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When Fun Family Trips Mean More than School

Opportunity knocked, and I flung the door wide open, consequences be damned. The opportunity was a sudden and unexpected week of family travel, the bucket list kind. The consequences were the usual suspects: work and school, the Twiddle Dee and Dum, respectively, of life's wonderland, minus the fun hats.

Work was flexible enough—my wife and I were able to move projects around, meet deadlines early, and, as the trip in question was, for all intents and purposes, work, I took a share of mine with me (a much bigger share than I wanted, but hey, bucket list).

School, however, made me a little uncomfortable. The boys would need to miss five days of it, just a week after returning from the winter holiday. Frankly, the idea of approaching the office staff with the news filled me with a forlorn fear that was usually reserved for far darker tidings.

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Still, opportunity isn't known for its patience. I stuck to my resolve, fortified as it was upon years of theory and experience. Namely, I believe wholeheartedly that education is not the sole dominion of the classroom. Education is all around us, in everything we do, and sometimes kids need to miss a few days of school to pursue it.

It isn't a revolutionary idea. In fact, it's fairly accepted among parents and educators. The problem, like most problems, was not prioritizing adventure over textbook descriptions of it, but the fact that, for schools to get paid, kids have to be in the classroom. Daily.

We were lucky. It turns out that California allows kids to miss school for travel. But there are rules. If a child is going to miss at least five consecutive days, then they are able to apply for an independent study contract. Basically, the child is held responsible for work missed while not penalizing the school for their physical absence.

This father told me the story with ache voice, and I could feel the weight of the bureaucratic process as heavy in his words as it must have been on his shoulders. All I could do was offer my sympathies.

Of course, my boys were less than thrilled about a week of coursework coming home all at once, but they understood the necessity of it and worked to get it done. In addition, many of their teachers allowed them to create new projects based on the trip we were taking, which was a nice touch.

The office staff belayed my worry the moment I mentioned the trip, what with the aforementioned bucket list and that part about the opportunity knocking. They were encouraging, openly envious, and champions of the benefits that surely awaited my boys, even beyond the cool T-shirts they'd inevitably outgrow and postcards that would eventually lose their color. I didn't need a single metaphor.

Unfortunately, other states have different ideas. On the trip, I met a man with children roughly the age of mine, except his kids were unable to make the trip. Apparently, his peach of a state requires that kids be disenrolled, paperwork and all, then re-enrolled after they return. This father told me the story with an ache in his voice, and I could feel the weight of the bureaucratic process as heavy in his words as it must have been on his shoulders. All I could do was offer my sympathies.

"Man, that sucks," I said.

He agreed.

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And so it was that not only had we been given a great opportunity, but we had also been graced with circumstance. The trip was taken, the schoolwork completed and the wonderland of life became brighter and all the better for it. Any downside I was feeling proved overrated. The opportunity was its own reward. Education was everywhere.

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