Hacking the (School) System

It’s estimated that elementary school students will spend an average of 943 hours in the classroom each year. For middle and high school students, the number is even higher. Add on sport commitments, music lessons, and additional extracurricular activities and suddenly planning for a family vacation becomes an AP math equation.

But the family vacation schedule equation is only compounded by the fact that nearly half (43%) of American workers admit that they dedicate less than 20 hours a week to quality family time, while the majority of children (61%) say that they want to spend quality time with their parents on a vacation.

So, what do you do when quality family time is lacking and finding a gap in the scholastic calendar is somehow harder than finding a needle in a haystack? It’s time to hack the (school) system.

Get Comfortable with the Calendar 
Familiarize yourself with your school’s calendar and take note of any holiday breaks, long weekends, and teacher workdays that may be on the horizon. Key to creating a vacation strategy is not only knowing the happenings of your family calendar, but also taking the time to plan your time off before your schedule gets away from you. Less than half of U.S. households plan their vacations which is a problem as only 39% of non-planners successfully use all their time off.  Those unused days are missed chances to connect as a family. Look ahead for opportunities to extend long weekends to maximize time off and minimize absences.

Communicate with Teachers and Coaches 
Research your school’s vacation policies. Many schools allow for educational trips. Collaborate with teachers to find ways to make your vacation do double duty. Could your student give a presentation on a museum you’ll be visiting or write a paper on a historical landmark you plan to see? One Pennsylvania dad felt so strongly about the learning opportunities of travel that he took his kids out of school to cheer him on as he ran the Boston Marathon. Think of your vacation as an extended fieldtrip and explore ways to bring the classroom to life.

If you decide to take an educational trip, consider meeting with teachers and coaches to discuss your plans and coordinate makeup work well before you go. By communicating with your kids’ various program leaders early on, you can avoid any potential conflict down the line.

Make a Game Plan for Makeup Work
Unlike your child’s school, your office probably doesn’t have a regular breaks or educational trip policies. To keep your vacation from turning into work in another zip code, hold a family meeting to discuss boundaries. If you are unable to unplug, make a family game plan so everyone knows when and how you’ll check in with work. Work only when it’s time to work and try to put books, laptops, and smartphones away when it’s time to play.

Don’t Make it an Afterthought
It happens every year: students’ summer schedules fill up with sleep-away camps, sport tournaments, and volunteer trips attempting to stave off boredom and mid-way into the season you realize you’ve left no time for simply being together. Before camps put a cramp in your style, block the family calendar with simultaneous time off. You can’t afford to keep pushing this precious memory-making time to next year.

Make Your Memories Count
Project: Time Off found that childhood memories formed during family vacations remain vivid well into adulthood. Three out of four parents believe that family vacation gives children experiences they’ll remember for years to come. Not only will your vacation be a cherished memory, but also a learning opportunity that they may not find in a textbook. After all, you only have 18 Summers.

As schedules continue to shift and change, it’s important to make family and vacation a priority. Eighty-two percent of kids say they want parents deeply involved in their lives, and time off together is great opportunity to reinforce your relationships. Get creative with your schedule, research your commitments, and plan a memorable vacation.

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