Missing School for Family Trips

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From time to time, a public school schedule just doesn’t work with family travel. Check out these prep tips for missing school for family trips.

Missing School for Family Trips | Life as Mom

This post is written by Life as MOM contributor, JessieLeigh:

Whether it’s for a holiday getaway or any other vacation or trip, many families will find themselves pulling their children from school for a span of time in order to travel. For some, this might just be a day or two to extend a weekend. For others, it could be a week or more to accommodate a longer trip.

Missing school for family trips is not a bad thing, there are plenty of great reasons to do so. Just know the right way to go about it for your school. Here are some things to consider before you pack your bags.

Missing School for Family Trips

Consider the can’t-miss obligations.

While almost everything that happens at school can be made up or covered at home, there may be certain tests or special events that aren’t so easy to replicate. If at all possible, keep these in mind when scheduling family vacations. Consider things like advanced placement examinations, regional auditions, or major games/meets. For older children, in particular, these events can have lasting impact on placement and financial aid in college. Missing an algebra quiz? Probably not a big deal. Missing the A.P. Calculus test? Decidedly more significant.

Give teachers plenty of notice.

I have found that most teachers are supportive and encouraging of family travel and exploration, particularly if provided plenty of notice. If your trip is not last-minute or an emergency, let the teachers know at least a couple weeks ahead of time that your child will be missing school for a family trip. Not only will this give them the opportunity to alert you of any significant material that might be missed, but it also allows them enough time to provide a list of assignments that should be completed.

Some teachers may even assign a special homework project, such as a travel journal, to keep the child’s mind working, while also recognizing the unique situation of being on the road. Perhaps your child can research the place you’ll be visiting or explore new cuisine or landscape. The options are truly endless for ways to incorporate travel into studies and you might be surprised how creative and inspiring some teachers’ ideas can be!

Keep in mind that teachers want the same thing you do– for your child to be successful– and staying in open communication is one of the best ways to work together toward this goal.

Missing School for Family Trips | Life as Mom

Familiarize yourself with attendance policies.

Every school has an attendance policy, likely outlined in a school handbook or available online. Find out what your school’s is. Is there a limit to the number of days a child can miss? Are some absences considered “unexcused”? What type of note or documentation is required?

Don’t be surprised or alarmed if your school considers family vacations “unexcused” and places a restriction on the number of days permitted. Contact your principal or administrator and let her know about your plans. In most cases, the school simply needs to know about your plans so they are aware it isn’t an ongoing truancy problem that could be detrimental to education. Assuring them that you’ve notified the teacher(s) and are on top of assignments should be adequate. It’s best to do this before your trip, however, to prevent any phone calls or notices upon your return home.

Set expectations for your child.

Make sure your child knows what you expect from him while you are away. If he’ll still be required to read a half hour a day, be sure he is aware of this and has adequate and appropriate reading materials. Take a moment to make a list with him of any school materials he should be sure to pack, so he’s not left ill-prepared. Consider including a journal or spiral notebook for him to jot notes and inspiration in.

Reassure your child that he can still have a great time on the trip, even with some homework expectations still in place. Remind him that staying on top of reading and assignments throughout the vacation will help eliminate last minute panic and overwhelm associated with trying to get everything done at the last minute.

Check and double-check.

Finally, before you set off on your family vacation, make sure all your i’s are dotted and t’s are crossed. Send a final email to the teacher, reminding her that your child will be out of school for a set range of dates. Send a note in to the main office, indicating what days your child will be missing, with your signature and contact info. Remind your child to bring home any materials she will need in order to complete assigned work. Double-check that your child has, indeed, packed the items you listed together to ensure you won’t be stuck trying to find a Walmart in between visiting Disney World!

Travelling with family can be a joyful and educational part of childhood. Having children enrolled in public school doesn’t mean you can never travel outside of scheduled breaks. Keeping open communication and taking the steps to be prepared will allow you to take trip with minimal impact on your child’s learning. Then you can focus on what’s most important– spending time and having fun with your family.

JessieLeigh - 125– A mother of three, including a 24 week preemie, JessieLeigh is a determined advocate for even the tiniest of babies. She can be found celebrating life’s (sometimes unexpected) miracles and blessings at Parenting Miracles.

You can read all of Jessie Leigh’s posts for Life as MOM here.

What do you do to make missing school for family trips go more smoothly?

About Jessica Fisher

I believe you can get great meals on the table -- and still keep that pretty smile on your face.

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  1. karen b says

    With my hubbys occupation summer vacas are not easy……….w/ that being said we have taken our children out of school for a week multiple times over the years. I have just let the schools know early on then remind them the week before & always, always ask for makeup work. We have one that has graduated & a senior this year plus another in hs & we have never had an issue when we have taken them out. Totally agree w/ this post it can be done!!!!!!

    • JessieLeigh says

      Thanks for sharing your experiences, Karen! I really do think the early notice makes a huge difference for many schools and teachers. 🙂

  2. Christie says

    Thanks for posting about this. I tend to feel like school takes priority over most anything, unless it is something like a wedding or funeral that can’t be rescheduled. At my daughter’s school, I hear of kids missing for a day to go to Disneyland, for instance, when they have passes and go regularly anyway. That frustrates me quite a lot. I know of a family who took their kids out of school twice last year for a week each time to go on a Disney Cruise. For me, that would never happen. I understand conflicting schedules and “educational” trips, but just playing hooky for something you can do anytime is not setting a good example. I am trying to instill in my kids the importance of being at school (or work), tending to their responsibilities and being on time, etc. Since our class is still so little (1st grade), when there is an event surrounding a holiday or a special school activity coming, they talk about it constantly to prep the kids and get them excited. Sure enough, the day comes and 3-4 kids have already started their vacation early or are gone for non-sick reasons. I can’t imagine making my child miss a special school event that everyone will talk about and there will be pictures of later. These are things that stick in my craw!!!! 🙂 But even at her young age, my daughter aspires for perfect attendance. She missed one day in K with a stomach bug and at the end of the year she was sad about not receiving a perfect attendance award. This year, it’s her goal. I recognize and appreciate that other parents have a differing point of view and totally get it but this is definitely a subject I have a strong opinion about.

    • JessieLeigh says

      We definitely each have to do what works for our families, Christie! 🙂 Sounds like you and your daughter are on the same page and that’s excellent. Hope the tummy bugs stay far away and she makes her attendance goal!

  3. My son is in high school now, but even when he was in elementary school, it was a big no-no and considered “unexcused.” All missed work is not allowed to be made up for unexcused absences, meaning that the child receives 0’s for how ever many days they miss. My aunt passed away while my son was in 5th grade. When I told the school about it, they said it would be considered unexcused because it was not his immediate family and he would receive 0’s while we were attending out of state funeral.

    • JessieLeigh says

      Wow, that sounds like a very strict policy, Lisa. I’ve honestly never encountered that. Thanks for sharing your experience– it’s definitely good to see all sides.

      • That sounds like a school district that needs to be reminded that at the end of the day, these are OUR children and not wards of the state. We work very hard not to schedule trips on school days, but as you noted death and illness are not scheduled. Sometimes family comes first. I have very little patience with school personnel that think they know better than me what is best for my child and family.

  4. When my husband was in law school, our children had a school vacation schedule that didn’t coincide with his. We were so thankful for understanding teachers and school staff so that our kids could enjoy a few days off for a trip to New York City during my husband’s spring break. My eldest was learning about simple machines, and her teacher gave her an assignment to draw simple machines that she saw during our trip. It was a great way for my daughter to apply what she was learning in school while we were traveling about the city.

  5. Kelly Hess says

    I tend to disagree with taking your children out of school for a vacation. If it is an event such as a wedding, funeral etc, then I would be okay with it otherwise, absolutely not. I want to teach my kids how important school and responsibilities are in life. There are plenty of times when school is not in session to schedule a vacation.

    • I totally agree. My sister took her kids out of school each December to go to Disney World due to it being to hot during the summer. Now that her kis are older (25 and 29) they were able to stand the Florida heat this summer due to jobs by both kids. Makes me lsugh. Cheryl

    • When I was in 3rd grade, my mom pulled me out of school to go to Disneyland on my birthday. We lived nearby so it was a doable day trip. That is one of my top favorite memories out of my whole childhood.

      I was an excellent student and always valued school, and I don’t think missing a day here or there hindered it in any way. In fact, I think it instead showed the reward of being a good student and valuing school – keeping on top of schoolwork meant that there was freedom in skipping for one day and not having to worry about falling behind.

  6. I would add to make sure you get permission from the school administration in writing. One year, we were going to be traveling over the Christmas break, and it would put my son missing more than the 10 days. (He had missed a few other days for illness.) I was assured by the office that it would be OK. Then later in the semester, we got a subpoena to court for truancy/child neglect. We were able to get it all straightened out without going to court. It turned out that the administration thought it was no big deal to get your first subpoena, but we thought it was a really big deal.

    I think that getting something in writing would have helped to make sure we were all on the same page. (And just for the record, we did have a good relationship with the school admin before & after this happened. It was just the way the system works.)

  7. Oh, and now we homeschool, so we do things like taking 5 fall breaks. 🙂 We still get our work done, and my kids know education is a priority, and that it is a privilege many people don’t have. I believe that there is lots of education that happens outside the classroom.

  8. Good points! I come from a family of teachers, and I know they always echo your advice to let the teacher know in advance.

    Along with that, I’d encourage parents to

    A) not expect “extra” of the teachers. The teacher may not be able to run off papers until after the student is back home, or may not be able to accomodate extra requests.

    B) It would be entirely appropriate to write a thank you card to the teacher, and maybe even include a small gift card or a small souvenir from your trip, to say thank you for the extra work of getting a homework packet ready. That takes time for the teacher, and it’s nice to appreciate it!!

  9. Adrienne says

    I feel I have a unique perspective being the child who was both home schooled and in public school, and as a parent who does both. I was allowed 1 day a quarter for a “mental health day” (before schools had so many half days a month or other things like that) and I like to think when my sons are in junior high/high school and have had some tough days/weeks that I will have the grace to allow them a day to just breathe every now and again. I was an honors student taking all honors courses and I graduated early.
    Sometimes it’s necessary to say “you know what? We are going to play hooky today and go to the Aquarium, or stay home and watch movies all day!” Sometimes I feel like we are all about rules and responsibility (NOT a bad thing) but we forget to teach them to really breathe in life and enjoy it.
    I agree with this post and my sons school thus far has been great with any absences my son has had, for whatever reason. 🙂

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