When considering a trip to Walt Disney World®, one of the first questions is “When are the crowds the lowest?”. Unfortunately for those with school-age children, this usually coincides with when schools are in session. As a teacher, I am often asked, “Can Walt Disney World® be done successfully during the school year?”. My answer is, “Yes, if you know certain information. . .”
Know the school rules on absences
This is step one. Schools differ on the approval of family trips during the school year. Some schools consider the trips educational and will give your child excused absences, while others are much stricter with students being out. You should know how many excused and unexcused absences your child can have each semester and how these absences might affect their grades.
Know the school staff
I would suggest first broaching the subject with your child’s classroom teacher. He/she should be one of your child’s biggest advocates and will be able to help answer any questions about policies that you may have. Many teachers understand the educational advantages of such a trip and are often more willing to work with you on rescheduling assignments and accepting makeup work.
Know the school schedule
Teachers and principals can be much more understanding of absences certain times of the year as opposed to other times. Try to avoid taking trips during the semester or midterm exams. These tests usually count for more than a regular grade, and many teachers and administrators have a harder time accepting makeup for these tests. As a teacher, let me suggest, never ever, ever, EVER plan on taking your student out of school during statewide testing. There is no principal or teacher that will ever excuse a student during state testing. State testing is the Super Bowl of learning and when students are tested on everything they have learned during the year. Many schools’ funding and, in some states, teachers’ jobs are on the line. They need to take the tests.
Know how to present the request
You should be prepared to explain to the school staff how this trip can enrich your child’s education. The teacher and principal will be more willing to excuse the absences if you can show how the trip will help enhance your child’s education. A great idea is to have your child create a project to share with their class that may help other students as well. Below are some ideas my own children completed:
- Research a country represented in the World Showcase at Epcot® and create a scrapbook about it using pictures taken while visiting
- Create a collection of objects around the World Showcase such as candy, postcards, trinkets that can be shared in the student’s classroom
- Collect postcards and attach to a map of the world
- Pick an animal from Animal Kingdom® and, using pictures taken during the visit, create a report about the animal
- Pick a story not represented at Magic Kingdom® and create drawings or a diorama with plans for an attraction based on the story
- Compare the cost of eating your meals out of pocket and eating your meals using the dining plan. Which is the most cost-effective for your family and why?
Last but not least, know your child
You ARE your child’s number one educational advocate and expert. You know your child’s needs. Can they easily transition between the structured classroom environment into vacation mode and back into the classroom seamlessly? Will they be able to keep up with their work and complete all makeup work correctly and on time? Will your child benefit from the trip during this particular time period?
Visiting Walt Disney World® during the school year often provides children and parents with countless educational advantages. The key to preparing your child, and their teacher, is like any other part of planning the trip…. Be prepared!
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