I’ve seen a few posts around the Interwebs recently about the controversy surrounding taking kids out of school for travel. I am solidly in the “take them out” camp, even as a former teacher. I think the benefits of travel—no matter if it is to theme parks or Grandma’s house in another state—are superior to anything a child will learn in a classroom on any given day.
Now that is not in any way meant to knock teachers or the curriculum or the educational system. It’s simply my belief in the power of going somewhere outside of your regular sphere to interact with people who live somewhere else, seeing things you’ve never seen before, and learning something new.
Feeling out the System
When we started traveling in earnest in 2015, I had to test the waters, so to speak, with the kids’ school. I would email their teachers ahead of time to ask for any work the kids might miss. I also made sure to schedule trips around weekends and holidays, only missing a couple of days here and there as bookends. For the most part, it was relatively easy, and we didn’t get a lot of flack for it.
Using the System
Last year when we had our annual passes, I actually made a chart to keep track of the kids’ absences. The law in Arizona states that children should not miss more than 10% of the school year. I didn’t know at first that 10% didn’t only pertain to the year as a whole, but was calculated throughout the year. This is where the chart came in handy. I actually went through the school calendar and counted the days to be sure that none of our trips would put them over the 10%. I put in the dates for the 50th, 100th, and 150th days, so that our trips would not cause the kids to go over 5, 10, or 15 absences in those respective time frames. In Arizona, the 100th day is the most important since district funding is based on attendance that specific day. I am very careful to make sure they are there that day. (It does seem a bit ludicrous since that day falls at the end of January when kids could easily be absent for illness as for anything else.)
Living with the System
Last year, though, Maggie became nervous when faced with the prospect of absences. She was worried about having to make up work that she missed. I didn’t think it was that bad. We sometimes got a packet ahead of time, and sometimes the teacher would just tell us that she would work it out once we got back. I’ve always felt the teachers were more than accommodating, so I try to help in any way I can. However, the kids are the ones who have to go to school, who have to do the work, and who have to live with my decision to take them out for trips.
Minimizing Days Off
For our last trip, we picked the kids up on the way to the airport at noon, so they were only out one half day. The rest of the time was a four day holiday weekend. Our next trip coming up is built around a weekend, plus a midweek professional development day, so they will miss the two days of school in between. I’m anxious to see how it goes and how they react to missing those two days.
Looking further ahead, I’m beginning to pencil in trips for our Disney Premier Passports next year. We are lucky to already have our school district’s 2019-2020 calendar in hand, so it’s easy to see where we can take off. However, this is where I am struggling. Given the number of days off and where they fall, it feels like there aren’t enough to go around. I have to take into account the crowd levels of the Parks during regular vacations, besides trying to maximize long weekends and minimize the number of days off.
East Coast Travel
In 2016, when we went to Disney World last time, the kids had a “Fall Break” long weekend, but still had to take five days off since our trip was nine days. That was more than we’ve ever done in one go, but flying to the East coast takes time and lots of points, so I wanted to make sure it counted. Now I’m seeing the same problem. I don’t want to go to Florida for just a few days. Flights cost a lot more there, and traveling pretty much takes up a whole day both there and back.
Making Time for Other Trips
Besides all of that, I have to factor in time for family travel as well. We like to go to Northern California to visit Bryan’s family regularly, and we really should take some trips that don’t include Disney Parks since those mostly will be just me and the kids. Now I feel like each of the different categories of travel—both Disney Parks, family, and “other”—are competing with a very limited number of days in the school calendar. Of course there’s always the summer, but Disneyland and Disney World can be miserably hot in the summer, so we don’t want to rely too much on going at that time. However, the summer can be reserved for those “other” trips, especially to destinations that have milder summer weather.
Only So Many Days
Between the kids becoming more anxious about missing school, and the number of trips we want to take, I feel like our travel calendar is already about to burst at the seams. As I am reassessing our travel goal of Disney Premier Passports, these are the things I’m having to take into consideration.
What are your thoughts? Do you have the same dilemma, or do you not give a second thought to taking your kids out of school?