Family Vacations During School- Worth the Trouble?
Okay- we've all been there. After months of planning for the perfect family vacation, you arrive at your destination, only to find that there are 10,000 other families who have had the same great vacation idea. Long lines, filled rooms, higher rates, and inaccessible restaurants can make you wish that you never left home to begin with.
In order to combat this phenomenon, many families have begun to take vacations at off-peak times, namely, while school is in session. While this may work on a monetary level, taking your children out of school during regular teaching time can have negative consequences on their achievement in the classroom.
In most states there are laws which require students' attendance, unless there is an excusable reason for the absence. Excused absences include issues such as a death in the family, medically-documented illness, court appearances, and the like; in general, family vacations are not approved absences. Schools are often required by law to follow up on students who have a specific number of unapproved absences; these follow ups can range from contact with the school attendance officer to referral to a social service agency in the state. Even though the school may know where your children are and why they are out of school, the administration of the school still may be required to file a report on the absence.
In addition to the regulatory issues which can arise from family vacations, students who miss a significant number of days are at risk for lower achievement in the classroom. Many teachers begin new material each week, and the instruction and classroom discussion which takes place during the teaching process cannot be duplicated with make up work. This is especially true in the winter in spring months, a time when many families head to warmer climates for a week of R&R; at these times of the year a great deal of new information is being introduced to students, and important lessons will certainly be missed. In addition, many states have state-wide achievement testing on specific dates, and children who miss these tests risk having failing scores listed on their records.
If you absolutely feel you must take a vacation during school time, here are some tips to think about:
Before booking any vacation plans or spending any money, first be sure to check with your school either by reading the student handbook or by calling the guidance department. They can give you specific regulations the school has in place governing family vacation absences. This can help you to stay within the rules of the school and the laws for your state.
You should try not to remove students from school during the week after a regular vacation. Teachers often present new concepts and information in many subject areas during this period, and taking your child out means missing all of that important information.
Consider taking a partial off-season trip. Try leaving a day or two before a regularly scheduled vacation instead of taking a whole week off during school. Teachers are more likely to be doing review work the day before a vacation.
Instead of taking a vacation to a family "hot spot" such as Florida, think about taking a trip to a less-frequented destination during the regular school vacation time, instead. There are often great off-season deals in unexpected locations. Check the Internet for ideas in your area.
Make sure you have a plan to help your child make up not only the book work missed, but arrange for some tutoring time with the teacher when you return. Some teachers have before or after school hours when they are available to help students, and a few sessions with the teacher can help bring your child back up to speed in the classroom.
Remember that it is your responsibility to be sure that your child has made up all of the work they are required to complete. Failure to finish work missed can result in failing grades. Also, some schools may not choose to give make-up work until your child returns to class; be aware that this may add some additional stress and responsibility to your life when you return home.
The best vacation is one where outside concerns are not at the forefront of your mind the entire time you're away. By making some adjustments to your vacation schedule or plans, your child's absence from school does not have to be one of those concerns.
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Ms. Cummings has a B.A.in psychology, and a M.Ed. in special education from Framingham State College in Massachusetts. She has been an elementary teacher in Massachusetts for almost 10 years, serving both regular education and special education students. She has taught grades 1,4, and 5.
"I believe that families' involvement in their child's education is one of the key ingredients to creating a successful school experience for children. Keeping parents informed about school-related issues helps parents and teachers work together for the best possible outcomes for their children. Learning together makes learning fun - for everyone!" - Jennifer Cummings. .