I’ve heard a lot of reasons from my children about why they should not go to school on a particular morning. First off, of course, is illness: it is remarkable how two otherwise healthy people, living in an otherwise healthy town, in a country that has eliminated many of the diseases that have ravaged the world for centuries, still manage to contract serious, debilitating illnesses on a regular basis. (And when I say “regular,” I mean like clockwork: almost every Monday morning, without fail.)
Fortunately—for me—that problem pretty much resolved itself once I got rid of our thermometer. One day it just occurred to me: every time I have been suckered into letting a “sick” child stay home it was because I had been encouraged to do so by that little skinny plastic instigator. “Look, look,” my kids would exclaim, waving their little friend in the air, “99.2! I have a fever! I’m sick! I have to stay home!” And they were right: I couldn’t in good conscience send them off to school when I knew for sure that they had a fever. Which meant, to me, that that little tattle tale had to go. Don’t get me wrong: they still get to stay home when they have a legitimate fever, but since this is now determined by the old “hand on the forehead method” (a method that is remarkably hard to fool with either a light bulb or being held under hot water), those occasions have become practically non-existent.
After the sick excuse was negated, the next one up to bat was the “waste of time” argument. As in, “We’re not doing anything today. All we’re going to do is work on x, and since I already finished x, I won’t have anything to do. I won’t learn anything. ” This argument might have been more successful if it wasn’t for the fact that I have made peace with knowing that when I send my children off to school every morning I consider any education they receive that day to be a bonus: the real reason I am sending them is to get them out of my sight for six hours. If they come home knowing the capitol of Libya, that is just the icing on the cake.
Besides, there’s plenty of important things to learn in school other than academic subjects. Things like “how to stop being so annoying.” True, this lesson can also be taught at home, by siblings, but only if there are a LOT of them—one or two siblings simply will not be enough to do the trick, and will actually tend to exacerbate any annoying tendencies which are already present. In the case of a family like mine, where there are only two children, I can’t think of any other way for my children to learn this particular lesson other than by spending time in the classroom and playground: sometimes, peer pressure can be a good thing, too.
In fact, this lesson is probably where the next argument for staying home comes from: the “I just don’t wanna go today, okay?” argument. (My son Clyde expresses this as “I’ve got a bad feeling about school today.” The Force is strong in this one.) This is actually the argument I am the most sympathetic to: I understand completely feeling like the last thing in the world you want to do that day is be surrounded by a bunch of obnoxious troublemakers; that’s why I send my obnoxious troublemakers off to school, so that the other children can convince them, by any means necessary, that antisocial behavior only brings antisocial behavior back in return.
That, and the fact that sometimes I just really, really need the house to myself. Hey, I never claimed that my excuses were any better than theirs.