We have been officially schooling for two weeks now and yesterday I let my daughter have the day off. No, I’m not trying to be rebellious nor do I think school is not a good place for her to be. I love her school and have placed tremendous trust in them to keep my daughter’s love of learning alive. But, I also think that it is important for kids to be allowed a break once in a while.
Schools in our area push hard for 100% attendance throughout the school year. Being a school teacher, I understand the importance of ensuring children have access to schooling and acknowledge that, for some children, these tough attendance policies are their only hope of receiving a well-balanced education. My aim is not to undermine this. I make decisions for my family based on a wide variety of factors that takes into account what I feel is in their best interests.
Of course, I weighed up all the pros and cons of skipping school and once I realised how significantly the pros outweighed the cons, I made my decision to keep her home. I had initial reservations about whether this would set up an expectation for regular days off. I was a little concerned about her missing out on something at school, not so much learning wise (there’s plenty of time) but more so, connection time. And I was also worried about how I was going to get all my work done at home when I had a child to look after for the day.
But these reservations were easily over ridden by these 5 key reasons why keeping my daughter home was the best thing for her.
When a child starts school 5 days a week, it means 5 early mornings, 5 days of getting ready, 5 days of stimulation and 5 days of constant learning…in a row. This is tiring. Most parents can see how tired their child gets even after just a few days of school but I think it is underestimated how big a toll school takes on a child’s mind and body, particularly in the early days.
The newness of the whole situation in itself is a huge transition and one that can cause kids to go into overdrive. If your child is like mine, then you’ll find that this overdrive kicks in around bedtime when they find themselves jumping off the walls and struggling to settle down for the evening, exacerbating their tiredness. (NB: Starting the bedtime routine 30 minutes earlier can help address this)
Having a day off once in a while can make a huge difference in recuperating and renewing energy stores and helps to ensure the school experience remains optimal.
Since the 4th day of our daughter’s schooling, we have been hit with some pretty extreme emotions. There has been so much to process and make of sense of and at times this has become overwhelming for our daughter.
Children often express their unease through meltdowns, tantrums, screaming and aggression. School hits them with a new level of uncertainty as they negotiate playground politics and teacher expectations among other things. Whilst many children take this in their stride at school, once they return to the safety of their familiar environment, home, they comfortably release a whole gamut of feelings.
Providing a day off helps a child to find an emotional equilibrium again. An extra day surrounded by the comforts and familiarity of home allows the emotions to settle and also provides an opportunity for the child to process thoughts and think about schooling with a little more clarity. They can use the time to reflect and gain a renewed enthusiasm for the school days ahead.
Finding time to connect with your child once they are away for 6+ hours every day for five days can be hard. Slowing down during care giving times helps with this connection but it still seems to fall short at times.
Having an extra day, once in a while, provides more opportunities to slow down and enjoy spending time together doing things without a timetable or schedule to meet. This in turn brings a sense of calm to the child who needs to feel this connection in order to be free to play and learn.
There is a lot going on at school: new friends, fun games, exciting experiences and of course, learning. It is nice for a child to stay home and do nothing for the day. No plans, no friends, no activities; time to be bored and time to just be. It doesn’t mean learning stops – we know that children are constantly learning – but it gives them back some of the control. When they have undirected time at home, boredom can give them the opportunity to be creative and find ways to entertain themselves.
I enjoyed watching my daughter lounge around for much of her morning off doing very little and wanting me to stay nearby. By the afternoon, with the freedom of no direction from me for the day, she set herself up in the back yard with the hose and the sand pit. She collected stones, sticks and herbs. She moved around planks and ropes and engineered for the better part of two hours.
A child in their first year of school has 12 more years to learn, grow and develop the skills needed to set themselves up to move into the adult world. And even if they don’t get everything they need by the end of that time, there are plenty of opportunities to further their skills to get where they want to be at any stage of their life.
Having a day at home every once in a while is not going to destroy their chances of success later in life and in fact, it may just keep their energy levels, vitality and enthusiasm for schooling thriving on their long journey.
So, when I made the decision to allow my daughter to have a day off school this week, I did so with conscious thought. I certainly don’t plan to make it a habit or even a regular thing but I will use my careful judgement of the situation to determine whether, at that point, having a day off will both support and enhance my daughter’s schooling. I am a believer in sticking things out and working through hard times but I also think there is a strong case for an occasional R & R day at home.
I asked my daughter about her day off school when I was tucking her into bed that night. She declared to me that it was the best day ever (I loved her enthusiasm). It was interesting that her feelings about her time spent with no plans was so enjoyable for her. But what I found even more satisfying was that she bounded out of bed the next morning, ready to go to school and much less emotional and objecting than she had been in the previous days.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this. Do you let your children take the day off school every now and then?
My parenting is inspired by Magda Gerber’s RIE approach which I learned of through Janet Lansbury’s blog. If you are interested in learning more you can find some good information here or I highly recommend these books (affiliate links)
Dear Parent: Caring for Infants With Respect (2nd Edition) ~ Magda Gerber
Elevating Child Care: A Guide to Respectful Parenting ~ Janet Lansbury
No Bad Kids: Toddler Discipline Without Shame ~ Janet Lansbury