It's universally understood that Disney World is for kids. Unfortunately, once they reach school age, a family vacation to WDW that coordinates with a school schedule is limited to one of a very few times of the year: summertime, spring break, Christmas/New Year's, or possibly Thanksgiving. Not surprisingly, these are some of the least desirable times to actually visit the parks - summer is unbearably hot, and all of the listed times are either very crowded or unbelievably crowded.
Disney responds to the simple law of supply and demand by raising prices when children are out of school (and thus, more people can attend the parks), and likewise lowering the prices while school is in session (and demand will be lighter). In addition, you can find some great incentives in the slower seasons - special packages, special prices, and free dining are some of the marketing ploys that Disney will try to use to lure you in during these lesser crowded times.
Of course, to take advantage of the lower prices, lesser crowds, and better weather, you'll have to take your children out of school. Should you take a child out of school to take a trip to Walt Disney World? Is such a thing even feasible?
Most parents fall into one of two major schools of thought when it comes to school attendance. The first such school may believe that education is paramount; they may feel that there is a reason that the United States is lagging behind the rest of the developed world in terms of education, and this type of person is almost certainly of the opinion that any unnecessary absences from school should be avoided at all costs. If you fall into this school of thought, the decision appears to already be made for you; higher prices and bigger crowds are simply the costs associated with your viewpoint.
The second school of thought may believe that there should be balance in life; they may feel that there are other valuable ways to learn outside of what is taught in the classroom, or they may be of the opinion that a variety of experiences are important to the overall development of a child into an adult - and that these experiences can take the place of normal school time without causing detriment to the student. If you fall into this school of thought, then by all means, please continue reading!
Before you begin to seriously plan a trip to Disney during the school months, there are a few items you should consider.
How is my child doing in school? A student making A's and B's will likely handle a few missed days much easier than a child struggling to make C's. Likewise, a child that tends to miss a lot of days due to minor illnesses may not be as good of a candidate for a trip like this as a child that seldom gets sick.
Are there other school related activities that should be considered? If your child is a member of a sports team, they coach may kick them off the team for unexcused absences. If they are a dancer or actor, they may lose a choice role if they leave for vacation. Even if your child can afford to miss the academic time, they may not be able to miss extracurricular activities.
How critical is the current grade to my child? From a pragmatic point of view, an elementary school student can take a reduced letter grade resulting from an unexcused vacation absence, and in the long run, will not be damaged. A high school student, on the other hand, could see their college application chances damaged by such a thing.
Will my child's teacher(s) work with us? Some teachers will give out classwork and homework ahead of time, or may instead give alternate assignments (such as a written report of the trip for an English class). Other teachers may steadfastly refuse to support a "non standard" vacation trip, no matter how you ask. Finally, other teachers may have no personal issue with a family vacation, but other factors (such as school policies) may not allow them to accomodate you.
What is the school policy on family vacations during the school year? This may be the largest stumbling block to any WDW vacation during the school year. Policies can vary wildly - some schools will excuse family vacations, or will excuse a certain number of days. Other schools will only give excuses with a doctor's note.
Many times, a call to the principal or superintendent of the school may remove any potential issue; other times, the principal may refuse to allow the trip - or may not have the authority to do so (in the case of school board or district requirements).
If you cannot obtain permission to go on the vacation, do you flaunt the rules and go, anyway? Perhaps you check to see how many unexcused absences can be incurred before penalties apply. Perhaps you tell a white lie, or get a note from your doctor to cover some (or all) of the days of your trip. If you do this, are you comfortable with the sort of example that you are setting, or do you believe that it really isn't that big of a deal?
In the end, no one can really make this sort of decision for your family but you. I personally have no problem in taking my own kids out of school for a Disney vacation trip, but they make excellent grades, and I feel that the family memories that we build far outweigh any potential harm from a few missed school assignments. Your mileage, however, may vary.
By Author. All Rights Reserved. Date
July 19, 2011
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