Every parent wants what’s best for their child. For each family, this can mean different things, though for all, the ultimate goal is the child’s success, health, and personal happiness. All loving parents are seeking a very similar end but may choose different means of getting their kids there.
One issue that relates to this---and which has often been the subject of hot debate---is the practice of taking your children out of school for holidays. There are those who have very adamant views on both ends of the spectrum, while others take a more balanced approach. Some proponents of the idea insist that travel experiences are just as valuable learning experiences---if not more valuable---as those found in the traditional classroom. Those against the practice are adamant that consistent attendance is one of the crucial elements to academic and personal success. There are also many parents and educators who fall somewhere in the middle on this issue. They may not feel that taking a child out of school is ideal, but for any number of factors, it is an acceptable thing to do. There are practical arguments to be made, too. Travel costs are prohibitively more expensive during the official school holidays, so families looking for a bargain may find that travelling during the ‘off-season’ is a far better financial decision. There may also be once-in-a-lifetime travel opportunities that may be difficult to pass up.
In this article, we explore the various approaches to this question in greater depth. Ultimately, the choice of whether or not to take holidays during the school term remains in the hands of the parents, but perhaps our article will help you better examine your own views on the subject, and you’ll be equipped to make the most informed choice.
The Benefits of a Global Education
It’s hard to deny that travel has enormous benefits. While it is not the same as a structured school environment, learning definitely happens on the road. Kids are exposed to new cultures, put in a range of situations, and encounter a number of experiences which present opportunities for growth and learning.
Cultural understanding is a major advantage of travelling. Exposure to diverse cultures and ways of life is eye-opening for kids and instils in them a greater degree of cultural sensitivity, even from a young age. It can be argued that travelling as a child helps reduce prejudice as well as engenders comfort with the unfamiliar. Travelling with your children to Asia, for instance, will introduce them to vastly different cultural norms. As they learn to respect, understand, and appreciate these values, it expands their worldview and opens their mind to new ways of living.
In some destinations, children may observe people living in a disadvantaged economic state. This can provide perspective on their own lives and encourage them to develop compassion towards those less fortunate. A holiday that includes volunteer activities could be especially life-changing for children. Getting into the heart of things and making a difference is an experience unlike any other---though of course, volunteering can happen at home too.
Most of all, travel equips kids with a more mature cultural and social understanding. They learn firsthand that everywhere they go, people are people, just like them.
Is the world the ultimate classroom?
Stepping Outside of a Comfort Zone
Travel naturally brings about the chance to experience dramatically different things than a child would in school. There are new foods, surprising landscapes, unfamiliar languages, and the common stresses and problems that sometimes occur with travel. Even a delayed plane flight can be a unique situation for a child, teaching them how to deal with frustrating situations and how to manage their discomfort. These are real-life lessons that can’t quite be matched with in-school situations.
Travel also demands a certain amount of bravery from our children. This is particularly the case if many new activities are being undertaken. Going snorkelling for the first time, for example, could be a bit frightening to some children. Even walking into a busy new city could be a shock to the system. But handling these novel situations and activities indubitably fosters greater self-confidence, and it may even stir their appetite for more travel!
Fun and Adventure
Of course, one of the main drivers of the desire to travel is the quest for an adventure. Aside from the occasional mishaps, travel is heaps of fun. When parents take their kids on holiday, a primary goal is to have a wonderful time. This is a benefit of travel, too. It is a chance to create incredible memories with your children. Travel, with all its unfamiliarity and excitement, has a tendency to create distinct impressions on young people, leaving them with amazing memories that they are unlikely to forget. And through all of this, your family is likely to bond together more than ever.
While travel carries with it numerous advantages, it doesn’t require an extended trip. These advantages can be achieved on trips occurring during school holidays. Children don’t have to miss school to reap the benefits travel can bring. Let’s take a look at some of the arguments for uninterrupted in schooling.
The Advantages of Uninterrupted Schooling
Whatever one’s views on travelling during school terms are, we likely all agree that school itself is extremely valuable. Without question, in school, children learn the basic academic knowledge necessary for success, but they also experience growth socially, mentally, and even physically. A solid education is a pillar of healthy child development.
But how important is consistency? Is it vital to strive for near-perfect attendance? Perhaps.
A U.S Department of Education study revealed that over 6 million students (13% of US students) missed at least 15 days of school in the 2013-14 school year. Poor attendance is related to a variety of issues, such as inhibiting reading development and absenteeism has also shown direct correlations to a student’s probability of completing secondary school. Those with increased absences in their early school years demonstrated a higher incidence of dropping out of school.
It’s important to note, too that, in many studies, the negative academic impact of missing significant days of school is the same whether the absences are excused or unexcused.
Consistency in schooling also comes with a number of other benefits that can’t necessarily be measured with statistics. Students who rarely miss school often display a stronger relationship with their teachers, something which directly correlates to better academic success. These students also have a more profound connection with the peers and the overall school community.
In many classrooms, a missing child can cause some difficulties or delays for the entire class, particularly in smaller classes. The need to ‘catch up’ the absent student can divert the teacher’s attention, potentially slowing progress for the entire group. In a class of a large size, the opposite problem can occur. The child has the potential to fall behind with their schoolwork because of a lack of personalised attention from instructors.
Regular school attendance is frequently a predictor of future success.
The realities of this may largely depend upon the individual student. Children who perform exceptionally well in school may have an easier time adjusting in light of a school absence. Those who struggle academically may find that excessive absences are incredibly challenging---if not debilitating. If considering taking your children out of school for travel, or for any reason, it’s important to take into consideration their academic skills and performance, as a part of your assessment of the possible negative outcomes for your child.
Having the best possible outcomes in school can certainly open up a world of opportunity, and the likelihood of achieving those outcomes will be determined largely by a student's ability to know the contents of the curriculum. Those who hold firmly to this opinion may believe that there are more benefits to going travelling after high school, perhaps as a celebration of completed academic achievement and new-found freedom.
What’s the Law in Australia?
Whatever your opinion about taking children out of school for holidays, the law has its own stance, and of course, this is the official one.
Laws and policies differ for each state in Australia. Both QLD and the NT adopt an “Every Day Counts” approach, which, as its name states, is designed to deter absences and promote daily consistency in school attendance. In NSW, an exemption policy is in place, in which a delegate, such as the School Principal, must grant the exemption. While there seem to be possibilities for extended absences, the documents specifically mention that travel and holidays do not qualify as an authorised absence.
Some states take a stricter approach. In Tasmania, the only acceptable reasons for missing school are sickness or incapacity. All other absences will be recorded as “unauthorised absences,” even if parents have communicated with the school.
Abiding by legal guidelines is always the wisest approach, but it’s important to remember that these are not arbitrary laws. Each state has put into place the laws they deem best for the education of its children. Ultimately, parents retain the sovereignty to decide how to best raise their children. If taking your children out of school for a holiday is something you feel strongly about - but you may be breaking the law in doing so.
Children Can Study While They Travel
One argument for the feasibility of taking your child out of school for a holiday is that they can keep up with their studies while away. This may depend largely upon how well the student works independently, and what year they are in school. Younger children, as a rule, generally can catch up to their classes more easily than high school students, who usually have more content to study each day.
The travel experience itself can be rife with learning opportunities, but for those missing an extended period of schooling, taking work with them on the holiday could be an important way to remain caught up. On your holiday, you could spend a couple of hours each day allowing your child to focus entirely on their schoolwork, and remain available to help them if necessary.
Some families may seek an unconventional route when it comes to travel. Parents who choose a long-term holiday may find that home-schooling or another option for distance education is best. In this way, the child’s academic study can continue while they have real-world learning at their travel destinations.
Questions to Ask
This issue demands the scrutiny of several factors.
How many days of school will your child be absent?
It’s smart to sit down and calculate exactly how much school your child will miss as a result of your travels. The more days of absence, the harder it might be for your child to catch up on the missed schoolwork. If possible, a good alternative might be to use at least a portion of the school holidays for your trip. This will minimise the amount of missed school time, while still providing you with some flexibility in dates.
What is your kids’ opinion on the trip?
Don’t forget to find out how your child feels about the holiday! This is a really important consideration since your child will be the one who has to put in the additional effort to catch up at school. Most children are happy to go on a holiday, but be sure they understand the outcome of missing days of school. You should also find out if your proposed travel dates conflict with any exams, special occasions, or sporting events. Exams are often far more difficult to make up for than general classwork, and your children may be disinclined to miss out on fun school activities. Be sure your child is 100% onboard if you decide to travel during the school term.
Will your child have difficulty making up their missed school work?
How old is your child & in which grade are they?
This is another factor which can have an impact on your plans. Every situation and each individual child is different, but parents should undoubtedly consider how an absence will affect their child’s school performance.
It can be easier for children in the earliest school years to miss a few days. But as they move upward through school and into their highest years, academics become more serious, more demanding, and perhaps more crucial for the future. This is particularly true if your kids are approaching times of major testing.
It is apparent that there are both pros and cons to taking your child out of school for holidays, and the law’s stance is quite clear. But in the end, it is down to the parents to make the choice they deem best.
Should you elect to take a holiday that necessitates your children missing school, there are a few ways you can make the situation easier for everyone.
Provide advance notice to your child’s school and to their teachers
Your child’s teachers might not be entirely supportive of your plans, but they will certainly do what they can to ensure your child is best equipped to catch up on their return. Giving sufficient notice in advance of your holidays is essential---at least a few weeks if possible. You can discuss details with the teacher to help your child stay up tp date with their assignments most easily. Ask the teacher how assignments should be completed and inquire as to how long after the return to school your child will have to make up missed exams or turn in completed work.
Try not to make a habit of the practice
Your child’s teacher, the school, and the government will appreciate a reasonable approach to travelling during the school term. You’ll likely find that your child does better in school when interruptions to the schedule are kept to a minimum, hence the laws. This also will ensure you avoid any issues with the school system itself.
What is your opinion on this issue? We’d love to hear your thoughts.