Pile on the excused absences in elementary school

It’s hard for me to process all the crazy things I did while I was raising my kids. When I was in the moment, I couldn’t tell. Maybe because time was moving so fast. So I didn’t take pictures of the times I’d want to remember so much as I took pictures when I remembered. Sometimes I got a picture of a great moment, like this one.

It’s a picture of arriving back to the farm from a cello lesson in Chicago. The drive was about five hours each way. But the day ended up being incredibly long because we had to get there early so Z could recover from the drive to be ready for his lesson. Sometimes when we got home he was so sick of being in the car, he would get out to open the gate, and instead of getting back in he’d run all the way to the house.

The only way cello worked with school was taking him out two days a week for lessons.

I had this idea that I’d become friends with the principal and have lunches with her and things would be okay. I made sure she understood there was no other way for us to have cello lessons.

She told me attendance is very important and there are no exceptions. I ignored that and continued taking Z out of school.

I got a letter in the mail saying I had to attend a truancy hearing at the county court house. The letter amused me. My son was six years old. I had already requested that he get new math materials because he knew the first-grade curricula, and the teacher told me that the school doesn’t do that. “He can help his peers,” she said.

“All year?”

“You can talk to the principal if you have a problem.”

I talked with the truancy officer about the problem, since I was talking with him anyway. He said they don’t have a gifted program. “We do not encourage children to think they are better than their peers,” he told me.

So you can imagine how he reacted to leaving school twice a week for cello.

So it’s not like I really chose homeschooling. It sort of chose me.

Subsequently, I discovered that parents who take their students out of elementary school a lot have kids with higher test scores. This makes sense to me because it would mean parents are doing extra stuff with kids instead of just relying on the babysitting attributes of school. It’s the unexcused absences that matter the most because they indicate problems with parenting. But like most school research, there’s a caveat that this research applies most to low-income families. Because of course nothing affects the outcome of high-income kids more than their parent’s high income.

6 replies
  1. Mark W.
    Mark W. says:

    I’m glad you’re still writing about your experiences with homeschooling. It’s a different perspective of your homeschooling experience since you’ve had time to reflect back on it. I would imagine that you’re now able to better put into focus and crystalize your thoughts with the passage of time. One of the problems I remember and encountered while in school was their rules. I think I was a good rule follower. But I’ll never forget when I was rewarded by being made a member of the National Junior Honor Society in 7th grade. And then I was expelled after missing two meetings. WTH. So then afterward I made it my mission to score well on the tests, get good grades, and get on the honor roll. I sure showed them. lol

  2. Leeann
    Leeann says:

    You would think that after closing schools for Covid, the schools would be less dramatic about excused absences. This is especially ridiculous when kids are sick in 2023. Perhaps teachers might post their lessons online, or at least post links to work that kids could do at home. Some do. Mostly nope.

    • Penelope
      Penelope says:

      Such a good point! But mostly what the teachers learned from Covid is that it’s a pain to have to operate a classroom online for the kids so they are happy to not do it. And, now that I’m thinking about it… when I had a sick day, when I was a kid, I hated having to do school work. I wanted so much to just have a break. All I could think about was if I could just have a day with no school….


    • Commenter
      Commenter says:

      You’re not wrong, Leeann. There’s even a further wrinkle in this: kids are excluded from school these days not just when they’re actually sick, but when they are under school-imposed quarantine rules because they tested positive for COVID n days previously.

      My daughter has had COVID twice, and it was the same both times: horrible congestion and discomfort for a night, followed by diminishing congestion and a lingering cough for a couple more days.

      But school rules say kids are excluded for a full five days, five days of bouncing off the walls. And she could be doing the same schoolwork as the kids who are at school, because otherwise it’s just playing games with Dad, and going to fabric stores, but the teachers can’t be bothered. It’s much easier for them to declare that quarantine=sick, and that means they don’t have to do anything extra (just heap it on their backs, or give them a mulligan, when they return).

  3. mila
    mila says:

    I was just thinking about conversations I had with my kid’s principal when i suggested I didn’t want him to take the standardized tests I just had read were no longer required in New Jersey. (This was over a decade ago.) And she told me she would report us for truancy if our kid didn’t do the tests. And then she kindly added that the school needed his high test scores.

    • Ann
      Ann says:

      I have an anxious over achieving 18 year. I put zero pressure on her. I’m probably too neutral. She insisted we both go to her last parent teacher meeting ever. She said it was the only praise she gets.

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