To go or stay: taking kids out of school for travel

Your in-laws in another state are celebrating a milestone anniversary and want to gather the whole family together. Pope Francis will be visiting the U.S. for the first time next year. The airline where your frequent flier miles are housed is offering an amazing deal during a gloomy time of year. Unexpected household expenses have led you to consider taking advantage of lower airfares (and smaller crowds) just before or after the holidays, school break, or other non-peak time.

Such moments raise the question of whether they justify taking kids out of school. The answer is: it really depends. In 2012 a poll conducted exclusively for ABC News by tripadvisor.com “showed 78 percent of 1,709 respondents with kids have let them miss school for a family vacation.”

Here are some factors to fold into the decision-making mix:

What is the school’s policy? Some schools have strict guidelines about what qualifies as an excused absence. They seek to position school as a priority and want to avoid setting a precedent. Plus, just as parents must get time off work approved—and sometimes can’t—kids need to learn that choices and priorities are challenging, and sometimes the answer, even for grown-ups, is no.

What grade is your child in? Missing a few days in an early grade is a different proposition than missing–and needing to make up–two quizzes and a major test in junior high or high school.

How well is he or she doing in school? A diligent student with good study and time management skills, who is getting good grades, is a far different case than a student who is struggling or has hit a tough patch.

What is the timing in terms of the academic year? The workload often eases up a bit just before and after holidays or breaks. If in doubt, check with your child’s teacher or teachers.

How much school will your child miss? Two days and a full week of school may only sound like a difference of 3 days, but it can mean the difference between a little extra catch-up vs. a definite fall-behind. Again, confer with teachers, and if necessary, help your child develop a stay-on-track plan.

Is it a once in a lifetime opportunity or an experience that will likely be in reach another time? We only get one shot at some experiences; there are no do-overs. This, too, is an important lesson for kids and another aspect of setting priorities.

Whether your family decides to go or stay—or simply go another time—it can be really important for older kids to be part of the discussion and understand what’s at stake.

If you do leave town, the Little Scholar® educational tablet is the perfect travel companion for preschoolers, kindergartners, and first graders. It comes preloaded with apps, videos, books, songs, and games, as well as the exclusive, interactive, educational video series Charlie & Company™. Since it requires no WiFi, it will work in a car—and even on a plane!