A few weeks ago on Facebook, another blogger posted this video from the Today Show in which the anchors discussed whether parents should be able to pull their kids out of school for family vacations. It’s not just that the absences would be considered unexcused, it is actually considered illegal in some states.
As a homeschooling family, I find this debate really compelling. It seems to me it is one more situation in America where parents are ultimately losing the right to make decisions for their family. I also find it interesting that we relate merely time in the classroom to the ultimate measure of what is “learned.” You can be one of the valedictorians of your high school and still have much to learn upon graduation. (*Cough* Cough* ME *).
I spoke to a few friends of mine that are educators – one in the US and one in Australia. They feel that taking children away from school creates a difficult scenario for the teachers because oftentimes the kids come back from the trip and are behind in their work and then the parents expect the teacher to catch the child up. (Oh, no no no) I can see how this can create a problem.
Last year when we traveled to Australia, Jackson would have missed close to 20 days of school (17 for travel, a few extra for jet-lag since we were up til 2 am the first few nights). As a way to supplement, we did school for one week of Christmas break, and while we still finished up at Memorial Day, we started up again the 2nd week of July. I don’t think our 4 weeks break suffered him anything but rich experience.
Also, when I was at my parents house not too long ago, I found my report card from my year on exchange. I missed 23 days of class! I’m sure I made it up in the social skills I learned while living with people I’d never met (yikes!) and giving impromptu speeches. I also learned so much about the culture and political environment and industry. 23 days was nothing!
Now I realize that this experience is out of the norm, but I think we totally disregard skills learned during travel. At the least of things- how about real world skills like boarding an airplane, figuring out distance and time to the destination, exchanging currency (if applicable).
If going to the ocean there are so many things to learn- tides, ecosystems, maybe even just more time spent as a family to hone cooking skills with mom or learn the physics of flying a kite with dad.
Yes, these things could be done at home or in school, but in a world of rushed families where many parents both work full-time, doesn’t family time win? Don’t studies show that even if Junior has dinner with mom and dad 5 nights a week he will be more successful than someone who scores all A’s in school?
What do you think- should parents have full-range to pull kids out from school for family travel? Should there be different restrictions- i.e. going to a National Park v. going to Disney World? Or maybe you homeschool for this very reason- the flexibility of your time for travel and outings?