Why Perfect Attendance Isn't That Important

by Jorrie Varney
Originally Published: 

Next month we are taking a family vacation to Florida. There were a lot of factors that went into selecting our travel dates, but simply put, this is when we wanted to go. This is what works best for our family. There’s only one problem: school started a few weeks ago for my 6-year-old, which means she will miss a few days while we’re gone. She won’t have perfect attendance this quarter, but that’s totally fine, because I don’t care about attendance awards.

I’m just going to say it: I think attendance awards are bullshit.

I understand the importance of education, and I don’t condone skipping school just for the sake of skipping, but life happens outside of the classroom, and so does education. For example, reading about whales is super cool, but taking a boat into the ocean and seeing them in their natural habitat is an educational experience most of us can only dream about. It’s a big world, and there is a lot to be learned outside those classroom walls.

And even if you don’t have a family adventure planned, there is a high probability your kid will come down with the plague at some point this semester. I don’t think kids should get an award if they were lucky enough to be spared when influenza took out half the second grade. Some schools offer certificates and public fanfare, while others give free recesses, or pizza parties— but not if you jacked-around and got sick like some sort of underachieving slacker.

Maybe you will try harder not to get strep-throat next quarter, Emily.

Let’s be real, people, attendance awards are mostly luck. The kid with perfect attendance didn’t wash his hands better than the other kids, he just got lucky someone didn’t send out a massive sneeze cloud right as he walked by, or his grandma didn’t pass away unexpectedly. Maybe the kids with perfect attendance have a kick ass immune system—that’s cool, I’m not mad at ya. But what about the little girl who was born prematurely, with a less than stellar immune system? That girl doesn’t stand a chance to earn a free recess or a pizza party.

And here’s another thing: don’t we want kids to stay home when they’re sick, so they don’t spread the germ-of-the-month to everyone else? We encourage them to take care of themselves and rest when they aren’t well, but then we glorify perfect attendance, which seems to send two different messages, if you ask me.

While it may not be a popular opinion, I don’t care about perfect attendance or attendance awards. When my kids are sick, they get to stay home, if they are having a rough time and need a mental health day, they get to stay home. If we are taking a family trip that happens during the school year, they are allowed to miss school.

I help them with missed assignments and lessons, but come on, attendance awards are just silly. There is enough academic pressure imposed on kids today without celebrating an achievement based purely on luck and uncontrollable factors. This is grade school, not an Ivy League college so let’s dial down the unrealistic expectations a notch or two.

Before anyone starts slinging around words like truancy, I’m not saying my kids miss school all the time, because they don’t. They work hard when they are in the classroom, but when they are sick, they stay home. And yes, when we take a trip to Florida to celebrate a family milestone, they won’t be at school either. My kids will probably never land on the perfect attendance list for one reason of the other, but they don’t care and neither do I.

I understand it’s my choice to take them out of school for vacation, and I’m not comparing that to illness in anyway, but there is value in family time, and there are experiences to be had, and lessons to be learned outside of the classroom.

I think kids should stay home with they’re sick. I think they should take mental health days when they need them. And I think they should go on once-in-a-lifetime trips when they can, because there is more to education than simply being present.

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