With summer coming to an end, vacation planning transforms into
back-to-school planning. We can start to dream about our getaways
But do we really have to wait an entire year?
Taking children out of school to travel is a highly debated topic among educators and parents. On one hand, it can be more affordable to travel during the school year, and it can offer a unique educational experience that school cannot. But on the other, it can be disruptive to your child's education and daily life.
That disruption is exactly why Alexandria Shanklin, board
certified psychotherapist and DCFS child welfare specialist,
believes education should be the priority, not vacations.
"It is vitally important that children not receive mixed messages from their parents about the importance of their education," Shanklin says.
In addition to setting a bad example for work ethic by skipping
school and activities, taking the kids out of school can impact
kids mentally and emotionally, the mom of two feels.
"Interrupting their daily routine can knock them off kilter as far as the learning process goes," she says. She points out that children also can become very stressed with make-up work and falling behind.
Woodridge School District social worker Gina Pogue-Reeder says
she has seen children develop anxiety when they miss standardized
tests and need to be tested separately.
"I believe that kids need to be in school as much as possible," she says.
According to Pogue-Reeder, not only are they losing classroom
time they can't get back, but they are also missing social
interactions with their peers, which can cause anxiety.
Plus, since the classroom is a collaborative environment, it's also affecting the other students as the teacher needs to slow down lessons to help students just back from vacation catch up.
Despite having to make adjustments, Barrington teacher Lori Anderson is not against parents taking children out of school for a week vacation.
"As educators, we must remember that not all families get
vacation time according to school schedules," Anderson says. "As a
parent, I cherish those moments with my kids."
Anderson believes that wherever you travel, you can turn it into an education. From geography, plant and animal life to the climate, history of the location, and even calculating the tip at a restaurant for a quick math lesson, there always is something to learn.
Learning to read a map, getting along with others during long lines and gaining responsibility by helping plan the trip are just a few of the things travel writer and editor Cindy Richards, a blogger at ChicagoParent.com, says her two children have learned while traveling.
She says she strongly believes that travel is education, whether it's learning to budget a souvenir allowance or history in Colonial Williamsburg.
After taking her children to Mexico, they began studying the Mayan culture in school where they had a more real, in-depth understanding since they had already seen the temples and ruins with their own eyes.
"That's how kids really learn," Richards says. "To actually see it, and touch it, in a way they can't sitting at a desk, in a textbook, or watching a movie on it."
Richards says her children have gained a worldly perspective that is only possible by seeing the way other people live.
Her family got an upclose look into a different culture and poverty during a visit to Jamaica. "You can talk about it, you can see it on the news, but to actually be walking down the street and see it, it becomes real for them," she says.
Parents who travel during the school year often enjoy getting more for their money. Besides the trip costing less, crowds are smaller so there's more time to experience fun, learning experiences and family bonding time.
Travelers and child educators agree, much of the decision about a school year vacation depends on the specific child. If a child is struggling in school, they should not be taken out and get set back even more. Parents need to consider if their child can handle make-up work and missing out on lessons, social interactions and extracurricular activities.
If the answer is yes, the next step, both parents and educators says, is planning ahead and talking to the teacher. Find out what will be missed and be willing to help before, during, and after the trip to help your child catch up.
Educators and travelers both recommend letting the child do research before the trip on the area, and read and keep a journal during the trip.