5 tips for planning family travel during your child’s school year

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Reading homework while abroad in Spain
Practicing reading first grade “decodables” for school on the balcony of our apartment in Spain as the sun sets.

Following the earlier post this week, “Will you take your kids out of school for travel,” we had some interesting discussion on the Travels with Baby facebook page about when, if ever, it’s wise to do so (click here to add your thoughts to the thread). Much depends on the child, the trip, the age or grade of the student, when the absences fall and how many there will be, and I don’t think there can be one cut-and-dried answer on this topic.

Yet clearly there is much to be gained through travel, whether through experiencing other cultures—or perhaps one’s own grandparents culture in a far off land, seeing mind-blowing geology firsthand, peering into a steaming volcano, discovering exotic or endangedred wildlife, visiting a famous museum filled with dinosaur fossils or ancient clocks. We should all be so lucky in life to experience any of these things, let alone when we are young, impressionable, and inspired to make choices shaping the rest of our lives based on these firsthand experiences.

Traveling during summer vacation, or peak vacation weeks during the school year, is not always the answer. For a family of four, traveling to Europe in summer can easily cost three and even four times what it will in the shoulder seasons, putting such an experience of the reach of many who might otherwise–in the shoulder season–be able to plan the trip of a lifetime (at the time, the 2-bedroom apartment above with full kitchen and laundry rented for 330 Euros for 1 week in the off season – read my review here). Also, as one mother pointed out in the discussion, travel to visit family in India in sweltering summer months is to be avoided when possible, yet traveling there for only one week during school break is not enough for such a lengthy and expensive journey.

 Whatever the reasons your family may be contemplating travel during school time, here are some tips to help plan as smooth an excused absence for travel as possible.

  1. Try to combine your trip with any long holiday weekends or school vacations in a way such that you can minimize the number of school days missed. Take a look at the school calendar to check for odd days off for district holidays, teacher training days, and public holidays your own workplace might not observe, but public offices and schools do. (And remember that, while Thanksgiving is one of the most expensive times to travel in the US, the 4-day weekend is low season in most other countries.)
  2. Find out the specific number of absent days allowed before an independent study is required by your school or school district (for us, it’s five). To ensure your school does not lose money due to your child’s absences, it’s your responsibility to file the proper paperwork to set this up with your teacher and school. An “independent study” usually means your child will have to complete the equivalent of a set number of instructional hours for his grade level in extra work.
  3. Give your child’s teacher as much advance notice as possible. This will help make sure he or she has time to prepare suitable work for your child to take along, especially if an independent study is required or if your child needs extra help or practice with certain subjects to ensure she doesn’t fall behind.
  4. For longer trips, consider whether the extra “independent study” work required be manageable during your travels, and if your child is up to the challenge of extra schoolwork on top of the rigors of and excitement of the trip you have in mind. As mentioned in the previous post, I was stunned to realize my kindergartener had been assigned 75 pages of workbook to complete during our 10 days of travel and intensive sightseeing, in addition to penmanship exercises and keeping a journal of her trip.
  5. If an independent study is required, beyond regular homework assignments, ask your child’s teacher if  there might be a project related to your travels and things your child will already be learning about during your trip? Is there some aspect of your travels or your destination that fits with current class studies? Wildlife? Geology? History? Culture? Language? Again, giving plenty of advance notice and being in communication with your child’s teacher can be very helpful.

 How about you?

Have your children missed school for travel? Are you contemplating missing a few school days this year for travel? Is there a longer journey your family may make that will need to happen during the school year? Do you have a helpful tip for families facing this dilemma?

Previous post: Will you take your kids out of school for travel?

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Safe journeys,

Shelly Rivoli

Author of the award-winning Travels with Baby and Take-Along Travels with Baby  travelswithbaby.com   facebook   twitter   about the author   

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