If you’re the parent of school-age children, you’ve likely had to make the dreaded phone call to say, “Please excuse my child’s absence.” Attendance issues are something we’ve all dealt with at some point, and many parents ask why attendance matters anyways. It may not always seem like a big deal if your child misses 1 or 2 days of school each month. However, as an educator, I can attest that every moment in the classroom matters, regardless of how old your child is.
There are plenty of reasons why your kid may miss school, and a couple of days each month may not seem like a lot, but they can add up quickly. If you’ve ever wondered whether absences really matter, keep reading to find out what your child misses when they’re not in school.
Why does attendance matter?
Let’s first tackle the question of why attendance matters. Whatever grade your child is in, they’re learning something in class just about every day. It may not always be something new, and as teachers, we often fit review days into our schedule in case we need to revisit something the students haven’t quite mastered yet. But each class period is extremely important, even the review days because that’s when students have a chance to ask questions and receive the help and support they need.
Although absent students can always get make-up work if they miss class, they’re still missing instructional time in class that they may not be able to make up for. Absenteeism, even in the early years, can affect a child’s overall education. Studies have shown that high-school dropouts usually showed a pattern of frequent absences, starting as early as kindergarten.
There are many reasons why children are absent from school, among them:
Regardless of the reason for the absences, studies have shown that chronic absenteeism is linked to both poor health and poor academic outcomes.
What happens if your child misses too much school?
The truth is attendance matters because your child is more likely to fall behind the more often they’re absent from school. As a parent, I understand life happens, and things don’t always go the way we expect them to. There’s nothing wrong with your child being absent every once in a while, and, of course, you shouldn’t send them to school if they’re not feeling well. But what happens if your child is chronically absent from school?
When your kid misses school, they can’t always make up for it by simply doing some extra homework. Even though the teacher will do their best to help your child catch up, it’s going to take time to go over any of the lessons missed.
Many programs have been put in place in the past to try and reduce chronic absenteeism because, at the very least, studieshave shown that it’s linked to lower test performance, even in younger children.
Chronic absenteeism is defined as students missing 10% or more of the school year, and it affects 1 in 7 students nationwide. This is different from truancy, which, according to the Official Journal of the Academy of Pediatrics, refers to a child being willingly and frequently absent for “unexcused” reasons.
A few absences won’t spell the end of the world, but if your child is missing school consistently, and it could be avoided, it’s important to consider how this is affecting their grades and overall learning.
What to do when your child is absent from school
Life happens, and absences are bound to occur at some point. Whether your child has an unexpected illness, you have a wedding to attend, or the family is taking a vacation in the middle of the year, it’s important to be prepared so your kid doesn’t fall behind.
Here are the best ways to deal with absences:
1. Let the teacher know as soon as you can
Not all absences are planned, but when you know your child will have an extended absence, it’s crucial to let their school and teacher know as soon as possible.
It’s also important to look into the school’s policy on excused and unexcused absences and what documentation they may need. Many schools will not excuse absences unless there was a medical need, such as a doctor’s appointment or an emergency situation.
2. Pick up their work in advance
To make sure your child doesn’t fall behind, pick up as much of their work in advance as you can. If your child waits until they return to pick up their missing work, they may feel overwhelmed and have trouble completing it all.
In many cases, especially if you have older kids, it’s your child’s responsibility to pick any work assigned during their absence.
3. Help your child get the assignments done
Depending on your kid’s age, they may need some additional help getting any missing assignments in, especially if they’re trying to get current work done at the same time.
Missing assignments can really add up, so your child will likely need your help getting them organized and presented to their teacher in a timely manner.
4. Check on their progress
When your child is absent, they can end up missing a lot of instructional time. Picking up any missing work will help your kid stay on top of assignments, but they may still fall behind in what they’re learning. After an extended absence, check in with your child’s teacher to see how they’re doing in class.
Depending on the length of the absence, your kid may need some extra help from their teacher, from you, or even from a tutor if they’re struggling with the content.
Few things are more disheartening for a teacher than seeing one of our students fall behind because of frequent absences. Whether planned or unplanned, absences happen, and we know there are many twists and turns in life that no one can control.
When absences do happen, know that your child’s teacher is there to help, and they want the best for your child, just like you do.
What is your number one tip for dealing with school absences when they happen? Let us know in the comments below.