Anyone with school-age children has probably considered taking them out of school to visit Disney World at some point, especially with the very attractive free dining offers available during the school year. But making the decision can be tough, and in my experience at least, the right answer was different at different stages of our daughter’s life.
The “take them out of school” discussion is one that I personally struggled with. The first time we dealt with this dilemma was when our daughter was in middle school, and we made the decision to plan a 7 day Land/Sea vacation with Disney Cruise Line in October. Her school system had 2 days off during this one week, so I figured that she was only missing 3 days of school. We notified all her teachers in advance, she got her work from most of them before she left, and so she was able to do a good bit of it on the way down to Florida and back. No real problems.
I can’t say as much for the next time this came up, because by then she was a sophomore in high school…which is an entirely different ball game. I was going to be at Disney for a business conference, so we decided that we would all go. It was only for 3 days, in early December. She was an A student, so we figured that it would work out fine, and that she would have no problems.
We were wrong. In high school, the work load is a great deal more, and things move rapidly. Despite her best efforts to keep up with her homework while away, it was hard: who really wants to do calculus problems instead of seeing Wishes? And coming just a few weeks before Christmas break, every teacher was cramming to get things accomplished prior to the break. She was loaded with work before she left, and had even more when we returned.
She was able to eventually catch up, and her grades did not ultimately suffer…..but it was hard. And now that she is in college, it isn’t even up for discussion: if we are going with her, we have to go during school breaks.
If you have younger children though, you may have more flexibility in scheduling your vacation. Many folks do take their children out of school to go to Disney World on a regular basis. If you are considering doing this, here are a few tips that I would offer that may help:
- Be sure to discuss your trip with your child’s teacher well in advance. Some teachers can give your child their homework prior to your vacation, so that he/she can complete it before you leave….or at least have it to work on during the trip there and back. It will really help when they return, if they are relatively caught up with their classmates.
- Depending on the age/grade of your child, see if there are “Disney-related” assignments that your child could do instead of regular work. Many teachers are very happy to encourage creative reporting on some of the educational aspects of Disney World: and there are a lot of great ways to do this! In fact, I think nearly everything at Disney World is educational in some aspect, so see if your child can take advantage of this by keeping a journal, doing a report or preparing a slideshow.
- I do think it is important to consider your child, and any challenges they face in school before you decide to do this. A vacation in the middle of the school year can be a real disruption to the routine of many children: how will your child handle this? Does he/she struggle for average grades? Some children can easily miss a few days of school without missing a beat, while others may be challenged for weeks afterwards trying to catch up. Again, there is no *one* answer here, it really depends on your own family situation.
So what about you? Have you taken your children out of school for a Disney vacation? What tips do you have to make it successful? And….would you do it again?