Your own school excursions may have been limited to the zoo and rock gathering trips for geography on the edge of town but now there’s a whole world of opportunity for children. India, China and Africa are no longer maps on the classroom wall, but potential destinations. It’s exciting for them but it means decisions for you, ones that are based on values as well as family finances. By virtue of modern travel and technology, that word ‘education’ has been widened to include not just study tours or art trips but ski trips, sailing trips and things that are educational but – depending on your own values - you might call Almost But Seriously Not Education. Excitement appears to be a key buzzword in education and, as we all know, nothing raises the excitement level like doing school out of school.
On balance it appears to work: the flailing attention of teens tends to be more focused when they are out of their comfort zone and they also grow up as people. The question for you is what price do you or can you pay? Are there no limits where your child’s development is concerned? Most of us, even if we’re doing ok, are not in the super wealthy league where such trips are likely to be small change. We have to budget for it. Educational discounts do of course apply to school trips and many schools, aware of the sacrifices made by parents to send their children there, have hardship funds. Trips are usually announced with long lead times, allowing parents to pay in instalments and some excursions for Year 11 and 12 children include an element of fund raising that is inherent in the philosophy of the trip (e.g. self-reliance, initiative and independence may be themes underlying the excursion). Before all that there’s the decision you need to make, with your child if they’re older, about whether to go or not. For some parents the question is “Is it educational?” So art trips to Paris get a yes as do study tours of any kind. Natural history might be ok too but skiing tends to fall foul of the criteria. Children themselves are often selective about what is on offer, as well as being realistic and will say no before the parent has even considered it. Instead of making the decision easy you then find yourself thinking, “Have I made them say no? Did they really want to go but were worried about the money? I feel guilty now for limiting their choices. On the other hand if I say yes to this one which I don’t totally agree with do I open the floodgates?” Family life is far from simple and there are no collective answers out there.
While you’re grappling with your desire to give your children everything you didn’t have, practicalities rear their head. You might not have one child but three or four. And you have a finite budget. You also have your own set of values and these will come into play as well. Does the trip send the right message for you? If it doesn’t work for your particular circumstances, then how do you square it with the collective demand to be part of the group? Generally it seems that parents we’ve talked to take one of the following approaches when that piece of paper is waved in front of them to sign.
- You children go on all school trips because you don’t want them to miss out and feel alienated. It’s all education to you and it’s important
- Your children can go on all ‘educational’ trips but not things like skiing, which do not fit either academic or team sport requirements
- Your children can go on the ‘fun’ trips like skiing if they make a contribution in some way, like doing chores, part time work or forgoing pocket money
How do you budget for these new educational experiences? Do you have strict criteria? Let us know - we’d love to hear your experiences.