I know it seems like right now nobody is traveling anywhere, but today I wanted to talk about a topic that’s near and dear to my heart – traveling with kids during the school year and having them miss school. We have traveled quite a bit with our family, both as an entire family of 8 as well as individually with a parent traveling with one or more kids.
Benefits of traveling with your kids during the school year
There are a ton of benefits of traveling with your kids during the school year. First of all, you’re likely to have fewer crowds if you can avoid traveling during peak travel times. Everyone is traveling during the summer, or on spring break or over holiday weekends.
Disney World for a family vacation in November is a whole different experience than Disney World in June, July, or on school holidays! Along those same lines, you’re likely to save money if you can travel in the off-season or during shoulder season. Hotels, airfare, and attraction costs all rise during peak travel time since those places know that is when everyone is traveling! A possible additional minor side effect is that your kids might think it’s “cool” to blow off school attendance to go on a family trip 😉
And these are on top of all of the great benefits that traveling has in general. What better way to learn about the world and history than by actually EXPERIENCING the world! Is it better to just READ about the Roman Empire? Or see actual Roman Ruins on the coast of Spain?
Family trips aren’t just school breaks. They can also be a way to enhance a child’s education even if that’s not how your child’s teacher sees being a student.
Challenges of having your kids miss school for a family vacation
A lot of the challenges of having your children miss school for vacation depend on the age of your child and your school district. It’s certainly true that some schools and school districts are stricter about attendance than others. We have been lucky in that our kids have been mostly younger and in school districts that were less strict about kids missing school during the school year.
Student attendance policies can vary. Some schools have compulsory attendance while others have a more flexible attendance policy.
Generally, they would send a small packet of work home to be completed over the duration of the trip. For younger students, the teachers would ask our child to complete a daily diary of what they did on their trip so they could present it back to the class when they returned. In general, elementary school kids can plan around the school calendar easier than older children given that parents can school them wherever the family trip may take them.
And of course, we homeschool several of our kids, which makes things even easier. I (the parent) can just ask myself (the principal) whether it’s okay to take a trip during the school year. I (the school principal) double-check with my wife (the teacher) and then tell myself (the parent) – “Sure thing!” 🙂
Most schools are focused on the student‘s success. School leaders don’t want kids to be habitually truant but they’re willing to be flexible as long as the work gets done and the student remains prepared for a return to school.
Is missing school okay in middle school and high school?
As I’ve mentioned before, we’ve homeschooled our kids as they got older, so we haven’t had to deal with pulling kids out of middle school or high school for vacation. We typically will still do some light schooling while on vacation, and of course, build in the actual places where we’re at into our curriculum. During our trip to Spain, just being out and seeing the sites allowed us to teach history, art (the Sagrada Familia!), and of course foreign language!
Schools, it should be noted, might be more accepting of this kind of trip than say a Disney vacation. It helps to ask first and see if you can get an excused absence.
Whether it’s okay to miss school in middle school and high school is going to be very dependent on your child, your school district and your state laws. Of course, as your child gets older the course load becomes more intense, and the expectations are higher. As you get into high school where the expected homework load gets higher, it may not make sense to have them miss much time. This is especially true as you get into high school where missed school may have an impact on things like grades, class rank and preparation for testing. Again, only you as a parent will know the right answer to this.
Excused absences may be possible as long as you start planning early, get needed assignments done, and communicate how many days of school will be missed.
How many school days are kids typically allowed to miss for vacation?
How many school days kids are typically allowed to miss for vacation varies widely by state. The easiest way to find out how many school days are kids typically allowed to miss for vacation in your state is to Google <your state> truancy laws. Several states are decriminalizing truancy and other states never had it as a criminal offense anyways. On top of state laws, school districts have a fair amount of leeway in determining how strictly to enforce things. Remember too that in most cases, illness is not considered an unexcused absence, so only you know whether little Johnny is…. “sick” 🙂
I hope that this has given you some ideas as to the benefits and drawbacks to having your kids miss school for vacation. What is your position? Leave it in the comments!
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The number one indicator of a child’s future success is the education level of the child’s parents- so if the child comes from a successful family, then missing a few days of schools doesn’t not matter , in the long run
We took our kids out of school frequently in elementary and middle school, including one year when we took them out of school for a full month for an American History roadschooling trip. As a family we have visited every continent, and I consider travel a very important part of their education. That said, once they reach high school where grades and tests matter, we have had to limit our vacations to long weekends and school breaks. Fortunately, our school district has 10-day Fall and Spring breaks, which we take full advantage of!
I think once you hit high school, this can become an issue, but before that, should be ok. High school starts to get tricky with what needs to be done when, esepcially the later years with things like AP tests and SATs, but teachers usually have the year planned out and can help direct you.
Just don’t expect the teacher to come up with “special” assignments for your kids. They might request a report on the trip or an aspect of it, but I’ve seen people wanting teachers to come up with a special curriculum for a kid going on vacation with assignments for places the teacher has never been and languages they don’t speak. They may be able to give you guidance as to what to look for or do.
I would also controversially say, does it really matter so much when they are younger? How big of an impact will missing a week and just having fun do for a small kid? You can’t do it every month, but once a year shouldn’t be hugely detrimental.
I totally agree on both points!
This is a frustrating topic for my family. We have 5 kids. The oldest is 10. We like to do a 2 week Disneyland trip every couple years in February. The park is almost empty and room rates are super cheap (plus we’re from Oregon so we like splash mountain in the rain anyway!). In Oregon, the truancy law is 8 half-days in a 30 day period. This technically means even a 1 week trip is a no-go. And illness is unexcused unless you have a doctor’s note. We believe in being honest with our fellow man, so we don’t fib about sickness…much. You get a nastygram from the Sheriff after missing 3 or 4 days. We’ve managed to make it work so far, but they sure do make a big deal about a couple elementary students missing a few days. The teachers are always ok with it and just send work packets with us. But it’s never fun to be treated like a bad parent by the school district and the county when you’re just trying to make memories (especially if it’s 1 time every other year).
Yeah – different states have different laws, and that stinks for you. I totally agree with you that especially for elementary school kids, this is SO not a big deal. I guess you could always move 🙂
We traveled twice, 1st 4 months then 5 months 2 years later. Took the kids from elementary school, grade 3+5, then 5+7 to ” backpack” around South America. Perhaps best thing we have ever done. One month after our return kids completely back to normal in everything. This was ~16 years ago. Son is a computer coder and daughter finishing master’s degree so didn’t harm them. Tried online schooling but really didn’t work back then, journaling was really the only thing we did regularly.
That’s awesome – I’m sure the memories and experiences that they got on those trips WAY outpaced anything that they might have “missed” in school