When Is It Okay To Take Your Kids Out Of School

Categories: Education

FOX 29 News Philadelphia | WTXF-TV

The father of two elementary aged children proved to be the real MVP when he replied to a letter from his children’s school that said they were not accepting a family trip to Boston as an excusable absence.

Michael Rossi took to Facebook to share the letter he received from Rochelle S. Marbury, Principal of Rydal Elementary School after his kids Jack and Victoria missed April 17, 20 and 21, 2015.

“Dear Mr. and Mrs. Rossi,” the letter read, “I understand your family recently took a family vacation. I want you to be aware that the Abington School District does not recognize family trips as an excused absence, regardless of the activities involved in the trip. The school district is not in the position of overseeing family vacations or evaluating the educational nature of a family trip. The dates that your children were absent were recorded as unexcused. An accumulation of unexcused absences can result in a referral to our attendance officer and a subsequent notice of a violation of the compulsory school attendance law.”

Mr. Rossie served a hot cup of tea back, validating why he took his children with him and even gave them turned it into a field trip that allowed them to walk through historical places their classmates have yet to learn about, and he allowed them to witness the resilience of #BostonStrong.
After learning that the main purpose of the trip had to do with the death of a loved one, it sort of made me wonder if the person who drafted the letter doesn’t consider compassionate days for kids also.

But with one month left in the school year, Jack and Victoria have earned so much more than a grade – they’ve earned bragging rights for having a father who has lessons that are far from the confines of a classroom


Dear Madam Principal,

While I appreciate your concern for our children's education, I can promise you they learned as much in the five days we were in Boston as they would in an entire year in school.

Our children had a once-in-a-lifetime experience, one that can't be duplicated in a classroom or read in a book.

In the 3 days of school they missed (which consisted of standardized testing that they could take any time) they learned about dedication, commitment, love, perseverance, overcoming adversity, civic pride, patriotism, American history culinary arts and physical education.

They watched their father overcome, injury, bad weather, the death of a loved one and many other obstacles to achieve an important personal goal.

They also experienced first-hand the love and support of thousands of others cheering on people with a common goal.

At the marathon, they watched blind runners, runners with prosthetic limbs and debilitating diseases and people running to raise money for great causes run in the most prestigious and historic marathon in the world.

They also paid tribute to the victims of a senseless act of terrorism and learned that no matter what evil may occur, terrorists can not deter the American spirit.

These are things they won't ever truly learn in the classroom.

In addition our children walked the Freedom Trail, visited the site of the Boston Tea Party, the Boston Massacre and the graves of several signers of the Declaration of Independence.

These are things they WILL learn in school a year or more from now. So in actuality our children are ahead of the game.

They also visited an aquarium, sampled great cuisine and spent many hours of physical activity walking and swimming.

We appreciate the efforts of the wonderful teachers and staff and cherish the education they are receiving at Rydal Elementary School. We truly love our school.

But I wouldn't hesitate to pull them out of school again for an experience like the one they had this past week.

Thank you for your time.

Michael Rossi

(article update) Here is the Response by the School Board President

The following commentary by David Webster:

Schools And Vacation Time

When I was young, we took family vacations once a year.  Dad had three weeks vacation each year, then eventually four, and by the time I was in 8th grade, he was up to five weeks vacation. We always took it all at once, and it meant a trip to Yosemite, or up to Canada, and then even one around the U.S.  I had been to more than 30 states by the time I graduated high school.  So where did it become a problem to travel away with your children?  I always had to take homework, and was a straight A student, typically studying two years ahead of the rest of the class.  I attribute that advancement to time my mother spent working with me.  

I had, for seven years, a music school of instruction with hundreds of students coming through weekly for private and group instruction.  On thing you learn after having 10,000 students learn to play under your nose is this:  See music books are geared at a simple pace of instruction.  You have childrens books for young learners or slower beginners, and adult books for a more rapid pace of learning.  Anyone of any age can learn from the childrens books, while the adult books tend to progress too quickly for younger children.  But my point is this:  Those of us who taught both class piano instruction and private lessons know that in four weeks of class piano instruction, a student will progress as far as one private lesson.  Class piano is a way for parents who can't afford private lessons to learn.  But they learn and progress much more slowly.  Bad habits that can be caught in person during a private lesson often go overlooked in a class setting.  Those habits can translate to years of frustration by having learned incorrect fingering positions, while it is that beginning of music that sets the pace for music the rest of your life.  

I would like to take this one level further before I make my critical points if you'll bear with me...   We live in a time where more people than ever work from home, and have the ability to take and spend time with their children.  School acts with a double purpose.  It is there to educate our children, yes, but they also are there to provide parents with the necessary time to work and take care of the home.  I think if the kids were home all day, we would never get the house clean.  We often send them to play with their cousins at my sisters house when we need to accomplish something at home.  Then she reciprocates.  So we get cleaned just in time for total destruction haha.  But the fact is, school acts as a baby sitter service for your kids.  They are the nanny.  They keep them busy being productive while you make money to pay for the house, keep it full of groceries to eat, and cleaned up and tidy.  It gives parents down time.  

But the fact is, knowing that you can learn at least four times more with one-on-one time, it is the times when you are ready to give one-on-one focus and attention to your children that schools today should be in full understanding of this and ready to let parents do their thing!  So how could this be a problem?  Well it comes down to one problem that has been increasing year by year in governing agencies.  It is capitalism in government finance.  The higher ups are using money to keep kids in school.  The schools get paid say $30 per day that a kid is there, and they lose that money for every absence.  So they get huffy and upset every time you take your kid out of school.  This is the same problem we have in law enforcement.  The department benefits from fines, so they issue lots of tickets.  

To my critical point:  Financial motivation in any government (servant) agency needs to be issued through customer satisfaction.

I believe that teachers should be rewarded based on customer satisfaction surveys which convey a combination of how much their children learned, and how much joy their children feel towards the teacher and the education they provide.  Teachers who are entrenched in the system, boring and not fun will receive poor evaluations, and lesser financial incentives.  The same goes for police officers.  Those whose surveys that they treated criminals with respect and care rather than disdain will be rewarded.  Those who are detested will not.  

I'll take schooling one step further.  I as an educator, a computer gamer, a webmaster, a professional Googler understand that being tied at the hip to the internet makes a person close to knowledge.  My children know more than I did because of the internet, youtube videos etc.  We recently went to a birthday party with my daughters where they had a beautiful standing Elsa Cake.  My youngest, Sienna says, "Daddy, I know how to make that cake!  You use a bowl, and you turn it upside down and you .........." she knew just how it was done.  Then she says... "I saw it in a video!!"  She's 8 years old, and she got up one morning and told me she was going to make a dress for her friend in school.  She took me for a walk to Walmart to pick out her fabric, needles and thread colors, and proceeded to make a dress.  It got cumbersome on the first one, so she switched to making doll dresses for a while.  After making a few, she started making full sized dresses by hand with needle and thread, fabric and a pair of scissors.  She is an amazing artist, and she applies everything she learns to real life.  She's such a pro Googler that there is nothing she can't find out.  

The Internet Will Overtake Our Education System - And Much Much More

This is where I'll make my last and final point.  I've been in the roofing business for a long time.  We all know that a picture is worth a thousand words.  But if that's so a video is worth ten thousand words per minute.  I used to train people to do what I did.  If I took them out on roofs and walked them through the process step by step, it took about three to four weeks before an apprentice sales person could begin to really sell on their own and know what they were talking about.  There is a high turnover in roofing sales because it is typically not paid hourly, but by the sale.  Those who don't start selling quickly go broke learning.  So I could waste a whole month on a person just to lose them.  After a couple of those, I jumped on the internet and made a series of training videos.  In a one minute clip, I showed every part on the roof as to what it is, and how to fill out a contract.  A second short video clip showed them how to measure a roof and was a simple life application refresher on roofing geometry.  I gave it a web site and a simple name so they could get there in a hurry, and I told new trainees to be fully versed on the content provided on the web site before we began training.  Those who came in prepared were trained in person, and 4 weeks of difficulty, fuel, and wasted time were obsoleted in a few hours of review.  

But it's not just the training I provided that gives them experience.  It's also the fact that they could go to Youtube and seek out others who are successful and watch what they do that make training in any field better and more real today.  I say all of this to say that education that is filled with videos and access to online videos as well as that is tied to interactive games and software that helps with memory retention... for instance instead of a simple story problem in Geometry, a video shows the dimensions of a roof.  The roofer needs to order materials that will mean the difference between profit and loss.  It shows the dimensions from the sky on the roof in the video.  The student must calculate the materials needed for the job.  This kind of education is worth far more than textbook and a teacher on a dry erase board can ever provide.

So it is my belief that education needs to be as follows:  When our kids are in kindergarten, they set up an online profile on an integrated app.  The app takes them step by step through the education process.  Tests are provided there as well as all educational materials.  The education takes place online.  Class time becomes an extracurricular place to do things in groups and in action to supplement the online education.  It's a proven fact that online educated students use about 1.5 hours per day to accomplish more progression than they do in the entire school day.  A school day is typically about 7 hours long including transportation.  That means when compared to a home / internet education, there's 5.5 hours of babysitting going on, or just fill time.  Yet when they come home, it's usually with another hour or two of homework!?!?!  So my view on government and schools is... they need to maintain and manage software for the students to learn and spare no expense on that software, and then privatize the school facilities so that parents reward the best care of their children with a job.  Those that home school will lack nothing for education because, again, it's all available to everyone online.  

I had the drastic experience, even 8 years ago of losing 100 pounds over 9 months because I couldn't swallow food.  The  gastroenterologist  I saw couldn't explain it, and sent me to get my throat scanned.  I told those at the scan that they needed to scan lower... to forget the throat, that it was Achalasia, and they needed to scan by my stomach and look for the birds beak of Achalasia.  Achalasia was a rare disease with unknown cause.  I had spent 6 months at that time while shrinking looking up all the possibilities.  My Gastro Doctor as I call him wouldn't hear it or listen to me.  But I had gained more knowledge on the rare disease and was more in touch with my symptoms than he.  I became part of his education.  But the fact is, without the internet and that correct diagnosis, I probably wouldn't be here today.  The doctor interpreting my scan said.... "How did you know it was Achalasia??"  So I say with profound personal certainty that most Googlers have access to better knowledge than a lawyer, a doctor, a physicist, or an educator can know, and they are only as current as the new news, posts, and articles they keep up with in their fields.  So use those people as a sounding board for knowledge gained through the internet.  But you cant rely entirely on the limited knowledge of when person when here we have the collective knowledge and experience of the many at our fingertips.  


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