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I Let My Kids Play Hooky

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Guest blogger Tina: There are four Mondays left until summer break -- not counting Memorial Day, of course. Twenty-five days left until sweet freedom. I know this not because my kids are counting down, but because I am.

pillow fight

I'm looking forward to letting the sun wake us up instead of the alarm clock, to spending our days how we want and to enjoying long and lazy evenings without the stress of the homework/dinner/bath/bed routine -- all crammed in before 8 PM.

My kids work hard -- really hard. School is a lot tougher than it was when we were kids, and our school has an especially stringent curriculum. Not only that, but I've got two hardworking kids who put in their best efforts most days of the week.

They get tired. I get tired. And that's why I'm all for them playing hooky every now and then. Shh ... don't tell their teacher.

As a teacher and a parent, I know how important school is. And I'm respectful of the fact that student absences are inconvenient for their teacher. But I also think there's value in creating memories outside of school, and family time can't always wait until the weekend.

Take this winter: In February, we jumped at a great deal on a four-day weekend in a nearby big city. Though my older kid's teacher tried to make me feel guilty for not scheduling it during a school vacation, I refused to apologize. Not only did we spend four days exploring together as a family, but my kids learned all kinds of real-world lessons.

But vacations aren't playing hooky. I'm talking about turning off the alarm clock and letting them sleep, saying, "Nope, you don't have to go to school today! Let's find something fun to do." I'd love to make it a family policy that four days a year -- once a quarter -- they could decide to do just that. But there's this little thing called "honesty" that gets in the way.

When they were younger, it was easy. "No school for you today!" I'd say when I'd see them getting overtired or stressed, or when there was an extra-special event happening. But now that my firstborn is older, I can't pull that anymore. She knows she's supposed to be in school, and I'm just not comfortable with the idea of calling her in sick and asking her to lie to her teacher (who I know will ask). While I'm all for my kids taking a mental-health day, what kind of mixed message would that send? It's not OK to lie, except to your teacher? Even Ferris Bueller's mom didn't go that far.

Non-illness-related absences are highly frowned upon at their school, though, and make-up work for these kinds of days is done upon return, during recess -- not as homework. So that leaves this laid-back mom without a lot of choice: Honesty is the best policy, but it means missing your one recess the day you get back.

Sometimes, it's worth it. Far-flung family in town for just a few days? I'll pull them out of school and suffer the guilt trip. A community event that celebrates our heritage? No school for you -- but plenty of outside playtime when you get home, to make up for the recess you'll miss tomorrow.

But when I just think they need a little downtime to recharge, I confess, I tell a little white lie: "My, you seem kind of stuffy and tired today. I think you might be coming down with something. I'll call you in tomorrow." And then they spend their day getting reacquainted with the toys they never have time to play with, or we curl up on the couch and watch movies in our pajamas.

Do you ever spring your student from school for a free day off? Or do you think that sends the wrong message to kids?

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11 comments so far | Post a comment now
tennmom May 4, 2010, 1:53 PM

I beyond love summer break!
My 10 year old daughter will jump at any chance to stay home. My 12 year old daughter, on the other hand, will want to go to school if she doesn’t feel too bad, even when she has a cold and I would figure she had rather stay home.
Only a 3 more weeks of school here. My daughters have attenended different schools for the past 2 grades and I will be thrilled to have them at the same school in the Both have had different Fall & Spring breaks for 2 years, which isn’t really a break for me, ha!

Mother Nature May 4, 2010, 2:24 PM

As a frequent School volunteer, I know that the teachers play hookie too. So why shouldn’t the kids?

Steph May 5, 2010, 3:56 AM

This is very timely for me, I’ve been stressing out about keeping my son home next Friday for a “family field trip”. It’ll be great fun and educational, but I don’t know what excuse to give his teacher. I was debating making something up, but worried about having my son perpetuate the false story to his teacher. Now I think I’m going to just tell the truth and that’s that.

Yep May 7, 2010, 8:06 AM

Hey, Let me tell you there will come a time when you might have to give them that “mental health” day just to keep up with their homework. My suggestion is to just tell the school that they “have a headache” because it really means nothing and essentially is a free pass to show up late or skip a day no questions asked, no proof required. (If you really want to work it tell them to say they were seeing spots which is a sign of migraines…)

Anonymous May 7, 2010, 3:09 PM

I 100% agree with “hooky”. It is true, teachers call out and play hooky as well. I believe the kids have the whole rest of their lives to got to work day after day and let them be a kid now. Plus, your children will absolutely cherish the memories of Mom letting them stay home. Every once in a while, it is necessary, so you did the right thing! :)

Sarah May 20, 2010, 5:43 PM

My mother NEVER let me stay home from school. If I was a little overworked, it was my fault for not managing my time correctly. An awful cold? As long as I could walk and didn’t have a fever, I was going to school. I suppose my mother was right; you can’t just take a day off in the real world, and life is tough. Still, your children seem very nice and hard working, so I guess it doesn’t make much of a difference whether you give in or stick it out and go to school.

logical mom May 21, 2010, 9:27 AM

I agree. Mental Health day for him and me both!

logical mom May 21, 2010, 9:32 AM

they weren’t feeling very well is vague enough.

Nicole June 3, 2010, 1:52 PM

I did this with my oldest son about a week ago; we slept in enjoyed some time together and he got a haircut. That afternoon I received a phone call from the school to verify that he missed half a day for a haircut. I told them yes; that I chose to take him out of school for the morning and one of the things we did was get him a haircut. The school subsequently told me to schedule those things on the weekend when they are not in school and its not appropriate for him to miss school just because I say it is. The ‘secretary’ actually had to get the principle’s permission for it to be an excused absence versues and unexcused. Personally, I don’t care if its excused or unexcused - doesn’t affect my family at all.

School’s should relax a bit and kids need more time to be kids..I can understand if it was a recurring problem, but it isn’t and my son is an A student and I volunteer at the school..

Last time I checked I had the deed to my son (birth certificate) not them.

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1st-Time Mommy February 22, 2011, 11:29 AM

My son and I played hooky from school and work a couple of weeks back. It was one of my favorite days ever. Everyone needs a break once in a while.

Details about our mommy date day here.

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