Am I Ruining My Kid?

School Versus Vacation

How many days of school can you miss before it's not OK?

Photograph by Veer

When I was 15, my family took a two-month trip to Pakistan. We left on New Year’s Eve and returned at the end of February. I missed a ton of school. Why did we go for so long? (And did I flunk?)

Well, airfare for a family of five was a small fortune, so a one-week stay didn’t make sense. The flight to Karachi was more than 19 hours; jet lag was brutal; there were friends and relatives to meet, and historic sites to visit. I took my reading list, science and math textbooks (and asked my father, a physician, to untangle algebra for me). It was a challenge to find time to study, and often I neglected it to hang out with my bilingual cousins; however, in their company I became fluent in Urdu (Pakistan’s official language).

I had a lot of catching up to do when we returned, which meant no mall trips or movies on weekends with friends. I hunkered down and scored B's and A's in my final term in grade 10. My parents and I don't regret the decision to miss school because I forged bonds with relatives and fell in love with my ancestral culture.

Someday, I may take my 5-year-old son to my parents’ homeland, and it will likely be in January (when the weather is coolest). So, he will miss school. In anticipation, I consulted experts for ways in which kids can learn on the road.

Their advice? Prepare. Check the school’s attendance policy, as these can vary by state, and public school district (private schools have their own policies). In California, for instance, a child needs to be present for a minimum of 75 percent of the school year to officially complete a grade. And when children have 10 "unexcused absences" in a row, parents must re-enroll them.

RELATED: Help Your Kids Transition Back to School

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