School

“It almost feels like spring today,” she commented as we stood next to our matching minivans outside the elementary school, waiting for our kindergarteners.

“Yeah, but it’s supposed to snow again on Thursday.”

“That’s what it looks like,” she sighed.

Lilah was laughing maniacally and twirling around, reveling in the 47 degree weather.  Benjamin, on the other hand, was glowering from his carseat, still wearing a heavy winter parka and mumbling that he wasn’t getting out of the car because it was too cold.  If that child had his druthers, he’d stay in the house till May.

“I guess we can kiss the rest of April break goodbye,” I said.

“They wouldn’t do that,” she replied.  “I don’t think they’d touch break.”

“They’ve already taken away two days,” I told her.  “I just checked this morning.  There’s school on that Thursday and Friday… No, Lilah.  Stay on the sidewalk.”  I turned back to the other mom.  “And we were supposed to go to DC. Lilah!  No road!”

“Just pull him out of school,” she replied.  “It’s just kindergarten.”

Now, I like this woman a lot, so I dropped the subject.  Because on this one, we were definitely not going to see eye to eye.

It’s just kindergarten, the conventional wisdom goes.  What’s the harm in missing a few days?  It’s just kindergarten.  Or first grade.  Or eighth grade.  Or sophomore year.

Whereas once upon a time no one would ever suggest pulling a kid out of school, nowadays our unwillingness to do so makes us suspect.  Clearly, if we weren’t so competitive or uptight, we’d realize that a few days of school just doesn’t matter.  Good parents want well-rounded children.  Crappy parents take themselves so seriously that they think second grade is more important than a trip to Hawaii.

I’m calling bullshit on this one.  School is the most important thing our kids do.  It is more important than football practice, skiing, or Disneyworld.  It is their job.  Nothing else takes priority, with the possible exception of visiting elderly relatives.

We do not pull our kids out of school.

We want our children to know we value education and are committed to their schooling.  We send that message by arriving on time, homework completed, after having eaten a good breakfast.  We do not remove the kids early unless there is a damned good reason.  As of yet, we’ve only twice had such a reason.  A month ago, when it was snowing hard and the school district did not call a late start, I brought Zach in once the snow let up a little and I felt safe to drive.  And, this week I picked up Benjamin from preschool ten minutes early so he could see his father before he left for an eight-day business trip.  Other than that, we don’t keep them home, bring them late, or take them early.

If that makes us old-fashioned fuddy-duddies, so be it.  If that makes us uptight, controlling assholes, count us in.  We do not pull our kids out of school.

Now I know there are plenty of people who homeschool, and more power to them.  Their job is even tougher than ours, because they have to show their commitment to education not just by getting the kids there, ready to learn, every day, but by then teaching them all fucking day long.  Hats off and more power to them, because if I did that I’d be poking myself in the eyeballs with knitting needles after twenty minutes.  Which, considering I’d have to drive at least five minutes to buy knitting needles first, really tells you something.

Those of us who take the easy route and ship our kids out for someone else to educate, however, owe it to the teachers to be behind them 100%.  Not 99%.  Not when we don’t have something else going on.  Not when the mood strikes us.  Not when Benjamin thinks it’s too cold to go out, which is whenever it’s below 50.  Every day, in every way, it is our job to support the teachers who are there, working their asses off to teach our children.

To some, it’s just kindergarten.  To me, it’s the best time to teach our kids that school comes first.  To the teachers, it’s what they do all day.  And I’ll be damned if I am going to denigrate that.

17 responses to “School

  1. Damn straight. Here, my sistah, we see eye to eye. I cringe when my daughter tells me that so-and-so was gone all last week from K because they “went to the beach/Disney World/their cabin” and, when are we skipping? Arrgh.

  2. Hear, hear! I wholeheartedly agree.

  3. It’s funny – my perception of this issue is the opposite of yours. When I was growing up, it was common practice for parents to pull their kids out of school. My best friend was always away for a week sometime in February to go on a family vacation. Since I will never be able to book March break off, I suspect that at least some years we may do the same thing, but I approach the issue with trepidation – it seems to me that the culture today is much less accepting of the idea of pulling kids out of school at any age.

    I don’t know whether a lost week of school for the sake of a vacation compromises a child’s education or sends the wrong message about work vs. play, but it’s interesting that we approach the “then vs. now” aspect of this issue from opposite perspectives.

  4. I couldn’t agree MORE! To me its about teaching responsibility and that work (which is school for children) is important, and that you don’t just brush it off on a whim. The other day I took lunch to my Mom (who is a school secretary) while I was there a child just arrived for the day, my Mom asked the child why they were late, and the child replied, because my Mom was tired. I was just shocked, my Mom however, was not….she gets that ALL THE TIME….

  5. She Started It

    I definitely fall on the other side. If missing school means spending time with family members who we don’t often get to see, we miss. We collect school work ahead of time, and complete it in a timely manner.

    We’ll be taking the kids out for 2 weeks next year for a trip to India (family member’s wedding). We’ll bring all the school work, but the kids will see family members they might never see again, and they’ll learn a ton on the trip.

    School is a very big deal in our house, but I do put family ahead of school.

  6. Pingback: To School or Vacation? « Life in Eden

  7. I agree … mostly.

    Rather than hijack the comments, I figured I try posting a little more.

  8. WendyElissa

    As a teacher I hated when kids missed school for any reason other than being sick. But as a parent if we were going to take our child out of school for something that could not be dupicated like seeing far away family for a holiday (like Passover) or a vacation to another country where life experience will be gained than I would do it. But I would make sure my child made up the missed work and kept up with the other students.
    They’ll probably remember fondly the trip made more than the story they may have heard at school or the art project they missed making.
    However, I do see the point of showing your kids that you value education above all else and it is not the missed school that you worry about, but the attitude of school is not important that you don’t want to give your kids.

  9. Mixed feelings, even more so as I recently started homeschooling. In our system, we didn’t/don’t get Jewish holidays off (but don’t touch St. Patrick’s Day), so I have happily removed my kids on certain days. I also removed a child from school for a week in October a decade ago so I could take advantage of the best prices to Asia and visit my family. In theory I could have gone another time, but in pratice I really couldn’t have.

    On the other hand, it seems like October through February is punctuated by constant holidays, and I know it can be difficult for teachers to continue with lessons if students miss even more school.

    But… my child was bored in school, and learning something new maybe once every other week. I was fine letting her stay home when the boredom got to her.

  10. I’m not sure that I’ve seen the same trend. I remember kids in my classes when I was in elementary school, or even high school, going away for a week or more when class was in session. I had friends whose parents gave them a certain number of days a year to play hooky (like 2 or 3). I personally missed 47 instructional days in grade 5, because I happened to catch chicken pox, and pneumonia, and break my arm severely resulting in hospitalization all in the same year. Not the same thing I know, but in the end I did just fine in grade 6. As it turns out, for me, it WAS ‘just grade 5’ and I was able to pick it up.

    Today, the parents in my area seem increasingly geared towards academics at younger ages. I see desk work in preschools and kids enrolled in scores of enrichment activities. And so the trend seems to be the opposite for me. There are fewer absences for family commitments, and kindergarten is taken more seriously.

    In the end it’s your call. If I had a big trip planned and they changed the school schedule I might press forward with it. I would also expect my employer to respect my vacation that I had been planning, and not switch that up on me, and so the work / school analogy holds. In the end, for me, it would be about what is more important to the child and our family in the long run.

    We all have to do what we’re comfortable with, in the end. I wouldn’t flippantly remove my own kids, but what works for my family doesn’t necessarily work for others.

  11. I’m a teacher and a parent and I can see both sides, but when parents ask for work and think that that will substitute for their child being in school, I see red. The child has missed the teaching !! If they can make it up with some paperwork, that is comparing my teaching to a workbook.

  12. I am 98% with you. To me, it isn’t just that they miss the academics, it’s that life is about showing up and participating, even on the days when you don’t really feel like it (being sick excepted — stay home!).

    That said, I did occasionally take my kids out of school for a day for some family-related thing or other and once for a week in Florida to visit grandparents. Not sure if I have the right words here but I think everybody needs just an occasional bit of slack.

    My kids must’ve gotten the idea because when they went to college, they typically did not miss classes. How do I know that? I don’t really, except that judging by their academic records, they were doing something right.

    Thanks for providing me inspiration to continue this on my own boring blahg. That is, if a tree doesn’t fall on my house in the next five minutes. Or whatever (-;

  13. I do very much agree with you. However, my husband and I work in schools and have “school vacation” times off to go places with our kids.

    But, in the area I live, there are many families who’s parents work in mills and their vacation days are not determined by them, the mill tells them when they can have off and when they can’t and sometimes, if families want to have vacations, the only dates they have available are during the school year. So, I see this side too, although I don’t think it is a good idea to pull kids out, some times life works against families.

  14. It depends on the kid, the teacher, the school, the occasion, doesn’t it? If you recognize that your child can learn more outside the classroom than in it (from time to time), aren’t you doing more to instill a love of learning and an understanding that knowledge can be gained in unexpected places?

  15. Hmm, I guess I see both sides on this one. Mine are almost never late, if I take them to a dentist or something, I try and do it at the end of the school day.

    However, I have pulled them for a few days for extra vacation, generally around a holiday. One of the reasons in the past that it didn’t bother me at all, is that Morgan is already a grade ahead and is still doing work that is two more grades ahead. So for her, missing a few days was no biggie. Haven’t done it this year and it’s Bailey’s first year in school. I’m not sure that I won’t again, but I’d make sure to take homework and everything with us.

  16. I respect and understand your position. But I will admit that I differ on it. I think it depends … it depends on the child, the age, if they’re doing well in school, on the family, on what else is going on, why you’re taking them out, how long you’re taking them out… There are too many variables.

    My oldest is in Reception year (Kindergarden), but he started when he wasn’t even 4 1/2; he won’t be 5 until May this year. So, after much thought, I alternate full time days with half time days, taking him home at lunch Tuesdays and Thursdays and keeping him. He’s just too young to be in school all day from where I’m sitting. He has the rest of his life to sit at a desk and ‘learn’…. I highly value education (I’m a lawyer), as does my husband (engineer with an MBA), but we want him to love school and learning, especially primary school, not be wiped out by it. So I’ll keep him on an abridged schedule this year and pull him out here and there if I think he needs a break in future years. (It’s not hurting him, btw. He’s the best reader in his class … well ahead of his classmates. 😉 )

  17. I’m all for teaching commitment and responsibility, but sometimes an educational trip is worth way more than the same old..same old of school. Our kids had to miss 4 days for an approved trip with us to Mexico–we shopped for Mexican trinkets, we climbed the pyramids at Chichen Itza–we had the time of our lives. We explored a new country and culture together, the five of us plus their grandma. That was over ten years ago. They still talk about that trip and remember details I’ve forgotten. They kept a diary of their experiences–and reading them is priceless. School is important–but that 4 days they missed wouldn’t hold a candle to what they gained.