Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Family Vacations

"My family is going on vacation for a week, I need the assignments I'll miss."  Times three, and it's only (and already) the third week of school.

I'm not going to say that parents shouldn't be allowed to take students out of school for just about any reason they want, whether the absence is excused by the state or not.  What I'm saying is should they take kids out of school for vacations?  Is it the right decision?  And again, we're not talking only missing a couple periods for some reason, or taking off on Friday to make a long weekend, we're talking about scheduling a week-long family trip somewhere.

Yes, I know we're entering "shoulder season", when the costs of flights and hotels are cheaper than during the summer months.  Honestly, though, doesn't that merit a "so what?"

And some could argue that in certain locations, "the kid will learn a lot more going there than they'd learn in school." On that argument I call BS.  If I were to go to Krakow (my new favorite wannna-go-there city) for a week, I could visit the historical sites and the museums and such, but would I really learn "a week's worth" of material, whatever that means?  And even if I got some history out of it--and knowing how much I get into that sort of thing, you know I'd be on the extreme positive end of the learning curve--would I get a week's worth of math out of it?  And does a teenager get to decide what to do and see and learn, or does he/she do what the parents do, which may or (more likely) may not have anything to do with education?

No one who reads this blog can say I don't value travel or don't think people can get a lot out of it.  What I question is this:
1)  Is the purpose of the travel for the kids to learn, or is that merely an excuse the parents use to justify it to themselves?
2)  Is school time an appropriate time to plan vacations?
3)  Does anyone think a student will do better in school by missing a significant amount of time?

My opinion:  planning vacations during school shows contempt for the education we're supposed to be providing for kids.  It says that you value your personal happiness more than you value your kid's education. 

So given that, why even bother having your kid gather up all the homework he/she will miss?  If you're in Krakow (or London, or the Serengeti or Jamaica or...) and your kid is learning so much there, when will he/she even have time to do all this schoolwork he/she is missing?

I think it's a bad call for parents to make.  A very bad call.


Auntie Ann said...

When our kids were in early grades, we didn't mind pulling them out. Our kids learned to read and do most basic math at home anyway.

The older the kid gets, the more important it is that they are there every day. Our oldest is in a rigorous school and she hates to even miss one day when she's sick; it's too much work to catch up.

maxutils said...

While I agree with you ..This may ... and I emphasize MAY be an unintended consequence of the district's decision (which I wholeheartedly agree with) to align semesters with winter break and start earlier ... If I'm right, you're in a transition period where trips and/or parents' vacation may already have been planned ...if the trend continues next year? Then you're completely right and the parents are being selfish and irresponsible ...

Happy Elf Mom (Christine) said...

We do miss a couple of Fridays each year for the Iowa Open and the state chess tournaments. Surprisingly, the school is good enough to mark these as excused absences as my child homeschools half-days, and chess is one of his subjects. I don't think they have to do that, and I didn't ask them to... but they did and I appreciate it.

I do have a friend whose daughter is good enough at chess to be placed on the US team, and she will miss I think two weeks of school or so in order to travel to South Africa to represent our country. I sure wouldn't begrudge her that time, but if she went every year or several times in a year, homeschooling would be something I would consider if I were them.

Actually, there was a feature article in Chess life about Awonder Liang and how supportive his school was, letting him galavant about the globe so he could become the world under 12 champion. I would find it unlikely that this child is behind in school, however.

Anonymous said...

It recognizes the reality that for most schools and most kids, you simply don't learn all that much in a week.

For example, over the course of a year, my school spends a *ton* of time on things which are unrelated to education:
Field days
Non-educational field trips (i.e. "to the beach.")
Random class projects which aren't teaching a thing
And so on.

And that's not to mention the minimal-teaching times before vacation ("winding down") and after vacation ("winding up") and homework-free times and...

And we still haven't gotten to talking about what happens if your kid is actually smart, which is to say that they spend about 1/2 of the already-reduced potential learning time in math class listening to someone review division instead of learning algebra.

And we still haven't gotten to all of the school-mandated classes which would be perfectly fine to miss on vacation, like shop and gym and home economics and "life skills."

And we still haven't acknowledged that even some of the CORE courses are teaching facts which are neither incredibly important outside the test system (where was the Louisiana purchase signed?) or potentially important but easily covered outside school (it's bad for a kid to miss a week discussing a Shakespeare sonnet, but it won't really have any life effect.) outside math--which is cumulative--and science--which is occasionally cumulative--a week won't matter at all.

Hell, if my school actually taught academic subjects all day then I would feel a lot worse about pulling my kid out for a week. But as a practical matter they are missing very little.

Nothing would make me happier than for the school to change that. But the school needs to earn respect, not merely demand it.

And before you assume my school stinks or is in a horrific state: My school is in Massachusetts (one of the best states) and it is in the top 10% of all schools (in fact, some of our school test #s are quite literally the top scores in the state for their category.) It is far from a bad school and my kids are happy there. But they sure as heck don't use their time very well.

MP1665 said...

I agree, parents should not schedule vacations during school. My solution to the problem is year around school. This opens up opportunities during every season for vacation travel. My kids were on a year around schedule when we lived in Australia. Down under the whole country goes year around alternating 10 weeks on & 2 weeks off. I grew up in a year around school system back in the 70's with alternating 9 weeks on and 3 weeks off. It is better for learning and better for vacations.

Darren said...

Going to a chess tournament, or a national-level athletic competition, isn't a "vacation". I'm talking about vacations.

Darren said...

Our school calendar has been published for two years.

maxutils said...

I know, Darren ...some people DO plan trips that far in advance, however, and parents' ability to take vacation time also buries. I was merely tossing up a straw man --

my guess is, the problem will continue to lessen.

maxutils said...

buries? you know what I meant. this one is purely autocorrect. Must figure out how to dis-eanble it.