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Nancy Coolidge | Vacation or school? Parents need to make smart choice

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We are now in the time of year that presents many difficulties for families, students and schools. We have regional and state finals in football, basketball and soccer. Thanksgiving is imminent, and Christmas is right around the corner.

In the past two days, I have signed six planned absence forms for kids who are going to be gone the entire week of Thanksgiving or the entire month of December. I already have four students who have been gone two weeks and won’t return until the end of the month. That’s a pretty big number for such a small student body!

I’ve noticed in the last couple of weeks, that even some of my best students are falling behind — they aren’t turning work in on time or they are making only a cursory effort. I’ve tried to have particularly interesting work and projects because I know the challenges of these times. But it also frustrates me, not because it is in any way inconvenient, but because of the message we are sending.

You’ve heard me say it before: our students are what we teach them to be. And it seems to me that we are teaching them that nothing is quite so important as family vacations. I would argue that nothing is more important than family. But I’m not persuaded that many of these vacations couldn’t happen at a different time or in a different way.

I would ask you all who are considering pulling your kids from school for extended vacations, to ask if it is really necessary. Could we take this trip another time when our kids aren’t in school? Because right now what you are saying to them is this: “School isn’t particularly important. Missed work doesn’t matter. Responsibility, schedules, habits, testing don’t matter.”

It’s very difficult to miss one or two days of school, much less one or two weeks. What happens in the classroom can’t be repeated for one or two students when they return. The interaction of the students, the discussions, the “moments” can’t be duplicated. Sure, you can read the story or the novel on your own, but the dynamic of an engaging classroom is not there to help you through “The Tempest” or “To Kill a Mockingbird.” I can’t imagine how you make up two weeks of missed biology or chemistry or calculus.

When I talk to parents about this, they have reasons this is the only time they can do this — tickets are bought, it’s been planned for months, the whole family needs this, we were supposed to do it in the summer but had to reschedule.

I’m suggesting that if you’re planning something months ahead, you plan it for summer. Keep your kids in school. Let them know that you think their education is important. Let them know that you think their future is important.

Wenatchee resident Nancy Coolidge is a classroom teacher, radio personality and director of several Sylvan Learning Centers. You can ask her a question by posting a comment on her Good Habits, Great Grades blog at or by emailing