Traveling With Homework

Although Spring Break is upon us, if we’re honest, a  lot of families do not pay the added fees associated with traveling at that time.  How can we blame them?  The cost of going away during “peak season” can actually double depending on where you’re going and how many people you’re bringing.  For many families, this can be too much and so they opt for vacations during the school year.  Some states and countries now have laws in which families need to ask the school permission before taking a child out (or face heavy fines or even child neglect charges).  Parents who are given permission must bring all school work with them and make sure it is completed, and this is good practice for any family who plans on pulling their kid out for travel.  After all, at no point should the teacher or student suffer for a vacation.  The question becomes: How do you fit school work into a trip that’s supposed to be about relaxation and fun?

Rule #1: Set Aside a Set Time Each Day

If you’re working with your child one-on-one you’ll find you don’t need to set aside a full school day to get the work done.  Homeschoolers everywhere love that they can spend about two (yes, two) hours a day and get pretty much everything done.  If you’re working directly with your kids, you really need to only put aside an hour or two each day to ensure everything gets done.  I would strongly recommend making it first thing in the day before your child and you are too exhausted to get things done.  By 4pm, you’re probably dead tired, ready for a cocktail (if you haven’t had two already), and are looking forward to letting the kids play while you relax before dinner.  The important thing is to make sure your child agrees ahead of time to this timing so that you can remind them of their promise to do the work in order to go on the trip.

Rule #2: Don’t Talk About School Work Outside of Your “School” Hours

Let’s face it: The last thing a kid wants on vacation is to be hounded by his parents about his work when he’s already done his day’s work or isn’t in his “school work” time.  Can you imagine if your boss called you at all hours to remind you that you had work to do the next day?  You’d lose your mind and you certainly wouldn’t relax.  No – part of agreeing to be on vacation is agreeing to keep the school stuff to school time and vacation and fun time to every other time.  This may be hard if you’ve had a particularly stressful or difficult school time earlier in the day (or even the day before) but you, as the adult, have to be able to switch it off and let your child and yourself enjoy your vacation.  Know that even if your child isn’t doing work, they are learning.  It may be a few words in a different language, it may be a new sport, it may be seeing something culturally unique, or so much more, but your child is still learning (and hopefully enjoying that learning process).  If you keep bringing your child back to something not-so-fun, you end up ruining the trip for everyone.

Rule #3: Take Advantage Of, but Don’t Force, Teachable Moments

This is a bit of a cheat of rule #2, but also not.  If you go through your child’s homework and curricula before you leave, you’ll hopefully see the themes that are being taught that you are now responsible for teaching.  On vacation, you will likely see many opportunities to bring some of these lessons to light in a practical manner.  For example, no matter what kind of math your child is doing, helping work out tips and totals is great practice, but the key is that it doesn’t need to feel like practice.  If your kids are old enough, give your kids the money and ask them to sort out how much to pay.  The point of taking advantage of a teachable moment is to know when you’re forcing it and your child is not at all interested, and when you’re allowing them to engage in earnest and still learn (even if they don’t realize it at the moment).  If you take advantage of these moments, the “school time” you have should be easier.  If you force them, you’re violating rule #2.  It may take a bit of practice to figure it all out, but once you find that sweet spot, you’ll find teaching on vacation to be that much easier.

By Tracy Cassels

March 23, 2015