Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Come on...What's One Day?

Spring Break is here! (Which I realize is not as exciting of a sentence as a mom as it was when we were kids.) 

Many families like to go on a vacations for spring break and I applaud you! My plan is usually to catch up on all the things I haven't gotten done for a few months while working - i.e. cleaning out the garage, working on scrapbooking, planting a summer garden, etc.

Many parents are tempted to pull their kids out of school to extend their trips or to avoid larger crowds at popular destinations. I would strongly caution against this and here are my reasons:

1. Schools have spring breaks at different times. They stretch from mid-March until the end of April. Most likely you are not avoiding any crowds by taking your kids out a few days early.

2. Teachers are often finishing up units of study right before break so if your child is out it means they will miss any culminating activities - which usually means the fun stuff! For example, a co-worker of mine is currently hatching baby chicks in her classroom. Her students are so excited to see if they hatch but they aren't expected until the day before break starts. If a child is absent that extra day they will miss the fun part and get no reward for putting in all the hard work!

3. Vacations are usually considered unexcused absences. That means that students are not supposed to be allowed to make up any work they miss on those days. This doesn't mean that teachers are heartless but they are not required to give the student the missed work. Many teachers will allow their students to do the work anyway. I typically assign a late grade or mark down in work habits for the time lost. (So the students is often penalized for something their parents decided.)

4. Students are at a distinct disadvantage if they miss the instruction for a particular assignment given in class. It is almost impossible for the teacher to recreate the activities that took place during class with a one-on-one session. It's just not the same.

5. It is my belief that taking a child out of class, for any reason other than an illness, teaches children that school is not a priority....IF it is happening a lot. Every once in a while will not hurt most kids but there are some students who cannot handle missing a day. Make sure you know your child's ability and attitude. Will they be able to catch up and understand the instruction they missed? Are you prepared to step in as teacher at that point? Will they start to think they can miss a day whenever they feel like it?

6. My most important reason why you shouldn't take your children out early is integrity. Very often parents lie about why their child was absent. Your child knows you are lying. Is that really what you want to teach them? Is it worth it to show your child it is okay to lie so you don't get in "trouble" at school? What kind of example does that attitude set for a young mind trying to figure out how the world works? So if you're going to pull them out at least be truthful about it.

So what to do? 

Keep kids in school when school is in session. Plan your vacations during scheduled breaks. If there is a need to pull a child out of school, plan ahead to ask the teacher for work assignments they will be missing. (Please do this at least a week in advance! Do not expect a teacher to pull together a vacation packet overnight or day of! It's not going to happen.) 

Also most districts have an option of putting a student on independent study if they will be out for an extended period of time. Be sure to discuss with the front office if this might be an option for you. (Again, school staff needs time to plan for this!)

And tell the truth! Your kids deserve that! 

Just remember you are the parent, and you have rights, but there are also laws that kids have to be in school, so be careful not to abuse it or you will find yourself in an undesirable situation.

No one else can make the decision but you, so know your options and the consequences of your decisions beforehand!

**Additional Information on truancy:
Read up on truancy laws here.

"The California Legislature defined a truant in very precise language. In summary, it states that a student missing more than 30 minutes of instruction without an excuse three times during the school year must be classified as a truant and reported to the proper school authority."

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