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Travelling with kids... When they should be at school

Updated: May 21, 2023

Some schools or authorities will fine you for taking the kids out of school without a valid reason. Well screw them - that’s crazy. Travel is a valid reason. Or, at least, it can be.

We made the decision to take the kids out of school for a term and travel to some places completely different to home. We have seen them grow so much, in so many ways. We’ve even seen specific improvements in their numeracy and literacy while not attending their Maths and English lessons.

Check out these 8 tips on how to maximise their time off school without suffering from their time off school.

1. Talk to their teachers

Now’s the time to benefit from that open, honest dialogue you have with your kids’ teachers (you know, like all good parents have… ha, just kidding. Full disclosure – I’m a teacher) Have an honest chat about what you’re planning and find out what your kids are going to be missing while you’re away but also what they’re excelling at, struggling with and enjoying most at school. This will help give you some ideas to enrich your travel learning. A decent teacher will probably offer you some resources or ideas for the time away too.

2. Don’t try to replace school with school

You’re not a teacher, and you probably don’t want to be. So don’t pretend to be. Even if you are, trying to sit your own kids down for a lesson would be an absolute nightmare. The relationship you have with your kids is nothing like that the teacher needs to have to maintain their orderly classroom (hopefully, in both cases!). You have the advantage of freedom to provide completely alternative learning styles that a school classroom can’t ever replicate.

3. Let their interest lead you

Our kids developed a really cool interest and love for the ancient while in Scotland. The Pictish standing stones, ruins of Brochs and castles and the geography and landscapes. So we ran with it. We planned our routes around what they would love to do and found a thousand-or-so year old ruin to play on every day. It was incredible and conversations about who built them and knocked them down, how, why, where and what came out so naturally. We found out together. Just like in school, they’ll learn best when the learning is fun and interesting to them personally. You’ll all enjoy travel much more this way (have you ever tried to enjoy ANYTHING your kids really don’t want to do?!) Focus on their love of animals, games, culture, sport or whatever else they love when you’re planning a visit or experience with them.

4. Journals

A journal or scrapbook or a letter back home is a good way for kids to keep track of their travels and combining the journal with photography or a collection (stickers, stuff to stick in - depending on what they are interested in) will make it more fun but also provide writing prompts. Ours really benefited from some really simple writing prompts like:

- The best thing I did today was…

- Right now I am…

- The animals we saw today were…

- The weather here is…

The journal doesn’t have to be written. Entries can be drawn, recorded, stuck-in or whatever fits the mood or the medium. Reading it back and reflecting on what you’ve done adds further value!

5. The three Rs; reading, writing and arithmetic

Do not underestimate the impact of practical, real life learning of maths and English. Think of the day to day numeracy around you. Dealing with money and time, understanding a timetable in an airport or at a bus stop, counting steps, reading maps. The same for English; reading about your destination, communicating with people and learning aspects of a foreign language are your easiest tools here (while only really useful if you’re travelling to a place that speaks a foreign language, like us Aussies in Yorkshire, it has real value.) You don’t need to be sat at a desk to learn stuff, sometimes quite the opposite.

6. Social skills

For me, the most important thing we need to recreate is socialising. They’re missing their friends and they need other kids around them. So once again, people are our best resource. Surround them with family, encourage them to participate in all kinds of activity and visit parks and play areas and let them be kids, let them interact. You’ll also benefit from burning off some energy before that flight, drive, art gallery visit!

7. Personal Growth

There might be other aspects of learning that you can target through your travel. Confidence, resilience, independence, cultural awareness, creativity. Try to think of some additional skillsets your kids would benefit from and plan for and note growth.

8. Time it right

This may be a bit obvious but taking a break from school on the run up to exams or in the middle of a really important bit of learning is going to be a bit stressful for all. It wont be a high value travel experience and it might really affect the kids academic skill or wellbeing. Avoid if you can.

I’ll say it again, travel can be a rich, exciting, real learning tool. Using these tips as a starting point can make sure you ease the guilt of taking some time off school and also ensure their return to school will be as easy as possible.


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