Following on from sorting out school supplies and lunchbox contents and locking in extracurriculars, the third thing I do in these lead-up weeks that makes going back to school more pleasant is:
3. Plan and book our autumn holiday
We have a strong tradition of late summer - autumnal holidays in our family. Before G and I had kids, we travelled a few times, and all of them in the Australian autumn (granted, we travelled sometimes to places where we found spring!)
Since we've had the girls, we've holidayed five times, on all but one occasion between late February and early April (our Gippsland farm holiday, last October, being the sole exception).
There are a few reasons for this preference. Firstly, G usually finds it difficult to get time off work over the long summer break (he can, and does, take odd days here and there - like much of the nation, I expect, he's got tomorrow off to make a 4-day weekend of Australia Day - but periods of a week or longer are very hard.) Secondly, everything is more expensive travel-wise in the summer peak, and friends' holiday houses, on which we have relied twice already, are not available when the family is using them itself. Thirdly, everything is more crowded, especially at popular places, and the heat can get really uncomfortable. Fourthly, we all enjoy having the summer hanging about at home - day trips and excursions, exploring our own spaces, suit us on the long staycation.
While weather is often chancier (naturally), we've had reasonable luck with it so far - each of our autumn holidays (Mornington Peninsula, Phillip Island, Echuca and Anglesea) has had at least half the days fine and warm, and we have always been able to find fun things to do on the colder days.
Locking in our autumn holiday now allows me to:
- Book holiday houses (if available) or inexpensive paid accommodation
- Give the girls a real say in where we go - we can discuss options, make enquiries, choose somewhere together because the time is there to do so
- Get husband's leave locked in, and allows me to give plenty of notice to the companies I occasionally contract to regarding unavailability
- Build anticipation and give us something to look forward to in what can be a hectic first term
In all but one instance so far (3 out of 4), we have holidayed in a termtime week. This raised no eyebrows when it was A skipping a week of 3-year-old then 4-year-old kinder, but last year, when we took E out of Prep and A out of Grade 2 for a week, a few people questioned whether it was a wise decision. Obviously I feel it was, as we're doing it again this year, but I know there are different views on it. (Do you have a view? Tell, tell!)
Taking a week out of term one actually worked very well for us last year; the girls really benefited from the downtime, they read heaps, played maths games and Scrabble, kept holiday diaries, explored wildlife and the ocean, sent postcards to their classes, and generally, I'm quite convinced, learned every bit as much as they would have at school. The school was a little cooler on the idea initially but ended up being quite happy, as it was apparent that neither kid had lost ground in their sneaky 7 days off :-) I hope they'll see it my way again when I once again present my letters excusing both girls for a week this term, but even if they're not super keen, it's my decision to make - they are my children and it is our family needs, which are best served by this holiday pattern, that I need to consider.
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