Many school districts frown upon parents pulling their children out of school while classes are in session. In fact many schools at the upper grade levels restrict parents from pulling their kids out of school for more than three consecutive days.
Knowing this, I anticipated opposition from our son’s second grade teacher when we pulled him out for a cruise the week after Thanksgiving. We were rather pleasantly surprised when the teacher gave us a lesson plan and wished us bon voyage.
1. Schoolwork with a view.
How cool is it for an eight year old to do homework at an elevation of 30,000 feet?
Spying distant islands, palm trees and waves breaks the monotony of kitchen table glances at the clock between paragraphs and the drudgery of regrouping double digit subtraction numbers before cartoons.
2. Teachable moments.
Look out over the wing of your airplane. Use it as an opportunity to talk about lift and thrust. Start a conversation about physics. Talk about how air travel does not automatically just happen.
Engage a child’s sense of wonder. Point out geological differences in the terrain below. Talk about the ecosystems beneath ship.
3. A Study Abroad.
Our children are often preached the importance of world citizenship from the floor of mandatory school assemblies.
Each year in elementary school, classes are assigned countries to study. Students shuffle dutifully from room to room learning the flags and foods of Mexico, Germany and Japan.
On ship, children are exposed to worlds beyond the book and beyond their hometown. They encounter people from the Philippines, Indonesia and the Netherlands directly; people who are proud to share their cultural heritage and their language.
On shore, children get glimpses of neighborhoods different from their own – some good, some not so good. For some, it is their first exposure to poverty. It is not a sideshow. It is an opportunity to connect times when collections are taken up for world missions and shoeboxes are assembled for areas hit by natural disaster.
4. Independent Study.
Work with the teacher to devise a plan. Work ahead. Make the trip educational. Trade off missed tests and assignments with a special report. Have your child make a report on the trip and have him present it to the class for credit. Have him detail the places he has been, the cultures he has seen and how they differ from his own.
Most of the work can be completed on the flight or in the morning hours before the days’ activities. There is plenty of downtime at the airport to get work done.
Coming across retirees while abroad is a wonderful thing!
Retired educators have an innate need to approach children on vacation. They inquire how old they are, what grade they are in and what is their favorite subject to study. They reinforce the importance of reading and math and how important it is to keep up with their homework.
People of various professions: pilots, performers and pastry chefs, stress the importance of hard work and study; words refreshing to young ears and Mom. Having others put a positive spin on study is a departure from Mom and Dad’s constant nagging.
It does take discipline on the part of vacationing parents to prod their children to do their work in paradise. Doing so provides leverage at home and incentivizes fastidiousness for the future. The ship captain, the pilot and the pastry chef had to study very hard to become the professionals that they are. Success requires diligence at all grade levels.
6. Manners applied.
Speaking of nagging, remember the repetitious instruction of the proper use of knife and fork and reminders of good posture and no elbows at the table?
Good news and typical of kids, they tend try harder for complete strangers than for parents.
McDonald’s Playland free-for-all rules do not apply on the Lido deck.
Children have to master good manners in public eating spaces. They learn impulse control by not grabbing food items with their bare hands. They learn how to wait in line. They learn that it is impolite to cut in front of others even when they are not moving as fast as one would like.
Point out good service. Emphasize how “please” and “thank you” go a long way. Play the opposite game – speculate how people would react if servers used curt remarks and brash behavior.
7. Work schedules do not always correspond with the school calendar.
You only get so many vacation days a year. You have to work around co-worker schedules, production schedules and most importantly the boss’ schedule. That schedule overrules the school calendar.
Though you may be reproached for pulling your child out of school for vacation, application of what is being taught in the classroom and at home makes for a well-rounded kid – both educationally and socially, not to mention nutritionally. He is most likely to gain a few.