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Do you take your kids out of school for family trips?

Posted by on September 22, 2011 – 1:45 pm

Pausing by the harbor before a family wedding in San Diego.

My son came home from school last Monday fit-to-be-tied.

“Mom, why did we miss Thursday and Friday of school? I have SO MUCH homework!”

With that, we sat at the table and got started on the work.

The week prior, I had pulled my first grader and third grader out of school to travel to California for my dad’s wedding. The wedding was early on a Friday afternoon, so we had to leave early Thursday in order to be there for all the festivities leading up to the great event.

Missing school was unavoidable. We let the teachers know ahead of time and I prepared the kids (I thought) that there would be a lot to do when we got back.

They read their books for long stretches of our eight-hour drive there (with a baby in tow, it takes longer). We also watched a few educational videos, so they weren’t totally out of the loop.

And to be honest, my son didn’t have that much homework when got back. We spent a few hours getting it done, but it wasn’t unmanageable.

As I thought about this blog, I realized that my son – my oldest – has probably missed at least two days of school each of the last three years because of a family trip. This is the first time, however, that he’s really noticed how much goes on at school when he’s gone.

I don’t take it lightly when the kids miss school. But when it’s the time planned to see grandparents or great-grandparents, I think there’s as much value in that as there is in being in the classroom. We’re avid readers in our home. A day doesn’t go by without a book being picked up for at least 30 minutes. We’re always learning, whether it’s about where we’re going and the distance to get there or the seasons changing (something we don’t see the effects of a lot in the Valley).

One year, we traveled to Indiana in the fall for a family reunion. With everyone come from several states, there was no coordinating the time with everybody’s vacations. This year, if we make the trip, it’s during our fall break.
I think my son will agree with that.

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  • Mike McClellan says:

    Michelle, parents today take their kids out of school for all kinds of reasons . . . and then expect the school to adjust. I had a senior — a senior! — last year who went on a month trip to Europe in December. She missed the last four weeks of the semester.

    Mom wanted teachers to have her do the semester finals in advance — uh, no.

    So the kid came back from Europe with a bunch of “Incompletes” in her transcript. She made up the work in my class, but ended up with a D- after having a C+ before she left.

    Now, I know this is an extreme example, but parents regularly take kids out for all kinds of reasons, mostly for the parents’ convenience.

    It’s irresponsible for parents to behave this way — did your parents regularly take you out of class? My parents never did. Not once.

  • From a Teacher says:

    I completely agree that travel of any kind is extremely educational. However, I also think a student should miss class only as a last resort (obviously a wedding of a close family member qualifies)

    I think people fall back on that excuse too much, that kids will learn while away from school because of an educational experience. Yes, they will learn, but unfortunately, that isn’t what they are “supposed” to be learning in school that day/week. Often times, teachers plan to teach things in levels, in stages. If a student misses that foundational lesson, he or she is always going to feel behind, because they never really got that initial experience/lesson.
    Or often times there is some sort of group activity, research project, presentation, lab experience. When a student is gone from that, the group suffers. Or the student suffers and doesn’t get to participate in that learning activity.
    From a teacher’s perspective, it is really frustrating to have kids absent for any reason. But when a student misses because a family decides their trip is more important than school, it disappointing. It causes extra work for everyone, it negates the series of carefully planned lessons and it does burden the student who misses out on what his/her classmates feel comfortable with.
    That being said, I know there are far too many days in school where not much is misses. I know there are students who can pretty much catch up on anything. And I know that some situations cannot be helped. But I do ask that you keep in mind how much work a teacher puts into planning everything in sequence.

  • Kate says:

    We only pull our daughter out during break unless we can’t avoid it. My husband could only get certain days, and her only living Grandparents are in their 80’s, and they live 1500 miles away. If possible, we had work for her to on the way, or before she returned. We have not expected tests to be put on hold, or her her absence to not count. That being said, we do have one doctor who does not schedule much later than 2:30.

  • tookie88 says:

    I am a teacher and I understand that some trips involving certain family events (weddings, funerals, etc) can’t be avoided. What I see is more parents taking their kids out of school for vacations that could have been taken during the summer or other breaks. Most of these trips aren’t to see relatives, but to Disneyland, Sea World, even Hawaii. Parents have no problem telling me that they got this “screaming deal” and had to go. The reason why they are “screaming deals” is because kids are in school! What really bothers me is when parents ask me to spend more time with their child after or before school to help them get caught up. I don’t mind helping, but when it is expected of me and I have to loose time with my own family as a result of someone else’s vacation…well, it bothers me and is unfair to ask any teacher.