Holiday Vacation: 6 Ideas for Handling Missed School

Your kid might be excited about missing a few days of school to embark on holiday vacation, but you and his teacher know it's not a piece of cake to keep up with the curriculum when he's absent. How can you make holiday plans without putting a kink in your kid's academics? Read on!

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By Jae Curtis

Snow is falling, families are gathering and students are eagerly anticipating their holiday vacation—it’s the perfect time of year for a family trip! As a parent, it’s important to schedule winter fun while keeping the impact on your child's schoolwork in mind. Missing lessons, even for a few days, can trip up the most studious kid. So how can you make sure all the holiday festivities won't derail his progress at school?

Check School Policy

Before you start to plan your holiday travel, make sure you're clear on the school's policy regarding absences. You can usually find it on the school district website, otherwise you may need to call and ask. Usually there are a set number of excusable absences allowed each year. If your holiday will be longer than that or you've already used up some absences, you may need special permission from the administration to take your little learner out of school again.

Do a Grades Audit

Taking your kid out of school for days at a time could leave him lagging behind, especially if his grades aren't up to par. If your child has been struggling in math, is it really the best choice to let him miss three or four days—even near the holidays? Look over recent report cards and correspondence with his teacher. If he's been struggling, you may want to plan your holidays closer to home.

Bank on the School Break

Most schools are pretty generous when it comes to days off during the holidays. Instead of letting your child miss math, try planning on taking vacation just during the school break. Sure, some attractions may be a bit busier on holidays, but you can enjoy them all the more knowing your kid won’t have to scramble to catch up later.

Talk to the Teacher

As soon as you've nailed down the dates for your vacation, chat with your child's teacher to let her know as many details as possible, like where you're going, how long you’ll be gone, how much down time your child will have, and whether you'll have Internet access. Ask her about getting a login to access worksheets and reading online. If you keep the teacher in the loop as early as possible, she may be able to give your kid extra time to complete assignments, or she can give him some work in advance to prevent him from falling behind.

Get Organized

Get a binder or folder together with worksheets, readings and study guides your little jet-setter will need to keep up with the class while he's away. If he needs to do some schoolwork during vacation, take inventory to make sure you have all the books and materials needed to complete the assignments before your trip. Long car rides and layovers that would usually leave your child bored are a great opportunity for him to get his schoolwork out of the way.

Plan Educational Activities

During vacation, there’s plenty of time for sledding, sing-alongs, snowball fights...and sneaking in some hands-on learning. Fun educational activities aren't only great ways to keep young minds sharp and avoid a “brain drain” over holiday break—they're family bonding opportunities as well. If you have a craft enthusiast, grab your art supplies for some winter-themed activities. Or, if your kid is a tech-lover, stock your tablet with educational apps and games. If you invest some time in learning during the break, he'll hit the ground running when it's time to go back to school.

Build in Buffer Time

Whether you're driving back from Grandma’s or flying in from Hawaii, sending your child back to school when he's still in vacation mode is sure to leave him in a pickle. Plan to have some “buffer time” between vacation and school for your kid to switch gears and reacclimate to a normal schedule after late nights, treats, and running wild with his cousins. Flying in on the red eye and sending your child to school the next morning means his teacher has to try to catch him up while he's still mentally on holiday break. Cutting your vacation short by an afternoon will give him a chance to reboot and get his head in the game before he’s back at his school desk.

Between visiting both sets of grandparents, cooking feasts, sending a hundred Christmas cards, and attending a dozen holiday parties, the "most wonderful time of the year" can sometimes seem like a sprint to the finish. But keeping your kid caught up in school a top priority is worth the pay-off come January—a stress-free, prepared student.

Does traveling with kids have you dreading holiday plans? Check out these 8 tips for a smooth takeoff.

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