Sunday, August 29, 2010

Do you travel while the kids are in school? Back to School tips!

School is in session and trips are put on the back burner for many families.  Learning means sitting at a desk, reading books, taking tests, and doing homework.  Do you only vacation during breaks and summer time?  Many families follow this routine in fear that their child's education may be at risk for missing school days.

I was raised in a family where school was the number one priority and received the "perfect attendance" award almost yearly up through middle school.  Now having my own children I find this to be a battle within myself to decide what I consider most important in my life.  Does it hurt to allow my kids to miss a week or two of school to travel abroad?  For my husbands line of business, winter time and colder weather means more time off and summertime is a challenge for longer trips.

Travel can be educational, in fact I believe any sort of travel is true hands-on education.  From learning to ride local transit, to visiting museums, learning to swim or snorkel and the simple task of listening and following directions.  In my adulthood I have learned so much more than I ever have in any classroom by traveling.  New cultures, history and the art of getting lost in new places. 

While not every family believes it is OK to remove children from school to travel, I've had many discussions with other families and compiled a list of tips for taking those school days off to travel.

Tips for School friendly travel

1. Keep your child's teacher informed.  Speak with them prior to making plans and make sure your travels don't interfere with any "major" school activities

2. Most parents I spoke to believe that traveling while kids are in Elementary and Middle school has less impact on education. High School is considered a more important time since future colleges and employers take these four years for applications.

3. Check out your school districts limits or rules on "excused absences".  Even though you may be allowing your child to take the time, your district may have their own allowance and can even hold your child back a grade if they miss too many days.

4. Plan a specific educational outing during your trip. A museum, zoo, aquarium or any place that offers new sightings for your child.  Planning a trip based on something they are learning in school would be even more amazing!  Even for a young child learning ABC's you could spend the day at the park finding objects starting with each letter of the alphabet.

5. Use school time for more local travel. Trips within a 1-2hr drive from home. Take a three day weekend and that way your child only misses one day of school.  Want to go farther? Check out your local transportation.  See if there is a train that can get your farther, faster!

6. Use school time for solo or couples travel! Leave the kids home to stay in school while you spend a four day weekend or even a week long trip away.  No guilt about school and more playtime for the adults!

7. Does your childs class provide the opportunity for "show and tell"? Talk with the teacher to see if your child can share with classmates what they learned during the trip.  This builds up speaking skills for your child, as well as assure your teacher that your child is in fact learning while he/she is gone from the classroom.

8. Listen to your children, ask them if they want to travel and if they are feel caught up in school.  If your child is struggling, maybe it's not the best time to take them out for a trip to Disneyland.  Hold off on vacation until you feel your child is ready. Saving cash to travel in the off season isn't worth putting your child behind in education.

9. Have a child headed for college? Traveling with your children young may lead to future educational trips of their own, such as doing a semester at Sea. Something I wish I had done myself as a young adult.  What a great opportunity for learning and traveling all in one!


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