Although my parents were never reckless about school
absences, growing up in a military family did sometimes mean missing school in
order to travel back to the United States, where my dad is from, or Ireland,
where my mom was from, in order to attend family events.
Actually, there were other occasions, too, like ski trips
that extended slightly beyond the December vacation period or the time my mom's
travel companion had to cancel on her, earning me a prize slot in a trip to
Spain alone with my mom.
Good grades and school attendance were extremely important
in my family growing up, but my parents also could appreciate the benefit of
breaking the rules from time to time, when what was on offer was a
once-in-a-lifetime experience or event. (Or even just the chance to go to a ski
resort without paying peak prices or suffering the thousands of other skiers
who were there for the school holidays.)
A Dutch family recently got a rude awakening when photos of
their family ski vacation led to a €400 fine for the parents. School truancy officials had spotted photos on Facebook.
In the Netherlands, where I live with my husband and three
children, missing school outside of designated
school holiday time is definitely not OK for children 5 and older. Parents
who take children out of school for a holiday are always reported to local officials
and fined a maximum of €100 per child per day.
I can also understand that some experiences outside of school also have educational and developmental value, and that responsible parents are able to make intelligent choices about when a day outside of school might have the best overall benefit.
To be fair, we get ample holiday time. There's a week in the
fall, two weeks for Christmas, a week in February, two more weeks in the
spring and six weeks in the summer. And because it's a small country, and the 27th most densely populated in the world, the holiday periods vary
slightly by region to keep every Dutch family from setting out on a caravan to
France on the same day.
Expat life always has slight disadvantages (and many
wonderful positive aspects), and one is that the school holidays here do not
always align with my nephews' in the States or the big events in my life, such
as last year, a nephew's First Communion that my son and I attended during a
period that my son should have been in school. It was OK, because my son was
still just 4 at the time. If he had been 5, like he is now, it would have been different.
I understand, like my parents did, that school is extremely
important, and attendance is obviously a major priority. But I can also
understand that some experiences outside of school also have educational and
developmental value, and that responsible parents are able to make intelligent
choices about when a day outside of school might have the best overall benefit.
It's new territory for me, now that my children are part of
the school system. They are answering to forces beyond just their father and me,
and that's just going to continue as they get older.
I accept this while maintaining that everyone should have a
right to break rules from time to time. My advice for when you do make that choice, however? Don't post photos of a ski holiday you're not officially taking.