Photo by: The OnlyAnla

Should Kids Skip School to Travel?

Photo by: The OnlyAnla

It’s a question many parents grapple with, especially as kids get older. I am Indian, so academics were always very important to us, but for my family, so was experiencing life and its many wondrous events. This meant that my parents would pull us out of school for special occasions, family events and sometimes extended summer travel. Whenever we got back to school late, we faced the wrath of teachers who thought our parents were being dismissive of the value they provided every day. I once traveled to NYC from Mumbai in the middle of my 12th grade finals for two days to attend my sister’s registered wedding ceremony. I am pretty sure my teachers would not have approved but for my family, it was an unmissable event. I graduated top of my class every year and made it to a highly reputed college in the United States, so I guess the lifestyle worked for me.

Travel has become so expensive for families these days that parents are starting to take their annual family holiday during the school term to avoid peak-time prices. As someone who believes that travel is integral to a child’s development, I am totally sympathetic to that idea. If something’s gotta give, how does a week of school compare with a week of exploration in a new and different environment?

The thing to consider is that not all kids can handle the pressure of missing school because ultimately the onus of the “catch up” is on the child. Whether teachers are supportive or not, it’s the student that has to manage their time and workload so that they don’t completely bomb at school. There are personal motivations and ambition at stake, in addition to peer pressure (no one wants to be at the bottom of the class) and finally, ironic as it sounds, parental expectations. If you decide as parents that you will be pulling your child out of school you need to make sure that you understand the pressures that face them and be supportive of what they can accomplish with their attention being thus divided.

Another consideration is the timing: I personally have no problem with kids missing preschool or kindergarten. It’s not that I don’t think what they learn in school at this stage is important (trust me: I wouldn’t be paying San Francisco private prices if I didn’t buy into the system), but the opportunity cost of missing school is lower and the benefits of flexibility and adaptability acquired at this age are greater. Plus, a lot of young parents feel like this is the time to get all their traveling out of the way, before kids get ensconced in school activities and real academic pressures.

I was blown away by a story of a sixth-grader who is being pulled out of school for six months, to travel around South America with his parents. The parents, affluent film-makers accustomed to a privileged lifestyle want to teach their son alternative ways to live, outside of his molly-coddled existence. A worthy cause, I think. His school has been very supportive apparently, with the teachers offering to communicate with him via email and send him assignments and samples of the best work to compare with. So while the necessary stakeholders support him, ultimately the kid is responsible for doing his homework after he wakes up at the crack of dawn and hand washes his underwear and catches his own breakfast. A true learning experience, I think. If he isn’t able to keep up with his course work and ends up a semester behind in school, is it so bad? I don’t know. It depends on where your priorities in life lie. His parents have clearly made a choice and kudos to them for it.

It’s similar to the question of whether kids should “take a year off” and travel between high school and college. Will it make their resume look incomplete to potential employers and admissions boards, or do they make a case for being more complete individuals? The reality is that the judgment could go either way and it’s what they as individuals value for themselves, which, comes in large part from the parents.

So in answer to the question “Should Kids Skip School to Travel?” there is no “yes” or “no” answer. There are several considerations to keep in mind but the most important factor is how you as parents define “learning” from your family. And remember that if you opt for an unconventional approach, your children will have to bridge the gap between that and the societal conventions of the time, so you best be prepared to support them through that process.

Kaamna Bhojwani-Dhawan is the founder and CEO of

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