I’ve made it no secret that I pull my kids out of school every year for a family trip. I have absolutely no problem with my kids missing school for up to a week for a trip. Vacations during the off season are less expensive, and destinations are less crowded.
Pulling my kids out of elementary school for vacations was a no-brainer for our family. I know that some people disagree with doing this, but I really feel like the benefits of our trips outweighed missing school. We would travel much less if we couldn’t travel during the school year.
A few months ago I wrote about some changes happening with my family and why we won’t be able to travel as much during the school year. The main change is that my oldest son started middle school this fall.
Last month, the school district was closed on a Monday and Friday, giving us a four-day weekend. We added three days onto that weekend for our trip to Puerto Vallarta, so our kids only had to miss three days of school for a six-night trip.
Now that we’re back and the dust has settled, I’ve had time to evaluate the pros and cons of missing middle school.
Why Missing Middle School Isn’t So Bad
- Everything is online. With my son’s school, all of his classes have online syllabuses. We could see what my son was missing for each class by day, including homework assignments and quizzes. Even his textbooks and class resource material are online. We can see his grades online and which assignments are missing.
- Teachers have scheduled tutorial times. Each of my son’s teachers have scheduled tutorial or office times before or after school on certain days. This made it easy for my son to meet with each teacher for guidance on makeup work.
- Grades don’t affect college applications. Yes, I said it. Grades in middle school don’t affect your high school class rankings or show up on your high school transcripts. However, attaining good grades in middle school is important for gaining knowledge and good study habits.
Why Missing School Middle School is Challenging
- Some things you can’t make up. For example, if your child misses a band concert, their grade goes down significantly. Same thing with a choir show or theater performance.
- There are more teachers/classes to coordinate. My son has eight teachers now. Last year in 5th grade, he only had two teachers. Meeting with each teacher takes more time and couldn’t be accomplished in one day.
- Classwork and homework are more complex and take more time. Obviously, the difficulty level rises each year, so it takes more effort and time to make up work.
How did my son feel about missing middle school?
I spoke to my son about missing school because I wanted his honest feedback. I wouldn’t want to pull him out of school if it stresses him out too much and he couldn’t enjoy our trips.
He loved the break from the rat race! The transition from elementary school to middle school was hard. He has way less free time and less time to unwind and be a kid. Going on our trip to Puerto Vallarta was a much needed break for him! And yes, he was on his phone a lot looking at Instagram, but he was relaxed and happy.
Making up the work was harder than he thought, however. In elementary school, his teachers spoon fed him his makeup work. That wasn’t the case in middle school. He looked at the online syllabuses, but as we logged into his online grades we could see that he was still missing some assignments. He was a little stressed going to school early and staying after school to meet with teachers about his makeup work in the two weeks following our trip.
I asked him if the stress was worth it—and he said it definitely was! However, he said he wouldn’t want to miss more than three days in a row. Making up more days of work would be too overwhelming.
What’s the plan going forward?
While my son is in middle school, we will take a few trips where he will miss up to three days of school at a time. His grades were not affected by missing school on this last trip. I’m already planning on him missing a few days during his 7th grade year for an extended trip to Hawaii that we will tack on to the scheduled Spring Break week.
If we had the right opportunity, I’d be comfortable pulling him out for a few days next semester, too. While missing five days in a row would be hard, missing three days in one semester and two days in another semester would be much easier to handle.
We will look at the band/theater calendar before planning any trips to make sure he won’t miss any performances. Usually, the performance schedule is similar year after year, so we can make a good guess at the dates.
High school may be a totally different story, but we will cross that bridge when we get there.
Parents, are you for or against pulling kids out of school for a family vacation? Parents of middle schoolers, how do you feel about missing middle school?
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Nancy lives near Dallas, Texas, with her husband and three kids. Her favorite vacations include the beach, cruising and everything Disney.
I had no problem pulling them in elementary. However, my son was very much against being pulled in middle and high school. He won’t even stay home sick unless he has a fever or is vomiting. In honors/AP/dual enrollment classes, it’s very hard to stay on top at the high school level. Plus, our high school has a policy that if you earn a 95% or better in a class with no more than 3 absences, you can skip the final. I did pull him for one extra day in Aruba last year and he was not a happy camper. I won’t do it again. However, I would NEVER judge another family for doing it. Every child/student is different!
Michelle–I agree! Every kid and family will feel differently on this. I’ve met many families who are very opposed to taking out kids, and I respect their reasons. I’m not sure how my son will feel in later grades.
I’m all for missing school but as you said, I would have to see how my daughter feels as she is more advanced. Right now she’s only in second grade and she has missed between 7 and 10 days on each of the previous two years and will miss 6 days in a row this year and one day next week. Unfortunately I believe schools keep tight control on the days students miss because of federal funding so sometimes it is not just about the students welfare but their pocket. I think that quality time spent with family is more important than a few assignments. In our case, the two weeks we’ll take to go down to South America mean a lot to my daughter. She gets to see both grandparents and her cousin who is her same age. She has a lot of fun and I want to create memories that stay with her for life. I don’t know how long her grandparents will be around for so I feel no guilt or shame. I’m also for pulling them out of school for touristy vacations. Ha! who would have thought?? I work for a school district and I am constantly telling parents about the importance of being in school BUT when the student is doing well and the reason for the absence is worth it, I’m all for it. Sorry for the long response…
Leticia–Totally worth it for your daughter to see her family in South America! I’m glad you have no guilt. I used to feel guilty, but I’ve gotten over it. 🙂
I’ll just throw out there that there might be a huge difference between 6th grade middle school and 8th grade middle school. My son- who is by no means a perfectionist- complained about two days I’m taking him out in April to go to Disney World. Disney World.
Part of it is the high-achieving area of the country we live in, but I hate the pressure we put on kids earlier and earlier.
Good point! My friend just told me that some of the advanced 8th grade classes actually show up on high school transcripts now. Darn it! Maybe my travel freedom is disappearing sooner than I thought.
Stacey Wilkinson says
Great article Nancy! I’m about to talk to the school about my 2 kiddos (3rd and 9th grade) missing 4 days after winter break. I booked a cruise for us 13 months ago and as luck would have it Winter Break didn’t include the week after the New Year. This is our first big family vacation since my divorce 3 years ago and we are going with other friends and family. Not sure how the school will react, whether I’ll get a letter in the mail. I’m not going to bother with homework, internet will be too crazy expensive on a cruise ship.
What an awesome trip! There is a form to fill out online for our school district, let me know if you can’t find it. I’ve found the school administration to be supportive of trips. You will get a letter in the mail after your trip, it’s a standard form letter that sounds menacing but it is sent automatically after the 3rd day. I’ve talked to the principals about this, the school takes no action unless there are more than 10 unexcused absences. Have a great time on your cruise!
My parents pulled us out of school a lot when we were in school. We used to go to visit my grandparents for 3 months every other winter while I was in elementary school and a week or two before Christmas break in high school. We also missed almost a month when I was in 10th grade to go to Australia. Since this was pre-high stakes testing, my teachers were all very nice about it. I lugged my giant math book everywhere and did all of my assignments. One year my English teacher told me to just read a book and keep a journal instead of giving me the real assignments to do:) The trips were amazing and I didn’t mind missing school:) My kids are still in elementary school and I’ve pulled them out 10-15 days a year for the last 3 years for trips. However, I’m rethinking so many days as they get older. My 8 year-old is special needs (she’s deaf and uses a hearing aid and cochlear implant to hear) and I worry about her missing classroom instruction as the curriculum gets harder. She’s pretty bright so it hasn’t been an issue so far, but I think if days missed start to affect her learning I’ll cut back. We have a Disney cruise to the Mediterranean booked for two weeks after the next school year starts, which I’m a little worried about, but I’m hoping she’ll have a great teacher who’s willing to work with us. Lucky for us that we live in a state where no one really bats an eye for pulling your kids out for vacations.
Your childhood trips sound amazing! And I’m totally jealous of your Disney Cruise to the Mediterranean!!!