If you have a school age child, you have likely stressed about the idea of taking your child out of school for vacation. No one wants to undermine the value of kids being in school consistently or what a disruption can mean for a child who is struggling in school. Only the parent can decide what is appropriate for their child and what is allowed according to the laws of your state and rules of your particular school. For example, in our state family vacations are unexcused absences and can lead to a review of truancy thus being in communication with the school is key.
However, there are great reasons to choose to take a trip at a time when your child would be in school including trips that can only happen at a certain time of year, taking a trip that would be financially impossible during the predetermined breaks, or taking a trip that offers children an education equally as important to what they can learn in a classroom. We have tried to pair longer trips with predetermined spring or fall breaks to limit the disruption. Every single time our elementary age kids have been gone, their teachers have been gracious in making sure we have what we need and in accepting our choice to remove our child for the trip. Every single time. So, if you’re feeling a bit nervous about the idea, remember that teachers rock and want what’s best for your child.
Kicking off the communication in a clear and complete way well help everyone. Include the following in your communication with school administration and teachers:
- Address appropriate parties
- Timing is important
- Identify your child clearly
- The Who and The Where
- Next Actions
- Contact Information
Address Appropriate Parties
If your child is attending a school, hopefully you are in some regular contact with the teachers and have met the principal/administrator which will hopefully improve the response to your communication. I believe an email is sufficient, but if there is a policy or you feel that a formal letter is required, the same information will apply.
There should be one message to the principal/administrator and another message to the child’s homeroom teacher. If your child has rotating teachers who would need separate notification or is involved in special or extra curriculars at school, a quick note to those teachers is also appropriate to make sure no one is expending energy to track down your child.
Be certain to address each principal or teacher formally unless you have a personal relationship by beginning your communication with a “Dear Mr./Ms./Dr. Whomever”. I would avoid a “To Whom It May Concern” as it gives the impression that you are not overly concerned with who should be receiving the message.
Timing is Important
As discussed earlier, planning vacations around standing breaks reduces the total days absent, but this timing is in regards to how soon before the trip you should notify your contacts. My opinion is two weeks ahead of the trip provides ample time to arrange for any assignments that need to be collected in advance. It also allows time to schedule if the teacher would like to meet briefly with you to convey what should be done during absence especially if the class is working on a larger project or you will miss any planned parent conferences. Two weeks also allows time for conversation or the ability to provide additional information should it be requested by administrators. I do not recommend notifying any earlier than this because the more time allowed, the more likely you’ll have to provide a reminder and additional contact effort for the other parties.
Please also keep in mind that if there is important testing or some other big event going on in the teacher’s life or classroom, additional timing and arrangement may be necessary. Expect that some teachers do not know exactly what they will be covering three plus weeks from the time of your notice and that you should be willing to follow up upon return to help your student get caught up.
Identify your Child Clearly
In communicating with your building administrator, be sure to include your child’s name, homeroom teacher, and any identifying classroom number/letter. For example, identify your child as, “my daughter, Sabrina Dalton of Mr. Donahue’s Homeroom 4A” to avoid any assumptions.
The Who and The Where
This bit of information is important for certain scenarios and generally helpful for all scenarios. It is a personal preference, but giving some details may make the recipient feel more comfortable with the information. Sharing that you are going on an educational trip or big adventure may inspire the desire to support the additional make up effort. Whatever is comfortable for your family and will help the recipient to understand the purpose of the absence.
If you have more than one child in a school and not all children are traveling, this should be specified so there are no assumptions and to provide administrators and teachers information regarding what parent/guardian will be local and available during your absence. If you are a blended family, clarifying which parent(s), a child will be traveling with may be important for communicating how work will be made up.
This piece of information is crucial for taking responsibility for your child’s education. Although our teachers and principals intention to the support the educational needs of each student, it is important to convey that you do not expect them to just solve the issue of your child missing valuable time and work.
Tell your administrator that you intend to communicate with the teacher(s) to assure work is made up before and after your return. Explain to your teacher(s) that you are happy to accommodate them in any way to gather the work or follow any additional instructions.
Make it as easy as possible to follow up with your message. If you are sending a letter, you should include all contact information in the heading. If you are sending an email, be sure to state your phone number and whatever methods of contact you are comfortable using for this purpose.
You will find an email template for an administrator and a teacher.
Hopefully you will receive a favorable response to your notification and find keeping your children caught up to be a low stress part of your family trip!