Is it OK to take Kids out of School to Travel?

Should you take your kids out of school to travel?
I love to travel, my parents love to travel, as kids my sister and I would occasionally miss school to go on extended overseas vacations. We were lucky enough to travel the world, and the experience and memories are a gift that I will always have with me.

My family wasn’t well off so a way to make travel affordable was to go away during school term, it made the difference between going or never having the opportunity at all.

In just a couple of weeks I’m heading off to London with Emma. I decided last year that it would be a great adventure, so I kept an eye out for affordable flights. It soon became very obvious that any flights that overlapped with the school holidays were over $1000 more expensive EACH than those during term. That’s an extra two to three thousand dollars, crazy! So I made the decision to go during term time, rather than not going at all. For me it was a no brainer.

Is it OK to take Kids out of School to Travel?
But increasingly schools are cracking down on absences due to holidays with the NSW Department of Education recently releasing new a new attendance policy that says says most family trips outside school holidays will now count as an “unjustified” absence on a student’s permanent record.

It’s interesting to note that NSW Department of Education considers absence justified if it involves attending elite sports or an event in the entertainment industry. For example if your child needs to be absent for gymnastics competition or to perform on TV, no problem.

Where a principal considers that the holiday is appropriate during school term, the school will record the absence as leave. Where the principal does not believe the holiday is appropriate, any resulting absences would be considered unjustified.

It seems this ‘missing school to travel’ business is quite a controversial topic. Who knew?

In Victoria (where we live) the policy seems a little more flexible, as long as parent notifies the school in advance and the student completes any Student Absence Learning Plan agreed by the school, student and parent, the principal can excuse the absence.

When Emma started school this year I had a conversation with her teacher about our planned trip. Luckily for us Emma’s school puts a high value on personal development and learning both inside and outside the classroom, so her teacher had no problem with us going. Although he did mention that some children have trouble settling back into a classroom routine, which I agree can be a concern.
I recently mentioned my concern about her missing out on days at school to her art teacher and I was tersely chastised for even mentioning it.

Is it OK to take Kids out of School to Travel?

So is it OK to take your kids out of school to travel?

I asked Deborah Alter-Rasche Parenting & Education Blogger at Learn with Play at Home and qualified school teacher for her thoughts as both a parent and teacher.

“As a teacher and a mum, I sit somewhere on the fence with this issue. I understand why schools have to take this sort of stand. These days parents are expecting more and more from schools. Schools are ranked on scores from tests and as a nation, we want our country to be known for it’s quality education and good results. The problem is, this is hard to achieve for schools when there are always so many people away.

For the majority of our kids, this time spent away from school will do very little in terms of effecting their overall academic results or social skills. It makes planning for classes difficult at times and can effect other students when it comes to your child not being there for their part in a group project, etc. but overall, missing a week or two for a wonderful family experience is not going to hinder your child, in fact I believe in general, quite the opposite. Family holidays and travel, I believe, is so rewarding for children and brings with it incredible experiences and learning opportunities.

Unfortunately though, there are a number of children at risk that do fall further and further behind the more days they are away from school. I’ve seen children become quite disconnected and unsettled after missing school and it is generally for these reasons that schools have to put some sort of rule in place. Why travel isn’t included in acceptable absences though, is beyond me, as we’re all aware of the benefits it can hold. I guess it’s because if they made it seem like travelling outside the school holidays is the acceptable thing to do, everyone would be booking for the cheaper times instead of the school holidays, and schools would be having students missing even more frequently than they do now.

Personally, we’ve got a holiday coming up soon and I’ll be taking my Grade 1 daughter out of school for a week without any concerns what-so-ever!”
Is it OK to take Kids out of School to Travel?
So the answer is going to depend on your child, the school and the experience.

Consider if it’s in the best interests of your child. If your child is struggling at school or in the last years of High school, you may need to reconsider your travel plans and/or sit down with the teacher to work out a learning program that can be incorporated into your travels.

If family travel is important to you, make sure your school has similar values. One of the reasons I chose Emma’s school is because they value a holistic approach to learning. A school that prides itself on only it’s test scores and impeccable attendance record may not be for you.

Apart from just being a cheaper time to travel, I and other parents choose to take family trips during school times for many other reasons.
Many employers don’t allow holidays at school holiday time, so some families have no choice but to take a break mid term. Personally for me family time together takes priority, the Mr has a very project dependent job that only allows small windows of leave between projects, so it’s either take a vacation when you can, or not at all.
Make sure there are learning experiences incorporated into your trip and make them relevant to your child’s curriculum and interests.
This father wrote an excellent letter outlining exactly why a trip the family took was beneficial to his children’s education after he was scolded by a school principal for taking his children out of school.

For me the answer will always be YES.

The world is a classroom – life is the teacher and the subjects are learned everyday from the successes, failures, changes, twists, turns, surprises and contradictions – some brought about through choices and others pre-ordained by destiny. – Eugenie Laverne Mitchell

Do you take your kids out of school to travel?

13 Comments

  • Janice says:

    With so many pressures in our day-to-day lives, family time together is becoming less and less. I truly believe that if you are present in your child’s life and show an interest in their world, they will succeed no matter what. I hope you have the most wonderful time in London with Emma.

  • It rarely works out that Alec’s time off is the same as the school holiday schedule, so we are often taking all three kids out for travel. As a multicultural family, we are quite keen on having our kids know the world outside their neighbourhood. Even though our school is excellent and very supportive of travel and do not require our kids to do any school work on the road, I make sure they keep reading and get involved with the culture wherever we are. They also all keep a travel journal…the drawings, notes and photos they make are such a sweet record of this part of their childhood and also a learning exercise.
    I really hope the school does not go the way of NSW down here in Victoria.

    • Cintia @ My Poppet says:

      Emma an I will be keeping a journal to document her experiences too. We’ve done it in the past when we travelled to Japan and she loves looking through it and recounting stories of the things we did even though it’s been over a year.
      I’m constantly surprised how vividly she remembers travel experiences from when she was only 3!

  • Michelle says:

    As a parent I often took my children out of school to travel and experience other places and cultures. Now as a teacher I only wish I could travel during term time!! If any of my students travel (Grade 3) I am always encouraging and do not send work. I have set up a free blog (using http://www.kidblog.org) and encourage travelling students to post about where they are and upload photos. It means the rest of the class can read about where they have been and respond to posts. It is a very positive experience for everyone.
    Enjoy your travels.

    • Cintia @ My Poppet says:

      What a great idea to set up a blog for your class. We are hoping to send at least one postcard back to school and maybe some photos or even a short video.

  • gaia says:

    I love this post! I had so much frustration with my son profit at school during the last years until we discovered just recently he has a learning desease. I’m so relieved now as I can better understand and help him but the problem is we just did hours and hours of schoolworks for the majority of his after school time for years.This ended up with a frustrating relationship between us so after we finally discovered what the problem was I decided to take him more with me, even if this meant some days off school.Not long trips (we were a long weekend in Milan and a another one in Bologna) but I really needed some “free space” with no school between us.I don’t know if he learnt much, even if I brought him to museums and exibithions,for sure we share some quality time! Thank you for writing this post Cintia!

    • Cintia @ My Poppet says:

      Thanks for your comment Gaia. I think free time together as a family is really important, school and other activities can get so super busy for children. It’s fun and memorable for everyone to break from routine and enjoy being together without the pressure of everyday life. I’m glad both of you are having a happy time together.
      Baci Cintia

  • Kat says:

    Hey Cintia,
    Yay good on you for taking your daughter with you! We are thinking of taking our 2 to Japan next year during school time and I think it’s going to be an enriching experience for them. I doubt we could afford to go during the holidays, and that would be a shame. Even though the kids are young (7 and 5), i think learning about other cultures will open their minds up and help them appreciate where they live and how others live. Go you!!

  • Robin says:

    In my child’s school any absence without a doctor’s note is “unexcused”.
    My kid barely ever misses school, and has “almost” straight A’s ALL the time.
    Here MANY families go on vacation during the school year.

    We took her to Disney World and the other parks in Florida. She had never been on a plane (she is 14).

    USUALLY they have 4 days off in the 1st week in November due to teachers conferences.
    So we planned our trip for that week ….almost a year in advance. What’s ONE day of missing school vs being able to swim with a Beluga whale at Seaworld? !!!!
    Well, when the new school year’s schedule came out they only have THREE days off that week. Ok, so she missed TWO days. So what! She made up the work.

    MANY kids were out those 2 days…in Florida and other WARM places.
    You would not catch me in Florida in the summer….and I think Christmas time would be a bad time to go to Disney….with the parks OVER FILLED with screaming toddlers. LOL
    It was filled enough in November in Disney, but at Seaworld it was not…so it was PERFECT!

    As long as the child can make up the work I see no problem in missing school to get a chance to travel. (Wish MY parents had taken US someplace! LOL)

  • Marina says:

    We took ours out of school for a month last year. We’re lucky that the school (which is a small, friendly primary school) was very understanding and the teachers were even excited about our impending holiday. My little one (at kindergarten age) took a bit of coaxing to get back into the swing of things when she got back to school and was a bit distracted in class (her teacher kept jokingly asking whether she was still up on the Eiffel Tower) but the big one was back to business without a hitch. The experiences they had on the holiday and the memories they now have of that time made it so worthwhile….

  • Peggy Cleary says:

    In the state of California, the Education Code (law) is quite strict on this. Independent Study, or doing work away from school, is permitted only in case of emergency (e.g. grandmother is on her death bed) and only for ten school days, maximum. Any additional days are unexcused. I have taken my daughters for month long vacations to countries all over the world, always during the summer vacation period. We had the wonderful family together and learning time you all talk about, but we didn’t break any rules. Yes, it was expensive and often very hot. It was also wonderful and helped make them into the very special women they are today. We spent the other three seasons saving up for those trips, driving used cars, carrying lunches, wearing second hand clothes, eating in, and all the usual things. I work in a school and keep track of the attendance. One of the concerns I have about some families who take children out during the year or before the end of the year is what they are teaching them about the importance of living up to their obligations in life. If they grow up thinking it’s okay to skip school any time because they want to take a vacation, instead of waiting until it’s legal, if expensive or inconvenient, will they think they can treat a job that way? What kind of future will that lead to?

    • Cintia @ My Poppet says:

      You have some very good points there Peggy, especially about learning the importance of obligations in life. I suppose each country has different holiday schedules. In Australia our longest break is 6 weeks over Christmas and New year, going back at the end of January (which is summer for us). Many employers won’t allow breaks leading up to Christmas so that doesn’t leave much time for a big trip for some families.
      I often wish we had longer summer holidays like in the states, I feel that with all the busyness of Christmas, kids hardly have time to really unwind before school starts back up again.

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