What’s the magic number of days considered “normal” for a student to miss in a school year? What do you do if your child doesn’t want to go to school? What if you just have to book appointments during the school day? I discuss these questions and more with CHEX Daily hosts Teresa Kaszuba and Mike Judson.

With so much experiential learning going on today, there’s no way for kids to totally “catch up” on what they miss. When parents ask for make-up work (or sometimes even when they don’t), I try to find a Math practice sheet to reinforce whatever skills were worked on that day, but a lot of what we do (stories, discussions, presentations, investigations, experiments, physical activity, partner/group/older buddy work, Music/Art/Drama, guest speakers, library visits, etc.) is pretty much “you had to be there”.

As I mention in the segment, naturally kids get sick (believe me, so do teachers!) and will miss some school days each year. But what about when absences can be avoided?

He’s tired, her fish died, I worked late yesterday and wanted to spend some time with him, someone is visiting from out of town…on occasion, these reasons are understandable. But they can add up quickly – especially when a child knows how to play mom or dad!

My girls certainly missed their share of days last year, as my older daughter had strep throat three times (seriously), and my younger daughter got it twice. Grandma and Grandpa are our dependable stand-by caregivers (and the girls LOVE being with them) so when one gets to spend a sick day at their house, the other is quick to highlight all of her symptoms, both real and imagined. As a parent, it’s sometimes hard to tell, but I err on the side of “send them to school now, ask forgiveness later”, and 99% of the time that’s the right choice.

Now, the controversial topic of pulling kids out of school for holidays. I totally get that it’s cheaper and sometimes more convenient to travel during the school year. (I wish I could do it, too!) I also completely agree with parents who point out that a lot of amazing learning goes on during family vacations. Depending on the destination, there can be very rich History, Geography, Science and Arts lessons taking place.

It’s great when parents can let the teacher know well in advance if they’re planning to pull their child from school. I always make sure to avoid class trips and special events when I know a student will be absent, and try to schedule reviews and tests appropriately. I don’t think it’s necessary for kids to take “homework” when they travel (though one of my students recently returned from Florida with a beautiful journal filled with memories and photos to share, which was awesome), but I will fully admit that I expect them to complete work on missed Math concepts, either before the trip or when they return, or they will be at a disadvantage going forward.

Last thing: there’s a big difference between a child who, as a ritual every morning, announces from bed “I don’t want to go to school today!” but eventually heads out the door with a smile, and a child who is truly experiencing anxiety about it. As a teacher, I would definitely want the parent to contact me if this was happening so we can get to the bottom of it and make sure that not only does everyone have the full picture (my own daughters have moments when they dramatically announce that they have no friends at school and played with absolutely no one that day, forgetting their mother was out on lunch duty and saw them running around happily with their peers) and that school can be a positive experience for the child.

(P.S. The website I refer to in the segment is http://www.attendanceworks.org)

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