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

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

Oct 2nd, 2013, 08:18 PM
Join Date: Aug 2007
Posts: 4,108
Kandace, I've been reading this thread with interest. You have been willing to listen to other points of view and have graciously handled some responses that came across as attacks. I am pleased to see that you have rethought the trip plans. I winced a bit when you said you would "confront" the band instructor. I hope that it was just a poor choice of words and that you will be able to approach him and have a reasonable discussion. It seems as if you admire much about him. Maybe start out with a short letter expressing your admiration and appreciation for what he gives his students as you have stated above and then ask if there is a time you could sit down with him to talk about your plans and family needs for next August--ten months out.
irishface is offline  
Oct 2nd, 2013, 08:26 PM
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Thanks, irishface. We're actually even more than 10 months out -- we're planning for 2015. I figure that gives us time for ample research and preparation.

Yes, "confront" was probably the wrong word; "approach" would be better. I've thought about it already several times, but always when I was upset about the latest band-forfeited family plans, which wouldn't be ideal.
Kandace_York is offline  
Oct 2nd, 2013, 08:27 PM
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Oops--hit submit too soon.

As a retired teacher (40+ years), I know that there were times when I took things too seriously with parents' requests for vacation work. It was easy for me to get caught up in the "I work around a school schedule; you can too" attitude. Over the years there were times when I had to hold my tongue and count to ten. Fortunately I had a close friend down the hall who could snap me back to reality. When parents came in with a "let's work together on this" attitude, it was a lot easier for me to back down and get off my high horse.
irishface is offline  
Oct 3rd, 2013, 01:16 AM
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True enough, Irishface.
Let's leave the high horses in the magnificent Lipizzaners' stables.

Hope you work something out with the Band master, Kandace. Is absolutely live to see the Lipizzaners too!
Bokhara2 is offline  
Oct 3rd, 2013, 01:17 AM
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"I have less respect for teachers who humiliate students in front of the class because administrators approved a leave"

I don't respect that either, but I wonder if there isn't some backstory there -- these leaves do mean extra work for the teachers, so no administrator should be approving these leaves without FIRST discussing the request with the teachers involved and getting their ok. If the admin makes the decisions without teacher input, then no wonder the teachers are annoyed -- but that's no excuse for taking their frustration out on the student.
WeisserTee is offline  
Oct 3rd, 2013, 02:08 AM
Join Date: Oct 2013
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Bardo1 took the words out of my mouth. Europe is not only the Mediterranean countries. Take them to Scandinavia in August, with a side trip to St. Petersburg as Bardo1 suggested. I bet few of their schoolmates have been to Russia or seen the Hermitage.
This thread has been an eyeopener to me. I have lived in Italy for 30 years and our daughter went through school here.
I'm amazed at how seriously extra-curricular things are taken in the US. Here school finishes in early/mid June and starts again in September. You wouldn't catch a kid anywhere within a hundred miles of school during that time. The few (if any) holiday assignments would be done in the last 24 hours before school starts.
And marching bands! They would be seen as militaristic here, with unpleasant political overtones.
There is no concept of *belonging* to your school, it's just a pain that youngsters have to get through with the least possible effort.
cymraeg is offline  
Oct 3rd, 2013, 06:18 PM
Join Date: Jun 2013
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Thank you to everyone who "liked" or seconded my post - I feel very strongly about this...can you tell?

Kandace - I am not criticizing you for taking "fancy trips." I am simply stating that to the great majority (I would say 95%) of the kids at my school, any trip that involves a flight is a fancy trip - because while you think that you might be traveling cheap, most of the families in my town could ever afford a domestic flight anywhere, never mind Europe for 4. That's all. Clearly since I am on this forum I am in no way against travel!

I am also sorry that your kids may have to wait until they are adults to experience some of these things - because I was so involved in things in school and because my parents never could have afforded a trip to Europe (they still have never been).

But after all that, I think I made it out ok, and I think your kids and all kids would too.

I DO agree that if you show that you are willing to work with the teachers, it would make a huge difference (it would for me at least!)

I also agree that maybe the band teacher needs to adjust his expectations to make them a little bit more realistic. But I also think (and I was on track to be a music teacher until I got to college and realized that it just wasn't the area for me) that there are other ways to get the music piece, that I mentioned earlier.
CatchK is offline  
Oct 4th, 2013, 12:55 AM
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Fascinating thread and you got a lot of advice. We have been through "club" (competitive) soccer and band. Our experience is that in high school, the marching band situation is generally worse. I think there is a checkoff box that says "Were you Napoleon in a past life" for many of the directors.

While I did also disagree with some of your statements about taking the kids out of school, I really think the heart of your problem is the band director. He's got you into believing how important his fiefdom is, to the extent that you are more willing to take them out of academic courses than to miss band competitions in June. That's very out of balance, in the greater scheme of things.
5alive is offline  
Oct 4th, 2013, 10:41 AM
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CatchK, I understand some of what you're saying. I graduated from a low-income, inner-city high school, and my husband taught in inner-city schools for his entire career. There were lots of school activities I would have *loved* to try as a young person, but we just didn't have the funds. There was no money, no discussion, it just wasn't possible.

One of the most powerful experiences I had in high school was the opportunity to go to Germany for a week -- but that opportunity came *only* because my German teacher (an amazing person!) picked one person for each trip to donate her "per diem" allowance toward. So her generosity paid for half my trip ... but even coming up with the other half took an incredible effort from me and my parents. I hired myself out at farms for manual labor, I did babysitting, I did lawnwork ... and we still were barely able to pull together the funds. My luggage was borrowed. I had virtually no spending money. I lived off whatever meals were provided through the trip. And it was STILL incredible and I'll be forever grateful! Through that trip, she changed my life.

Since then, everything my husband and I have gotten has been through taking on second (and often third) jobs and scrimping and saving and sacrificing, and figuring out how to travel "on the cheap" for the rare getaways we're able to manage. Which is just fine ... I consider us fortunate to be able to do even one trip every 10 years (OK, so far we're averaging one big trip every 25 years, but you get the idea).

Experiencing other cultures has made a huge difference in my life, and parenting is the most important job I'll ever have. If there is any way at all that I'm able to broaden their horizons by getting them out of the ethnocentrism of this country, I'm going to do it.

And yeah, obviously there are some issues with the band instructor, but I'm working on those. It's a tough balance for the daughter who has genuine passion and talent for music. She's considering switching to the violin, though, which would be a ray of hope --> there are no violins in the marching band. I don't know if the school would even allow the violin as an instrument in any capacity. I would *love* for her to pursue other music education avenues (we have a fantastic symphony), but it's her decision and teens place tremendous value on a sense of belonging. We'll see how things progress.
Kandace_York is offline  
Oct 4th, 2013, 10:58 AM
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I haven't read through all these replies, but to answer your question, Kandace, my sons' school was always supportive of taking time off. They didn't encourage it, but whenever I have asked for an excused absence for a trip, they have always complied and the responses were nice and never had even a hint of annoyance.

That said, we avoided taking my older son out of school when he was in HS. We have different considerations for my younger son. Because he is not college bound, we have been taking him out of HS so we can travel together during my older son's college spring break.

We have travelled to Europe in late June (one year we left the next day after the last day of school) and we have found that time of year to not be crazy crowded.

Our travel with our kids has created some of the very best memories, and they have learned a lot. In Europe, they've been to museums, palaces, castles and concentration camps. No textbook can convey the bunk beds crammed together in the prisoners' barracks, or the sight of the ovens, at Dachau.
PhillyFan is offline  
Oct 4th, 2013, 11:49 AM
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I don't have kids, but I hate hate hate the heat. Many of my close friends are teachers, however, so if I travel with them we are usually constrained by their vacation schedules. A friend and I went to Poland and the Czech Republic in late July/early August this summer. Yes, it was hotter than Hades, but we had a wonderful time and I would do it again in a heartbeat.

Stick to air-conditioned hotels.
Leely2 is offline  
Oct 4th, 2013, 06:14 PM
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PhillyFan, how old were your sons when you went to Dachau? At age 15 I bowed out at the last second -- I didn't feel like I could handle it emotionally. And I've regretted that ever since.

We took our girls to the (DC) Holocaust Museum when they were about 10 and it had a big effect on them (the Museum does a great job of counseling kids and parents beforehand and offering a "kids' passage" that is less traumatic). When we left, my one daughter asked if she could sit down for a few minutes, and that's what she did ... just sat there on the steps with her head in her hands. I asked if she was OK and she said, "I'm OK, Mom. That was really interesting. I just feel really sad now." I hugged her and we sat on the steps together for a long time.

Another moment that's hard to get from a classroom ... and it's one of many poignant teachable moments our daughters have had while traveling.
Kandace_York is offline  
Oct 5th, 2013, 12:14 AM
Join Date: May 2013
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I may be repeating what others have said. (I can't read all the things posted - my goodness). But our kids got out of school the last week in May. Literally, their last day of school we jumped on the evening flight from Denver to Heathrow.

Late May and early June is much like September - but it required no school time to be lost. Of course, we live in Colorado - and I realize not all US schools have this schedule - but most all of June is very nice in Europe and much less crowded.
centraleurope is offline  
Oct 5th, 2013, 12:17 AM
Join Date: May 2013
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Ah, sorry - I couldn't even read your entire post, I guess... You say June is out.

My eldest was quite a good swimmer and competed at a national level in the US. We moved him ultimately to private school as it was much more flexible working through missed weeks of work. I realize that would be a pretty extreme solution for this problem. The other week we have gone to Europe is Thanksgiving.
centraleurope is offline  
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