Why I Dread “Meet the Teacher Night”

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Taking Kids Out of School for Vacations

Over the years, I have had many discussions with parents about the merits (and potential pitfalls) of taking their child out of school to travel. I decided that I should repost this article that I wrote 6 years ago, at a time when we were taking our kids out of school for vacations for about 20 days a year (4 academic weeks).

We were lucky, in that our kids have always attended public school in Vancouver, Canada, where there are no penalties for missing school for vacations (save a number of frowns and the odd scolding). I have heard of some school administrations fining or charging foreign student rates to families taking kids out of school for vacations (more often with independent schools).

 

Taking Children Out of School to Travel
(This is how I feel at “Meet the Teacher” night.)

 

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Why I Hate Meet the Teacher Night

Originally posted in 2013 – Updated for 2019.

Whew ! It is over for another year. There are few school activities I loathe more than meet the teacher night.  Why? Because we are the dreaded family that takes vacation during the school year. We have been known to disappear on a moment’s notice because of a great seat sale, and we treat Fridays and Mondays like flex days.

While my husband and I see travel as one of the greatest educational experiences of all, we understand that our timing does not fit well with the school calendar. So, the other night, as I sat through Ms. Beatty’s presentation on the class curriculum, healthy snack policy, and general expectations, I nervously awaited the topic of taking your child out of school for vacations.

Naturally, the practice was discouraged and I squirmed around in my tiny plastic chair awaiting our post presentation chat. I was determined to tackle the issue head on, rather than face a constant battle with my husband over who draws the short straw and gets to inform the teacher of yet another absence.

Having a sister who is an educator has helped me to prepare for these situations. Early on, she explained to me that it was not fair to ask for a bunch of homework for the trip (as teachers don’t necessarily have their lessons planned out weeks in advance). I have also learned that there is no point sending a jet-lagged child to school (we now return from our longer trips on Saturdays, not Sundays). And finally, I have come to terms with the report card comment  “Unable to evaluate due to absence.”

So, when the my moment of opportunity came, I blurted out:

“Ms. Beatty, I completely understand your reservations with regards to taking kids out of school for a holiday, but you see, I am a travel writer. I specialize in travel with kids and this often requires us to take trips during the off season, which generally means during the school year. I am well aware of your concerns, and we will do our absolute best so as not to disrupt your classroom.”

Basically, I let the teachers know that we will not make it their problem – the onus will be on us to get caught up. They have enough on their plates.

Note: I have a number of friends from the blogger community who offer to have their children prepare a presentation for the class upon their return (at the discretion of the teacher, of course).

Okay…I know. It sounds a little more like I am a writer for Conde Nast, rather than a family travel blogger. For some odd reason, it just comes out that way. Regardless, the cat is out of the bag and I feel immensely relieved. Thankfully, this full disclosure method was well received by both of my children’s teachers. Although I know we will not be able to continue on this way forever, (I want to make sure my children can actually get into university one day), we will travel on for yet another year.

 

Update 2019

After years of missing about 20 days of school a year, I would like to report that I don’t think it made one bit of difference educationally (although if my kids struggled academically I would have made different choices). I will admit, however, that it was my kids who eventually put the brakes on missing school for travel.

My eldest, now in high school, is part of many group projects and he hates to let his team members down. He finds the cost of missing high school for vacations, far outweighs the benefits for him.

My youngest loves travel, but has hated missing all the good field trips, fun school events, and many a birthday party. As she begins her final year of elementary school, I have made the conscious decision to stay until the very last day so that she can have a proper good bye with her friends. (Mostly true – we fly out at noon that day.)

And for me, I have been very lucky in that I am surrounded by good people who have continued to invite me to stuff even after I have turned them down 3 times in a row.

Note: If you are concerned about taking a child out of school for a holiday that is under 5 years of age, please, do not give it another thought. Just do it ! My kids barely even remember preschool and kindergarten, let alone what they learned there.

 

Further Reading

Please see two more interesting articles on this topic from my family travel blogging community.

Skipping School for Travel – Trips with Tykes

Taking Kids Out of School to Travel – y Travel Blog

 

I also had the great pleasure of meeting a “world schooling” mom when she and her family passed through our city (and she was kind enough to write a post for me).

Road Schooling While Traveling the World – Sophie Ireland

 

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