If you are looking for advice and wisdom on whether you should take your kids on that holiday, you have come to the right place!
Disclaimer: I live in the Land of Oz, so our summer holidays here last six weeks (from mid-December to end-January). This is wintertime back home in Croatia and not an ideal time to visit. Conversely we only have two weeks off school in Australia for winter break during the entire European summer (June to August).
When my husband and I decided to book our 7 week family vacation to Croatia this past European summer, I have to admit that while we gave * some * consideration to our kid’s schooling it was not something that ultimately deterred us from organising our long-anticipated holiday.
BECAUSE WE KNEW DEEP DOWN IT WAS NOW OR NEVER FOR OUR FAMILY
With our daughter finally in year 8 and our son in year 6, heading off to high school next year, I understood full well that we were headed into the pivotal years of education. If we wanted to take one last grand trip together as a family we had to do it sooner rather than later.
We were of course conscious to book our dates around the children’s two week winter break here in Australia so that they missed only the last two weeks of term 2 and first three weeks of term 3 (5 weeks of school in total).
We knew in advance that non-attendance would equal an automatic zero for my daughter’s high school assessments but as luck would have it she didn’t have any scheduled for the time while we were away. So it was happy days!
WELL HAPPY DAYS FOR US AND NOT SO MUCH FOR OTHERS.
IT TURNS OUT THAT TAKING KIDS OUT OF SCHOOL FOR VACATION IS GREATLY FROWNED UPON HERE IN AUSTRALIA
My daughter’s high school was less than impressed about our request for leave…. like they were seriously not impressed at all.
And it turns out there are many critics of this practice – in fact the rules claim that in some states of Australia students can essentially only be excused for sickness and incapacity.
Other states leave the decision up to the discretion of the school principal but either way the Department of Education strongly encourages families to plan family holidays and other avoidable absences in the three months when a child is not required to attend school.
THE ARGUMENTS THAT CRITICS OF DURING-SCHOOL-TERM-VACATIONS OFFER ARE SOUND ENOUGH:
-A child’s education should be our priority (True!)
-The child risks falling behind in their schoolwork if he or she misses too many classes (Yes they do!)
-Students are given more than enough time off each year with advance notice of these dates so holidays should be planned accordingly. (Correct but those dates don’t always suit us or our employers).
HERE’S THE THING: ALL IN ALL, I THINK THESE ARE VERY VALID POINTS BUT….
You are speaking to someone whose parents took her out in Year 7 for four months and that European holiday still accounts for some of the greatest days in my childhood.
So let’s just say I see things from a different angle as a consequence.
I promise you, ten or twenty or thirty years from now it won’t matter one bit if your child missed some school for a life-changing, amazing holiday with his family.
Time passes quickly and you have only a short time with your kids to cement some lifelong memories, that they can carry with them forever.
HERE’S MY STORY
When I was in year 7, my parents took me to Europe for four months during the school year.
This was a long awaited holiday for them – my parents had emigrated from Croatia and this was their first trip back home with their kids to see their much-missed family.
My grandfather had passed away the year before we visited (my sisters and I had never met him before) and little did my dad know that his mom would pass away the following year too (exactly one year to the day of us arriving in Croatia that summer).
If we hadn’t gone that summer, my dad would have missed seeing his mother one more time. It was heartbreaking enough that he had already missed seeing his dad.
Yes I missed a lot of school that year.
Even though I carried what felt like a suitcase full of textbooks overseas that I was supposed to study, more than often I would ignore those books and go off and have amazing adventures instead.
I got to spend a summer with my grandparents, who my sisters and I had never had the privilege or opportunity to get to know before.
I discovered a new culture and way of living that opened my eyes to the world, outside the little box we lived in back in Sydney.
I BONDED WITH AND LEARNED MORE ABOUT MY PARENTS THAT SUMMER, BY DISCOVERING THEIR HOMELAND AND CULTURE THAN I DID DURING ALL MY TWELVE YEARS OF MY LIFE.
Our family spent quality time together every single day. I made friends that summer who instantly became my lifelong besties, despite us speaking completely different languages.
Better yet I got to practice speaking that second language, day in and day out, until I no longer sounded like a kindergarten student.
Sure all that time off meant I fell a little behind my peers with regards to schoolwork but within a month or two I was back on track at school. Six months later, it was as if I had never left.
If you were ask me now about all the exciting things that happened to me at school between the ages 4 and 17 (let’s not add the three years of university to add too), I am literally stumped to think of more than a couple of dozen standout memories (at a stretch). Other memories have long ago faded into the background.
And yet those two big holidays my family took during childhood and teen years (the aforementioned one to Croatia and another to New Zealand (during school holidays that time wink wink) – they are unforgettable. They still stand out like a beacon, permanently casting a shiny, bright glow upon my memories.
Instead of hearing or reading about life in science and history books I was actually LIVING AND EMBRACING LIFE.
Instead of having my eyes glued to a textbook at school, my eyes were constantly experiencing new things that they were previously shut from.
YOU NEED TO TRUST YOUR INTUITION AND DO WHAT WORKS FOR YOU AND YOUR FAMILY
Our family circumstances are unique. Our son has a degenerative neuro-muscular disease and we were determined to take one last summer holiday in my parent’s homeland together while he was still walking well enough. It seemed crazy to me that we would lose this opportunity to do so because it didn’t suit the rule books.
HERE’S WHAT THE RULE BOOKS DON’T TELL YOU:
HOLIDAYS ARE AN AMAZING OPPORTUNITIES FOR FAMILIES TO BOND TOGETHER
Back in Sydney we live a fairly typical hamster wheel life. The kids are always rushing from school to extracurricular activities. Both my husband and I have work that consumes the majority of our time. We wait for the weekends to arrive and once again it’s just a flurry of activity.
On holidays our one and only goal was to relax and spend time together as a family. During our seven weeks away, we spent more quality time together than we had over the previous few years because all we had there was time on our hands.
We used this time to reconnect, relax and have fun together. We created memories – completely different from the mundane ones we were making on a day to day basis at home – that would last forever. These memories are now priceless.
SEEING THE WORLD IS AN EDUCATION IN ITSELF
There are some things you can’t learn from a textbook or documentary. You need to experience it for yourself. Our children had to opportunity to discover a new country during their holiday.
They got to experience a slower-paced, more community-driven way of life. They tasted the freedom that comes from living on an island and spent their days alongside tourists from all over the world.
They saw firsthand that there is more to life than the one they were experiencing back in Sydney. They now knew firsthand that the world was larger than anything they had ever imagined it to be and it was sitting there, waiting to be discovered.
YOU ACTUALLY STILL CONTINUE TO LEARN OUTSIDE OF THE SCHOOL ENVIRONMENT
Think about the greatest lessons you have learned in life. How many of those were learned inside a classroom with a teacher preaching it to you? During our holiday our kids learned the following things:
-You don’t need a lot of money to be happy.
-You can survive without WIFI.
-You can survive without a TV too.
-You can live out of a suitcase for months and everything in it feels like more than enough.
-You don’t need a big home – even a tiny apartment can feel like the greatest place on Earth.
-Real organic food is AMAZING. You can live perfectly well without preservative-laden junk food. In fact, you feel a million times better when you do.
– Some people can have nothing and it can still feel like everything.
-The sunset and sunrise is there every day to enjoy if we simply take the time to embrace it
-Even better, there is a whole world out there waiting for us to discover
LIFE IS SHORT
They say we only have eighteen summers with our children. Now that my kids are almost 12 and 14 my husband and I have really only a handful of summers left together with our kids – where we can whisk them away on a holiday and spend one-on-one quality time together.
Or maybe now that they are heading into their teenage years we won’t even have that privilege together. Maybe soon it won’t be cool to spend long days at the beach with your parents. Maybe they will go off and spend that time with their own newfound friends and make incredible memories that don’t include us anymore.
Who am I kidding? Of course that will happen. That is why you need to seize the moment when you still can, because once it passes it is gone forever.
YOU NEVER REGRET A HOLIDAY
Now that we are back in Sydney after seven weeks away our kids are back at school and they didn’t skip a beat. Did they miss anything important? Apparently nothing they can’t quickly catch up on.
When I reflect back on all the moments that make up the patchwork of my life, without a doubt it is all the big and little adventures I have taken along the way that have made the journey worthwhile. If you are contemplating taking your children on a holiday, DO IT! Yes it’s sometimes expensive but the memories you gain as a consequence are ultimately priceless.
THINGS TO KEEP IN MIND
-Speak to the school and your child’s teacher(s) before going away. Make sure you and your child knows and understands the work that will be missed.
-See if there is any work they can completed whilst away, to make their return transition back to school easier
-Try to limit these out-of-school big vacations. It was five years since our last big trip so we definitely didn’t make it a habit to miss school.
-Stay organized when you travel. Check out this fabulous post on why you need a travel capsule wardrobe when you travel.
-Remember that in the grand scheme of things, your child will be fine! Be prepared to help instill good study habits back into them when they return, as they are inclined to still feel like they are in holiday-mode for a week or two post-vacation
-Most important of all – DON’T STRESS. Make sure to have fun and enjoy every single second of your break. These are rare opportunities where your only goal in life is to rest, relax, and soak up another culture while you have the privilege to do so.