I was looking through some Facebook memories for today, and around this time in 2015 my family had arrived in Paris. We were on a 6-week European vacation travelling through the U.K., The Netherlands, France and Croatia.
At the time, my kids were aged 11, 7 and 3. The older two ended up missing four weeks of school (we timed our vacation so that part of it coincided with school break). Unlike in other parts of the world, in Australia, there isn’t a law that states your children can’t be taken out of school for vacations/family holidays.
This works well for us- we can take vacations during school time when it’s usually cheaper and not so crowded. Most people travel during the school holidays, and it can be expensive and difficult to book flights and accommodation at this time.
Since Australia is in the southern hemisphere, when our kids take an extended break over Christmas and our summer, the rest of the world is in the depths of winter. Not good if you want to travel overseas to Europe or the U.S. Most Australian families who travel to the northern hemisphere do so during our winter months of June, July and August.
But is it a good idea taking kids out of school for extended periods of time? Is there a positive to putting travel before school? What educational value does travel hold?
These are questions often asked by parents and educators.
In many countries, kids aren’t allowed to be taken out of school to travel, including in most European countries.
Let’s take a look at both sides of the debate!
Kids should be allowed to miss school for a vacation
Travel offers a once-in-a-lifetime educational opportunity
When travelling, kids get to experience a different culture first hand. It’s one thing to learn a language at school, but to be able to immerse your child in a different culture is priceless. Kids are able to apply what they have learnt, and can also extend their learning opportunities. Trying different foods, learning basic conversational skills, understanding and experiencing a different way of life: what wonderful opportunities!
Kids need a break from school
Kids need to have a break from school- in Australia, kids are at school for 10 or 11 weeks before they have 2 weeks of vacation. Sometimes it’s a good idea to have a mid-term break for a few days away with the family. Many parents find their kids are exhausted as they approach the 10-week mark.
Travel during school time is cheaper
Vacations during school holidays/breaks is more expensive as this is a peak travel time. Flights are more expensive and hotels and apartments are booked out well in advance during these times. It’s cheaper and easier to book a holiday outside of school vacation times.
For those living in the southern hemisphere, there is a 6-8 week break over Christmas and our summer. However, if families want to travel overseas to Europe or the U.S.A., it’s the middle of winter during this time, not to mention Christmas is a very busy and expensive time to travel overseas. Being able to take kids out of school during our winter time to travel overseas makes more sense.
Kids shouldn’t be allowed to miss school for a vacation
Kids fall behind in their school work
Kids who are taken on longer vacations miss school work, and teachers have to work harder to help the child get back on track once they return to school. Teachers are already time-poor and stressed, and this added burden places more pressure on them. Kids can also get stressed with the extra pressure of catching up on missed school work.
Not all travel is educational
Resort vacations and cruises don’t offer much in the way of cultural experiences. Playing in a swimming pool all day isn’t the same as visiting cultural museums. Not all vacations offer educational opportunities for children.
Families have ample opportunities for travel outside of school time
With three 2-week breaks throughout the year, plus 6-8 weeks break over Christmas time, Australian families are given plenty of opportunities to travel when their children aren’t at school.
There are valid reasons for both sides of the argument, and ultimately it depends on the individual and the family’s own needs.
There are families who need to travel overseas and it makes more sense to go during the northern hemisphere summer than during their winter.
Some kids are able to quickly pick up on the work they’ve missed or can bring some school work with them when travelling.
There are families with parents who work during Christmas and summer, and can’t take time off work during this time, especially those who work in the retail or hospitality industries.
Thinking about these circumstances and examples, the decision of when to take a holiday or vacation should rest with the parents themselves.
Do you agree?
What do you think- should kids be allowed to be taken out of school for family vacations? Do you take your vacations during school term or during term break?
Let us know in the comments!