My kids spent three days skiing down mountain trails this past March. We cooked big family dinners together and went to bed early so we could enjoy the mountain view first thing in the morning. Oh, and they just so happened to miss school for this trip.
Is it ever okay to miss a few days of school for quality family time? Not if you ask my nine-year-old daughter’s teacher, who scowled when I told her I was pulling her out of class for our trip, citing concerns about all the classwork she'd miss out on. And definitely not for the principal of an elementary school in Pennsylvania, who sent a letter to a family whose two kids missed three days of school for a trip to Boston to support their dad, who was participating in the Boston Marathon. The school claimed that a family vacation is a “non-excusable” absence and that, if there are too many non-excusable absences, the children will be referred to the attendance officer. I can’t imagine what my response would be if the truant officer (I didn’t know those even existed anymore) showed up at my front door.
Well, the kids' dad, Michael Rossi, had a great response. He wrote a letter to the principal that highlights the educational and emotional learning his kids received while away on their trip.
Dear Madam Principal,While I appreciate your concern for our children's education, I can promise you they learned as much in the five days we were in Boston as they would in an entire year in school.Our children had a once-in-a-lifetime experience—one that can't be duplicated in a classroom or read in a book.In the three days of school they missed (which consisted of standardized testing that they could take any time), they learned about dedication, commitment, love, perseverance, overcoming adversity, civic pride, patriotism, American history, culinary arts and physical education.They watched their father overcome injury, bad weather, the death of a loved one and many other obstacles to achieve an important personal goal.They also experienced first-hand the love and support of thousands of others cheering on people with a common goal.At the marathon, they watched blind runners, runners with prosthetic limbs and debilitating diseases and people running to raise money for great causes in the most prestigious and historic marathon in the world.They also paid tribute to the victims of a senseless act of terrorism and learned that, no matter what evil may occur, terrorists can't deter the American spirit.These are things they won't ever truly learn in the classroom.In addition, our children walked the Freedom Trail and visited the sites of the Boston Tea Party and the Boston Massacre and the graves of several signers of the Declaration of Independence.These are things they will learn in school a year or more from now, so, in actuality, our children are ahead of the game.They also visited an aquarium, sampled great cuisine and spent many hours of physical activity walking and swimming.We appreciate the efforts of the wonderful teachers and staff and cherish the education they are receiving at Rydal Elementary School. We truly love our school! But I wouldn't hesitate to pull them out of school again for an experience like the one they had this past week. Thank you for your time. Sincerely, Michael Rossi Father
We've never hesitated to pull our kids out of school to take them on a trip. We know there are consequences to them missing classroom work, but the kids catch up when we return. However, I'm not sure that I would have sent a letter like this to the school principal; instead, I would have crafted a pointed letter to my kids' teachers—in my head.
The public response to the viral letter has been mixed, and Rossi admitted that he isn't a fan of some of the coverage. He told reporters he doesn’t blame the principal, as she was just upholding school board policy. Both Rossi and the principal have received hundreds of emails and comments that both support and condemn their actions. Supporters of the school policy argue that families have plenty of time to go on trips together during scheduled holidays and that pulling them out of class is irresponsible parenting. I understand how it would be difficult for teachers to have to manage the schoolwork for students who are gone on a family trip. But pulling your kids out of school for a quick jaunt to Boston or some bonding time on the ski slopes is a parent's prerogative and, in the end, can benefit your child just as much as lessons in the classroom.
Do you pull your kids out of school for vacations?
Emma Waverman is a writer, blogger and mom to three kids. She has many opinions, some of them fit to print. Read more of her articles here and follow her on Twitter @emmawaverman.