Mother and son take selfie on vacation


Is It OK For Kids To Ditch School For Family Vacation?

Feb 5, 2018

Around this time of year, after enduring months of a Canadian winter, I find myself rationalizing about the importance of taking a family holiday.

After all, what could be more important than spending time together? You know, at a resort, that’s all-inclusive, with a beach...

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Whether it's to escape for fun in the sun, to see family back home, or visit an exotic destination, taking time off school is a hot-button topic that elicits strong opinions from both parents and educators. Some see holidays as a valuable educational experience that can’t be replicated in the classroom, while others view it as disruptive and detrimental to a student’s success.

I’m afraid too much time away from class will negatively impact her academics.

I have to admit, I’ve always been of the mindset that kids benefit from getting out from behind their desks and actually experiencing the world. In fact, we skipped my daughter’s first day of JK to spend the day in the lake with family. It was the most beautiful day of the short-lived summer, and since she was returning to the same school she had attended previously for daycare, we felt the time was better spent frolicking outside.

Now that my daughter is long past kindergarten, I’m really torn about going away during the school year. I’m afraid too much time away from class will negatively impact her academics.

But some research suggests that students who travel as children have better grades, are more likely to graduate and earn higher incomes as adults. One study says that learning-focused travel enriches academic learning, regardless of a student's ethnicity, family income, age and gender.

Of course the argument can be made that vacations should be restricted to school holidays such as March Break. But travel is much cheaper and less crowded during off-peak times. And not everyone is able to get away in the summer.

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At the same time, I’ve had the opportunity to spend a little time in classrooms and I’ve seen firsthand the disruption that occurs when students miss class. It can be hard to truly appreciate the juggling act teachers undertake to educate our kids until you actually see them in action. I saw the problems that arise when kids aren’t in school: group work falls apart, class experiences are lost and kids can get left behind. It adds stress to teachers who are already stretched when it comes to teaching 25-plus kids.

So should you take your kids out of school for a get away?

Here are some things to consider:

How Is Your Child Doing In School?

Is your child struggling to keep up in the classroom? If so, it’s probably not a good idea to take them out of school for a trip, no matter how educational it may be. Even if your child is excelling at school, consider the number of lessons they will miss and be prepared to help them catch up.

Will Your Teacher Support Your Decision To Travel?

Technically, it’s against the Education Act to take kids out of school for a holiday and in some school boards parents can actually be fined for it (although, most school boards say truancy fines or charges are a last resort). Know your school’s rules and talk to the teacher before booking. You’ll need your child’s teacher’s support to provide missed work.

How Does Your Child Feel About Being Away From Class?

Just because you think your child can handle some time away from school, they might not feel the same way. Your student will be missing lessons as well as social engagement experiences that you may not fully appreciate.

Are You Willing To Help Your Child Catch Up With Work?

Consider how much time and effort you are willing to put in to help your child get caught up. If you’re not great at math or your kid learns in French, you may find yourself hiring a tutor to make up missed lessons.

The decision to take your child out of school is a personal one. For me, I’m not ruling it out. But if I do, it will be with my eyes wide open. For now, I’ll settle for beaching myself on the couch, with an umbrella in my hot chocolate as I dream of spring.


Article Author Laura Mullin
Laura Mullin

Read more from Laura here.

Laura Mullin is a published playwright and writer and the Co-Artistic Director of the award-winning company, Expect Theatre. She is also the Co-Host and Producer of PlayME, a podcast that transforms plays into audio dramas now on CBC. She has worked in theatre, film, and television and lives in Toronto with her writer/producer husband and pre-teen daughter. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @expectlaura.

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