Great travel writers often talk about the glories of traveling while there are no crowds during the elusive shoulder season. Have you heard about this? It’s the sweet spot in the calendar between Easter and Memorial Day as well as Labor Day and Columbus Day when the weather is lovely and the crowds are at their least. Well, that’s great to know! But what happens when you have kids? What happens when you only get to travel in the Summer because of the school calendar? How do you make the decision to pull your kids out of school for travel?
There is no greater cheerleader for the “travel as education school” than me. Believe me, I wish I had that handy bus that Ms. Frizzle has. But she probably had to write like 300 education grants to get it and I don’t have that kind of time! I’d take my students everywhere. But federal funding doesn’t cover it so its up to parents to use travel to their kids’ advantage.
Pulling kids out of school can be a very big decision and a lot of factors should be taken into consideration. First, can your child afford to miss the instruction? If your child is a struggling student, particularly in reading, please think twice if your trip is worth the instructional time lost. However, if your child is an overall strong student, you certainly have more wiggle room. Second, is the trip educational in nature? If you are going to Disney, you are not taking an educational trip! I love Disney too but it’s not educational. Now, go a bit further south to the Everglades and you’ve got my attention. Are you taking a swamp tour to learn about alligators? Perhaps you are helping count dolphins over by Marco Island. Now, that’s fun and still educational.
Don’t get me wrong! Please, by all means ride the rides in Tivoli Gardens but don’t forget to try some new amusement park snacks and check out the local castle action over at Rosenborg. If you are in Australia, check in at Australia Zoo for a few “Crikey!” moments but also learn about the Aborigines. In short, provide educational opportunities and have fun.
If you have decided to make a commitment to travel during the school year, be sure to notify the teacher. A lot of times, they can schedule things for your child around your trip. I once had a family going away for a long weekend, only missing two days. Thank goodness they told me because I needed to assess my student in reading and the data was due while they were gone. Simply knowing that they wouldn’t be here let me put their child at the top of my list and ensured that I had her numbers on time.
Conversely, don’t ask me for make up work. I don’t have it prepared and I’m not spending 20 minutes on gathering it all up so that it can be done in ten minutes the night before you return. Instead, I’ll keep the one or two things that really, truly need to be done and you can work on it later. In fact, if you would like to do a report on your trip, I’ll probably wave all of that work to see where you’ve been. Find out what your teacher is comfortable with and stick with it.
Know your district’s attendance policy. Some districts have travel under excused absences and others do not. Be prepared for a little flack from the principal’s office. You may even be labelled a “chronic absentee”. Be ready to shoulder that kind of consequence. But if your trip checks all the boxes, creates lifelong memories, and broadens horizons, scheduling a trip in the shoulder season might just be the ticket!