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Is It OK to Pull Your Child Out of School to Travel?
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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 a teacher to talk about her daughter missing two weeks of school for a trip to Europe, the teacher was actually encouraging. She told my friend what I believe too, which is that depending on where you are vacationing, there’s a whole lot to learn by actually being up close and personal with historical places, monuments, and different cultures and people. 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 to practise one’s French and the exposure to different cultures and traditions, all 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 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.

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 their classmates as a result of your vacation. If, however, they miss school too often as a result of travelling, then your child might get the impression that you don’t believe school is important.

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 they are missing a whole week or more, then this might make catching up more difficult.

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 upon their return? If they hate missing even one day of school for fear of missing a class, then their anxiety might not be worth the trip. After all, they are the one who has to get caught up.

Grade. Depending on their 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 vacationing!

Image of boy in airport from Shutterstock.

Sara Dimerman is a psychologist and provides counselling to individuals, couples and families. She is one of North America's most trusted parenting and relationship experts and the author of three books: Am I a Normal Parent?, Character is The Key and How Can I Be Your Lover When I'm Too Busy Being Your Mother?: The Answer to Becoming Partners Again. Learn more or listen to advice from Sara and her colleagues by searching for 'helpmesara' podcasts on iTunes or visiting Follow Sara on Twitter @helpmesara.
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How to Talk to Your Child's Teacher
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February means report cards are sent home. Ideally, you’ve already had a few kind words with your child’s teacher prior to that dreaded call home or the disappointing report card. If so, then you have had the pleasure of meeting without the stress and emotion of a ‘problem to solve’.  Whether you have established a relationship with the teacher or not, here are five things to keep in mind to make the most of any meeting with your child’s teacher.

  1. There are no sides. Most teachers teach because they love the profession and they love kids. They are not out to attack parents. The teacher is most likely on your side and wants to find a solution to the problem—just like you. Ask for the teacher’s expertise and suggestions for strategies that have worked with other students in the past.
  2. Come prepared. Write down your questions and concerns prior to the meeting.  Just by walking into a classroom, one can suddenly feel like a 5-year-old who has been called to the principal’s office. Emotions may run high so having a list of questions can keep everyone on track.
  3. Begin with a feeling. Lead the conversation with a feeling rather than an accusation. If you are not sure how to start the conversation begin with one of the following:
    • We are feeling really confused…
    • We’re hoping you can help us to understand…
    • This is uncomfortable but we really don’t like what is being said about our child…
  4. Write it down. Write down the agreed-upon solution along with dates/tasks. Be sure that you know who is doing what and when you will be in touch. Decide who will email/call whom and stick to the assignment. This way, you’ll be supporting your child by holding everyone (including the child) accountable.
  5. Follow the correct protocol. Feeling frustrated by your child’s teacher? Meet with the teacher first before going to administration. Give the teacher an opportunity to hear about and solve the problem. If it still isn’t working, then approach the next level in the hierarchy.

Image of teacher with kids from Shutterstock.

Julie Freedman Smith and Gail Bell provide tools for real life parenting through their company, Parenting Power™. Using over 40 years of combined experience, they work with parents across the country through telephone coaching and teleconferences to ease the stress and guilt of parents while providing practical solutions to everyday parenting challenges. Visit to ask your own parenting questions, and learn how to receive 20% off all services as a Parenting Power Member!
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