Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Should Kids Get Vacation Days?

How many times have you thought, "wow, look at that sale on plane fares, we could go on a great vacation! Oh, but dang - there's that whole kids have to go to school thing." It's pretty much a rule: when schools are open, kids are supposed to go. In our schools, if your kid misses too many days of middle or high school, they could automatically fail their classes. And if your kid misses too many days in some districts, somebody's coming to find you and ask where your kids are.  But those hotel rates in Disney are so much better on a Thursday in the middle of October than Christmas week!  What’s a vacation-needing family to do?

Apparently, some parents argue that family vacations should be acceptable absences.  Family time, lessons from traveling, life experiences, etc. etc. Parents should be able to choose whether they want their kids in school or hiking in the Alps.

But what if family vacation isn't hiking in the Alps? What if it's going to visit grandma in the next state over? What if there's no vacation fund because dad lost his job, so family time is picnicking at the local park? What if you can't get your kid to school because he missed the bus and your car's in the shop and you need that cab fare to get to work – isn’t a missed day still a missed day? And it's interesting that this comes up as an issue for "vacation" when teachers for years, at least in my school experience, have said how disruptive it is when a student with roots in another country is out of school for a week or more to visit family back home.

Again, like so many issues, this becomes one of income, class, and family choices.  If parents can have permission to take their kids out to go canoeing in the Caribbean, can a student also get the day off to go hang out at the zoo with mom? If a kid gets a pass because the flight is cheaper if his family leaves on Thursday, does another kid get a pass because his mother ran out of bus fare to get to school?  If that kid can get his classwork packed up for him so that he can go skiing for a long weekend, can another kid get his classwork too, so he can stay home with his little sister while his mom goes on job interviews?

To make “vacations” an acceptable absence, then makes a judgment call on how a family uses their time or the choices they have to make.  That shouldn’t be the school’s decision.

On the other hand, as a parent, yes, you should be able to decide whether those plane discounts are worth your kid getting marked absent.  Your grown, your an adult, you get to make that choice. But then realize that there may be consequences for that absence, like not being able to make up the work and getting a zero.

It seems like an easy answer. But then you realize, everybody doesn't get vacation days.

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