Missing school for sports? What kind of parent are you?

Empty Chairs

Flickr creative commons courtesy of Kawaface

Here we are, not even a full week into the school year and my son’s going to miss an afternoon of classes for sports. Yes, I feel like an ass and was going to enter myself into the contest for the parent with the most screwed up priorities. Then I saw some of these photos, immediately revised my assessment and decided I was being too hard on myself.

If your kids play sports long enough, at some point your student athlete will be asked to leave school early or miss an entire day, sometimes two. I blame tournament organizers for this. At this particular tournament, we have two Friday games, one game early Saturday, then if we don’t make the quarter finals, we’re done. Done by 10 AM Saturday, but will miss a day of school to get games in on Friday. This makes no sense to me.

So, as a parent, what do you do? Do you walk the parent walk? Isn’t school more important than sports? What message are you sending here, huh?

The way I figure it, you’ve basically got three options:

Option 1. Go to school.
Option 2. Call your kid in sick and go to the tournament.
Option 3. Plan for it in advance, be truthful and accept the consequences.

Yeah, I know that option 2 is pretty attractive.  And therein lies the opportunity to teach your kids one of those really important LIFE LESSONS that parenting experts are always yakking about. We all make choices. And if you choose to miss school for any reason–a week in Disney, family ski trip, Uncle Mike’s wedding–you are going to have to make up class work, reschedule a test, find someone to share their notes. So that’s why Option 3 is the winner here.

It’s rarely a surprise that your student will miss school so look at the syllabus and see what is planned for that day. I ask my kids talk to the teacher a couple days in advance and let them know of their absence, try to get any homework assignments in advance, and make arrangements for makeup tests or quizzes. Find out what the teacher’s policy is for accepting late work. And then follow up when your student returns to make sure everything gets turned in.

Flickr creative commons courtesy of yum9me

Don’t feel too guilty. Kids can learn things even when they aren’t in school. This view on Athletics Do Offer Lessons that are Missing from the Classroom illustrates some equally important lessons learned from participating in sports. My kids don’t like to miss school, not because they love school so much but because they know it’s double the work to make it up. Did you know there are actually Facebook pages dedicated to missing school for sports? No doubt started by kids.

A few days here and there are perfectly manageable but there are reasons we have truancy laws in this country. So in the interest of equal time, here’s the legal view of Absenteeism and Truancy. Really, the bigger issue here is these dang tournaments and their ridiculous schedules. Does anyone have any ideas on how to fix that?

Play safe and have fun!

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15 Comments on “Missing school for sports? What kind of parent are you?”

  1. Always hard. I am sure the college level teachers are much for forgiving than the high school/jr. high educators on this subject! I remember my 5th grade TAG child got 0s for an unexcused absence due to a sports tournament ( dance). It was not pleasant and at the end of the day I really do not know what lesson she learned other than to tell them what they want to hear – ” Im sick!”

    • You are right about that. It is much easier to miss elementary school. I’ve had some raised eyebrows when I give the reason but this time when I called in, the attendance office told him to “kick some butt out there.” Thanks for your comment.

  2. Stats Dad says:

    Nice post. We have been in that situation several times. My kids are very good students and I know that they will make up the work and not fall behind so we opt for option 3 when it happens. Each situation is different, however, there are kids with learning disabilities, like ADHD, who cannot miss a day because missing a day may put them in a hole that they may struggle for weeks to get out of. In that case, it would probably be better to send the kid to school.

  3. Mamacita says:

    I can’t help but wonder what kind of coach would ask his/her athletes to miss school. . . . .

    • Just because a coach asks players to miss school for a tournament doesn’t mean that they don’t support academics. Every coach we’ve had stresses school first and would completely understand if we said our player couldn’t go participate in a tournament or game because of school. We know some people that homeschool so that they can work around sports and other activities and be more in control of their child’s academic schedule.

  4. DropTopMama says:

    Great post Laurie! When the boys were younger, i didn’t support taking them out of school for tournaments. But, in high school, I am amazed at the amount of time some sports take students out of the classroom….and these are school sanctioned teams. I agree that making arrangements in advance is the best, however, some teachers are not supportive

    • I wish I had agreed to take the kids out of school for some trips when they were in elementary school but I was pretty hard line against it. I still don’t like it but I realize that perfect attendance doesn’t necessarily a good student make. Still wish tournament organizers would put school before profit and stop making Friday morning/afternoon games.

  5. I like this. My mom played women’s softball nationally, and then women’s baseball. It was never a question whether or not we would miss school if a sporting event conflicted with class times. The game, tournament, training session, or whatever, always took priority. And, as focused as I am on academics, I agree with her. Homework can be made-up, labs and tests can be rescheduled. But you only get one opportunity to play in that tournament, or meet with that couch, or experience that particular training session. It’s learning outside the classroom. I think most teachers would understand.

  6. Karen Peterson says:

    My kids have missed school for sports on many occasions; much harder once they reach the middle or high school, but many times it has been for the kids to travel out of state. I have also taken my kids out of school to go visit family and for the occasional, “I’m having a rough day mental check up day” Life is too short to miss out on other opportunities that I can expose my kids to by traveling out of state, etc. I think it is a bit different as we live in Alaska and it’s a long distance away. My boys also miss a week for hunting with their dad in the fall; those memories are ones that they will have for the rest of their lives.

    • Everybody needs a day off once in a while. I could use one today as a matter of fact! But I agree, Karen. The time that we’ve spent together on these trips are special memories. My husband took my boys out of school to go to the Ryder Cup. That’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that cemented their mutual love of golf.

  7. nancy says:

    How about Option 4: your child goes to school and shows up at the tournament after school is finished. This is what I do.

    • Sometimes we do this, too. If there’s a test or big assignment due or a “can’t miss” day, the kids go to school. Many times, my kids go to school for part of the day and leave early. They are usually the only ones on the team that went to school at all. Because I’m mean like that.

      • Nanct says:

        Well, I am more mean than you, I guess. My child does not miss school for sports — ever. It does not matter if it is a test or a big assignment. School comes first. My child misses school for illness or a death in the family — that’s it. Bottom line is the tournament organizers could make everything fall on Saturday and Sunday, but they want to make more money by starting on Thursday or Friday. I agree team sports are important, but they are for after school in my books.

  8. Dan says:

    I’ll comment as a parent (21 years now), and as a teacher (26 years) and coach (25 years).
    First, I get the sense you/we are all trying to look out for the best interests of our children and sometimes have to make hard choices. Me too. (We also hope our kids learn to make good decisions based on what we show them, but you know how that goes.)
    In between the lines?
    a) maybe you hope the sport offers better future life chances than school, so you’ve prioritized that. They’ll go pro and make more money at that than getting a job based on their education.
    b) there are X number of days of school in a year (more) vs. X number of game days (less) = games days are more special than school days
    c) other parents of my kid’s teammates are depending on me, people at school don’t care as much
    d) your child is in elementary of middle school
    My personal take, as a parent/teacher/coach: Unless it’s missing school for an actual school sports team, you are sending a message that sports are more important than school. Unless your kid is one of the .001% of the population who are professional athletes or .01% who earn a college scholarship, an education is more important. Actually, attitude toward school is far more important. No, one school day here and there won’t probably make much difference short-term, but over time people just get in this habit of blowing off prior commitments for a newer something that looks more fun.
    Finally, no reputable sport/tournament/league knowingly schedules games during times kids would miss school. It’s only self-serving for them. They’ll profit off kids not being in school. They’ll get better publicity for themselves on the back of the kids who miss school. Yes, one or two or three kids will benefit, will get more exposure for their talents to help their sports career, but the majority won’t.
    I agree that sports teach valuable lessons, but you have to draw the line somewhere. Even if it’s lonely there.

  9. It’s so much more than this, at least in California. Student attendance boils down to money. Schools in California get their funding based on Daily student attendance. Huge amounts of money are withheld by the state for each day a student is not in attendance. This, in turn, causes the school districts to be extremely aggressive with attendance policies which includes penalizing the student and even calling the sheriff on you.


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