It’s Okay to Let Children Skip School Once a While

a boy exploring the outdoors
Photo by Caleb Oquendo from Pexels

“My son goes to school only one day a week!” A frustrated mother complained. I sat at my favorite cafe, enjoying my mocha latte, eavesdropping without shame. She added, “We have no choice. The school is unable to fit everyone due to social distancing rules.”

Granted that the pandemic has created havoc with our lives, including the education system here. But I wonder if this is an opportunity for children to get a ‘REAL’ education.

My parents and my grandparents always said education is meant to prepare us for life and work. By going to school, we become independent adults making a living on our own.

Today, I would agree to a limited extent. Historically, education started as the need to pass on knowledge and skills. Classes were mostly done through storytelling. Over time, education took a more formal structure to teach children in school. However, as the world evolves, school textbooks and curriculum remained the same.

My friend’s 11-year-old boy has been going to school since the age of 5. Yet, he struggles to use Google to research for his art homework. Google processes 3.5 billion searches per day. I am astonished to hear that he needs help with it. How did he miss Google?

I am willing to bet Google is not mentioned anywhere in his textbooks. What has he been learning in school then?

My theory is — He learned how to be the perfect ‘Classroom Child.’ He wakes up in the morning, dresses, goes to school for 6–7 hours, memorizes numbers and words, plays some games, comes home, does homework, and then repeats the same the next day.

While as an individual we may not be able to change the education system overnight. We do have options available within our means to introduce real-life lessons to our children.

Here are some simple, practical solutions to explore the real world outside of classrooms.

Take a bus/train ride

Hop on a bus/train and travel end to end with your children. Let your children decide where and when they wish to stop. Take pictures. Let them tell you stories of what they see. The bus/train ride will need children to plan, think, anticipate and digest information to ensure a smooth journey.

It breaks away from the usual routine. It heightens children’s senses when in new surroundings.

We know real life is seldom about routines. There are ups and downs which we need to navigate. Life is in no way ‘classroom perfect.’

Do stuff around the house

Mary DeVries, a writer on Medium, used house chores to teach economics and finance. She talks about it in her article titled Forget chore charts: Use a Free Market Approach Without Breaking the Bank.

It’s true that when you teach your children to participate in house chores, they get to know various things and eventually develop their skills.

Ask your children’s help in your day-to-day household stuff. Get them involved in different tasks and teach them the valuable life-lessons schools fail to provide.

Seek to travel the world

My friend Kim is fond of traveling and never hesitates to bring her two young girls along. She confesses that her girls will never be in the top spot for school attendance.

“My girls saw the instant noodles-making process in Japan. They learned about the ingredients of the noodles and how to remove the moisture in the process. And they still remember them long after we have left Tokyo”.

“I believe the two girls just had a chemistry lesson in real life,” she added.

Today you can enroll for virtual school trips/travel. Trips can be customized where children can engage with subject matter experts online and request to explore a particular subject up close.

Photos by Ng Sek San — Community Farm @ Bangsar

Explore the outdoors or nature

Nature is perhaps the best teacher of all. Learning a forest ecosystem in the middle of a forest with an experienced guide is exciting and enriching. It offers real-time experiences where children can see, hear, smell, taste and feel.

Most often, these experiences are free of charge. No school fees are needed.

Our writer, Nyse Vicente shared in her article Getting Lost in A Swiss Village, “I thought too about science, but not about science textbooks, documentaries, or theory. The land, the farmers, the locals would teach me. That was art.”

Participate in community projects

Encourage children to be a volunteer or write a book/blog. Working in a community with Libraries/YMCAs/Planting Nursery or with experts brings different perspectives. Role modeling is an effective learning tool.

Help children start a social cause

Dhanya from the Acton Academy school shared the following — “my tasks was to organize a talk with an expert on plastic pollution. I reached out to an environmental NGO. I didn’t have any money to offer them, so I had to pitch the idea using a different angle.”

Real-world lessons are precious, especially the challenges or failures which children have to manage. Children get real-time feedback and consequences. This helps them to be a practical problem solver instead of being the ‘classroom’ problem solver.

Teach/coach other

If your children are good at a particular subject, let them teach or coach someone else. By teaching/coaching others, children will have the opportunity to put theory into action. It helps with conceptualizing what they have already learned and apply them to help others.

Organize events

Allow children to be event organizers — a game, a competition, a bake sale, online sale, art jamming session. I know parents who have helped their children kick start their cupcake business during the lockdown.

Children had to learn to shop for materials, do budget, cook, sell and deliver their cakes. They are literally learning about the entire supply chain while their school was closed.

Photos by Ng Sek San — Volunteers at Community Farm @ Bangsar

Skipping school to volunteer at the animal shelter for a day gives a breath of life to the school curriculum.

These real-life lessons can supplement children’s education. A bit of creativity, research, and planning could make learning more meaningful for them.

While I do not recommend skipping school altogether, think about how your child could benefit from a day out of school. Exploring real-life practical experiences with children gives them a much more wholesome education and allows them the freedom from having to memorize their school textbooks.

Thank you for reading.

If you are interested to read more of my stories, you can find them at the following,

  1. Escape to Luang Prabang, Laos
  2. Kebun-Kebun, Bangsar @ Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
  3. Take a Local Bus Ride to See the Exhibition of Life

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Ching Ching

Ching Ching

I am a Malaysian discovering ways to write about my life and my encounters with people. Nature is my inspiration.