Pulling your kids out of school to travel is a contentious issue. There are many who would argue it’s a terrible idea and detrimental to their education. That they will fall behind and ultimately never catch up. And while there is no right or wrong answer here all I can give you is my opinion and perspective having pulled our boys out of school to travel for the last few years.
Coming from an educator’s point of view I think you need to assess carefully how your child is going at school as this will affect your decision in taking them out. Our boys (who are currently 15yo and in Year 9) were okay with all their subjects and any gaps I felt they had I tried to cover them the best I could at home. Yes, being an educator helps – but trust me- when you’re a teacher yourself trying to teach your own kids is the hardest thing you’ll ever do!
(The Panathenaic Stadium is just a short walk from our apartment and we try and appreciate the beauty and history of it each time we walk past. It’s the only stadium in the world built entirely of marble.)
Our boys were in Prep when we first went away for a month which in hindsight is a great time to travel with kids. They’re at an age where they’re like sponges and take in everything around them. Young enough to be amazed by things and not yet old enough to tell you they‘re bored…hahaha!
During Years 4, 5 and 6 we pulled the boys out of school for 2 and 3 months at a time during the middle of the year- between May and August. This time frame is trickier as it’s when the bulk of learning occurs. Term 1 is really a time to lay the foundations while Term 4 is a wrap up where learning is consolidated. The two terms in between are usually when most of the assessment and project work is done. But if covid has taught us anything it’s that learning can definitely continue remotely. Armed with a laptop and some good wifi kids are able to tune into class activities and complete and submit assignments with ease. As the kids get older I believe the responsibility for their learning lies with them. Ensure they are emailing teachers consistently and keeping on top of any tasks due.
(The boys’ Lego skills came to good use when they made this Evzona.)
The tricky thing when you’re away on holidays is setting aside time to actually do school work. While the trip itself is the greatest education they will ever receive I believe it’s also crucial to continue a sense of routine as much as you can. I find that daily diary writing can really help with this. Plus it leaves them with a great memento to look back upon when they’re older.
I also need to stress that you shouldn’t stress!
By that I mean you shouldn’t expect that your kids learning will continue at the same pace as it would at school. That’s just unrealistic. And trying to push them will only lead to unnecessary angst for all of you.
If however your holiday is looking at being more of a relocation then there are great options with being able to enrol them at local schools. If they’re fluent in the language of the country you’re staying in then a local school would be amazing. Otherwise there are many international schools available where the main language is English.
(One of the many benefits of living in Athens is that you can have one of these every day!!)
Our trip this time round sees us based in Athens where we try and set up our day in such a way where the kids are given time to complete work as well as enjoy the sights and sounds of their new city. We get up each morning, go for a walk, have breakfast then start our ‘school day’ for a few hours while hubby starts his work day. The afternoons are spent visiting a museum or a local park immersing ourselves in the local culture and to experience as much as we can. And while the kids may not be doing maths in a class room they are learning to convert the Euro to Australian Dollar each time they go to spend their pocket money. They’re improving their Greek by interacting with locals and increasing their knowledge of daily life in Athens which in the past they would only read about.
So three weeks in and I think we’re doing great! We’re slowly working with Athens time which for us means a little afternoon siesta and a much later dinner than we’re used to. No 5:30pm dinners here- it’s more like 8:00-8:30pm!
There’s a saying that goes “Travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer.” And while the recent pandemic may have put a stop to that for a while it’s great to see the world slowly opening up again and giving us the opportunity to expand our knowledge, horizons and experiences. Your kids won’t remember that Science class they were in during Year 8 but you can bet they will talk about the moment they climbed the Acropolis for the rest of their lives. So if I can leave you with one piece of advice if you’re in two minds about your kids missing school, it’s that it will be ok - in fact it will be amazing!
For more on Chrystal's adventures in Greece and beyond, click here.