“World schooling” is a buzzword right now in the travel world. As a teacher, I love to learn and I LOVE seeing others get excited about learning about the world around them. We are not world schoolers (parents who take their children out of school long term to travel and homeschool), however, we do think that so much learning can and should take place outside the four walls of a classroom. For us, (we recognize that everyone is different and what works for one family might not work for another) having a mix of traditional school and then missing short bursts of school to travel and learn works really well! We have been doing this for decades:)
However, taking young children and teenagers out of school to travel for periods of time (usually the most we have missed at one time is about 2 weeks) has its own set of challenges. So, if you are like us, and you love to travel but are not a homeschooling* family, we have put together a checklist on how to effectively take your child out of school to travel.
*We would like to make it clear that we are not dogging on anyone who homeschools. It simply just does not work for us. We really do believe that every family is different and that if homeschooling/worldschooling works for you, that is awesome!
Why I Take My Child Out of School to Travel
Growing up, my parents had no problem taking us out of school to travel together. A lot of my favorite learning experiences are from my travels because I was able to connect what I was learning in school to what I was seeing and experiencing. Even in my master’s program, the same concept applies. I study and learn, and then I try to experience hands-on what I have been learning about.
Traveling and traditional education complement each other. The connections that are made while traveling, regardless of the age of the child, are unparalleled. Travel takes “hands-on learning” to a whole new level. Yet as a family we love the structure, social aspects, and educational foundations that a traditional school provides. So having a mix of the two is a perfect type of well balanced education for us.
Beckham goes to school, we have a routine at home, but I also plan on taking him out of school to explore the world together because we have found that world travel leads to tolerance, understanding, awesome educational experiences AND getting him out of his little box can help him become global citizen.
How to Effectively Take your Child Out of School to Travel
Because my Mom is the real expert on taking kids out of school for travel and has done this for 4 children I have asked her to share the tips that she uses when she is/was getting ready to have us miss school. We have learned that having a little-organized system in place for missing school, staying caught up on school, and being able to return after an absence is the best way to keep everything as simple and efficient as possible.
Be Strategic When Selecting Your Travel Dates
Be aware of the best and worst times to miss school. Usually, the worst time to miss a big chunk of school is at the end of a term and the best time is often right at the beginning of a new term. Look to see if there any extended weekends or holidays that you can travel over so your student misses fewer days. Are there any teacher professional development days that school won’t be in session? We have taken a two-week vacation during the school year but have only missed 4 days of school. In these instances looking through the school calendar before selecting your dates can go a long way.
Communicate with the teachers about where you are going, why, how long you will be gone, and that you will have your student (if your student is old enough) get the work they will be missing soon. It also helps to have a few educational activities planned for your trip, and then let the teacher/school know about them when you reach out. Send out this first message about a month ahead of time.
This gives the teachers a heads up that your child will be missing and lets them know that your student will be asking for the work they will need. This step might seem obvious, but when I was teaching Junior High so many students would randomly be gone for about a week and then show up and expect me to be prepared to help them get caught up. It is much easier for the teacher (and the student) to communicate everything in advance.
Pre-excuse Absences Ahead of Time
Most schools have some sort of system in place to pre-excuse absences. In our school district, there is a form that is filled out by the parent and then all of the teachers sign and it gets turned back into the administration. Having everything excused ahead of time helps relieve the headache of figuring it all out upon return. If you are unsure of how to pre-excuse, a quick call to the front desk at the school should get you started in the right direction.
Catch-Up Before You Leave
This step is super important, because no matter what you do when you take your student out of school to travel, your child is going to fall a little behind in school. We try our very best to make sure that everyone is totally caught up with the current curriculum before we leave. Going on a trip with an A-B grade in a class and coming home to a C is a lot easier to handle than leaving for a trip with a C grade and coming home to an F. Being caught up BEFORE leaving is easier on everyone.
Get Homework and Class Assignments Ahead of Time
Reach out to the teacher again about a week before the trip. Ask for the work that will be handed out while your student is gone. If the student is old enough, this is something that is perfect to let them take over and do. Then have your student work on the assignments while on the trip. Nothing like doing mounds of homework on the airplane haha – it is worth it!
See if There are any Extra Credit Opportunities
Most teachers will work with you and your student when it comes to in-class participation that will be missed. Often a good teacher will give your student a chance to do some sort of a project about what they learned or experienced while traveling. For example; Easton’s Biology teacher had him give a power point presentation on everything he saw while he was in Antarctica. It totally wiped out his missing points – GO TEACHER!!
We had a French teacher tell us to strike up a conversation with someone who was speaking French when we went to Disney World. (Confession – not everywhere we go is totally educational the whole time – oops haha :)). We recorded the conversation and that made up the participation points. Easy peasy:)! More often than not, most teachers are willing to work with you and your student.
*It should be noted that sometimes teachers are … NOT HELPFUL! There have been a couple of times that a teacher refused to give homework ahead of time or to pre-excuse the absences. At this point, we suggest reaching out to the administrator.
Decide if it is Worth it For You and Your Child
In the end, these guidelines have really been successful for us. But, there have been a few instances when a teacher has been really bent out of shape or grades have suffered a bit for a time. If taking time off of school is worth it to you and your family, be prepared to roll with the punches and be an advocate for your child. For us, we don’t miss school on a whim but we also know that real learning does happen while away from school too! In order to miss school, it sometimes takes quite a bit of prep and effort. In our opinion, it has always been worth it!!
To make your travels as fun and effective as possible see our 7 Tips on How to Encourage & Teach Young Children Both on and Before Travels!