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 to 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 *).
The view of educators
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 you didn’t). I can see how this can create a problem. Fundamentally, we have missed the boat when we expect teachers to be responsible for the education of our child. (That soapbox for another day).
When we traveled to Australia in 2016, Jackson would have missed close to 20 days of school- 17 for travel, a few extra for jet-lag since we were up till 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 before Memorial Day, we started up again the 2nd week of July. I don’t think our 4-week break suffered him anything but rich experience.
Just this past week, we were traveling in Indiana. In one day we were able to visit a WWII ship and Lincoln’s Boyhood Home. Our children were able to hear stories from a WWII veteran in the morning, and in the afternoon they asked what slavery was and why did Abe Lincoln dislike it? Maybe these conversations could have happened in a classroom, but how much more poignant for children to SEE them firsthand, and be able to get an answer from their parents.
I was at my own parent’s house a while back and I found my report card from my year as an exchange student. I missed 23 days of class! What I missed in lectures, I made up for in learning social skills, especially living with people I’d never met before. I gained public speaking skills by giving impromptu speeches to my Rotary club or community members. I also learned so much about the culture and political environment and industry. 23 days was nothing!
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, and exchanging currency (if applicable).
Learning while traveling
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? 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!
Does the type of travel matter? Do you feel differently about a week in Washington D.C. than you would about a week at Disney World? If the child is already performing well in school do you have more tolerance for his/her parents removing them from the classroom?
What are your thoughts on pulling kids out of school for vacation?