If you have school-age children, then you probably have stories about trying to get them excused from school for the Feast of Tabernacles. Some teachers and schools are very accommodating; some are not. School districts have different perspectives on what constitutes an “excused absence.”
Some teachers are well organized and willing to provide schoolwork for students to take with them so they can keep up while at the Feast. Other teachers seem to prepare their lessons a few days before and are less prepared to provide class work.
Most parents prefer that their children keep up with the class work while at the Feast so they don’t get behind. Here are some tips that will help you in obtaining your child’s schoolwork and an excused absence for the Feast.
1. Approximately three weeks to one month in advance of the Feast, let your child’s teacher(s) know about the upcoming absence dates and your desire for schoolwork to take with you during the absence.
A letter sent with your child from you personally and an official form letter provided and signed by your local United Church of God pastor can be helpful. In the letter you might explain the religious nature of the observance (so it’s not seen as a vacation), specific dates you will be gone, a request for class work and the Festival location you will be attending. You could also mention some of the educational aspects of your trip.
In elementary school, you might only have one teacher to inform. If your child is in middle or high school, you might have five to seven teachers to contact.
You could mail the notes to the teachers. But you may find it helpful to personally visit the school and talk to the teachers. If your child is older, he or she could deliver the notes and explain the situation to the teachers. In any case, make sure each teacher receives the communication.
2. Send a copy of any correspondence with the teacher(s) to the school office for their file records. This will inform the administration that your child will be absent. Check to see if there is any paperwork you need to fill out with the office or attendance office regarding excused absences.
3. Consider going to the open house or parent night most schools conduct near the beginning of the school year. Meeting the teachers in person and confirming that they are aware of the pending absence will help put a name with a face. Even if your meeting is brief, it is worth the personal contact.
If at all possible, you may wish to volunteer to help in copying materials and getting any necessary items that would be needed to complete the lessons in advance. It is helpful to reassure the teachers that you will work with your child to complete the assignments.
4. A week before leaving for the Feast, send a reminder notice to the teachers about the need for schoolwork assignments and the day your child will plan to pick up materials before his or her absence. Remind them again of the dates your child will be gone from school.
5. Be sure to aid your children in obtaining their schoolwork assignments on the last school day before you leave. If at all possible, you might pick your children up from school that day to be sure they are prepared for the Feast with their books, needed materials and assignments. Your involvement will mean a lot to the teachers, school and your children’s education. You might call or drop by the school office to confirm your children’s absence as well.
6. Help your child schedule times and places to do schoolwork before, during and after the Feast. It can be very challenging to fit it in with all the other activities, but help your child make it as efficient as possible so your whole family can rejoice together at the Feast.
Encourage your child by explaining that his or her efforts to complete the homework set a great example of godly character to the teachers and staff at school, and so can be a part in preaching the good news of the coming Kingdom we picture at the Feast.
7. Be sure all school assignments, books, materials and any items that the teachers let you borrow are returned to the school after the Feast.
8. If you receive resistance from a teacher or if your student is penalized after the Feast for missing and you can’t work it out with the teacher, you can go to the principal with your concern. Most issues can be resolved with the teacher or the principal. Having your absence request in writing with the dated letter and a copy at the office can also help eliminate issues.
9. Talk with your children about how they will answer questions from teachers and peers about their religion. This can be very helpful and give them confidence.
10. Ask your pastor and other parents in your congregation for advice.
11. And it is very important to pray that God will bless your efforts and smooth the way for your child to be excused from school.
Good communication is the key. Our parental responsibility is both to teach our children to observe God’s Festival and to help them keep up with schoolwork during the Feast. We hope these tips will be helpful for you.