My kids skip school to travel regularly—with my blessing. I’m not a bad mom who doesn’t care about their education. But for me, missing school for travel gives my kids a new—and often, even richer—education.
Every year since they were little, we’ve signed them out of school for at least a week to go out and see the world. We’ve gone to Niagara Falls and to the tiny island of Antigua. We skipped the movie watching and game playing of the last week of school to take on Tokyo and tour through China. And yes, we played hooky a couple of Januaries to see Disney World. (We spent a lot of time in Epcot.)
And it’s been glorious. We travel when prices and crowds are smallest, we get a break from the bleak midwinter weather, and we’ve cemented our standings as the coolest mom and dad ever.
But trust me: It isn’t all fun and games. We have them study up on our destination—a great lesson in geography and history, and a way to ensure that we don’t miss some cool attraction that really piques their interest. We meet with the teacher in advance and pack along all the schoolwork they’ll be missing. (They usually take care of that while we’re on the plane or in the car—and it’s really amazing how quickly a week’s worth of schoolwork can be accomplished.) We also make sure they’re learning at least a little something every day.
I don’t look at it as missing out on learning but, instead, enhancing it and encouraging it. My daughters learned much more about Chinese culture and history visiting the Forbidden City, walking through Beijing’s oldest neighborhoods, and taking cooking classes than they did when they studied China in social studies. My younger daughter fell in love with ocean wildlife after she got a chance to feed, hold, and study wild stingrays in Antigua, and interact with dolphins at Baltimore’s National Aquarium. She’s plotting a course to a job as a marine biologist. And my daughters plowed through J.K. Rowling’s brilliant Harry Potter series yet again after we spent a few days playing wizard on the streets of Universal’s Diagon Alley.
But the very strongest cases for skipping school to travel? Our kids understand that our great big world is truly an amazing place—and even though we don’t always share the same languages, the same religions, or the same skin color, we’re all the same beneath. And we’re building the craziest set of family memories, the kind that will become legendary by the time they’re grown up: The time that Mom got her kayak stuck in Antigua. The wild run through Hong Kong crowds to get to our (amazing) street food tour. That time we rode Disney’s StarTours seven times in a row and still didn’t get Darth Vader in any of our adventures.
Sadly, as my girls get older, it’s getting harder to find those pockets of time to skip school to travel. Our wanderlust will be more contained to the holidays, with perhaps a day or two missed to help extend the adventure. There are still so many places in the world for us to see—Scandinavia and England. Hawaii. Australia. Kenya. The Grand Canyon. Paris. And I hope we get to see them together.
More Ideas for Travel with Kids:
- 31 Genius Hacks for Traveling with Kids
- 20 Stylish Travel Accessories I Can’t Live Without
- 31 Travel Packing Hacks Every Mom Needs to Know