Explore & Inspire, Living Simply, Outdoor Education

Kids travelling vs staying at school: Part 1

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Ta Prohm in Cambodia

Clearly I love to travel but do my kids? They’ve travelled to Cambodia, Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia including climbing Mt. Kinabalu, climbing in Vietnam, volunteering at orphanages in several countries, crossing Sumbawa and seeing only three westerners, exploring Komodo Island for dragons, snorkelling with giant manta rays and hanging out with orangutans. Not a bad list by the time they were 13.

Let me say at the outset that our travel was a blend of 1 to 5 star but often at 2 or 3. It was always clean and cheap and where possible we would stay in local hostels, homestays or bungalows where we could connect with the hosts.

Batu Caves & Temple, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Some of those adventures were two months away from school. Here in Australia, we traditionally have a six week break from mid-December to the end of January. Taking them out of school at the start of December meant they only missed two weeks of school. How did the school take that? What did the kids think of not ending the year with all the Christmas celebrations? How did they go fitting back into school after such adventures?

Before I address these questions, you need to know that here in Australia, our schools are overseen by the Department of Education in each of our 8 states and territories. In more recent times, the Department ask that schools crack down on families who take trips during term time and student absenteeism. This can come with some consequences from the school saying that the time away from the classroom is ‘unjustified’ (and in some states is recorded on their permanent records) unless it involves elite sports or an event in the entertainment industry. Ah hum! – so that means if you have a state hockey final you can be away from school or have a commitment to make a television commercial – we can call that a tick! Otherwise, spending time exploring your own country or internationally is a no-no. Wait, I’m just falling off my chair right now!

Catching up on reading

Why travel isn’t included in acceptable absences though, is beyond me, as we are all aware of the benefits it can hold. I guess it’s because if the Department made it seem like travelling outside the school holidays is the acceptable thing to do, everyone would be booking for the cheaper times outside of the school holidays, and schools would be having students missing even more frequently than they do now.

So back to my questions. The school didn’t seem to mind considering my kids would miss out on the lead up to Christmas celebrations. I think it’s wise to keep your kids’ teachers informed of what you’ve done / doing so when they return to school they’ll know of any gaps in the curriculum or anything they can add to the classroom.

Meeting one of these was a trip highlight

Don’t underestimate this. I remember watching my daughter showing pictures to her classmates of herself with a Komodo dragon and everyone was enthralled as she spoke about where they live, what they eat, how many there are on only three islands and so much more. It was second nature to talk about it once she’d returned to school.

Anyway, leading up to Christmas there is a lot of decorations and tokenistic holiday time activities during those last two weeks. The kids didn’t mind missing out on the traditional end of year events but at the ages of 8, 10 and 12 (first trip) they weren’t too worried. If the same trip had been in the mid teenage years, it would be more challenging. Settling into school after such an adventure had a few glitches for about a week, but friendships absorb their time and soon they are back into their groove. However, the legacy of travelling will stay with them forever. One of my favourite sayings my mother told me was ‘they can take away your house, your job but they can’t take away your memories’.

Chilling in the Banda Sea

Now it’s your turn. How do you feel about taking kids out of school for a trip? What does it mean to you? What have been the goods, the bads and the uglies of doing it? Leave a comment below.

One Comment

  • Tick. Tick. Tick. Ms Slinger. Love your work. Took our own kids away for three months. Best thing we ever did. Except now they want to go away again and we’ll have to save up the $’s. But it’ll be worth it.


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