As someone who has always travelled a lot and intends to keep doing so now with kids, I very recently became aware of the negative press associated with taking the kids out of school to travel. After mentioning to another mum at school about a planned holiday she gave me a big smile, mentioned how fantastic it will be and then checked if I had asked permission for my daughter to have that much time off school.
I will admit in my naivety that this caught me off-guard as I had no idea this might possibly be an issue so I visited mister google and was shocked to see the extent of public comment on this topic.
In Australia, the policy will differ from State to State and is dependent on your child’s school but I was required to apply in writing for my daughter to take the time off school. In most instances the Principal of a school then has the discretionary call to mark the absence as normal or unjustified leave.
Fortunately, the Australian system is nowhere near as heavy handed as in the UK where just recently a landmark Supreme Court case saw a father prosecuted for taking his six year-old daughter out of school for a one week trip to Florida. This came about after the family refused to pay fines issued by their school for unacceptable absences.
I know it doesn’t really mean anything out in the big wide world but do we really need to put another negative cross on our parenting report cards for doing something that we think is beneficial for our kids and our family?
For me, this is really taking parental guilt to a whole new level. I guess we don’t have enough criticism or ‘helpful’ advice out there to guide us as we attempt to shape our children into somewhat nice and respectable grown-ups. Again, the goal posts to be considered a good parent just keep moving further out of reach.
Surely some decisions in life can still be entrusted to well-meaning parents as they do their best to navigate what is best for their child. Don’t we have bigger issues in society than to be judging or punishing otherwise exemplary parents?
Travel is the single easiest way for kids to gain a greater appreciation of the beauty of the World and to instil in them a sense of gratitude for their own circumstances.
It expands their minds and creates invaluable learning opportunities by engaging with other cultures and visiting historical and geographic wonders.
Travel exposes children to different languages and forces them to develop social awareness far beyond their young years as they interact with a wide variety of people from different countries. It facilitates resilience and patience by forcing them to tolerate conditions or situations that might not be as cosy or cushioned as what they are used to at home.
Probably most important of all though is the time that children get to spend with their parents one on one, and the bonds that travel creates for a family unit.
Watching my two girls grow closer and build a super strong sisterly bond while travelling the world together is truly touching to witness.
At least most of the time..... even when they are squealing or punching each other while on a train instead of looking at the beautiful scenery I like to think, rather optimistically that this is developing their ability to communicate outside their normal environments (wink!)
In the current social and economic circumstances where parents are increasingly stressed and working long hours, travel provides invaluable time for families to be together away from the pressures of everyday life.
For our family, we travel with minimal technology and minimal connection to life back home. Disconnecting means that we focus on spending time together and taking in every detail and excitement of life going on around us.
Keeping it real, I completely understand concerns parents have about their children missing valuable learning at school. This must be considered by each individual parent dependent on the learning stage and ability of their own child. If my child was severely struggling and falling behind in class then I would of course take every measure to ensure she wasn’t in a position to fall further behind. This would probably include not taking her out of any class time.
However, the argument that parents are harming their children by taking them out of school to travel really couldn’t be further from the truth.
There are so many opportunities for parents to encourage learning on holidays. Keeping a journal about their travel experiences, attempting to communicate in another language, using maths skills to navigate the use of foreign currency or engaging in different sports and physical activities are all examples of practical applications of education in the real world.
For all you mums and dads out there I give you complete and utter permission to go forth and book whatever wonderful holidays are in the pipeline for your family. For what my tiny opinion matters you are all great parents!
Safe and happy travels.