September 14th, 2010

planet

parenting and school attendance policies

The news last night had a story about a local dad who was deployed to Afghanistan in January. He's finally coming home for some leave, but only for two weeks. The family wants to pull the kids out of school while he's home so they can leave town and have some bonding time with Dad, so they told the school they'd like 11 days off. The school said no... the only way to do it would be to unenroll and re-enroll their kids. The news didn't say much about the consequences of this, but the family is fighting the school. In case you like to read, the story is here.

Anyway I posted about this on booju_newju and almost everyone totally sided with the parents and said it's crap for a school to be this insistant on attendance. Answers ranged from "it's a military family, let them see their dad!" to "eff school, I don't care if you want to go to disneyworld, they have no right to tell you what to do."

Am I the only one sort of cringing at this? Maybe my parents were hardcore or something but there was almost NOTHING that kept us out of school. If we were sick, it had to be "projectile vomiting with a fever" sick to miss school. I had a coworker once tell me his parents let him miss one day a year just for funzies and I was shocked, if my parents did something like that I'd think they'd been alien-abducted and replaced. We had to go to school. And to be honest, it's a policy I support. I plan to treat my kids the same way.

My parents also had a tendency to "go with the system" that I think is good. Like, apparently they had a lot of disagreements with my kindergarten teacher, but I didn't know this until I was like 20. When I was in kindergarten, it was "Okay kid, the teacher wants you to be better at coloring in the lines, here's a coloring book for you to practice coloring in the lines."

I think 11 days off school is a lot. Your odds of missing a test are pretty high, you're definitely going to miss lessons. The family in the story said their kids would turn in all the homework they missed but come on... if all teachers did was assign and grade homework, we could have replaced them with robots a long time ago. I think teachers are kind of important, and classroom time isn't something that can be replaced easily.

And a teacher's time is important... I'm not a teacher, but I'm under the impression that when a kid is sick the teacher has to spend significant extra time putting together information in a "distance learning" sort of way, then there's the rescheduling of tests and extra review if they don't understand the lesson from the book. Isn't that sort of a big deal?

It's sad to hear about kids who only get to spend two weeks with their dad, but I feel like the hours between 3pm and bedtime are pretty good hours. Maybe they could miss one or two days of school to go on a weekend camping trip or something. But two weeks straight?