To School or Vacation?

A respected blogging friend of mine recently raised this point.  Is it okay to pull your child out of school?  If you haven’t seen her post, go read it now.  Go ON, I’ll wait.  I firmly agree it is a parent’s duty to teach our children that school is their most important priority.  Believe me, I’m known in my family as holding on to convictions to the bitter end, sometimes painfully so.  But as I’ve gotten older, and my family has gotten bigger and more complicated, I’ve become more flexible (sssh, don’t tell anyone).  So I’m not sure I can say that I will never pull my kids out of school for a particular event.

One of my most vivid memories is the day my mom let me skip school.  I was in middle school, seventh or eighth grade.  I was a good student, missing one day would not impede my education.  I didn’t have an exam.  I wasn’t being pestered by a bully.  I just didn’t feel like going.  I wanted some time completely to myself (can you say introvert?).  I sat on my parents bed, watching my mom put on her make-up before work.  I playfully suggested I stay home.  I offered to do any chore she’d like.  Initially she just nodded and hmmmm’d.  Then she totally floored me and said okay.  I would have to scrub the kitchen floor … on my hands and knees.  We did own a mop, but this was the requirement.  I grinned and readily agreed.  A thirty minute task for 6 hours of freedom?  Deal.

It was a special day, specifically because it was so out of character for my mom.  My parents left no doubt that school was our biggest responsibility.  But it meant so much to me that my mom could see I could handle missing, and that sometimes we all need to shake things up.

I think missing school to go to Disney World or lay on the beach for a week is frivolous.  (Even skipping to watch soaps and scrub the floor was frivolous.)  But there are some trips that can’t always be easily scheduled during school breaks.  What if an opportunity arises to piggy-back a business trip and go to another country?  How about a family wedding across the country?  We’d like to do some special trips to National Parks when the kids are a little bigger.  And honestly, I don’t think I want to go the the Grand Canyon in the middle of the summer (crowds, heat).  What if there was a special museum exhibit that highlighted my child’s deepest passion?  Would I let him play hookey and go to the city on a weekday to see it?  You bet.

So I agree … mostly.  ‘Cause honestly we all could use just a little bit of hookey in our lives.

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8 Responses to To School or Vacation?

  1. Melanie says:

    came over from Emily’s site, and I think there are always exceptions to the rule, and the exception your Mom made after 8-9 years of schooling is certainly a good example of one of them. Do you think had your Mom made that decision every now and then in the early years it would have had the same outcome, perhaps it would…. who is to say, I just see a culture of people putting their own WANTS ahead of education, there are certainly examples and arguments when missing school for an important family function is worth it, but I see way more examples of this is what I want to do, so if school gets in the way…. I come first, and I think that is a dangerous lesson to teach our children.

  2. rimarama says:

    I think I like your mom. And I hope I remember this story when the V-meister is twelve and needs a mental health day.

  3. Rebecca says:

    From an educator’s standpoint, I do think that kids (especially kids that typically do what they’re supposed to do) need a mental health day. Kids can try to stretch this as far as they possibly can, but in general, it’s okay. I agree that week-long vacations can definitely send the wrong message, but now that I’m a parent, I *get* why people would do it while school was in session. I get it…

  4. Emily says:

    I agree that there are sometimes very good reasons for exceptions, as I said in my post. And I think your mom had a very good reason.

  5. Karen Pery says:

    I’m hesitant to be a renegade here, and education is a HUGE priority for our children and our family, but on rare occasion, I do pull my kids out so we can do family things. It is carefully evaluated, of course, and I’m looking at the educational impact of their absence weighed against our other plans, but I’ve done it before and will do it again without a doubt.

    I take caution when I see absolutes. What might be a good enough reason for me might not be for someone else, and I’m perfectly okay with that. There is great learning that happens outside of school, too.

  6. My parents NEVER would have taken us out of school for a vaca, but I might allow a few days if we were going somewhere educational….

  7. ms planner says:

    Your post is timed perfectly because just last week I high-fived a dad and his elementary-schooled aged son on the chair lift because both were playing hooky on a powder day. Reading your post, now I am feeling a bit guilty.

    Will I pull my kid(s?) out of school to ski on a powder day? Absolutely. But I also come from the firm belief that — when properly directed — kids learn just as much by the experience of being in nature as they do in a classroom. Especially when they are experiencing it with a parent.

    Now, Disneyland is a totally different story. That’s just a lesson in American consumerism and marketing. But a trip to a foreign country or a wedding where they will experience another American culture or learn about their own family history? Go for it.

    I heard a travel writer say that one of his most prized possessions is a stack of postcards that his parent made him write on whenever he visited anywhere new. They would buy a postcard for every day of their journey and he would have to write or draw a daily experience on the postcard. Case in point that — again, when well directed — a lot of learning about life happens beyond the classroom.

  8. coldspaghetti says:

    Ultimately, nearly every reason to pull kids out of school is for convenience. “Educational opportunities” arise on weekends and school breaks. But honestly, I totally want to pull my kids out of school for my convenience. Show them DC while I have a conference there! And take cheaper, less crowded Disney trips. I DO I DO I DO! I mean, seriously: I WANT TO DO THIS.

    But DAMN that responsibility thing. Grumble.

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