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I Let My Kids Skip School

A couple of years ago we pulled the kids out of school for a week to go to New York. It was their first time there, and the fact that my trip was paid for because I was going for work made it unusually affordable. We had a great time and couldn’t wait to come home and tell all of our friends about our crazy adventures in the big city. Never mind that we live in Los Angeles—New York was a big deal because their Bloomingdales is like four times the size of ours.

After we returned I was at a party regaling people with the details of our trip: “We met Jimmy Fallon!” “I walked FIVE WHOLE BLOCKS,” and an acquaintance stopped me when I got to the part about the girls missing school.

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“Oh. So you pulled them out of school for a whole week?” she asked, her eyebrows rising into judgmental, over-tweezed arches.

“Well, I guess as long as you don’t make a habit out of it,” she sniffed.

I immediately launched into a defensive rant about how we had cleared it with their teachers, the girls are straight-A students, they made up all the work they’d missed and how Obama had personally signed off on their absences. Apparently this wasn’t good enough.

“Oh yes. But they’re still missing school,” she frowned. I wanted to shove her aside and pretend I was taking her taxi, a move I’d learned in New York.

My husband and I both believe that (within reason) life experiences are just as important as classroom learning.

Flash forward to a few days ago, and I happened to notice this same woman on Facebook, talking about—you guessed it—how she was pulling her kids out of school to go on a family vacation. It took everything I had not to comment with, “Hey, don’t make a habit out of it.”

The New York trip wasn’t the first time we’d pulled the kids out of school for a trip or an event, and it wasn’t the last. My husband and I both believe that (within reason) life experiences are just as important as classroom learning, and we don’t hesitate to let them miss a day or more of school if we feel an activity will be meaningful or educational. If we were hippies we’d call it the School of Life.

I even let them skip school once to go to—gasp—Disneyland. In our defense, it was to accompany my husband’s family visiting from Australia, who our kids were meeting for the first time and possibly wouldn’t see for another 10 years. That trip meant a lot to them and allowed them to bond with their cousins. We felt that was worth skipping a few hours of math and science. (I guess I’d better come clean now to my kids’ teachers and confess that no, they didn’t both suddenly come down with life-threatening viruses that day.)

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We try not to make our plans irresponsibly and we don’t pull them out often, not more than once or twice during a school year. If it’s going to be more than a day we always check with our kids’ teachers first and always insist that they make up any work they miss. And we wouldn’t be pulling them out of school at all if they were doing poorly. They’ve always kept their grades up and know that these forays away from the classroom would be out of the question if their grades started to suffer.

I’d like to think that the annoying woman in the beginning of my story lightened up and saw that the world wouldn’t come to an end if her kids skipped a few days of school. Maybe they had a great time, and in spite of missing a few lessons, she realized that their lives were enriched by seeing new places, having some exciting adventures and making a lot of great memories. Then again, I’m guessing she won’t be making a habit out of it.

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