Whenever I’m at a school awards assembly and they announce the perfect attendance awards, I cringe.
I know chronic absenteeism is a real problem and the underlying causes need to be addressed. That isn’t what I’m talking about.
My kids will never be the ones recognized at the end of the year for never missing a day of class. Sure, there may be a quarter here or there where they get to run the celebratory lap around the school with all the other kids who arrived on time every day and never left early. But a full year of perfect attendance? I doubt it. For several reasons.
Health. There’s bound to be a time when they have fevers or are throwing up and shouldn’t be at school. For their own health, and for the other kids, I keep them home. I hope you do, too. I also think there may come a time when they need a mental health day (goodness knows I do from time to time). So, as long as they haven’t already missed too much school (and one of us has the time off to stay with them), why shouldn’t they get it?
Not all learning happens in the classroom. My daughter missed a half a day this quarter to come to work with me for an educational video. While she was with me, she learned about bicycle helmet safety, heat stroke in cars, car seat safety and water safety. Last year, she missed a half day to attend an Armenian Genocide memorial event.
Life. It turns out, the entire country does not follow the same school schedule. This summer, we have a wedding reception and my high school reunion to attend one week apart in my hometown. These events are weeks ahead of school starting where I grew up, but my daughter will have already started school. So, she’ll miss a week of first grade, and we’ll work with her teacher to make sure she stays on track while we’re gone. Last year, she missed a day so we could travel to my cousin’s wedding. I imagine there will be other life events that happen in the next 15 years that I have a kid in grade school. And I will not feel bad about letting them miss school in favor of experiences.