Skipping School for Disney: Do or Don’t

Written by Jessica Ma'ilo. Posted in Disney, Disney Parks, Features, Park Wise

Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , ,

parkwise

Published on August 22, 2013 at 2:00 am with 75 Comments

Last week, we discussed some of the pros and cons of different times to visit Walt Disney World.  Maybe you’ve discovered that you’d rather head to the parks in the cooler, less crowded, value seasons.  Unfortunately, these often fall during the school year, so parents are faced with the dilemma of whether or not to pull their little ones out of school.  For some it’s a major DO, and others see it as a big DON’T.  As both an educator and a parent, I see both sides of this particular coin.  If you’re on the fence about what to do, read on and decide what works for you, and please share your thoughts on the matter with us in the comments below.

Full Speed Ahead If…

1. The three reasons I mentioned earlier are big factors for you when planning your vacations.  Avoiding the brutal summer heat, crowds and costs at a Disney Park make fall, winter and spring trips more alluring to parents picturing the perfect Disney vacation.

2. Your vacation time doesn’t fall during school vacations.  Sometimes you just have to go when the grown-ups can get the time off work.

pic1

3. Special events are a must-do.  They often fall during the “off seasons,” and if your family wants to experience Halloween Time at Disneyland or the Holidays at Walt Disney World, skipping school may be your only option.

If You Decide to Skip School…

1. My first tip would be to take advantage of those younger days, or as I like to call them “the magic years.”  This is when the kids are wide-eyed and truly believe they’re hugging Mickey Mouse or that the actual Cinderella really did just blow a kiss from her carriage.  These are also the times when school may be a little easier to miss.  You can definitely help junior with his letter sounds, shapes and sight words, but will you be able to work on geometry (which, by the way, I haven’t often used since high school) when he’s missing a week of ninth grade?

pic2

2. Work around smaller school holidays.  Most student get a week for spring break, so this can be a busy time at the parks, but not all districts offer, say, a fall break.  We’ll be taking advantage of this mini school break in October to hit Walt Disney World.  We have three days off, so we’ll just be missing a couple days of school as opposed to an entire week.

3. Let your school know in advance and be ready to make-up any work missed if allowed.  Different schools have different policies.  In our experience, it has not been an issue.  At most, my mouseketeer was asked to keep a daily journal of his experiences and turn it in upon his return to school.

pic3

Homework isn’t too bad on the balcony at the Boardwalk.

Rethink Playing Hooky if…

1. Your school has a very strict attendance policy.  Look over this when planning your vacation time and see if you’d still be OK if little Sally needed to miss school for another reason during the quarter or semester (or however your district measures absences).  So many factors can play into this: excused vs. unexcused, military leave, length of absence, etc.  Make yourself familiar with this and ask questions of your district if anything is unclear.

2 . Missing school could pose academic risks.  Are mid-terms approaching?  Are grades on the fence?  Will any missed work count against your child?  Like I mentioned earlier, this often affects the older kiddos, especially once they reach high school.  Some children at this age also decide for themselves that they’d prefer not to miss classes (or other extracurriculars), so consider taking their thoughts into account, too.

pic4

Hard to stop and smell the flowers if your mind is on English papers.

3. You feel uneasy about it.  It will be hard to have a good time on vacation if you’re constantly wondering if you made the right choice.

Have you taken the kiddies out of school for a Disney family vacation?  Why or why not?  If you have, did your decision have any consequences, good or bad? We look forward to hearing your opinion and experiences on skipping school for Disney.

About Jessica Ma'ilo

Jessica is a special education teacher by day and blogger and Fairy Godmother Travel agent by evening. When not supervising play dates or sleepovers, she can be found creating, sewing or singing. She loves hitting the Disney Parks, and she and her family escape to the World and Land as often as they can. She can be contacted at [email protected], and you can also check out her family blog, Magic, Memories, Mayhem.

Browse Archived Articles by

75 Comments

Comments for Skipping School for Disney: Do or Don’t are now closed.

  1. I’d say you are pretty dead on with this. Especially age wise. Here in NY up to 2nd grade is fine to miss school. But, starting in 3rd grade they have to cope with tough state tests, which need to be prepped for. Unfortunately many parents will rationalize that it’s okay to take their kids out of school when it’s NOT a good idea. Some children really are better off keeping to their routines (As a special ed teacher, you know what I mean) and some kids really shouldn’t miss school. In out district the kids who miss the most school because of vacation are kids who are failing, on the fence, or simply require more help and attention. A straight A student or even a B student can afford to miss a couple days or even a week as long as tests are not involved. We always check to be sure nothing is going on during any days that we might takes ours out of school, or that it can be made up. We’ve been lucky to be able to have ours take tests a day early and to be given all the classwork to take with us to stay caught up. My advice to parents is to always really think about how it could affect the child’s education. And there is a big difference between adding a couple days to a weekend or other school vacation and losing a week in the middle of the year.

    • Third grade is the big year here, as well. Start of the huge emphasis on standardized testing (don’t get me started). Luckily I’m pretty in tune with the scheduling and layout of the year, so I know when we can take advantage of days away.
      Family time is important, but so is education. It’s a delicate balance that each parent has to decide how to hold.

    • Hey everyone, wake up! You are being brain washed by public schools, teachers, principles, and state tests. We always took our kids out of school and motivated them to do well in school by rewarding them with the trip. We asked for assignments early and spent the weekend prior to the vacation, and the drive to and from Disney, doing the homework.
      You pay your hard earned tax $’s and the school works for you. They just wants rears in the seats per days each year to get as much money as possible.
      Just moved my oldest son into his dorm at college for his freshman year. When you do this, you won’t be sorry that you took your kids out of school for family time.
      Thankfully, we stiil have a younger son and daughter and we are planning now how to get out to another vacation with my college age son to overlap as much as possible.
      Don’t fear your government, they work for you. Time flies so enjoy every quality minute you can with your kids, who are the best blessings the Lord has given you.

      • Hold on there, Hoss! You’re talking to a teacher here, and those are some pretty harsh and false generalizations you’re making. I try to stay on the topic at hand here, but I do need to interject that you may have dealt with “brainwashing” school staff, that in no means echoes all educators. Believe me, those of us in the trenches are very in tune with the needs of families because most of us have them ourselves.

      • Bravo! Agree 100%! We skipped school for Halloween Time at Disneyland and also the Food and Wine Festival in the Spring and those are among our best family vacation memories and we don’t regret it in the least. Always considered it part of their education.

      • Jessica, I don’t think the Captain was referring to the teachers. I do know that my kids school started a Saturday school for kids to make up absences from school. The funny part is on Saturdays they have one teacher come in for all grades 1-6. They basically sit there doing what ever home work they missed. Then they just hang out after they are done. The reason they do this is so they can get the money still. I know I’m a member of the School Site Council. What makes this worse, is that when they get the money, it’s split between the school, and the district. Teachers for the most part are great. I wish that administrators and politicians were too. LOL

      • I’m sure you don’t actually mean to convey such an irresponsible message. Some kids need every second of school they can get, while others can skip days here and there. It’s great that you were able to motivate your kids to do well by rewarding them with these sort of trips. But, many kids simply fall further and further behind and wind up failing classes, or worse. I work with far too many kids whose parents take them out of school for extended periods of time, when they need to be an school and the result is that they are failing and the parents do not care. Not everyone has kids that can afford the time away, and not every parent is able to motivate their kids as you have. State tests are the worst, but don’t blame teachers for it.

      • Amen!

  2. As I’ve gotten older and my childhood friends have scattered across the country to raise their own kids, I’ve noticed that the start and end of the school year varies by almost a month between different regions – it seems like school let out in mid-May for some kids, but not until the end of June for others; and some started back at the beginning of August, and others won’t start until after Labor Day. So it seems like if you can do the very beginning or end of summer, that could also be a good option for people not wanting to miss school, since some of the other kids won’t be out yet or will have already gone back.

    • Very true. There have always been differences in the start and finish of the school year across the country (and the world, for that matter). Personally I’m hoping we join our neighboring district in year-round school.

      • Yeah, year round school! Vomit. Just give all our family time to the state with 4 potential days to miss. The school days have already eaten into more and more family time each year. Sad to say, but I think kids are getting a worse education today than I did and we spent less time in school. We ended sometime between May 25 – 31 and started after Labor Day.
        I don’t remember much of third grade but I remember all of our family vacations.
        My kids all say the same now too. It’s very liberating not to let other folks tell me I have to take my precious kids on vacation when they say and at the most expensive, and crowded, and hot times of the year.
        It’s nobody’s business but my families. I don’t care about your 4 excused absences that you “allow”. I’m the customer. I pay the bills. It’s my family.
        Who has the nerve to tell ANYONE when they think they should have a vacation?

      • There is nothing wrong with “Year Round” schools. We love the one our daughter is in. She has the first 2 weeks of October off, the week of Thanksgiving, Christmas until New Years, 2 weeks in April, A week in May. Summer break is mid June until the second week of August. The kids get just as much time off as a normal school calender, but it breaks it up more. I wish the other grades would adopt this schedule.

        This has giving us lots of advantages to hit Disney. We have gone several times for Halloween and then around spring. If all goes well we are heading down in October this year for some MNSSH!

  3. I’m a NY teacher who had parents who took us out of school for Disney trips. Disney World is an incredibly expensive vacation, and if you don’t go often, visiting in peak season means a lot of time spent waiting in lines and essentially wasting money. NY is one of the only areas that gets off for the Jewish holidays in September, so they’d always take us around this time. The halloween decorations are up, it’s usually Food and Wine Festival, it’s not peak season, and we could go for about 6 days and really only miss a couple of days of school because of those Jewish Holidays off and the weekend. It worked out well for us.

    If your kids are younger and in elementary school, AND your child is not struggling in school, I say go for it. This is a very personal and subjective decision. The demands of school, even in elementary, are much higher than they were when we were kids. Taking your child out of school for a full week will likely cause them to fall a bit behind. However, there is a difference between taking a middle schooler/high schooler out of school for a few days compared to a first grader.

    You know your child best. If your child struggles in school, needs remedial attention, and is really finding the work difficult, I wouldn’t take them out. But if your child is a good student, elementary age, and it’s not state testing time, I really wouldn’t hesitate.

    Just please, no letters to the teachers and/or school district about how you’re keeping your child from school, arguing though how “educational” your Disney trip will be with specific examples. I have seen these types of letters circulating on some other Disney message boards on the internet. Those are completely unnecessary, come off as condescending, and will result in a lot of eye rolling from teachers and administrators. Don’t sugar coat it, just do it. At the end of the day, you are your child’s parent…just make a smart choice that is best for your family.

    • Haha!! That last paragraph cracks me up! I remember seeing those when I was weighing the pros and cons of taking my little one out of school for the first time. I’ve even gotten one or two (not just for Disney but other vacations). As an educator, I’m not going to change a family’s mind about whether or not to take their children out of school, so I have the attitude of “Have a great time, and if education happens…great!” No need to justify it to me.

    • I don’t ever justify. I just check to be sure nothing important is happening and ask for all the classwork. I’m in NY as well and I am shocked at how many parents just take their struggling kids out and don’t care what they miss and then are shocked when their kids fall way behind, and won’t even send them in for extra help because they don’t want to bother.

  4. It might be fine to miss a week of school before Junior High School. Absolutely no missed school days in High School. You can try to time the missed period according to work load. For instance, early in the school semester (early September or January) or right after mid-terms (late October or early November). Or within the weeks of spring break. Don’t do this every year. It should be once every two or three years to make it feel more special.

    “Work around smaller school holidays”

    If this is what you want to do, then Disneyland might be the better deal. You can do Disneyland in 2 to 3 days. Save WDW for a long vacation.

    • Disneyland works…unless you’re on the East Coast. That’s a much more expensive/longer plane ride. Not so easy.

      • Very true! It’s much cheaper for us to fly East and spend the week at WDW than it is to go West. We tend to road trip to Cali and make a few stops along the way, so it’s actually a longer vacation for us since Disneyland isn’t our only destination.

      • Is it any easier to insist on WDW if you lack time and you’re from the West Coast? It is ridiculous that you limit yourself to WDW.

    • Disneyland would be a great option if you’re looking to not miss any school and work within the confines of shorter holidays.

  5. I think the last time my parents pulled me out of school for a trip to Disney was when I was 12 & in 7th grade. I think I only missed a couple days of school in addition to the normal week off for spring break because my dad was able to get time off work then. This was back in 1987 so most of the details are a little foggy for me. ;)

    • The only time I was ever pulled out of school for a vacation was for school trips in high school. The choir pulled me out of high school for a week to go to WDW and NYC. If they can do it, so can I! Haha!

  6. We are doing just that this year. My daughter has just started her freshman year and we had always wanted but never pulled her from school to enjoy MNSSHP in mid October. This was the year, plus she’ll only miss 3 days and will inform the school and teachers a few weeks in advance.
    Originally I had planned it around a normal teacher’s conferences, but wouldn’t you know they pushed it a week later than normal. Unfortunately the schedule hadn’t been released when I needed to secure time off, plane reservations for mileage, etc.

    I do agree with everything written, within reason, sometimes it’s something you just need to do.
    My rationalization is they are only young once, don’t wish you had taken the time too late!

    • Education is so, so important for our kids, but so is strengthening the family bond. A big part of that is time spent exclusively together having fun and not worrying about the day to day stresses. As long as parents and older students are smart about time off, I say more power to ya!

  7. When I was in school (80′s-early 90′s here in S.C.) we could take time off for vacations and it wasn’t ever a big deal. I’d get whatever work I missed and make up any tests. You had 10 “unexcused absences” to take every year so we always took them. Being sick never counted against the 10 as long as you had an excuse, so why not. We made several Disney (and other) trips this way.

    Things are much different today, and attendance policies, even in elementary school, are VERY strict. I am not sure of the specifics (I have no kids of my own) but my wife teaches elementary school and I’ve heard how there really aren’t any allowed unexcused absences any longer, and the elementary-age kids are treated much more seriously in regards to school. They seem to be forced to “grow up” a lot faster now, too. I’m often thankful that I grew up when I did, and was allowed to visit Disney during the less hot and crowded times of year.

    • It all depends on the district. For example, our district does allow unexcused absences. Students must be present or have an excused absence (doctor’s note, religious/cultural observance, parent military leave) for 90% of each quarter. This leaves about 4 days of unexcused absences per nine weeks. Unless we can get a doctor to prescribe a trip to Disney World, we’ll be using a couple of those unexcused absences in the first quarter. ;)

      • You are way too concerned with the rules someone is putting on your family. Who dares to tell anyone when they can take their family on vacation? Who has the nerve to tell someone that they have to spend more money on a vacation because we can only be authorized to go at the most crowded times of the year? Who has the guts to categorize the days our family vacations into religious observance or military leave? My reasons must fit into your categories?
        I don’t think so. Go back and read the rules you just wrote about. Doesn’t sound like a free country.
        This is a free country and our family will once again be missing school in the fall and the spring to vacation as my wife and I see fit.
        Our family will always remember and cherish these vacations but the rules you are writing about, not so much.

  8. We already have an 11 day trip planned in October to Disneyland Resort. We’ve notified my daughters school and they said they will send her with a packet of her homework for the trip. They understand that family vacations/time is VERY important (It’s a Christian school), but so is education. They had no problem with it. We’ll be doing homework on vacation and will have a blast!

    Great article! Thank you for not stating one way is right over another. I’ve seen people on other Disney pages get all up in arms that people took their kids out of school. As one person said, if you’re kid isn’t struggling with school, then take them. :D

    • No one way is right!! I know my scope is somewhat skewed, but there are even times when I think a student who is struggling in school may benefit from time off, too. Kids feel stress, as well, and sometimes it’s ok to take time away and be with family and have fun.

      Have a great vacation!! My tip, do the homework on the way to Disney and in the first couple of days. By the second half of the trip and on the way home, no one wants to pull out a pencil and paper.

  9. So glad I don’t have a dog in this fight!

    As long as this is treated as something special and the kids have good attendance otherwise, I think this can be considered, especially for little ones. My concern would be explaining to a kid eleven and up why it is okay for her to miss school for fun when her parents want to do something special but not “just because.”

    • At eleven, a typical child can definitely reason that out. Kids are very in tune! My niece is ten and absolutely knows the difference between missing school for a special event and staying home just because she doesn’t feel like it.

  10. I teach high school, coach, & work at Dland on the weekends.

    What bothers me most as a teacher is how parents stop being parents with regards to school. Don’t let the school effect family decisions!! Family is always more important than school. A week with your family will teach you far more than any of us teachers will.

    We all have been to school. Looking back does a one or two week stretch of school stand out as a complete life altering experience? Will missing that time change your child’s future dramatically for the worse?

    Please, think parents; going to Disneyland or WDW by missing school will not prevent Johnny from having a spectacular adult life. What college even cares what a child did under the age of 14? “Sorry you took a couple of family vacations. Therefore you cannot go to Stanford. You must go to Fullerton Junior College.” This has been said NEVER.

    I took my kids out of school 8 days a couple of years ago to go to WDW at Christmas time. (My Christmas vacation was different from theirs.). So happy I did!!!! The school said that they would miss a lot of school and missing school isn’t good for their acedemic progress. I replied that being with their family on a wonderful vacation is far more important for a lifetime of memories and hearts filled with love. Nothing you’re doing this week is more important than what the family is going to he doing. The school officials said you’re so right.

    People you are all experts regarding school. High school grads have experienced at least 13 years of formal education. How can you not be an expert with 13 years experience in anything?! Family 1st!! Don’t let school get in the way of education.

    • Amen!!
      This is exactly how I feel and you expressed it so well.

    • Right on! This is how most teachers I know feel about missing school for family vacations (as long as it’s not a child who is chronically absent). Unofficially, of course, I’d love to take our entire school on an unexcused absence during testing weeks. ;)

    • Amen brother. Nobody wishes they had more days at the office when they are on their deathbed. I will be so glad for every special day of family time with my wife and kids when it’s my time to go. Don’t think any of you will be wishing you hadn’t taken your kids out of school a few days for great quality family time when they go off to college.
      Some of you are so afraid of government authority figures. The schools just want the max money for having pupils in the seats for x amount of days. You are already paying for the schools, now you are suppossed to pay thousands of $’s extra to go on vacation when it’s crowded and hot?
      Some of you folks need to wake up.

    • For a Disney fan, “having” to go to Fullerton Community College and working at Disneyland to pay for textbooks is like B’rer Rabbit asking to be tossed into the Briar Patch!

  11. We’ve always taken the kids out of school for WDW trips. The triplets are in middle school now, so their schedule is always exactly the same, which makes planning easy.

    We vary our travel times — sometimes early in the semester, sometimes late in the semester, rarely in the middle of a semester. Our last trip was in January, right after school started back up, and our next trip will be in September. But we often take early December or early May trips as well.

    We do have one GIANT advantage, though: the triplets’ uncle is an assistant principal at their current school, and he understands our reasoning for taking trips during the school year. The kids get all of their homework online these days anyway, so they can still do their schoolwork every day and turn in all assignments on time.

    I’m sure as the kids get to high school, it’ll become more difficult to get them out of school at certain times of year, but as long as we have an “in” with the district, we’ll take advantage of it.

    • It’s great having connections (at one point it seemed like half my extended family worked in my district), but I think all families should feel comfortable considering a school year vacation regardless of having an “in” or not. In my experience when chatting with other educators, a lot of them feel the way your family member does and would wish any family well on their week away. Despite what a lot of the message board chatter may say, the schools aren’t heartless! ;)

  12. We DO skip school for our Disneyland vacations. We specifically take advantage of the slowest times at the park, because our oldest (6 yrs old) is autistic and the lower levels of park attendance make the trip bearable for him. We may have to rethink that policy as the boys get older, but for now that’s the plan. This year’s trip has already been checked out with the principal, who’s exact words were “Go and have a great time!”

    • That’s a great principal!

  13. My wife and I asked ourselves last year “Is it wrong that the only days our kids miss from school are for Disney trips?” The answer we developed was a resounding NO! And if finances allow it ill do it again! They are still grade school level and we gotta get while the gettin’s good!

  14. Excellent article, Jessica! Thank you!

    I taught high school and I remember when a student who was getting an “A-” was taken out to go to Hawaii, then fell behind and earned a”B” in the course. But some self-motivated students were extremely professional about keeping up. Work with the teacher to cover material they’ll miss. And I’d discourage parents from taking out high school students who are working on getting into good colleges unless, again, your kids are determined to keep up.

    I made my daughter do math homework while we were waiting to experience the Ironman exhibit in Innoventions. Don’t feel too bad–your kids will work for her. JUST KIDDING! ! ! ! :) REALLY! (I did make her do homework, but its nice doing math together. Everyone else looked bored while waiting.)

    Travel and even watching TV can be time well spent if a kid is in the company of a loving and smart grown up. Childhood is about a quarter of a life, so it shouldn’t just be a means to future happiness. So if they’re younger, prepare, and go and do homework on the plane.

    • Thanks! Your last thought is totally in tune with my thoughts, too. Yes, they must be prepared for their next stages in life, but part of that preparedness, I think, is learning how to balance work and fun.

  15. ABSOLUTELY, take the kids out of school!. How else can you justify spending 1,000′s of dollars for a vacation of a lifetime only to spend long hot hours standing in line? Next time you are in the parks during a hot day , look around and count the number of children crying or getting yelled at. They don’t want to be there either ! Disney does a great job of getting you to desire to be there, and then herd you like cattle. And you’ll pay a fortune for the privilege.

    Take the kids out for a long weekend and hit the parks when the weather is mild. you will not need to be there from the &am rope drop to the 1AM closing. just to get on 4 attractions. The lighter crowds and shorter hours will allow you lots of entertainment and flexibility. Maybe even a sit down lunch or pool time.

    • Lighter crowds and easier days are definitely a perk of going during the “down times” at the parks.