Taking Kids out of School for Family Trips

Archived Responses: 


Keeping my child out of school several days a year

March 2010


I am a parent of a Kindergartener and new to the the BUSD. I understand that the district does not receive money from the state if my child is not in school. (I can't find the policy online that clarifies what is consider excused.) I also have personal, family reasons to keep my child out of school several days a year. I would like to tell his teacher that he won't be there, but my sense of the system already is that that idea is a bad idea because then the school won't get the money. So do I lie and tell the administration that he is sick? Do I tell the teacher one thing and the administration another? Which puts the teacher in an awkward position. And I am utterly unwilling to coach my 6 year old to lie.

Rumor has it that at one BUSD elementary school, a parent who wants to take their child out of school for a family trip, etc. can write a check to the school for the amount of money that the school loses from the state. In my mind, this takes out the wink-wink-lying-my-kid-is-sick dynamic and recognizes the reality that families have commitments that are not at odds with their children's academic learning.

I looked on the archives and saw some conversation about taking kids out of school for months at a time and setting up independent learning. Is this an option for 3 days? Does it vary from school to school?

I'd really appreciate hearing from parents of public school students, particularly BUSD, and what their experience and thoughts are. Thanks

Three days missed? I think you are over-thinking it. I know parents who have taken their third grader to Africa for a month. Yes, tell the teacher, get some make-up work if you think it's appropriate, but there is no secret to keep. Why do you think some schools have Ski Week? It's called life. Don't worry, enjoy family time.

This is for Oakland, not Berkeley, but my understanding is that it works the same anywhere in the state.

We just took my son out of school for a week-long trip. We set up independent study with the teacher -- which essentially meant we got a bit of homework to keep up with the class, and were asked to have my son read for half an hour a day (not a problem for him), and to make a photo journal of his trip (which he loved).

We did the same for a 3-day trip when he was in first grade. The assignment was a bit less, but similar. The school then gets the money, and all is well. Karen

I believe what you are asking about is a school work contract. If you child is going to be basent for 5 school days or more, then you can work with your child's teacher (s) and develop a contract for the work the child will do while they are gone. Then when you return, you turn in the child's work, the teacher checks it and signs it off and (I believe) certifies to the school that the work was completed. In that way the school still can get credit from the state and will not lose the funds.

We have done this before when our kids were in elementary school and in middle school. It is very straight forward in elementary school, as you would only be working with one teacher (typically). Just give the teacher at least a few weeks notice.

If you child is in middle or high school (for others info) then it takes more work. Typically you would work with the person in charge of school attendance, get a form and have each teacher write out what is assigned and sign the form. The student does the work, and then when they return they get the form signed off by each teacher. Then the form is returned to the attendance office. Most teachers are very good at assigning real work that is also appropriate for traveling with. Traveling Mom

I'm not sure you got an answer to your question, which I interpreted as you wanting clarification on the reimbursement that the public schools get (or don't get) when kids are absent from school. From what I know, you are correct that schools lose a portion of the per-child reimbursement for absent children, and that if your kids are absent for five or more days, you can ask for what amounts to an ''official leave'' which then allows the school to not be penalized monetarily for your child's absence.

You can probably ask your school principal their opinion, but my feeling on this is that if you are planning a 3 day absence, it's not worth keeping your kid out of school an extra 2 days just so you can qualify for the official leave and improve the financial reimbursement situation for your school. If you feel guilty about being responsible for your school losing three child-days of reimbursement, then just donate some equivalent amount of dollars directly to your classroom or the PTA. fellow vacation lover


Taking a 6-7 months around-the-world trip

Oct 2007


We are planning a 6-7 months around-the-world trip during an upcoming sabbatical from work. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity. We recognize that while this will be an invaluable education and experience for us and our children, that our school district (Oakland/OUSD) may not be so excited about our plans to pull our children out of school for a while.

I was wondering if anyone has been thru a similar situation and how you navigated things with your school district, even if isn't Oakland. All advice and thoughts are welcome! We are planning to be away from Christmas through until July or August, back in time for the next school year. We hope our children will be re-admitted to their current school. We will homeschool as needed. Our children will both be in elementary school, ages between 7-10. It's now or never!

Go for it! The school district may well not be enthusiastic, but you are right when you say it's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. The school district will miss out on state funding for the time they are gone, and they will worry about your children's adjustment. But they may also be supportive of the travel factor. It will be important for your kids to be comfortable academically when they go back, and you know best how hard or easy it will be to catch up. I would consult with each of their teachers to get a take on how they are doing in their various academic areas. Then I would consult with home- schooling networks to get curricula for their upcoming semesters in school, and with home-schooling parents to talk about how they manage. You can work on math, reading, language arts, social sciences, science, on the road with the right information and materials. My sister home-schools and I think she just spends the mornings with her kids working on materials, then they do some work themselves in the afternoon or evening. And they'll get plenty of geography, history, and language from their travels! Have a great trip! travels with kid

I would recommend reading ''One Year Off'', a book about a Marin family that does a similar trip. We took our kids out for one month of school when they were 9 and 11, and they didn't have any problems. We're in BUSD, and if you make an ''independent study'' plan with the school, the district still gets the revenue for your child, which they like. Also in my opinion, if you're children are reasonably bright, they'll make up whatever they missed pretty quickly, and even if they didn't, the kind of trip you describe far surpasses anything they'll get in 4-5 months of school. I'm jealous! Phil

We took our son on a year long sabbatical where he attended two different schools in two countries, a camp in a third, and was schooled by us in the fourth. It was an amazing and very positive experience for him. We asked his teachers here to give us an idea of what he should be covering. We also got great help from the teachers he had while on our trip. He ended up quite a bit ahead in many academic areas, and has had an easy time in school since. I look forward to doing it again some day. I would recommend talking to his current teacher way in advance (like now) so she/he can have time to prepare a packet for you to bring along. For the times we were out beyond traditional school (and there were many of those times), we did math by adding and subtracting camels or other animals were saw, or had him write short stories about the sealife, etc. It was fun, painfree, and has had a lasting effect.

Our expeirence was that most schools are accomodating of this type of adventure. If not, then it may be time to look for a school that embraces the value of life experience a little more. Have a great trip! Mom of a worldly kid


Family trip and 13-year-old's unexcused absence

Nov 2005


I am new to the area, and my 13 year old son is attending a big public school for the first time in years. The schools he has been in before had a lot more flexability than this one (Wood Middle School in Alameda). I have an annual trip coming up (family reunion) that will mean he will miss a couple of days of school. I am feeling pressured because I do not want to lie to the school (say he is sick) but they do not give any excused absences for anything like this. I do not want to promote deceit to my son either. But I am afraid if I ask outright he will get punished in some way (don't ask don't tell?). I would so much prefer to just be up front, get his homework ahead of time & have him do extra credit or something, which is how we have handled it in the past. What should I do? sally

As far as State funding for public schools goes, it doesn't matter if a student is sick or at Disneyland -- absent is absent, no money for that student for that school. If your child will be out of school for four days or more, you must request an independent study packet. So actually, it will be better to take the trip, stay out of school for four or more days, get and complete the packet, and the school gets its money. --also planning a trip

I can imagine how the school developed its ''strict'' policy; the state pays schools for student attendance and so the school is docked when students are absent. But occasions do come up beyond one's control (family events are one category) when being somewhere other than school might be important for a child. You're not asking for two weeks, just two days. I would say that you should be up-front about it and do it your way -- ask for make-up assignments, etc. Our district still gets the money if a plan is made in advance to make up the absence, and I can't imagine that's not true for your school. occasionally reasonably truant

There is no reason why you should have to lie. It is rediculous-my daughter, (also a middle-schooler), has to miss a fair amount of school, for complicated reasons (non-medical). Sometimes it has to do with family trips. If YOU excuse your son, then they MUST excuse him. If he is punished, which he SHOULD NOT be, go to the principal at once and inform him/her that your son did not cut class, nor commit any sort of fault, and they have absolutely no grounds to punish him whatsoever. As long as he completes the work he misses, there should be no negative consequinces for him whatsoever. Julian

Hello, I am the mom of an elementary school student in Alameda and his school's policy (which I assume comes from AUSD and therefore applies to Wood School as well) is that if the student is going to be absent 6 to 10 days he can be excused and get his homeowrk ahead of time, it's called ''contracted study'' and the days out will count as attendence so the school gets their state and federal money. Hope this helps! Laura


Sabbatical Year of Travel with school-aged kids

Sept 2002


We're considering taking a sabbatical somewhere down the road (perhaps five years or so from now) and spending the academic year traveling with our two kids (who'll be about 13 and 11) - Wondering if any other parents have had such an adventure, either with your own kids or during your childhood - any pros and cons, anything big that the kids missed out on during the year abroad, any other advice greatly appreciated. We'd be traveling in Lonely Planet style. World travelers with kids in tow

When I was 11 years old, we moved from Berkeley to Chestnut Hill, MA (suburbof Boston) so my father could do a sabatical at MIT. My sister was 14 and my brother was 8 and we all LOVED it. It was an incredible learning experience. We stayed for the school year and I will always remember it. Almost every weekend we did ''enriching'' trips around the east coast. It was very educational to see how different the east coast (and in particular a place like Chestnut Hill) was from Berkeley. katherine

I spent a year abroad with my family when I was 13-14 and it was an incredibly wonderful experience that I have carried with me always (I am now in my late 30s). Going into it, of course I was worried about all the things I would miss, but I enjoyed the adventure from beginning to end (I cried much of the way home), and found that of course I hadn't missed anything at all. My school and friends were just as I'd left them. I was the one who had changed, though, and home felt really tame. When the time comes, my husband, son and I will definitely spend a sabbatical abroad. The hard part will be choosing where to go! Good luck.