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Taking My Kid Out of School for a Family Vacation Shouldn't Be 'Illegal'

Posted by on Sep. 20, 2013 at 8:38 AM
  • 96 Replies

Taking My Kid Out of School for a Family Vacation Shouldn't Be 'Illegal'

by Jeanne Sager

empty school desksI knew the form was coming, but that didn't make it any easier when it arrived. Illegal Absence. I never knew a piece of paper could mom shame, but it did.

Technically, it's telling the truth. I am taking my kid out of school for what the state has deemed an "illegal absence." That I talked to her teacher on meet the teacher night and emailed her about our upcoming trip doesn't matter. Nor does the fact that said teacher is putting together a packet of homework to do on the trip.

It's still "illegal."

I don't do anything illegal.

OK. I speed. Sometimes. Not with the kid in the car!

But that's pretty much the extend of my bad-assery, folks. I'm a straight arrow who was voted class angel in high school (yes, really). 

So the word "illegal" bugs me. Big time.

Not just because I feel ashamed, although I do. Wait, actually, let me correct that. It IS because I feel ashamed.

I hate my kid's school and the state education department for making me feel ashamed of spending time with my daughter.

People! We're taking her out of school for five days for a family vacation, on which she'll see other parts of the country, eat different foods, and do a load of reading (yes, we're driving). We're not making her walk over hot coals while eating fried worms dipped in Tabasco.

Why is this "illegal"?

Because it's during the school year, and kids belong in school every day of the school year? Sorry, but even as a staunch supporter of public education, I disagree. I think there's something to be said for education outside of the classroom, and certainly something to be said for the value of family time.

These days, there isn't enough of the latter. About 60 percent of two-parent households with children under age 18 have two working parents, and 56 percent of mothers and 50 percent of fathers say juggling work and family life is difficult for them.

Family vacations offer valuable time for parents and kids to reconnect. Why not do that when school is out of session, you might ask? Did I mention all those two-parent-working families? Do you know how many of us are vying with one another for time off during the same exact school breaks? Statistically, it's impossible for all of us to do it, and this year, the only time my husband and I could both get off for a stretch of time was, you guessed it, during the school year.

I know we're not alone. I put out a Facebook query to friends to ask if anyone else had done a school-time vacation, asking how to broach it with our district, and I had a deluge of advice-givers.

These are all good parents, parents who value their kids' education. They're all parents who, like me, sought out their children's teachers and got their kids' assignments ahead of time so their kiddos wouldn't fall behind. Several chose -- as I did -- to make their vacation plans in the fall when classwork still tends to be focused on a review of the year before rather than a true representation of this year's curriculum.

The term "illegal absence" is unfair to parents like them, to parents like me, parents who are doing what we feel is best for our kids. It lumps us in with the truly bad parents -- you know the type, the ones who just can't be bothered to put down the crack pipe and get their kids out of bed in the morning to get on the bus.

It shames us for something that should be celebrated: giving kids a varied education that includes trips outside their hometown, for wanting to devote our time and energies to being WITH our kids.

Does your kids' school label vacations illegal? Do you do it anyway?

by on Sep. 20, 2013 at 8:38 AM
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Replies (1-10):
Anonymous
by Anonymous 1 on Sep. 20, 2013 at 9:13 AM

My kids are grown now. When they were younger we never ever took them out for a family vacation. There is no reason to. They were not illegal but they were unexcused absences.

Anonymous
by Anonymous 2 on Sep. 20, 2013 at 9:19 AM
A vacation is no reason to be absent from school if you needed time that bad coulda did atleast one day starting Thursday night ending Sunday night but a week.
Anonymous
by Anonymous 3 on Sep. 20, 2013 at 9:27 AM
It shouldn't be illegal. Did I ever do it? Nope. Not a day did my 2 ever miss for a vacation or rest day. We always strived for perfect attendance. We teach values for the future. Too many kids suck when they get a job because they think they can call in for this or that. You have 4 months a year when school is not in to choose from.
Sister_Someone
by Member on Sep. 20, 2013 at 9:29 AM

California in general, and our school in particular, are quite lax about absences. In my son's school, you only have to prove that there is something educational about the trip (meaning that the child will have to do a powerpoint presentation with the sights and tell something to the class about the place they visited, or do a report, something already).

I'm taking my son out the first week of December to go to Portugal. I don't have any choice in the matter, I have a conference Dec 4-6, I didn't set the date, and I'm not enough of a hypocrite to tell my son "Honey, why don't you just stay here with your uncle and go to school while mommy is off having fun in Portugal". So, we're flying there the Friday afternoon before, and back the Sunday morning after the conference, and I'll allow him up to three days to shake off the jet lag after we get home.

Yes, I would still do it if it was illegal. The school would get a nice fat piece of my mind, and I'd travel anyway. I encourage taking every opportunity you get to learn something, not exclusively studying, and I think that a week in Portugal is one hell of a more valuable life experience than a week of school and textbooks.

Anonymous
by Anonymous 3 on Sep. 20, 2013 at 9:36 AM
Many go to Disney though. That is not educational.


Quoting Sister_Someone:

California in general, and our school in particular, are quite lax about absences. In my son's school, you only have to prove that there is something educational about the trip (meaning that the child will have to do a powerpoint presentation with the sights and tell something to the class about the place they visited, or do a report, something already).

I'm taking my son out the first week of December to go to Portugal. I don't have any choice in the matter, I have a conference Dec 4-6, I didn't set the date, and I'm not enough of a hypocrite to tell my son "Honey, why don't you just stay here with your uncle and go to school while mommy is off having fun in Portugal". So, we're flying there the Friday afternoon before, and back the Sunday morning after the conference, and I'll allow him up to three days to shake off the jet lag after we get home.

Yes, I would still do it if it was illegal. The school would get a nice fat piece of my mind, and I'd travel anyway. I encourage taking every opportunity you get to learn something, not exclusively studying, and I think that a week in Portugal is one hell of a more valuable life experience than a week of school and textbooks.


vbway
by Member on Sep. 20, 2013 at 9:38 AM
1 mom liked this

I think that you should be able to take the kid out of school for a one time vacation. Sometimes trips have to be taken during a certain time of the year. Yes, the kid should make up all work and have plenty of work to do on the trip, but it should not be illegal. I could see it being unexcused, but not illegal. I believe that they should let parents have 5 days (consecutive) without the notice. The only time I see it being a problem is if the child is behind or having trouble with the work. 

With that being said, I have never done it. And I probably never will. My kids are in school everyday, unless they are sick. 

Sister_Someone
by Member on Sep. 20, 2013 at 9:44 AM


Agreed. Even that I could understand, for example if you're actually visiting the city that has the Disneyland of your choice, and the park itself is just a one-day stop, but IMO to take the child out of school just for Disney makes no sense, when the damn thing is open year-long.

Quoting Anonymous:

Many go to Disney though. That is not educational.


Quoting Sister_Someone:

California in general, and our school in particular, are quite lax about absences. In my son's school, you only have to prove that there is something educational about the trip (meaning that the child will have to do a powerpoint presentation with the sights and tell something to the class about the place they visited, or do a report, something already).

I'm taking my son out the first week of December to go to Portugal. I don't have any choice in the matter, I have a conference Dec 4-6, I didn't set the date, and I'm not enough of a hypocrite to tell my son "Honey, why don't you just stay here with your uncle and go to school while mommy is off having fun in Portugal". So, we're flying there the Friday afternoon before, and back the Sunday morning after the conference, and I'll allow him up to three days to shake off the jet lag after we get home.

Yes, I would still do it if it was illegal. The school would get a nice fat piece of my mind, and I'd travel anyway. I encourage taking every opportunity you get to learn something, not exclusively studying, and I think that a week in Portugal is one hell of a more valuable life experience than a week of school and textbooks.




Anonymous
by Anonymous 4 on Sep. 20, 2013 at 9:52 AM

I dont think it should be illegal.  I plan on doing it when my 2 daughters are ages 8 and 6.  I am taking them to Disneyworld.  It has to be during the school year because I literally do not do well with heat and umidity and I was told November is the best time to go as all the kids are in school (not crowded).  It is cooler than July and it is after hurricane season.  So I am more than willing to do that otherwise they will never have that great memory and time with us. 

chefmartha
by on Sep. 20, 2013 at 10:01 AM
1 mom liked this

Yep. Vacations during non-break times are marked as unexcused, even though that is when our vacation time gets scheduled. We take it anyway. I plan ahead and get the kids work from school and go on vacation anyway. That's how we did it when I was a kid as well.

opal10161973
by on Sep. 20, 2013 at 10:06 AM

We did it to take the kids to Disney last spring.  It was only two days though, not a whole week.  We had a special priced pass and would have never been able to afford it any other way, so I didn't feel too bad.  If they weren't doing well in school, I would have not considered it, but they were both doing well and really, it's two days. 

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