Monday, February 22, 2016


At five forty-five our coffee maker goes off like a dentist's drill, grinding the coffee before brewing. At six I wake everyone up. By six-twelve I'm making my daughter's breakfast. There's time for a pause with a cup of coffee, then by six-thirty I am making lunches for my husband and daughter, filling a travel mug with coffee, or counting out lunch money on "buy" days.

At six forty-five the door closes and they are off.

Every weekday follows this pattern. All the tiny pieces of each routine are followed: the knock on my daughter's door, followed by a gentle patting and rubbing of her back and shoulders until I am sure she is really and truly awake. Feeling guilty because it is far too early for her and she is miserable.

"I know," I say, stroking her back. "I know."

When you love someone you want to be able to make things better for them. You can't always. Sometimes there are life experiences that they legitimately must face, and you can't run alongside, smoothing out the path. This is especially true when you have children. Every day you have choices about how much to do for them, how much you need to let them do for themselves. Raising capable children requires letting them develop the capacity to be challenged and to persevere.

But there are exceptions.

Our school start times for older children are ridiculously early. I know I have said this before but I'm not done saying it. There's a significant amount of evidence that later start times promote better health and emotional well-being for students, plus better educational outcomes. Later start times work with teenagers natural sleep/wake cycles, instead of against them.

Early school start times and the resulting sleep deprivation are linked to chronic tardiness, discipline problems, more motor vehicle crashes, obesity, depression, illicit drug use, lower academic outcomes, and a lower over-all quality of life. Study after study shows that no one should be starting school before 8:00, and that most teens do better with an 8:30 start time.

We say we would do anything for our kids. We love them. But then we wonder if getting up at an ungodly hour is just one of the rite-of-passage things we need to let them go through.

It isn't.

I know that our school system has been "studying" this issue for quite some time. When are we going to make some positive progress? The Amercian Academy of Pediatrics recommends school start times of 8:30 am or later for adolescents. We have documented scientific evidence to make the change, plus I have plenty of undocumented anecdotal evidence at my house.

It is way past time to reset the clock for a better school day.


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