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Supporting good attendance at school

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[FEB. 25, 2005]  Q: We have a son in high school. I was shocked to get a call from school about problems with his attendance. Occasions do come up when he has to miss a day or a class, but I always send a note to school about it. It appears he has been missing more than we are aware, and our conversations with him just yield a dismissive shrug. How do we handle this?

A: It's as simple as this: Students can't learn if they're not in school.

Your son stayed up too late and now he wants to sleep in. He has a big basketball game and wants to rest. He has an important math test and he hasn't finished studying. All these are excuses many teens give for missing school.

Some parents even cooperate when their teens don't want to go to school. Don't do it.

When your son is absent from school he may be able to copy missed notes, complete missed worksheets and receive help after school. However, other important aspects of the lessons are lost forever. Absent students miss out on discussions, questions raised, explanations and much more. Students fall behind and sometimes never recover. Learning builds day by day. What your son misses in one class session is needed as a foundation for what he will learn in the next session.

You can play a big role in supporting good school attendance. Here are important points to remember:

  • Tell your son that school is his most important job at this time in his life and that you expect him to be there every day.
  • Avoid scheduling family trips or doctor appointments during school hours.
  • Make sure your son eats healthy foods and gets enough sleep and exercise.
  • Don't accept excuses for why your son "must" miss or be late for school.
  • Discuss what happened at school each day.
  • Support school rules and consequences for skipping class and being tardy.
  • Make sure the school knows how to reach you if your son is absent.
  • Set a good example. Go to work every day yourself.

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Research shows that attendance is the single most important factor in school success.

Attendance is a habit. Teens who get in the habit of coming to school every day will also show up for work on time. Teens who think they can come and go as they please may never be successful in a job. So make sure your son keeps going to school. It's an important lesson in responsibility he needs to learn.

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For more information about helping children learn or to submit your own question to The Learning Advisor, go to http://advisor.parent-institute.com. All questions will receive a prompt answer by e-mail.

Copyright 2005, The Parent Institute.

"Ask the Learning Advisor -- Ideas for Raising Successful Children" is a free syndicated column available through The Parent Institute.

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