Whilst Henri and Molly were in school, we were, up until the month before taking them out, very obedient to the ‘no holiday in term time’ rule. I used to admire fellow mums in the playground as they told me of amazing holidays they had had, at fantastic prices, simply because they were taken in term time, and I used to think, yes, we’re going to do this! But working in education myself this was just not really an option. One of the schools I worked in was very flexible and would allow time off in term time, within reason. However, I still felt that it would be too ‘naughty’ to do this, in light of the controversy that has surrounded the topic in recent years.
Then, last year, after I had left working in education, we decided that, having not been able to afford an August, ‘blow out the savings account’ holiday that year, that yes, we were going to do it! Holiday in late September, just a week, but a very important 7 days for our cherubs to etch into the memory bank of childhood, and for a fraction of the usual school holiday price tag.
We decided that we were going to be completely honest and upfront to the schools, explaining that we couldn’t afford a school holiday break this year, but felt it important that the children have a vacation. Within two days we had replies from both schools, red maker circling ‘family holiday’ and written in no uncertain terms, ‘UNAUTHORISED.’
Not that I was expecting a ‘have a great time’ response, but I honestly did feel like the naughtiest parent in history when I received those forms back, and being an anxious type, this didn’t sit well with my conscience. It felt that nothing we had wrote in the reason section had even been considered and the words ‘family holiday’ were strictly forbidden. Not ranked nearly important enough to miss one week of school.
Admittedly, I did waver on our decision after receiving my red marker down dressing, but, (and not to get too far into percentages), I must add, that after this I looked up the children’s attendance for the previous school year. One was over 96% and the other over 97%. Pretty high, I would say? Full time school is a lot for a child to take on, and to be there almost 100% of the time, for a year is quite an achievement in my view, and possibly better than I might have achieved over a year in employment. So, to feel that we should deny them these magical few days away, exploring new places and having some family, quality time, without the distractions of work or school, seemed unfair, so we didn’t.
I put on my defiant front, (Ha!), filed away the scary notes, (but still glanced over anxiously to the cupboard every now and then, remembering they were there!) and eventually, off we went!
The children had an absolutely amazing time, and as usual they barely sat down as were just too busy swimming, running, eating and building fantastical sandcastles. They savoured every second as children have the incredible ability to do, and didn’t let one moment be marred by worries of being the naughty term time holidayers, unlike their mum.
Despite feeling it was the right decision, I did spend a lot of the week agonising about what trouble would await when we got back, and it just went against my generally obedient, well learnt behaviours. Absolutely silly as I knew that we most certainly were not alone in the term time holidays dilemma, and had witnessed many other families, from both the staff perspective and the parent perspective take annual term time holidays. But still, I couldn’t entirely shrug off the guilt?! Which was really annoying!
When we arrived home, the children went back to school and everything was NOT carnage as I had so irrationally feared.
The home ed idea was already very well constructed in our minds before the holiday dilemma, for a wealth of reasons. Rob was completely pro and I was just having my last few ‘wimp outs’ but the unfairness of the holiday situation in schools did kind of cement our already pretty much made up minds. Seeing and giving consideration to how integral these getaways are for the children, in terms of fun and relaxation but also overall, development, really came in as yet another huge factor in the ‘why home educate?’ argument for us.
This year, we have been so unbelievably lucky to have had 3 holidays, still, astoundingly, they have not mounted to the same cost as ONE (yes, one!) August holiday-I find this both amazing and outrageous! There are so many great deals to be had during term time. The children have had the opportunity to learn and experience so much. Why are families with children in school penalised in this way?!
When I look back onto my own childhood, there is no doubt that family holidays are the big, shiny, fluorescent memories on repeat playback. They were few, and completely non extravagant, but as a child, so absolutely mind blowing! My parents always made them as magical as they possibly could and had tons of time and attention for my siblings and I, which, lets face it, is what children crave most isn’t it? and perhaps one of the main reasons why holidays are so integral in their development-undistracted parents.
We had a few trips to the Isle of Wight, which was definitely the best place on planet Earth to me at the time, and we went travelling to Spain by boat and car once, which was so exciting. Trips within the UK to visit family were something we did regularly and these are also some of the greatest, most treasured memories.
Henri and Molly get SO excited about any kind of trip. Even a night away in a Travel Lodge is a massive adventure to them, and they obsessively count down the days, carefully and precisely packing and planning their suitcase contents. Approximately 80% goes unused but who cares, its all part of the experience.
We are already planning new trips and getaways, and we put it above a lot of other financial ‘wants’ as we feel its so important. At the risk of sounding totally cheesy, we’re aspiring to fill their holiday memory banks to bursting point!