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Trading School for Travel
You can’t always schedule travel for times when your child is not in school. Maybe you have a family reunion out of state, or you have an opportunity to take the family along on a business trip to a fascinating destination. How do you handle the travel during the school year?
It’s a fairly common issue: According to the Travel Industry of America, more than 20 percent of parents take their children out of school in an average year for travel reasons. So you are not alone.
But, especially as your children get older, you may find schools reluctant to have children absent for travel. Increasingly, schools are judged – and sometimes funding is based – on students’ performance on standardized tests, so schools are understandably unhappy when students are absent not only during the tests themselves, but during the classes that prepare for the tests.
In addition, unless students make an effort on their own to keep up while they are away, teachers may have to take valuable time from the rest of the class to bring the returning traveler up to speed. As a result, many schools are taking a hard line against students being absent for travel. At the least, they expect the student to make up any work missed. But some schools refuse to allow the work to be made up, which can have a serious impact on the student’s grades.
Your first step, therefore, should be to talk your child. After all, it is the child who will have to make up the work and whose grades may suffer as a result. If your child finds that possibility stressful, it is unlikely that he or she would enjoy the trip. (On the other hand, if your child is gleeful about going, giving no apparent thought to the impact of the trip on his or her class work or grades, you may want to talk about that, too.)
Next, contact the school. Explain your reasons for going, and any efforts you made to work around the school schedule. Schools are less likely to object if trips are short and unavoidable. For example, you probably won’t run into trouble if you ask for a long weekend to attend a family event far away. But be prepared for resistance if you ask to take your child to Vail for a week because the crowds are smaller and the costs are less.
Obviously, do your best to avoid or minimize travel during test times. Take advantage of the long weekends and seasonal breaks most schools already have built into their schedules. And make it clear that you understand your child will have to do the assigned work during the trip. If you will be gone for a long time, offer to get a tutor so that the teacher does not have to help your child catch up.
Then, follow through. Make sure the child does the work. Most schools let students pick up assignments on a Web site and email finished work in to the teacher. Have your child email the teacher if there is a question.
And do what you can to make the trip educational. Talk to your child about the history and culture of the places you visit. Encourage additional reading on the area. Take a side trip to a museum.
Communicating with the school, being sensitive to their concerns and demonstrating that you understand the importance of learning can help smooth the way with teachers and administrators. In the end, though, you may have to make a decision about whether you and your child think the benefits of the trip outweigh the educational hurdles the child may face when the vacation is over.