that the benefits of traveling -- appreciation of cultural diversity, learning about geography, becoming a savvy traveler and more -- outweigh missing a week or two of school. Plus, my kids friends all seem so interested in their travels that they are happy and proud to share their experiences.

Our teachers have all been so cooperative. I give them plenty of notice and we take all homework with us and do it on the plane. The kids have not missed a beat and have gained a great deal with traveling.
Comment by Julie Bonn Heath on January 21, 2009 at 11:00am
I've always had issues with this too. My kids also like their "perfect attendance" but what do ya do? Hard and expensive to travel during breaks and even when we do, sometimes a day or two overlaps on one side of the break (or weekend) for very valid reasons such as airfare. Up until now, I have honored what they wanted the best that I can but not so sure I could if we got some amazing opportunity to go out of the country for a few weeks! Problem-am I telling them school attendance doesn't matter if I do this? Am I telling them that "fun" and "family time" is a higher priority?




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