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Vacations During the School Year

Education Expert Advice from Barbara Callaghan

Q: I am taking my child out of school for one week to go to Disneyland. It is in conjunction with a business trip, and it's very cost effective -- otherwise I would not do it. I wrote my child's teacher well in advance of the trip requesting the assignments that my child would miss. You can imagine my annoyance when I received a note back saying nothing would be given before the trip and that my child could keep a journal. I think the teacher has an attitude problem. What do you think?

A: I can understand that you are frustrated. As a parent, I know how nice it is to spend relaxing time with your child. But you wrote to Barbara Callaghan, the teacher, so I will give you my honest opinion from that perspective.

Attendance is important, and it's hard to 'catch up' from being absent. Perhaps the teacher wasn't as tactful as you would have liked, but I believe her attitude is justified. I know that kids can't avoid being sick, but when parents schedule vacations during school, it's frustrating. And this isn't a rare occurrence; sometimes it seems as if I spend each week trying to catch a student up on what happened while he was out. I work hard and my students' learning is a high priority to me, and I think it should be a high priority for parents.

School no longer means students sitting at their desks doing one page after another in their workbooks. Students work together in groups, and a lot of the learning is 'hands-on'. When a student misses activities like this, she can't really make them up.

Also, I often modify my lesson plans and homework assignments based on what happens in class each day. Because of this, I like to wait until an absent student returns to give her a list of make-up work so that I can be sure it's accurate. Because more and more teachers are dealing with this issue, many schools have a "no assignments in advance" policy for children who are out of school for pleasure trips.

Keeping a journal is an excellent assignment for a vacation. It's a chance for your daughter to exercise her writing skills, and she will be able to share her notes with her classmates when she returns.

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After teaching in California for nearly ten years, Barbara Callaghan moved to New Hampshire in 1985 and became a principal. After 10 years as a principal, she returned to teaching, her first love and true vocation.


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