Is it okay for children to skip school once in a while?
The child could grow up to believe that it's okay to ditch school. And too many missed classes could affect his ability to learn.
Recently, a grade five student shared how she missed school because of her mum. "All my friends met up on day one of back-to-school except me. They shared their holiday memories and special lunches, except me. We returned late from the holidays," she vocalised her thoughts much to the embarrassment of her mum. By the end of the conversation, the two seemed upset. It was best not to dwell on the reasons behind the absenteeism not at that moment, at least. So, we spoke about all the fun she had during her holidays instead.
The conversation did raise an important question - is it okay for children to skip school? Each parent has his or her view on the same. Some suggest that travelling in itself is a learning exercise and hence sometimes, a day on the beach is better than one in a classroom. Many argue that if the child does not have an exam or is not in a higher grade, skipping school is fine. Are family vacations a valid excuse for missing school? Does a wedding in the family justify absenteeism? Are late nights on weekends a reason to miss school on Sundays? If you can keep your child at home for illness, funerals and religious functions, then why not for some fun time with siblings or grandparents?
But then the child could grow up to believe that it's okay to ditch school. And too many missed classes could affect his/her ability to learn. Plus, aren't 100 or more holidays a year enough to accommodate everything else? Hold on, what will happen when they leave home to study in a college, will they not take this habit of skipping classes with them?
"Which side of this dilemma are you on and why?" the mother asked me then. Her question reminded me of my growing up years when I collected certificates for full attendance. My parents made sure that my elder sibling and I attended school regularly. The certificates should have actually been given to them, for it was a sign of our good physical health, their meticulous planning when it came to travel plans, the sense of discipline they inculcated in us and more. We just knew that it was not okay to miss school. But then, I'm talking of an era where debates on topics like - are schools the only place where learning happens - didn't exist. Skipping school just wasn't part of the plan and staying home for mental well-being wasn't a real reason. As students, our job was to show up as often as possible.
So yes, I don't have an answer to the dilemma. Perhaps the traditional system of learning required 100 per cent attendance. But would we have liked extra shut-eye moments?
Children aren't mature enough to make decisions for themselves, but it's a good idea to involve them in the process. You can start by explaining to them the genuine reasons behind certain calls you take. Hear them out when they say, "I just can't miss Halloween at school."
Of course, missing a day here and there should be fine. It's chronic absenteeism that needs attention. But have you found out how your child feel about being away from class? Does the idea bring him relief? If yes, maybe you are overlooking signs of school-related anxiety. And are willing to help him catch up on work? Well, each family has to find answers to these questions a unit.