About his three D’s and two F’s, Joey said, “We went to Canada to visit relatives. Then I was sick for a couple of days.” Now, what do a trip to Canada and a nasty cold have to do with grades? Everything! As educator Richard White put it, “It may seem obvious that children with the best school attendance are the best performers, but that link is proving even stronger than educators suspected.”

Remember S. Silversteins, “Sick,” about the kid who comes up with every ailment under the sun until his mother tells him it’s Saturday? We all have days when getting out of bed seems out of the question. But haul ourselves out we do—something about being responsible, dependable. Why would we expect anything less from our children? It seems we do, however.

Take Canada, for example. Joey’s family vacation took place when school was in session, not during an official holiday—and yet there are plenty of those. Just think winter and spring breaks; think no-school summers! Nevertheless, parents keep taking off with their kids; the favorite reason, naturally, is for an educational trip. As if all that learning down there in Disney World can’t wait till June. In Newsweek’s “Where Are the Parents,” John McCormick wrote, “Many parents behave as though the school exists for their child alone; a particularly annoying sub-species of the self-absorbed pulls kids out of class for family vacations and asks teachers to prepare a week’s worth of lessons, presumably to be administered by the ski patrol.” Couldn’t have said it better myself. Don’t do it!!

In its “You’re Part of the Equation, Too,” the Pennsylvania State Education Association voiced its disapproval, saying, “Absenteeism affects more than just the child. The teacher must struggle to fit extra time into a full schedule to help the student catch up . . . And since learning is a continuing, connected process, if a student misses Tuesday’s lesson, Wednesday’s lesson may not make much sense . . . .” Pay such a high price only in the case of illness or the loss of loved ones, and in the meantime:

1. Set a reasonable bedtime for your child and stick to it, or risk that she won’t want to
get up the next morning and, once at school, won’t be very alert.

2. Besides a good night’s sleep, provide a healthy diet to help ward off infections and
maintain energy levels.

3. Schedule all dentist, orthodontist, and routine doctor appointments for after-school hours.

4. Don’t buy the line that he’s too tired to go to school. Going there every day is his
job and is as important as your own.

5. Serve as a role model, going to work even when exhausted, behind on your to-do list, or
coming down with the sniffles.

6. Most schools will gather work only after someone has missed three consecutive
days of school. That’s too long to wait, so, when sick, have your child ask a classmate
to gather all assignments, leaving them in the main office for you to pick up or dropping
them off. Then once she’s better, get her started on all that collected school work.

7. Save trips and visits to out-of-town relatives for school holidays and vacations. If you
must take your child out of school for such a trip, insist that he collect work in
advance from all teachers and make sure that it’s all done by the time you return.

8. Place a high value on the work of schools, reminding your child to show up, be counted,
and work hard. Few exceptions.