spreadsheets and suitcases

organization + travel = family fun

Vacation vs. School

on September 25, 2015

Taking kids out of school for vacation? A hot-button topic for sure.  I wouldn’t bring it up at a party if I were you.

Side note: My awesome sister suggested I write this post.  I agreed that it was a relevant idea for this blog, so I loosely outlined the whole post first, including my opinion, and I asked my family in Ecuador to inform me of the regulations they have to follow for their school-age children so my comments would be accurate.  Then, I decided to do some fact-checking/statistic-finding on the topic, and read 12 articles that sounded exactly the same.  “It depends on the grade level, how often the child is absent otherwise, how their grades are, the vacation destination, et al………” I pretty much fell asleep.  I read the comments from entitled parents (see examples below) and teachers alike (100% supportive of teachers, but us parents are capable of teaching our children some history/current events/languages/science/physical education as well, thankyouverymuch), and just rolled my eyes. So…my take on it will be fairly short.  Here it is:


~~~~~~~~~~Don’t miss more than 2 school days per year for vacation~~~~~~~~~~

  • but it’s Europe, there’s no substitute for seeing the Coliseum in person– NO.
  • but it’ll save us $400 to take the flight on Monday instead of Sunday– NO.
  • but my child needs a “mental health day” to recover after the trip– NO.
  • but the lazy teacher only works until 3pm and gets paid with my tax dollars, they can certainly take 10 minutes to prepare a homework packet for my special snowflake– HELL, NO.

The criteria I used to declare this totally personal opinion are: missing 1 day is no big deal, because it doesn’t put anyone way behind on anything, and your kids might miss one day here and there anyway for legitimate illnesses and “stomachaches” that mysteriously disappear at 9am.  Missing 2 days is more of an issue unless they are nonconsecutive, and even then it’s a bit easier to make up the work.  You might need to bring a doctor’s note, but your kid is unlikely to miss so many class units on a topic that they would bomb a quiz or test.  3 days or more means there’s definitely some substantive class content missed, which sends the message to your child that there are higher priorities than their education.  In my house, education is the absolute #1 top priority, and part of that is simply showing up at school.  3 days would also definitely require some documentation to be an “excused absence” at most schools in the US.  So that’s where we draw our line.

In Ecuador, federal law states that students can’t miss more than 20% of their school year, and if they do, they get left back a grade level.  There is an appeals process, where you can request that a committee consider the situation, the student takes a cumulative exam, and if they pass they can go on to the next year.  My cousins tell me that being left back due to missing school is a rare thing indeed in Ecuador.  I can confirm that Ecuadorian parents (mine, and also me), are quite strict about school attendance, so this makes sense. If you’re not actively bleeding, off to school you go!

Here is a great article about the Ten-Year Education Plan for education reform that recently created a major change in policy, following Ecuador’s insane period of political instability (9 different Presidents in 7 years!  One of whom recorded a pop album!).  It’s funny how perspective colors your view of things, though.  According to that article, Ecuador had a pretty dismal rate of education and standardized test scores.  But honestly, my parents and family are pretty much all whip-smart, and told stories of how strict their schools and teachers were compared to mine.  The unbelievably high standards, the shame over a ‘red mark’ (when the teachers used red pen on the physical report card for reporting a low grade), the lengthy oral exams.  I never ever suspected that the education there might not be up to par!  Of course, much of your attitude toward school depends on your family’s attitude toward education, your school, and your teachers. In our house, the school and teachers were authorities to be respected…the end.  I see some shifting attitudes about that these days, but this is not a political blog, so let’s keep it pixie-dusted, and just move on.

It’s interesting that the policies are mostly mandated on the federal level in most of the world, whereas in the US, each state has their own truancy laws.  These are the guidelines that most public schools must follow, and of course, private schools get some leeway in their own policies.  Here is a sample of an attendance policy at a Honolulu-area charter school:


Absences will be excused for:
•Illness or injury of student. (doctor’s note necessary if over 3 days absent)
•Death in the family.
•Court appearances.
•School-sponsored activities.
•Participation in an educational program organized and sponsored by a recognized institution of learning, for which prior approval has been obtained (i.e. college visits).
•An emergency deemed legitimate by the Executive Director (ex. severe weather, power outage, fire)
•Suspension from school.
•Student in good academic, behavior and attendance standing may also apply for administration-approved leave.

Notice that vacation is not listed as an excused absence.  If my child attended this school, I would certainly argue that the family vacay should fall under “administrative-approved leave,” assuming my child was in good academic, behavior and attendance standing.

Please make your family’s vacation/school attendance decisions as you see fit,
but be very honest with yourself regarding needs vs wants.

So…how is this relevant to me right now?  Well- both of the kids are missing 1 day of school for our upcoming Disney trip.  This is not A Thing.  One day does not make a difference, as noted in my highly-scientific and well-researched opinion above.  Frankly, I’m still debating whether I’ll tell the school about that day being lost to vacation, or just calling into the attendance line the night before to report that they will be absent the next day.  My husband says to go ahead and let them know ahead of time to avoid a last-minute scramble to make the call in the right time zone.  I’m leaning toward agreeing with him- think I’ll go write those letters to the school office now!


Love your shirt, Chad Danforth from Disney Channel's monster hit movie High School Musical.

Love your shirt, Chad Danforth from Disney Channel’s monster hit movie High School Musical.

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