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.