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Balancing kids' school w/family vacations (or, the impossible juggling act)

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Hi, I'm wondering how others here have solved the riddle of going to Europe at an ideal time with school-age kids (middle school to high school).

Last year we went to England and France in late September/early October. The timing was almost ideal from a vacation perspective -- though the weather was a bit coolish, we encountered almost zero lines anywhere (the only exceptions were the Eiffel Tower, London Dungeon and London Eye, all to be expected, but even they were minor). London sidewalks were not crowded, trains were half-empty, we never had to stand on a bus or wait more than a few minutes, even in Victoria Station.

Weeks before we left, we had filled out all the appropriate forms at school, notified teachers and administrators, got advance assignments, etc. A couple teachers were thrilled and gave the girls tips of things to hunt for that related to their studies (we had asked for this and planned parts of our vacation around it) -- one teacher even group-Skyped with the girls every couple days for a few minutes and opened it to a class question-and-answer session, and our WiFi connection luckily was strong enough to give the class a small tour, via iPod, of an English apartment and the surrounding neighborhood.

But several teachers seemed indignant that we would ever consider taking them out of school for any reason. A couple teachers expected ALL the assignments turned in on their first day back, even though the girls had just arrived back in the U.S. at suppertime the night before (other teachers flatfly refused to give advance assignments because they said it was impossible to know what material they would be teaching over the next week). One teacher informed my daughter that she would almost certainly fail the course, even if she *did* turn in all homework and it was perfect. Another verbally shredded my daughter in front of all her classmates.

I refrained from telling the teachers that the girls had learned far more in Europe than they would have learned in an entire month at all their U.S. classrooms combined :-), and we just swallowed the tirades and got the girls to turn in all assignments as soon as possible. In the end, none of their grades was affected. They are honors students, straight As or nearly so, and have zero history of attendance, behavior or academic problems.

But now we're trying to plan our next trip and running into the same school-or-Europe dilemma. The girls have extracurriculars that run through June and into early July, so that's out. We can't go in early July because the Spanish Riding School is closed. We could go in early to mid-August, but isn't that the worst time of year to go to Europe? We could try going over spring break or at the beginning of their school year, but either of these options would require them missing a few days of school, and they're both scared to death of facing their teachers' wrath again.

So, for those of you who have faced this challenge, how did you solve it? What has your experience been with schools and teachers? What would happen if, say, you homeschooled the kids for the semester you were planning to go to Europe, then re-enrolled them as "new" students the next semester?

It's crushing, to me, that teachers cannot see the overwhelming value of kids going abroad -- and I say that as the spouse of a teacher, not just a parent. What better way to *really* learn literature, history, geography and the arts, to say nothing of putting their foreign language skills to use and gaining a world view of humanity? I think there's even a lot of math in travel; just figuring out, rapidfire, how much a ticket costs, converting euros to pounds (and back), calculating km vs. miles vs. time and when you need to reach a destination and so on. It's the most practical application of algebra I can think of.

Looking for tips here to -- try and -- satisfy everyone involved ... any guidance appreciated.

Many thanks.

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