Taking My Kid Out of School for a Family Vacation Shouldn't Be 'Illegal'

empty school desksI knew the form was coming, but that didn't make it any easier when it arrived. Illegal Absence. I never knew a piece of paper could mom shame, but it did.

Technically, it's telling the truth. I am taking my kid out of school for what the state has deemed an "illegal absence." That I talked to her teacher on meet the teacher night and emailed her about our upcoming trip doesn't matter. Nor does the fact that said teacher is putting together a packet of homework to do on the trip.

It's still "illegal."

I don't do anything illegal.


OK. I speed. Sometimes. Not with the kid in the car!

But that's pretty much the extend of my bad-assery, folks. I'm a straight arrow who was voted class angel in high school (yes, really). 

So the word "illegal" bugs me. Big time.

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Not just because I feel ashamed, although I do. Wait, actually, let me correct that. It IS because I feel ashamed.

I hate my kid's school and the state education department for making me feel ashamed of spending time with my daughter.

People! We're taking her out of school for five days for a family vacation, on which she'll see other parts of the country, eat different foods, and do a load of reading (yes, we're driving). We're not making her walk over hot coals while eating fried worms dipped in Tabasco.

Why is this "illegal"?

Because it's during the school year, and kids belong in school every day of the school year? Sorry, but even as a staunch supporter of public education, I disagree. I think there's something to be said for education outside of the classroom, and certainly something to be said for the value of family time.

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These days, there isn't enough of the latter. About 60 percent of two-parent households with children under age 18 have two working parents, and 56 percent of mothers and 50 percent of fathers say juggling work and family life is difficult for them.

Family vacations offer valuable time for parents and kids to reconnect. Why not do that when school is out of session, you might ask? Did I mention all those two-parent-working families? Do you know how many of us are vying with one another for time off during the same exact school breaks? Statistically, it's impossible for all of us to do it, and this year, the only time my husband and I could both get off for a stretch of time was, you guessed it, during the school year.

I know we're not alone. I put out a Facebook query to friends to ask if anyone else had done a school-time vacation, asking how to broach it with our district, and I had a deluge of advice-givers.

These are all good parents, parents who value their kids' education. They're all parents who, like me, sought out their children's teachers and got their kids' assignments ahead of time so their kiddos wouldn't fall behind. Several chose -- as I did -- to make their vacation plans in the fall when classwork still tends to be focused on a review of the year before rather than a true representation of this year's curriculum.

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The term "illegal absence" is unfair to parents like them, to parents like me, parents who are doing what we feel is best for our kids. It lumps us in with the truly bad parents -- you know the type, the ones who just can't be bothered to put down the crack pipe and get their kids out of bed in the morning to get on the bus.

It shames us for something that should be celebrated: giving kids a varied education that includes trips outside their hometown, for wanting to devote our time and energies to being WITH our kids.

Does your kids' school label vacations illegal? Do you do it anyway?


Image via DCJohn/Flickr

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