Labor Day weekend is traditionally
summer's last hurrah, perfect for a camping trip. Unlike Memorial Day weekend (when it still snows occasionally in the Sierras) and Fourth of July (when
campgrounds are overrun with hot, irritated tourists) the first weekend of
September brings fading temperatures and leaves that are just beginning to
change color. There's only problem: My kids started school two weeks ago.
We've been making this annual
camping trip for years now and have learned that if we wait until the afternoon
to head out of the Bay Area, the highways are jammed with SUVs loaded down with
bikes and barbecues, and we'd be lucky to arrive in the mountains before
So this year, we're pulling our kids out of
class for a day to go on vacation. I admit, the rule-follower in me (which is a
big part of me) feels really guilty just typing out those words. Even as an adult,
I can count on two hands all the days of school I missed as a kid. In my
Taiwanese immigrant family, education was sacrosanct. Only a high fever or some
kind of vomiting ailment could keep me home. Skipping class to go camping?
Well, okay ... if you want to live in a cardboard box when you grow up.
When one day's worksheet looks just about the same as the day before's, I wonder if there isn't more learning to be had from visiting National Parks and museums.
The first time we took our Kindergartener
out of school, my husband and I got into a knock-down, drag-out argument. I
accused him of being a slacker. He accused me of being too rigid. I eventually
relented, on the condition that he not let my mom know. She found out anyway, and
I was wracked with guilt for months.
But over the years, I've realized a
typical day's public school curriculum isn't always that educational. When one
day's worksheet looks just about the same as the day before's, I wonder if there
isn't more learning to be had from visiting National Parks and museums. The
turning point for me came when we made a family trip to Taiwan. We had a week
off for Spring Break, but that's hardly any time, given the 14-hour plane ride.
Our district offers Independent Study when students miss five consecutive days
of class, so we decided to spend an extra week traveling, bringing homework
My kids know the drill now. They
told their teachers they would be missing a day of class and got their makeup
work ahead of time. As the boys get older, it will get harder to pull them out
of school. I probably won't feel so casual about them missing AP Calculus. But
for this year, our family is going to enjoy our four-day weekend. After all,
doesn't school start after Labor Day?