Should you take your kids out of school to travel?

We all need vacations, but when is it a problem to take kids out of school for a holiday? We spoke to parents and a school principal to hear both sides of the story.

By Adrienne Brown

Should you take your kids out of school to travel?
©iStockphoto.com/Kali Nine LLC
When Kathryn, a mother of two from Richmond Hill, Ontario, was presented with the opportunity to take her kids on a Disney Cruise mid-school year, she hesitated. Her daughter, who was then in Grade 3, would have to miss a week of school -- something the school principal and teachers had both strongly discouraged.

Pulling kids out of school for vacation
But some of Kathryn's friends had previously taken their kids out of school -- for a variety of reasons, including extenuating circumstances with grandparents, the fact that it's far less expensive (and less stressful) to travel outside of school schedules, and sometimes parents just can't make their own schedules work around the school year -- and had good experiences, so Kathryn went for it.

Kathryn encouraged her daughter to plug through the homework her teacher had sent along (the same work the rest of her class was working on over the course of the week) and had her read from her French book for at least 20 minutes each day while they were on their Disney Cruise.

However, Ken Arnott, an elementary school principal in the York Region District School Board and the current president of the Ontario Principals' Council, says he encourages parents to keep their kids in school consistently.

"There's new learning every day," he says, and parents don't always realize how demanding the day-to-day learning is, even for elementary students. "There's no substitute for in-class work," he explains.

While Arnott says he would certainly encourage students to attend school every day they can, he also understands when parents pull their kids from class for certain circumstances, such as to visit grandparents, for example. If the only time your little ones can see their grandma and grandpa is during the school year, it's up to you to balance what's most important.

The onus is not on the teacher
If you decide to take your kids out of school for a period of time, don't expect their teachers to cater to your new itinerary. Teachers develop specific lesson plans and schedules for their classes, and it isn't their responsibility to come up with adapted lessons or to photocopy worksheets so your child can keep up from a distance.

That isn't to say that teachers won't do so -- because many will. Kathryn's daughter's teacher prepared a study package to send home before their family trip.

Similarly, Kathryn's friend Alex, also from Richmond Hill, had teachers send home journalling tasks and daily reading assignments -- which she says was just the right amount of work for her son's situation.

"Both his homeroom teacher and his special ed teacher were of the frame of mind that family time is of paramount importance," says Alex. "And seeing as we take a trip with 13 family members, we felt -- as did his teachers -- that was more important than five school days."


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