I don't believe I am alone in saying that one of the things I like least about travel are airports - especially during peak periods when students and their families flock South to escape the cold of Winter. There are always long line ups, delays and depending on the weather conditions at home, chaos. My preference is to travel during the school year when both airports and tourist attractions are less attended. The problem with this, of course, is that my daughter will miss days at school.
Things are even more complicated now that our older daughter has graduated University and is in the working world. When we want to travel as a family, we need to also consider when she can get time off. Being self employed has many pros, one of which is that my husband and I can both plan time off work as we wish, so at least that doesn't have to factor into our equation.
When a good friend approached her daughter's teacher about her missing two weeks of school for a trip to Europe, the teacher was actually encouraging. She told my friend what I believe too. That is, depending on where you are vacationing, there's a whole lot to learn by actually being up and personal with historical places that you might see in Time magazine or on the internet. For example, actually seeing the Mona Lisa in the Louvre or standing beside the Eiffel Tower can't compare to learning about it in History class. This, along with the opportunity of practising one's French and of being exposed to different cultures and traditions, enriches a child's life. I realize that not everyone is going to Paris on vacation, but even taking a road trip with one's family to another part of the country in which they live can be eye opening and complements learning at school.
Planning a trip with your children at a time other than when there is a planned break from school is not taken lightly by most parents. There are several factors to consider when doing so. To make your job easier, I'm suggesting the acronym FLAG to help you remember some of the most important considerations when making your decision.
F stands for Frequency. How often do you take your child out of school to vacation with you? If it's infrequent, then your child will likely not fall behind as a result of doing so. If he misses school too often as a result of travelling, then he might get the impression that you don't believe school is important.
L stands for Length. How many days of school will your child be missing? If it's just a few, then there will be less to catch up on. If he's missing a whole week or two, then this might make catching up more difficult.
A is for Ability. How capable is your child, and more importantly, how capable does your child feel about being able to catch up to the rest of the class on her return? If she hates missing even one day of school for fear of missing a class, then her anxiety might not be worth the trip. After all, she's the one who has to get caught up.
G is for Grade. Depending on his age and grade, there may be more or less work to catch up on and concepts may be more or less difficult. It stands to reason that missing a few days of kindergarten, for example, may be less problematic than missing a week of Grade eight.
Whatever you decide, happy holidays! Sara Dimerman is a Psychologist, Author and mom to two daughters. For more advice, connect at www.helpmesara.com or on Twitter @helpmesara.