How damaging would it be to take your kid out of school for 4-8 weeks?

This is mostly idle musing, but it might come in handy someday if Mr. Athena and I decide to have kids, and if our idea of spending a month or two every year travelling works out.

Background: We’re moving somewhere where the winters are really bad (300 inches of snow last year!) and we’re thinking about having a kid. We both work over the internet, so in theory, we could take off for a month or two during the bad part of the winter and go rent a small place in, say Santa Fe or the south of France, and do our work from there.

If we fast forward several years, and we now have a kindergartner or a first grader, and we want to do this, how potentially difficult will this be? Assume that one of us will have time to home-school for the time we’re gone. Also assume we’re of the mindset that seeing different places and experiencing different cultures is very much a learning experience. A third assumption is the kid is well-adjusted and doing well in school. So…

  1. Is it even legal to do this? Kids HAVE to go to school, right? But kids can be homeschooled, right? How would homeschooling for a month or two out of the year work?

  2. How potentially damaging could this be to the kid and his/her progression in school? Is it realistic to believe that we can, with the help of a lesson plan from his teather, keep him/her up to date with his schoolwork?

I anticipate that some of you might ask why we don’t just do this in the summer, when said kid isn’t in school. It’s mostly a weather issue - where we’ll be living has God-awful beautiful summers. Half the reason we’ll live there is because of the lovely summer weather. The winters, on the other hand, are harsh and long. If we leave, it’ll be in part to get out of there in the winter.

I wouldn’t do it. Where we are a kid will be kept back a year if he or she misses more than 25 days of school…
4 weeks is 20, so that gives them a little bit of time, but still, an unexpected sickness or two and they’re back in the same class for another year. But then again, that’s only here, I don’t know about what it is where you are. And the amount of work is far too much for a kid to learn on his or her own. Besides the fact that no teacher could effectively give 4 weeks of work to a kid (and hope that the kid does it while in paradise) they would need a tutor for months to catch up. Go for a trip in the summer, or take a few days more on a long vacation in the winter.
But that’s only imho.

Have you considered Home-schooling the kid full time? Then you wouldn’t have to worry about him keeping up with his class. You could sign him up for extra activities to interact with other kids, and not worry about keeping up with the class. I think that it would be much easier to set up full time homeschooling, then 1 or 2 months (although I do know people who have actually done this, so it is possible).

I remember once taking a month or two off to go to Hong Kong in grade two. It didn’t affect me at all, at least not in a way that I know or can remember.

Also, in junior high and my first year in high school (grade 10), I missed tons of classes because of being lazy. I remember being called to attendence board hearings three or four times, where they threatened me with taking me to court to force me to go to school. However, it probably was an idle threat because when I was 15, they finally gave up and said that, for attendence purposes, I would be 16 (that way I would no longer be legally bound to go to school and the principal would have no problem expelling me). I probably had anywhere from 15 - 45 absences per class per semester and failed two classes (one was religion and the other was English).

I look back now at the elderly age of 17 and see how stupid it was, but I still don’t think it had an academic effect on me. Not knowing much academically from those years did not make me unprepared for the courses afterwards, and, in Canada, it’s grades 11 and 12 that matters for university entrance.

However, I certainly wouldn’t make it a habit of going on one to two month vacations during school years.

It seems a great idea to me. Especially if you choose to go to France. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t say that because I’m french, because it will be a mind opening experience for your child if he travel to a really different place. I would have said the same for Norway, Japan or Morroco.
Assuming you’ll be able to homeschool him during this month (I suppose it shouldn’t be a serious issue at least during primary school), or even send him to the local school (I don’t know if it’s always possible, but when I was a child, I remember there were sometimes gypsie’s childs who stayed in our school for short periods), I can’t see it being a major issue (barring the possibility that your local school regulations would forbid it, like in clayton’s example).
Ok…I’m biaised. I always thought children should visit/live in other places and countries from time to time. Travelling is a mind-opener…

My personal opinion is that while traveling to new places and such may be a valuable learning experience, having to go back and forth between “regular school” and “homeschool” would confuse a child and possibly lead to problems.

Children need stability. Changing his home twice a year would be hard enough, but having to adjust between two totally different styles of schooling would be very difficult. Your child might lose the motivation to succeed in whichever type of school he finds less appealing. He might develop anxiety about having to leave home, or have difficulty overcoming boredom while away from the structure and socialization of school.

Also, as to the legal aspect, you might ask the Homeschool Legal Defense Association. Considering how many full-time homeschoolers are challenged by CPS and school districts as to whether they have a right to keep their children out of public school, I would think that the chances of some authority questioning the decision to go back and forth would be high. Whether they have a right to do so may be another matter.

I currently homeschool my two oldest children full-time, and it is working rather well. If I were you I would choose: stay put in the winter or homeschool year round.

Thanks for all the replies. Home-schooling full time isn’t an option for several reasons. First - part of the reason we’re moving is because we want to live in a small town where, if we decide to have kids, we have a LOT of family support and the public schools are quite good. Second - both me and Mr. Athena work full time. One or both of us can probably take enough time off for a month or two to home school, but doing it 9 months out of the year is an impossibility. Three - I know a lot of people like home schooling, but IMO in a location where there are decent traditional schools, the traditional schools are better. This is simply my opinion - I realize a lot of people on this board believe home schooling is better, and I respect that opinion. (And what do I know, I have no kids and taking care of the dog sometimes seems like a challenge!)

My gut feeling is that if the kid is anything like me or Mr Athena, the ‘prize’ of travelling for several weeks will be enough to keep him/her motivated to keep up with his/her schoolwork. I remember at least two trips when I was in elementary school where I had to do schoolwork while on the trip. I had no problems doing it. Granted, these were 2-3 week trips, not month long trips. I was always a smartie and at the head of my class as well, so leaving school for several weeks didn’t really affect me much. Hell, skipping 3rd grade altogether didn’t affect me much, schoolwork wise.

I’m guessing a lot of this would depend on the kid - if he/she is like I was, like I said, I doubt it would have affected me. However, I can’t count on that. If the kid is on a more normal pace with his/her class, I can see it being more of an issue. Is this a realistic assumption?

Well, seeing as missing 4 weeks in a public school is not really missing that much, I’d say the travel experience alone is more than adequate to make up for anything he’d miss in school. However, if you are going to place your kid in public school, you are going to be subject to attendance laws. In the early elementary years, the teachers and administrators are usually willing to work with you, and might grant an extended leave, provided your child writes/orally gives a report or something about his travels and makes up any important class work. But come middle school, it’s all about asses in classes=$$ for the school, and it is doubtful they would allow a child to miss a month without serious academic consequences.

Personally, I home school. And if I were you, I’d do the same.

I’m iffy about the idea of home-schooling all the time. That’s just not done where I live.

Your idea sounds wonderful, very advernturous, interesting and exciting. I really can’t say much about the effect on the child, though.

Talk to your child’s school district/school. It does very. In my area, students are constantly leaving for Mexico in the middle of the year, for weeks at a time, for various family “emergencies” that seem to spring up the same time each year, every year. It is by far my greatest aggravation in teaching. But that’s a Pit rant.

In some districts where I’ve taught, if we have notice that a child is going to be leaving for a certain period of time, we can prepare an independent study packet. The deal is the chiuld must complete the packet, or the absences go down as truancies (and thus warrant a meeting with the D.A.–that chick is tough and really lays down the law on keeping a kid in school).

Some districts will simply drop the child from enrollment. This is horrible, but it speaks of the budget consciousness: if a child is not attending school, funding gets slashed. Rather than suffer the costs of having a child miss 20+ days, they are simply dropped from enrollment. However–this means the parents are not held the least bit liable.

All this aside, Athena, I believe you can do it and it can be done. Your perspective on education is already markedly different than those I was describing here, and depending on your state/district, you could be supported in doing so. The main concern I would have is in the socialization of the child–constantly being in and out due to stays in Europe could either make the child a type of campus celebrity, or outcast. I’m certain that if you are aware of these concerns, and address the education fully (mental, social, physical, emotional, etc.), that your child(ren) will flourish in this type of environment.

I can direct you to dozens of websites that have lessons on them, so that in time out of the classroom your child would still be receiving appropriate curriculum for their grade level. Good luck!

Dammit! It does vary.

Thanks for your perspective, Ruffian. This is all, of course, theoretical. I have no children now, and who knows if I’ll even want to do this when the kid is school age? But it does make the decision to have children a little easier - the one thing that really scares me about having kids at this point in my life is that I really want to travel. It’s always been a dream of mine to see the world, and I finally have the job that will allow me the flexibility and the income to do it. At the same time, I’m 32 and Mr. Athena is 45. If we’re gonna have kids, it’s got to happen in the next 1-3 years or so. We’re not getting any younger.

It’s a lot less scary to think about if I can both have children AND travel.

One of my former students left for Columbia for 5 or 6 weeks during the school year. They used spring break as well. Many schools have 15 or 17 days off during December. If you went during that time that would limit the amount of instruction missed, at least somewhat. The kid I taught actually withdrew from school. This counters the excessive absence, no credit policy.
I can see why you would want to expose your children to different cultures. I think it makes sense. Schools can be inflexible institutions. There are no easy answers to this question. I like the “independent study packet” idea. Maybe by the time your youngster begins school, there will be some sort of online, community school based instruction available. Imagine your child being able to see and interact with his/her teachers and classmates from Europe.

I think it would be great to do, but your kid would have to be the resilient type, and good at schoolwork, adventure, and adjusting to change. Some kids freak out at any change, and some love it, so you’ll probably have to wait until they’re here to decide, based on what he/she can handle.

What I would be worried about:
–Can your child afford to miss that much school, or does she need the interaction and instruction, the whole school environment?
–How long will it take the kid to readjust to a regimented school life afterwards?
–How much will the kid miss friends, teacher, routine?
–What will the school put up with?

I did go on a 3-week trip in jr. high, and it didn’t hurt my schooling at all. I had a great time, and did my homework in a few days in the evenings. I would have loved to do what you’re describing (and am now wistfully imagining doing it with our children, despite the fact that mr. genie has not been able to take more than a few days off in 2 years).

So it depends almost entirely on what your kid is like. I’ve known some who would be completely thrown out of whack by such a thing, and others who would do great.

A lot of the anecdotes people are sharing in this thread are about one-time trips. It probably would not be damaging at all for Athena’s hypothetical kid to miss a couple of weeks of class one year, but I don’t think there’s any way to pull that off every year without seriously screwing up the kid’s chances of graduating on time, or at all.


Presumably, if a kid can’t hack it, he or she won’t get good enough grades to advance to the next grade. Notice that one of my assumptions was that the kid is doing well in school. I would think that would be looked at closely every year - if the kid wasn’t doing well in school, no way would we pull him or her out.

If, however, he/she got a A or B average one year, and was doing the same the next, how would that somehow cause him or her not to graduate?

Here’s my suggestion - take up a winter sport and learn to love the winter.
Are you moving to Montana?

Frankly, I wouldn’t worry about it too much at this point. If you get pregnant in a year, and the kid is born nine months later, it will be at least 7 years–at the earliest–before you have to worry about this. Everything will be differnet in seven years. You may have gotten a job offer in the South of France by then; you may have spent 7 winters traveling and be ready to take a rest; you may end up developing health problems that preclude any travel at all. You may find out you can’t bear children and so end up adopting a child in an open adoption situation whose birth grandparents live locally and who want to keep the child for a month every winter anyway.

There’s nothing wrong with musing about issues like this, of course–I do the same thing. But I wouldn’t really factor it in in the decision to have kids—there are going to be some many new issues in seven years.

I think so much would depend on the personality of the child…and you can’t count on having children just like yourself. One thing to consider is how much fun/traveling/relaxing will you be able to do while making sure your child is doing his/her schoolwork everyday, not losing papers or books, etc? Travel when they are little (infants) and settle in for school…then you can travel all you want when they go off to college, and have more fun. Twelve-plus years goes by so fast, and you’ll still have the summers to travel.

When kids get older, being gone from school for a month each year can be devastating from a social aspect, and especially when they get involved in band/choir/sports/drama/etc. You’re probably not gonna get picked for a part in the play, or a solo, or a team, if you’re gonna disappear for a month. Some kids are charismatic and can survive re-establishing their social bonds, but shyer kids might find themselves a little left out.

Children that work in Hollywood do this all the time to make movies, don’t they? They have tutors on the set. At my daughter’s school there was a first-grader who was hospitalized a good part of the year while waiting for a lung donor. He remained with his class despite being out most of the year by meeting with a tutor (that the hospital provided) daily.

So I would imagine there are attendance loopholes for special circumstances. Whether your situation is a “special circumstance” would undoubtedly depend on the state you reside in.

If we assume that your state allows this, it sounds as if you and your husband have decided that you are going to be his tutors. This is a pretty serious commitment. First you’d have to get yourself certified. Requirements for this undoubtedly vary also from state to state but I would imagine a bachelor’s degree would be required, as well as some education classes.

Then you’d have to obtain the necessary approvals in advance, meet with the appropriate teacher to determine what material had to be covered and how tests would be administered, and purchase the necessary books/workbooks. Then you’d have to master the material yourself prior to teaching it. Which doesn’t sound too bad in first and second grade. But let me warn you, it gets trickier the older they get. For instance, do you know the difference between a gerund and a past participle? :slight_smile: Well, you’re going to have to if you’re going to teach it to your child.

And perhaps even more difficult, you’d have to be committed to actually taking 3-5 hours out of each day to sitting down and teaching your child. That would be difficult enough under the best of circumstances (say a rainy, cold day in Ohio). But on a beautiful, sunny day in the south of France… ?