Taking Kids out of School for Family Trips
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Taking Kids out of School for Family Trips
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
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
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.
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
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.
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
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!
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
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?
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
--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.
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!
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
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
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!
this page was last updated: Oct 25, 2010
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