Taking children out of school for family vacations is illegal in many (probably most) school districts in the US, Canada, Great Britain and Australia. Most school districts have specific policies regarding absences for reasons other than illness. Some districts allow a limited number of days (usually fewer than four) for such activities – if permission is obtained beforehand. Parents who ignore the rules can be summoned to court and fined and children may be obliged to attend summer school. However, such punishment is rarely carried out. In Great Britain, attendance officers sometimes check airports and railroad stations in the days before vacations for children traveling while school is still in session.
Yet surveys suggest that parents fairly regularly ignore the rules. On Google, the topic “Taking children out of school for vacations” has 169,000,000 responses! Here are some representative responses, from parents, educators, pediatricians, and psychologists.
● The leading reasons for parents taking children on vacation during school time are significantly lower travel costs and a parent’s vacation time falling while school is in session.
● The decision to take a child out of school should be based on the grade the child is in, the child’s scholastic abilities, whether essential lessons will be missed, the child’s feelings about missing school, the philosophy of the teacher(s) on the subject, and the school’s policy. Likely, children in lower grades will miss little essential work – though this is an assumption.
● A child being absent from school disrupts the class and increases the workload for teachers. Some children are out for a week or two for travel. For the family, a child out of school is one absence. For the teacher of a class of 20 or 30, there may be numerous absences during the school year. This means repeating lessons and assigning and checking makeup work, slowing learning for everyone. The class should not be held back for absences that are not essential.
● I wonder if the people who think that it is a mortal sin to take children out of school for well thought out family trips are aware that a cornerstone of modern education is that all children do not learn the same way. Many high schools today have buildings where the students spend little time and where books and blackboards merely supplement other forms of learning.
● What are you teaching children when you swap a week of school for a sunny beach? They learn that attendance, and by extension, education, isn’t a priority. Schooling needs to come first, and nothing, not even deals on a Disney cruise, trumps attending school.
● I teach in a top rated junior high school in an affluent community. I am appalled by how often parents tell me (they don’t ask me) that the student will be absent for an upcoming trip. And I am appalled by how often the parents and students tell me that the trip is “educational” when in fact it is absolutely not. We teachers laugh about these lies in the teacher’s lunchroom. The lies show a total lack of respect for teachers.
● Travel should be an integral part of a child’s education. A semester overseas is becoming the norm at colleges and universities. Younger children should be encouraged to travel, obviously during vacation time if at all possible. However, taking meaningful, short trips – to historical places or capital cities, or with exposure to a different culture, for example – trumps missing a few days of school.
● Children have more than three months of vacation a year. Surely, parents should be able to find time for travel and visiting relatives in that time frame. Perhaps travel during vacation time is a bit more expensive, but these are facts of life, a lesson that young children have to learn to become responsible adults.
● When you take children out of school for unauthorized reasons, do you level with the teachers or do you make up excuses – a family emergency, for example? Once you get started on the road of deceit with the school, and worse, if your kids are old enough to understand what you are doing, what appears to be merely a few days of playing hooky (unauthorized absence) ends up being a big lie.
● I am a forty-year old mother. My two children attend junior high school. Somewhere in my junior high school years my father attended a conference in Athens, Greece. I was taken out of school to go along, probably for a week or so. When I think of my junior high school years, Athens is the first thing that I remember.
● In our school, the administration is supportive of short trips during school time. When the children return they are expected to give a talk on their experiences and bring back pictures and typical objects to show. Possible negative fallout from this is that other children are envious of the ones traveling. Remarks heard – probably emanating from their parents – are that the kids who travel are rich and spoiled.
● A significant issue in our school district is teachers “calling in sick”, usually before a school holiday, to extend their time off. Not a good example for parents and children.
● One advantage of home schooling children – an option that seems to be increasing in popularity – is that you can take your children anywhere at any time. Their education travels with them.