Will you take your kids out of school for travel? Why I have, and what I’ve learned…

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Child doing homework on vacation in Costa Rica
Iguana on the roof, howler monkeys in the distance... far better than homework at home by far! (At Casa Vista on the Nicoya Peninsula of Costa Rica - click photo for the full review.)

I remember getting asked that question in an interview early on in my days of traveling with little ones. At the time, it seemed like a ridiculous question – why wouldn’t I? Travel is invaluable and our family’s opportunities rarely come on schedule with school breaks and the high travel seasons. Plus, in those days, giving notice at preschool was not unlike saying, “Guess what?! You’ll have one less toddler on your hands for a while!” and the news was always met with enthusiasm and excitement for our family.

It didn’t change too much after my oldest child started “real school.” While I had to learn to give teachers fair notice and file the paperwork for an “independent study” each time she’d miss more than 5 consecutive school days, the teachers were still very excited for our adventures and recognized the educational value of the experiences themselves. Sure, we had a packet of homework to get through each time, and even in kindergarten my daughter was asked to make a journal of her trip – yet these have become true treasures for our family.

By the time she’d finished first grade, my oldest daughter had already completed three independent studies at school. Everything seemed to be working out just fine with combining our somewhat unorthodox lifestyle and the regimented school calendar, until I mentioned the need for an independent study to the next teacher… and found out that our travels for a work project fell smack dab in the middle of state testing, which her grade would be undergoing for the first time that school year. Oops.

I won’t get into the particulars of how many antacid tablets I popped as we worked through the arrangements, but in the end she was able to complete all of her testing before we left on our trip, and I do believe she probably performed better on the tests by taking them in the quiet learning lab than she might have in the classroom.

Booking travel during the state testing window was not my only mistake, however. At the same time I also gave our new kindergarten teacher only the vaguest details about why we were missing school for travel. Missing kindergarten just didn’t seem like nearly such a big deal next to the mess I was facing with second grade state testing. Oops.

Somehow we ended up with a packet of 75 workbook pages, a penmanship packet, and a journal to keep over the course of our trip. It was more work than she would have been expected to do in the same time going to school and doing kindergarten homework – and somehow she would have to do it while jetlagged in a different time zone and doing intensive sightseeing and learning–I’d hoped–about the culture, geology, and wildlife of our destination.

I might have mentioned we wouldn’t be standing in lines at Disneyland or making sand castles all day long.

Nevertheless, we got through it, and in both cases, the benefits and memories of the travel experiences far outweighed any extra work we had to coordinate. So I’m not afraid to say that, as this new school year begins, I am ruling out another possible independent study for my children if and when opportunity calls. But I admit it’s nice to have at least one child who will still only be missing preschool! I will, however, do my best to make the most of school breaks first and steer clear of testing windows. 😉

How about you?

Will your child miss any school for travel this year? Are you contemplating how you’ll make school year travel work when your child is older and school work, sports, and other commitments are more difficult to juggle than they are now? What are your biggest concerns about your child missing school for travel?

I’ll be back tomorrow with my top tips for planning smooth travels during the school year. 

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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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