Does Back to School spell an end to travel? No, but…

Does Back to School spell an end to travel?

Four years ago (how can it be so long?), I wrote an ode to the trouble of travelling with school-aged kids. In reality, it’s less ‘trouble’ than simply challenging, at times, and it’s never stood in the way of us taking the kids out of school for family trips.

Only once has a teacher written back in reply to an absence notice, unhappily so, berating us for our youngest missing a week of middle school before spring break.

My diplomatic reply indicated that a long-scheduled (18 months) trip with grandparents overseas had not been planned lightly, that it was an opportunity of a lifetime (China!), and a few days missed would not signal the end of his education. It didn’t. But our relationship with the teacher wasn’t so positive thereafter.

The Great Wall of China with grandparents & a personal guide? Priceless.

The Great Wall of China with grandparents and a personal guide? Priceless.

I will always believe that travel has enormous educational benefits that can (often) supersede some classroom curriculum. Some teachers and schools don’t feel the same, and I respect that, up to a point. I don’t think that a few days or weeks missed will spell disaster or compromise a year’s worth of learning.

However, this year, it’s different.

We’re in the big leagues now. Senior high school. The marks really matter, beyond our own household and our kids’ teachers. The competition is tough. For better or worse, the next few years’ results will be examined by higher powers, in college and university admission halls. They will accept or reject based on numbers and averages, though some, a few, will take into account world experiences.

Decisions to miss days or weeks at this stage feel more serious. We can’t pull them out like we used to. Doing so would carry greater consequences – missed units and tests, workload catch-up, teacher ire. The writing is on the chalkboard.

I can accept it, because I know it’s a necessary shift. I’d like to think that it’s temporary too, but somehow, I know that things will be different going forward. Young adulthood brings new challenges – boy or girlfriends, jobs, sporting obligations – that mix new elements into future family travel plans.

It doesn’t mean that we’re not going to travel, or not go on a great family holiday, or take mini-breaks. Lord knows we’ll need them. But it does mean that we’re adjusting to a new reality. I’m curious to see where it leads.

Photo Credit: Credit: Kaytee Riek, Flickr Commons; G. Laroye

Do you have kids in school? How do you balance education and travel?

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