Kids Playing Hooky – Is It Ever OK?

Is it ever OK to allow your children “play hooky” – to skip school – for a special reason? While schools will almost unanimously come down on the “no” side of this question, many parents believe that it can’t hurt to take the kids out every now and then for a family trip or event. In fact, a recent survey by the National Leisure Travel Monitor found that 60 percent of parents would be willing to take their children out of school for a vacation.

During the course of the school year, there are many reasons why you might choose to pull your child out of school: a family trip planned for the only time when the parents are able to take vacation, a once-in-a-lifetime family reunion on the other side of the country, a business trip in which the children can join the parents, and so on. Then there are special events such as the presidential inauguration, which many schoolchildren stayed home to watch together with their parents.

But if you’re tempted to take your child out of school, you have to consider the issue from the school’s perspective. Most schools and teachers are frustrated when parents choose to take their children out of school. When the child comes back, the teachers have to make sure that the child is caught up on all of the work that she missed, which requires extra time on the part of the teacher and could possibly set back the whole class. Additionally, the stakes are higher now under the No Child Left Behind Act, which sets standards for students’ performance on test scores and requires teachers and principals to be accountable for student success.

Aside from the individual lessons that the children might miss, there may be an effect on the school as well. In states such as California, the state funding that a school receives is based in part upon students’ daily attendance. Some schools have been leaning on parents to make a contribution back to the school for the amount of state funding that is lost (approximately $30/day) if parents pull a child out of school for an elective absence.

If you feel strongly that your child should miss school for a family trip or vacation, try to work with your child’s teacher to collect the necessary reading and homework ahead of time. Make sure that you do everything you can to help your child get back up to speed when you return. And if you’re going somewhere interesting, ask if your child can put together a travel journal or report that he or she can present to classmates when you return.

If you want your child to miss school because of a special event of national or local significance, talk to the school and ask if there’s some compromise you can reach. Will children be able to witness the special event on TV? Could parents come to the school to watch along with them and provide additional insight? Depending on the event, and the school, you may be able to help create a unique educational event that your child will remember longer than any planned lesson.

Of course, none of this applies to the kind of “hooky” when students skip school just for fun. Parents and schools agree – and the research shows – that truancy is harmful to a student’s academic progress. If your child is feeling pressure from other students to join in on a “skip day” – usually at the end of the school year – you should work with the school to help find a meaningful alternative for the students who want to celebrate.

Missing school is a serious business and it is not to be taken lightly. But if you have a special event that you think would be beneficial to your child to attend instead of school, see what you can work out with the school to make it work in everyone’s favor.

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