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Posted at 10:10 AM ET, 01/ 4/2011

Obama girls miss two days of school; when is it okay to keep a kid out of school?

By Valerie Strauss

While their classmates at Sidwell Friends School returned from the holiday break on Monday, Malia and Sasha Obama were in Hawaii with their parents, the president and the first lady, visiting elephants and other animals at the Honolulu Zoo.

President and Michelle Obama obviously felt that spending time as a family -- not an easy accomplishment for the leader of the United States -- was more important at this point in their lives than rushing back so their daughters could be in class.

Malia, 12, and Sasha, 9, will miss two days as a result. The trip began the day Sidwell students started their winter break.

Parents make these sorts of decisions all the time, asking themselves when it is acceptable to keep their children out of school.

Obviously, kids are supported to stay home when they are sick, but there are plenty of other times that parents decide not to send their children to school.

What do you think qualifies as an experience worthy of keeping a child out of school? A family trip? Attending the Super Bowl? Spending quality time with parents?

Would you allow your stressed-out child to spend a day at home doing absolutely nothing so he/she can decompress?

I would say yes to all of the above, assuming the child doesn’t have a major assignment or test or class experience. Kids can make up their work, which, in itself is not a bad lesson in how to set priorities, and manage time.

Meanwhile, at the Honolulu zoo yesterday, according to a pool report, the president, several adults and a bunch of kids visited the elephants late in the day and then strolled up to a pair of white-handed gibbons and some ruffed lemurs.

Malia Obama led the pack, holding the hand of her cousin Suhaila, the eldest daughter of Obama’s sister Maya Ng-Soetoro, who was also there, pushing a stroller, alongside her husband.

The Obama group of more than a dozen was joined by a zookeeper, who was showing them around. Pool did not see anyone else in the zoo, which appeared to be closed.

"Ready to go home yet, Mr. President?" Jeff Mason of Reuters shouted.

Obama did not answer.

"Ready to go home?" Mason tried again.

"No!" one of the kids yelled.


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By Valerie Strauss  | January 4, 2011; 10:10 AM ET
Categories:  Student Life  | Tags:  malia, malia and sasha, malia and sasha obama, malia obama, michelle obama, obama and hawaii, obama and sidwell, obama daughters, obama daughters miss school, obama trip, obama vacation, president obama, sasha, sasha obama, sidwell friends  
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Repeated absenses would be the only time I would question a parent. This is one of those events and times that are rare for the President. I see nothing wrong.

Posted by: jbeeler | January 4, 2011 10:50 AM | Report abuse

Seriously, is this really worth an entire blog? Your title is misleading, almost inflammatory. As a teacher, I had parents pull kids out of school for WEEKS at a time for family vacations, not connected to vacation but because they wanted to go on vacation.

Posted by: Mawrter91 | January 4, 2011 11:20 AM | Report abuse

I wouldn't mind taking my kids out of school for a fun event. I wouldn't want them to think that their only mission in life is serving the man or that education can only be attained in a classroom.

Posted by: forgetthis | January 4, 2011 11:30 AM | Report abuse

Man, I only wish my parents had made me turn off the TV and read more books. Or fed me healthy, nutritious food most of the time. If this is the biggest fault the President has in family raising, I say he has plenty of other things going for him. I say, look at the big picture. And from here, the President's family looks like it has things together. And he takes responsibility for his kids. A few extra days of vacation for them--absolutely.

Posted by: JeffreyW75 | January 4, 2011 11:38 AM | Report abuse

Nothing to see here... please move along.

Posted by: lingering_lead | January 4, 2011 11:50 AM | Report abuse

Ha! In Fairfax County this is hardly a problem -- there are so many scheduled days off that it is an effort to identify a complete school week to begin with. Between half-day Mondays for elementary school kids (7 years of that teacher perk) and the 5 "teacher workdays" per year, plus the regular holidays and breaks, there is no shortage of non-school days to utilize. It is absurd.

Posted by: conchfc | January 4, 2011 11:51 AM | Report abuse

I doesn't matter because they will get token A's just like their dummy father. Why is it Barry has hidden his college grade, like his nonexistent birth certificate? Because, as a racist token, he always did poorly in school.

Posted by: carlbatey | January 4, 2011 11:57 AM | Report abuse

Let's make 2011 a year that we are heard. I plan to send a postcard for each of my children and husband with a phone call about a week later seeing if it was received. :-)
I plan to post this message in various places. Please join me and get as many people as you can to join.

Dear Mr. Gates,
Dr. Diane Ravitch has invited you to a public debate around public education. I look forward to hearing the two of you debate. Please contact Dr. Ravitch at: New York University, 82 Washington Square East, New York, New York 10003.

(Please send your postcards or call The Gate's Foundation at PO Box 23350, Seattle, WA 98102. The foundation's phone number is (206)709-3100.)

Posted by: tutucker | January 4, 2011 12:13 PM | Report abuse

As a voter for Obama and a resident of the DC metro area, one of the biggest disappointments of his presidency thus far has been his lack of connection to the troubled public school system in the most important respect- deciding not to send his kids there. The initial reaction was to excuse this because it's the same thing anyone of us in his socioeconomic situation would do as well. But his is an historic presidency along with an unprecedented opportunity to affect change- particuarly in such an area- we do expect better from him, even if it involves decisions regarding his children. Think about what a direct and immediate impact he would have upon the public school system if he were a parent of students actually enrolled in it. And who's to say the kids wouldn't ultimately gain more than they currently are from their experiences at an exclusive private school? He's even had the nerve to mock decisions by the public school system regarding school closures due to snowfall he deemed not severe enough. This recent small episode of parent-sanctioned truancy is only in keeping with his overall approach to educating his kids.

Posted by: idora | January 4, 2011 12:15 PM | Report abuse

Easy answer: school is not the only place learning occurs. Vacation time and family time is as much a learning time as sitting in a school room.

Any absenteeism by a student due to a parent keeping the child out to watch other children, work or because the parent is too lazy to get the child to school - THOSE are problems!

Posted by: agreen451 | January 4, 2011 12:29 PM | Report abuse

We considered our kids school to be their "work" and never scheduled family activities when they were supposed to be in school.

The Obamas' are not your typical family and are free to do as they like.

Posted by: DogNabit | January 4, 2011 12:32 PM | Report abuse

carlbatey, it's unfortunate that you are as stupid in the new year as you have been in past years

Posted by: nuzuw | January 4, 2011 12:33 PM | Report abuse

My kids who are now in 11th & 7th grades have been very, very healthy. In their entire school careers to date they've missed perhaps 5 days each due to illness. So I figure it's fine to pull them out for an extra day or two for a long weekend or an extended winter break, just like the Obamas are doing. If the kids were already missing a lot of school, I might not be so blithe about it.

Posted by: GreenMtns | January 4, 2011 12:51 PM | Report abuse

Carlbatey, you have a vivid imagination. Obama is a graduate of Columbia University and Harvard Law School (magna cum laude) where he was the president of the Harvard Law Review.

Posted by: nomorewholefoods | January 4, 2011 12:56 PM | Report abuse

My family drove across the U.S. one summer, making me a few days late for 5th grade due to a blizzard in Denver. That was an incredible experience for the 4 kids. I do not think anyone can or should criticize how the Obamas are raising those lovely children. Now that I think of it, why is this even on the WP?

Posted by: Searching3 | January 4, 2011 1:03 PM | Report abuse

When I was in grade school I missed a lot of school due to illness. However, my fellow class mates brought homework, their notes to my mother who stayed home with me. That was a long, long time ago. Now I have rediscovered those wonderful classmates. I now have the post-graduate degrees and the big house due to eleemosynary foundation while many of them do not. They paid the big taxes while I used the loopholes for 403(b), 409A, etc that they were not permitted. This tax code is inequitable thanks to that 40yr Congress. Why am I complaining ? Because my money will not by me any more time to say thank you to the many wonderful people of my youth

Posted by: buckaroo5 | January 4, 2011 1:14 PM | Report abuse

Slow news day, there Val???

Posted by: demtse | January 4, 2011 1:28 PM | Report abuse

If my youngster missed two days of school, under the same circumstances, CPS would be all over me and the Mrs.

Posted by: Computer_Forensics_Expert_Computer_Expert_Witness | January 4, 2011 1:29 PM | Report abuse

Slow news day, there Val???

Posted by: demtse | January 4, 2011 1:28 PM | ==========================================
Slow news day, indeed. I think the Obama girls will be okay.

Posted by: eric22 | January 4, 2011 1:42 PM | Report abuse

Our rule was no missed classes. There were two exceptions over 17 years: the 1988 Calgary Olympics and the last day before Christmas vacation one year to catch a cheaper flight to the Philippines.

My children follow the same rule with my grandchildren. We just planned a vacation for winter break next year, but it had to fit completely within the days the kids have off.

Posted by: sscritic | January 4, 2011 1:46 PM | Report abuse

My wife let the kids have a "headache" day off now and then but that was seldom. Being I traveled a lot and we lived out of state of both our families and had to split time away to visit family and work around vacation times which couldn't always prevent the children being back to school on time or leave on before school left out. Didn't create any problems.

As for the president and first lady who have far more hectic schedules and different life style than anyone else --then lay off--we can't compare to that situation to have a half intelligent conversation.

Posted by: mac7 | January 4, 2011 1:50 PM | Report abuse

So what if the Obama kids missed 2 days of school? It's not going to set them back an entire semester. My son has missed the first couple of days of school after the Christmas holidays because we were traveling overseas. When he got back to school, he fell right in step. Parents who travel do this all the time. I fail to understand what the big deal is.

Posted by: sjcsando | January 4, 2011 1:51 PM | Report abuse

How is this an issue? Parents do this all the time when kids are growing up; I'm sure they don't see him a lot anyway, so go wild out there.

Posted by: -01- | January 4, 2011 1:55 PM | Report abuse

It is the right and the responsibility of a parent to make the best possible decisions regarding his child's education. If the parent decides that a child will learn more on a vacation than at school, then of course the child is better off with his parents. I also agree with Valerie that a parent should keep the child home if he or she is unduly stressed and needs a rest. For adults, we call this a "mental health" day.

Posted by: Linda/RetiredTeacher | January 4, 2011 2:07 PM | Report abuse

If my youngster missed two days of school, under the same circumstances, CPS would be all over me and the Mrs.

Posted by: Computer_Forensics_Expert_Computer_Expert_Witness | January 4

For someone who claims to be some IT expert you sure are a drama queen.
I would not want you as a witness..

Posted by: qballgeek | January 4, 2011 2:07 PM | Report abuse

I think spending the day with the President qualifies as an excusable absence.

Posted by: staticvars | January 4, 2011 2:19 PM | Report abuse

Let me get this straight, your paid to ask the question why the Presidents kids were off 2 extra days from school to spend time with family? Like Palin your a pissed off white woman with no future, please stop hating.

Posted by: lisariver123 | January 4, 2011 2:42 PM | Report abuse

With apologies to "The Boss" - "We learned more from a three minute record than we ever learned in school." And yes, we even allowed our son a day off from school after singing with Bruce on stage. There are just some experiences that can't be taught in a classroom -

Posted by: getalife2 | January 4, 2011 2:51 PM | Report abuse

My parents took me and my sister out of school for two weeks each February for a vacation in Florida. I loved those weeks and they helped me get through the winters. Easily kept up with homework by taking a few books with me or playing catchup when I got home. Graduated 7th in a class of 260, got into a great college. Can't see where missing those days harmed me in any way. Most parents today seem to freak out at the thought of their child missing a day unless they are actually sick. There's so much that isn't taught in a classroom!

Posted by: red_hawk1968 | January 4, 2011 3:01 PM | Report abuse

Gee, i took my daughter to Italy at the end of 6th grade for two weeks (april/may) and made arrangements with the school ahead of time. She kept up with her work while we traveled and had to keep a journal for me. Grades didnt suffer and she learned a lot on the trip. We typically have to schedule vacation where they will miss a day or two for budgetary reasons, 1 day of school vs $1500 plane fare is a real easy one. while I see school as the kids primary job, they are given no discretionary time off as my wife and I are given at our jobs. Big difference

Posted by: chet_brewer | January 4, 2011 3:01 PM | Report abuse

I agree that learning occurs out of the classroom. However, do the Obama girls plan to share this wonderful and unique learning opportunity with their classmates? or even children from a D.C. public school?

We had to take our 1st grader out of school to attend a professional meeting in Williamsburg. While there, he made his own map of the colonial village and took pictures. He selected his pictures at home for a PowerPoint presentation that he put together. (Kids and technology go hand-in-hand). He then presented his map of the town and his Powerpoint presentation to his 1st grade class. He was then asked to present to another class and then the school admin. His learning from this trip far exceeded what he learned on-site in Williamsburg, and he shared that information and enthusiasm with his classmates.

Growing up as a Navy brat, we spent much time hearnig about and learning from the experiences of classmates who had lived abroad or were from other countries. Children learn well from their classmates. Allowing them time off to visit and take part in learning opportunities should be encourage, with the hope and even expectation that they will share some of that experience with their classmates. (It may actually be more accurate than many school text books these days.)

Posted by: mellwood1 | January 4, 2011 3:16 PM | Report abuse

I'm seeing a lot of this business of Graduating from Harvard Law School with honors. Forgive me but isn't Harvard Law a three yr stay ? Is not that like being born to a wealthy family. It has little to do with your credentials for success other than being with perhaps pampered sciolists. Back in my day at a similar school we were told look to your right then look to your left ... one of you will be missing next term. So lets wait til 2012 to see who gets credential for success

Posted by: buckaroo5 | January 4, 2011 3:20 PM | Report abuse

These people do not have rules.
They are above the rest of us, and like to show that off.

Posted by: dottydo | January 4, 2011 3:26 PM | Report abuse

If you're a lican, loonietarian or TeaP, the president and his wife obviously did an evil evil evil thing and should be impeached for it.

If you're *not* a nutzoid, this is feel-good about a family that doesn't get much vacation time together going to the zoo in Hawaii.

Sadly, the nutzoids now make lots of noise. They need to crawl back under their rocks, where they belong.

Posted by: roblimo | January 4, 2011 3:36 PM | Report abuse

It's understandable that Obama's kids would enjoy Hawaii more than Wash. D.C. at this time of year.

But, their private school is supposed to be top notch. They should have returned in time to be there for the resumption of classes.

Obviously, school and vacations benefit or should both benefit kids. But, do vacations benefit them more?

If the answer is yes, then our primary schools are truly deplorable and desperately need to be improved.

Granted, memorable vacations or emergencies may briefly keep kids out of school.

But, American primary education must be made more appealing and beneficial to kids and to their parents.

A good education is more vital than ever. and vacations should be planned during school breaks.

Posted by: vrytix | January 4, 2011 3:37 PM | Report abuse

My kids missed a day of school yesterday because we got a major discount on airfare flying back Monday as opposed to Sunday.
Since Air Force One doesn't have that issue, I don't see what the reason for staying away is.

Posted by: jiboo | January 4, 2011 3:51 PM | Report abuse

At the school where Iw ork children can be taken out of school for pretty much any reason so long as it is prearranged (parent sends a note to the office, office approves absence, students get form to bring to his teachers so they can tell him what he's missing). Fairly simple process. Last year I had a student come up to me and tell me he was going on vacation and wanted to know what he would be missing. When I asked for the form,he said his mother doesn't like to take the time to fill out the forms so she was just going to call him in sick while they were on vacation. After reattaching my jaw, I had a nice discussion with him over why it's not a good idea to tell the boss you're taking sick days when you're really on a cruise in the Bahamas. The point is, I don't care if their out, but parents shouldn't model lying to your supervisor about it for their kids.

Posted by: Rob63 | January 4, 2011 4:02 PM | Report abuse

I dont think it's ANYONE's business why, how or when a parent keeps their child out of school. It's a parents perrogative! Maybe people should focus more on themselves rather than poking their collective noses into someone else's business.

It's becoming an increasing problem in this country... people/ government poking their noses into the parent's business of raising children. Obviously, if there is apparent gross neglegence or abuse on the part of the parent, someone should step in... But our society is going beyond those bounds... we're moving into the realm of how a child should be disciplined or a parent's perrogative in the realm of their child's education... It needs to stop.

Posted by: jdubyaa | January 4, 2011 4:03 PM | Report abuse

When I taught high school, 3 or 4 of students' parents would purposely schedule their two-week vacations to start the first week of school. That way they would get cheaper hotels, flights, and entrance fees to theme parks. And when the child came back to school, having paid no fees, acquired no books, having done no homework, having no idea what the class was about, and he started off by failing, the parents never seemed to come in and support his flanks. The grades would continue to lag and not until the end of the year when those GPA points counted would the parents show concern.

No, that's right, jdubyaa, it's nobody's business how, why, or why a parent keeps a child from school. Just make sure those teachers stay after to tutor the child, meet with angry parents, grade make-up homework and tests. And then make sure to complain about how much they get paid and THEIR long vacations.

Posted by: HookedOnThePost | January 4, 2011 4:50 PM | Report abuse

Obama's daughters miss 2 days of school and the Bush twins got drunk and partied. Whats the big deal?

Posted by: ozpunk | January 4, 2011 4:50 PM | Report abuse

jdubyaa at 4:03pm is absolutely right.

Posted by: 57Cat | January 4, 2011 5:17 PM | Report abuse

jdubyaa at 4:03pm is absolutely right.

Posted by: 57Cat | January 4, 2011 5:17 PM | Report abuse

Because they're "stressed" and need to "decompress"? Oh, puh-leeze. I'm trying to imagine the look on my mother's face if I'd tried to pull that. Are today's children that delicate?

Posted by: lizgwiz | January 4, 2011 5:17 PM | Report abuse

The WaPo should apologize for even printing this private information. What's next reporting on the Obama girls sick days? When I taught in a very affluent community, it was typical for families to go on skiing vacations in Aspen during the months of January and February. The families always let me know in advance so I could prepare assignments for the children. These were good parents and good students. It's not the end of the world when students spend a little time with their families. WaPo has become nothing more than a tabloid rag.

Posted by: 12345leavemealone | January 4, 2011 5:19 PM | Report abuse

My family and I are planning a trip to Hawaii and I was considering on going during the school year because the rates are much cheaper. I reside in VA and the school policy states that family vacations are included as excused absences as long as they are cleared with the principal in advance and they are educational. Simply put, there is so much around the world to see, learn, and experiance that any vacation could be considered excused and absolutely no reason why this could cause a problem. As far as Hawaii goes, a visit to Pearl Harbor, hiking the Diamond Head crater, touring the Pineapple Factory, going to a Luau and learning about the Hawaii culture, or just plan scrolling the Hawaii Zoo are all educational experiences. Some people actually go on vacation to learn about different cultures and experience different living environments. Besides that, did you that most of the well to do schools actually take a week or two during the year to plan a school trip out of the country. Vacation is vacation but it also a time to learn and experiance. I say "Go Obama...!"

Posted by: lbennett3 | January 4, 2011 5:22 PM | Report abuse

I think the answer to "why is this even on WP" is because the president can't cough without the press all over his every move. I don't remember any president in history who has been more watched, analyzed or critized than President Obama. My question is "why", he is just another president, only difference is he is the first African American, everything else is the same as the rest. Young? so was JFK. Please read Dr. Peggy McIntosh's articles on "Inclusion Theory" and you will see that "we" have coined him as an anomaly which puts pressure on him to exceed beyond anyone else who has had the same position, which is unfair and discriminatory. Yes, we expect him to do a good job expecially in this time of recess, war and crisis but he can only do so much and he is not a "savior", he is just an extremely intelligent man (more than most presidents before)who we voted into office. Please read Dr. McIntosh's articles and how this effects women and other groups when they try and/or accomplish goal/s not usually acquired by their group. I think we need to get over it and let him do his work without commenting about his children or his busted lip from trying to relieve stress by playing a little basketball. Wasting money when we should be publishing articles that alert the public to problematic areas across the globe and how "everyday citizens" can roll up their sleeves to get some of the work done themselves.

As for disappointments about what he hasn't done yet, if you take the time to look at the list of over 25 major accomplishments he has done in just two short years, you will see he has done more than any president we have had in the past 40 years+. Super man he is not, but then again, read Dr. McIntosh's articles on Inclusion Theory. I am sure he addresses each problem/need as it comes up in priority and/or at times an area may get put on the next list because such crises as auto industry collapse, oil spill, wall street etc comes to the forefront. We all benefitted from those changes. So give him time and I say give him another term and we will all get our groups' interests addressed. I think he has finally cleaned up the largest portion of the past administrations' blunders, oversights or choice to ignore problems. He could have done more but between the GOP blocking his every move; GOP anomously blocking his hiring of 30% of his staff; GOP yelling inappropriate childish slurs at global wide news conferences; groups making up lies to fire-up less astute citizens for future gain; and articles on "trivia" about his birth an Thus now he can finally focus on instituting some of his own orginality to address specific group issues. I AM NOT SAYING ONE GRPS' NEEDS ARE ANY MORE IMPORTANT THAN ANOTHERS'; I AM JUST SAYING SOME THINGS TAKE PRESIDENCE THAT SERVE THE WHOLE COUNTRY AND I DON'T MIND WAITING MY TURN BECAUSE I HAVE BENEFITED FROM ALL THE OTHER PROBLEM AREAS HE HAS ADDRESSED THUS FAR. Yes, I know the sqeaky wheel gets the oil, OK!

Posted by: denisebatton1 | January 4, 2011 5:32 PM | Report abuse

denisebatton1 said it right!

Valerie Strauss is a great reporter, but SHAME ON YOU for violating the decent standard, set decades ago, of NOT REPORTING ON A PRESIDENT'S UNDERAGE CHILDREN.

The Post left Amy Carter alone. They reported on Reagan's children because they were adults. They left Chelsea Clinton alone. They reported on Jenna and Barbara Bush only after they turned 18.

Leave the Obama daughters out of your gossip column!

Posted by: exPostie | January 4, 2011 5:40 PM | Report abuse


First of all, it is a teacher's responsiblity to give a student the resources to succeed in their classes. That means staying after to mentor and tutor the child. If you, as a teacher, do not want to stay after and tutor the child, then maybe you shouldnt have become a teacher.

Personally, I would revel the opportunity to be a mentor to a young mind. I would welcome the opportunity to help ALL of my student achieve greatness. But it does not change the fact that it is not the government, teachers or school administrations responsiblity or right to butt into an area that is within the sole sovereignty and perrogative of the parent.

Work with what you've got. As a student, my parents sought out my teachers and asked for homework that was going to need to be done while we were on vacation. If I didnt understand something, I asked my parents. When I got back to school my teachers actually worked with me to help me get back up to speed.

Instead of being a lazy teacher, try being a teacher that seeks to achieve greatness through their students.

Posted by: jdubyaa | January 4, 2011 6:11 PM | Report abuse

Many school systems now have websites where classwork and homework assignments are posted and they can be accessed via any computer. Parents can be totally in touch with what's going on in their kids classes. So to say, or rather imply, that it's detrimental to Sasha and Malia to miss a couple of days of school is pure pettiness. Why is this even an issue????

Posted by: jameon | January 4, 2011 7:38 PM | Report abuse

This issue came up a few years ago in many local school systems with large Hispanic populations. Many would leave and not come back for a month. The kids were missing 4 weeks of school. This is no longer allowed. See no issue with the Obama children missing school.

Posted by: Cobra2 | January 4, 2011 8:24 PM | Report abuse

Why is this news? Obama's kids miss two days of school, so what? There is nothing wrong with the President, who is often very busy, spending some time with his children. And really, a trip to the zoo is fairly educational anyway. Besides, teachers typically do not do much the first few days after a break, at least they didn't when I was in elementary school.

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Posted by: strade65 | January 4, 2011 8:37 PM | Report abuse

There is no problem with a student missing a class ocassionally for a special reason such as a marriage, a funeral or even a family reunion or vacation. When my uncle a decorated WWII veteran died in 1999 my entire family too time off to be at his funeral at Arlington Cemetary. It was a solemn and impressive ceremony and for most a once in a life time experience. My children also had a chance to see Washington DC, its principal monuments, museums and art. And as my children were young we took them to the Zoo as well. I am a teacher and I think students should not miss school for trivial reasons. Missing 10% or 5% of the school year is very significant but missing 1-2% is not significant unless these days are during final exams or AP tests. If students are not truant and in good standing, parents should have some freedom to extend a family vacation ocassionally. The operative word is occassionally. When my children were small I would miss one day a year to take them on a school trip and I remember once my father gave me the day off to see the World Series at Yankee Stadium. Having a family experience together is a valid reason to miss the occasional day especially with small children.

Posted by: rmunro3 | January 4, 2011 9:21 PM | Report abuse

There are many parents in California (at least) who pull their kids out of school so the family can travel to Mexico where they stay for an extended period of time. The trips last at least three weeks, during which little to no take-home school work is done. The travel is usually because there is an extended family event, or a native village special occasion (usually an annual celebration).

Now, I'm not saying that one's roots and one's family aren't important, because I can see how much a trip like that would produce strong social bonding for everyone involved, and that seems pretty important for general well-being.

My point is that everyone can't expect the teachers to work wonders for these children when their parents remove them from their classes for a chunk of the school year.

This phenomenon is quite common and would be worth a study.

Posted by: sharonh2 | January 4, 2011 9:33 PM | Report abuse

This is NOT news nor does it merit an honest debate. It's not the damn business of the American people what the President does with his children...

Valerie Strauss- you are the weakest link on the washington post!

Posted by: teacher6402 | January 4, 2011 10:30 PM | Report abuse

I was puzzled by Jeff Mason of Reuters asking "Ready to go home yet, Mr. President?" according to your blog. Hawaii IS the President's home! When he goes to Hanauma Bay, he passes the ocean site where his mother's and grandmother's ashes were scattered--a gorgeous site near where he often went bodysurfing as a boy. The photo of that site used to be on the wall in back of his desk, in his Senate office. As a candidate, he was asked what symbolized home to him, and he pointed to that photo of the waves crashing on the rocky Ka'iwi coastline where he had scattered his mother's ashes. (His beloved grandmother who helped raise him was still alive at the time.)

Although you did not report it, perhaps because the national press did not cover it so you did not know, Pres. Obama also spent the last day taking his children to the National Cemetery of the Pacific at Punchbowl, where his grandfather is now. Punchbowl, as we call it, is also referred to by some as the Arlington Cemetery of the Pacific, to give you a reference to put it into context.

When the media criticized the President for eating at the same restaurant and eating the same dish, they have no idea what it is like to be from Hawaii and to only be able to eat one of your favorite dishes once each year. Think of it as Mom's holiday special dish that the family returns home to eat and savor each year. Only President Obama does not have a mom or grandmother or grandfather to make it for him anymore. So, Alan Wong makes him that exquisite dish from his childhood.

We in Hawaii often find that one special dish at a restaurant, and then go to that restaurant when we want to eat that one fabulous thing. The difference is that we can do that weekly, or monthly. The President can only do that when he comes back home to Hawaii.

Thank you for supporting the President's decision to spend time with his family. The Obamas were largely rained-in during their vacation. Honolulu experienced torrential rains and flash flooding for much of their visit. So, it was nice that they were able to spend some time with family and friends in some dry sunny weather, doing their favorite things. There was a time when I took my daughter every afternoon to the Honolulu Zoo and Waikiki Aquarium, and for a sunset swim in the ocean at Waikiki Beach. (We also went to the Library or a bookstore almost every day!)

The visit to the behind-the-scenes Zoo is pretty cool, so I am glad to read in your blog that the Obamas were able to experience that. My daughter used to go to feed apples to the one-horned rhino. He ate them like M&Ms. She would toss and he would munch. It was a companionable thing to do together with the rhino. It is something that you can pay to do, through the Zoo Hui (support organization) special packages available thru the Zoo gift shop run by the Zoo Hui. Instead of stuff, that used to be her birthday gift of choice, to get to feed the rhino. It was an incredible experience!

Posted by: Elakea | January 5, 2011 1:04 AM | Report abuse

Kids should never miss school unless it is unhealthy for them or their classmates if they attend. No exceptions, not even the children of Presidents. The reason: It is quite disruptive to the other students to always have members of the class that have missed what has taken place previously in their classes. There is no substitute for being there. You can make up the work but the experience of being there should be held as special time. I realize that parents and administrators and even board members feel no regard toward all the planning and preparation done for a class by a teacher but believe me there is as much work put into planning for a good class as there is for all of the other parts of teaching. If the classroom experience were held as being extremely important in the eyes of parents, administrators, and board members we would not have an educational problem!

Posted by: dmyers412 | January 5, 2011 5:15 AM | Report abuse

I think it's a good question. With the Obamas, I think the fact that they are on vacation with their family in an especially unusual place makes it a great idea to miss a couple of days of school. It's a trip they will probably never forget. Zoos are wonderful places to have fun and to learn, and the fact that they don't want to leave says a lot: they are enjoying themselves and probably learning a lot about the animals. That's science.

We have taken our daughter out of school for a few days at a time when we had chances to travel to cool places far away from our home, like Seattle. I have also instituted mental health days for our daughter. Since children are human, they do have stress and anxiety (my kid especially, but that's another post), and some down days can really help with that.

Thanks for the question, Val!

Posted by: hellokitty5 | January 5, 2011 7:03 AM | Report abuse

DC residents are you tired of this kind of "news?" Take an Online News Survey for African Americans--Must be 18 or older to complete;

Survey Link:

Posted by: JCC2 | January 5, 2011 2:00 PM | Report abuse

This is an absolute non-issue. For those of you who are criticizing the First family, perhaps you should do some investigation first. I am sure that Sidwell Friends, like most independent schools use the computer extensively. The teachers send the assignments, the students check the school web site, do the assignment and send it to the teachers so that work is not missed. As a teacher in an independent school, our students know that if they are going to be away from school with family or inclement weather prevents school from opening, our students are responsible for checking each teacher's assignments on the web site, complete them and return the assignments via email. Our students do not have excuses for not staying on task with their school work when they are not present.

Posted by: rojones2 | January 6, 2011 11:46 AM | Report abuse

Look at it another way: Students should ONLY be in school if it is the only way they can learn the material--and in a lot of schools the main requirement is to just be there. There have been schools that refused to allow an Olympic contestant to miss gym class, and a few years ago a local school was sued because the student with the top grades was denied the chance to be valedictorian. The reason? For the last three months of school, she had been bedridden after a serious auto accident and had done her work at home, scheduling it around therapy sessions and surgery.

If students can keep up with schoolwork without being in school, the problem is with the schoolwork.

Posted by: sideswiththekids | January 6, 2011 4:13 PM | Report abuse

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