By the co-author of The easy Guide to Your Walt Disney World Visit 2017, from the best-reviewed Disney World guidebook series ever. Paperback available on Amazon here. Kindle version available on Amazon here. PDF version available on Gumroad here.



yourfirstvisit.net—Disney World Instructions for the First-Time Visitor



Taking Your Little Angels (or Devils) out of School and to Walt Disney World



By Dave Shute

EDUCATION AND WALT DISNEY WORLD

Magical Blogorail Teal is writing this month about Education and Walt Disney World.

Welcome to those of you joining me from The World of Deej and those of you who have just hopped aboard. I am the 4th stop on our Magical Blogorail.

When the Magical Blogorail Teal gang started talking about education and Walt Disney World, my first thought was why not have kids spend nine months of the year at Disney World and only the summers in school?

Yes, this is kinda nuts, but there’s a point buried in it: a week at Disney World, when viewed in the long run, can be a lot more educational than a week in school.

The aim of education is not to accumulate classroom hours.

Rather–at least to me–the aim of education is to help develop a free person prepared to pursue happiness.

Classroom skills are critical to this—especially reading, writing and math.   And a week out of school can hurt older kids with these unless you are careful to work with your teachers to make sure your kid keeps up (more on this later).

But there’s other dimensions to the aim as well.  Enabling a free person to pursue happiness requires not just skills but also values and substantive knowledge, all aimed toward a life of autonomy, mastery, and purposefulness.

A key way to get from here to there is to help kids become fascinated by topics which will help them develop in these dimensions.  This is because fascination is the most powerful motivational force we have.

And there’s lots of opportunities to develop and build fascination at Walt Disney World.

Since this site’s recommended weeks are all during the typical school year (because that’s when prices and crowds are lower) most families will need to take their kids out of school to take advantage of them.

Is that a bad thing?  Absolutely not, given the educational promise of Disney World.

DISNEY WORLD AND EDUCATIONAL OPPORTUNITIES

Younger kids may simply enjoy Walt Disney Word purely in its direct presentation, and have as their educational experience what they learn about family life.

Older kids, in contrast, may find all kinds of things to be fascinated by besides the direct experience.

They can enjoy Disney World both in their direct experience of it and as a human-made artifact.

Almost any element of a liberal education can be tied to something about the presentation, design, management, history, or details of Walt Disney World.

Epcot and the Animal Kingdom present directly many potential topics of fascination—from marine biology to animal biology to conservation to car design to high-speed rail to why France and Morocco are different but related.

The Magic Kingdom and Hollywood Studios don’t stick such possibilities so directly front and center…but there’s still tons of things at them that can fascinate.

At these two parks in particular the opportunity is to understand the range of human capability by investigating the parks as designed and managed objects.

The basic questions that can help you get your kids there are “why?” and “how?”

To give just some “why” examples…

  • Why are there names in the windows on Main Street?
  • Why do some rides have FASTPASSES and others not?
  • Why are some rides filled and others half-empty?
  • Why are cast members so much more friendly and helpful than most other employees your kids may interact with?
  • Why are some fireworks shows not on every night?
  • Why is Disney World in Florida and not in our home town?
  • Why is that building/structure designed to look the way it does?
  • And that one?
  • Why does the street look the way it does?
  • etc., etc.

Walt Disney World is the sum of a set of human choices, insights, and actions, some long ago, and some constructed in the moment in front of you.

Anything you see there represents the totality of these choices, insights and actions  as manifested in this moment, and the “whys” and “hows” of all of them are open to fascination.

YOU GOTTA WORK WITH YOUR TEACHERS TO GET YOUR KIDS READY TO GO

Some teachers may have no expectations about work to make up for the missed days and not get behind the class, but most will, and the older your kids are, the more important this work will be.

Involve your kids in preparing for the time away from school, but take responsibility for it yourself.  If there’s work to be made up, your kids should do as much as possible before you leave.  While my itineraries have time off in them, schoolwork is not how you want to spend it.

While different teachers may have different preferences for how they handle kids away from class, the absolutely wrong answer is to expect them to do everything to prepare your kids for being away.

Instead, make it your key priority to help them out.  Find out how they like to handle make-up work, and then work with your kids to respond to these preferences.

For example,  put together a typical calendar for class—what subjects are covered what days, what typical homework assignments are given, what known tests are coming and when papers and projects are due, so that all the teacher has to do is mark it up.

Teachers–I particularly welcome your comments on how families can help with managing time out of school.  I’ve taught, but only at the university level, and my challenges there (hangovers) were different. Use the comment form below!

FINAL PREPARATION TO TAKE YOUR KIDS OUT OF SCHOOL FOR WALT DISNEY WORLD

The final step is to prepare yourself.

Your goal is to enable fascination by learning a little more about some ‘hows” and “whys” so that you can engage with your kids as topics come up.

The easiest way to do so is advance reading in Disney websites or guidebooks that focus on not only “what” but also why and how.  This site fits, as do a number of its recommended books and recommended websites.

MORE ON EDUCATION AND WALT DISNEY WORLD FROM MAGICAL BLOGORAIL TEAL

Thank you for joining me today. Your next stop on the Magical Blogorail is The Disney FAITHful.

Here is the map of our Magical Blogorail loop should you happen to have to make a stop along the way and want to reboard:

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10 comments

1 @MaryD73 { 08.23.11 at 7:57 am }

Great tips!!

2 Dave { 08.23.11 at 8:17 am }

Thanks Mary!

3 Heidi { 08.23.11 at 11:11 am }

Great post! We’re a homeschooling family and I always consider our trips to Disney as actual school. My kids can learn a lot more there – doing hands-on things – than they can learn out of any textbooks! I’ve passed my love of Disney on to my kids – so much so that my oldest daughter is doing her senior project on Walt Disney this year!

4 Dave { 08.23.11 at 11:58 am }

Thanks Heidi and great story about your daughter!

5 Kathy Kelly { 08.23.11 at 5:11 pm }

I’m very curious to see the feedback you receive from the Disney-lovin’ teachers out there!

6 Dave { 08.23.11 at 5:18 pm }

🙂

7 Debs @Focused on the Magic { 08.25.11 at 1:36 pm }

Great post!! Absolutely agree! It can be more educational than a week in school with a little forethought and planning.

8 Dave { 08.25.11 at 3:33 pm }

Thanks Debs!

9 Jen { 08.26.11 at 6:21 pm }

Thanks for the topic. We are pulling our 2nd grader out of school in October to go to Disney World for the 1st time and I am feeling a bit apprehensive about discussing it with his teacher. I enjoyed your perspective on it. It’s good to remember that there is a lot for a child to learn at Disney. I’ll try to use that theme when we discuss the trip and prepare for his absence with his teacher.

10 Dave { 08.26.11 at 6:30 pm }

Hi Jen and thanks. 90% of the issue is you making this as easy for the teacher as possible, and putting it all in the context of “we are taking our kid out of school for family reasons” rather than defending your decision.. Your reasons for taking your kid out need not even come up! If your teacher has not been there, he or she won’t buy it anyway…

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