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22 January 2020

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Sally

I grew up in a family with one natural morning person (aka a "lark") and three natural night people (aka "owls"). My mom and my brother were both extreme owls and they both spent their entire adult lives working evening or night shifts. I must have gotten some partial morning person genes, because even though I never *liked* getting up early, I could do it and be functional (although rather crabby for the first hour or two). By necessity, I eventually trained myself to be a morning person as I must be up by 6 AM at the latest most of the time. I am notoriously crabby when I get up, but at this point in my life I couldn't sleep past 7:30 AM if I tried. Incidentally, it was using a Happy Light early in the morning which seemed to cement the shift from owlish to larkish for me.

My husband is owl-ish (he likes to get up around 8:30 or 9 AM, and go to bed around 1-2 AM), and I have two semi-larks and one owl for children. The children were like that from day one; two babies were always up at 6 AM and happy and ready to play at that hour; the other never once woke up happy in all her infancy, and if I brought her into bed and nursed her, she'd go back to sleep til 9 AM.

The owl, ironically, always had to get up the earliest as she went to school in a different town, which involved being on the bus at 6:30 AM (!), plus she is the sort who takes a while to do her hair and makeup. She tends to do her homework very late at night; and does not get enough sleep during the week as a result. On weekends she binge-sleeps to make up for it and I let her, because being at school by 7:20 AM, maintaining a 4.0 average and having your eyeliner on point every day is a lot to ask of an owlish kid in a lark world.

I always wonder if this was a problem in times past; I mean, before the invention of electric lights. Were people wandering around at 2 AM doing random things by candlelight? We always assumed my dad was such an extreme lark because he had grown up on a farm in a remote area of Appalachia that didn't have electricity until he was a teenager. My mom, on the other hand, grew up in the city, but her mother deplored her owlish habits and always dragged her out of bed early in the morning. Once she was married and moved out of her parents' home, she firmly informed my dad there was exactly ZERO chance of her ever cooking him breakfast and in fact, it would be best for him if he just didn't even bother her til around 9 AM.

Melanie Bett

Oooh ooh. As an extreme morning person who has struggled with fitting into the getting up early adult world... I have such a great desire to get up on one of my hobby horses here.

I mean I'll be honest, one of the great attractors of homeschooling to me is that I do not have to get myself and five kids up and out of the house early in the morning except as an occasional rare event. (Though for the past year we've been experimenting with going to an 8 am Sunday Mass with largely good success.)

I think I took a grand total of two 8 am classes while I was in college. My ideal schedule didn't start till 10. But my best friend struggled to get up for a 10 or 11 am class. She wasn't homeschooled, so her parents must have made her get up to get to school during her high school years. But howdy did she struggle. Her mother called me her 'favorite daughter' because I'd help her get to class. (I still retain that title more than 20 years later.) And after graduation she struggled to hold down jobs that required her to be in an office early. She worked in a pub for a while waiting tables. That was a good job for someone with her extreme sleep preferences. Eventually she washed up at Microsoft where she works in the editorial department and except for having to show up for an occasional meeting pretty much gets to set her own schedule. Had her parents homeschooled and let her set her own schedule in high school, I'm sure they could have spent the last three decades second guessing that decision and how it set her up to lack the discipline necessary to function in the real world. Often parents think our decisions matter more than they do and we see patterns in our choices that seem to have led to an outcome -- that might still have happened even if we chose differently.

My sister was diagnosed a couple of years ago with a sleep disorder. And in high school she ended up dropping out of school and then finishing up in a special program for at risk teens that allowed her to take one class at a time, work at her own pace and set her own schedule. She graduated high school having spent the last couple of years taking only afternoon and evening classes. In retrospect... thank God for that program. But the outcome regardless of her high school diploma and college not quite degree... is that she's still disabled and unable to work because it turns out the sleep disorder is probably only one symptom of a genetic condition.

So as a parent and a homeschooler I'm in the corner of... teaching kids to set a schedule and turn in work consistently on time... is probably something I'm going to struggle to instill as those are not really strengths of mine. The best I can hope for is that the ones who need it will bootstrap their way in and the others will find jobs where that skill isn't necessary. And I try to spend time looking in the mirror and accepting that I'm almost certainly going to kick myself at some point and face recriminations from children who wish I had been better at making them be more disciplined. I guess I figure I'm going to have regrets regardless... at least this one I'm willing to acknowledge as willfully chosen with foreknowledge that it might turn out to be a handicap?

And looking forward to high school I want to prioritize my children having the experience of being answerable to other people as instructors.

MrsDarwin

One of the things I notice with my Sunday School class, which is all public school children this year, is how tired they are. We talk about it often, how many of them are getting up by 6am most days (even Saturdays for some sports people). They are worn out. One of the things I get the most positive response on is silent prayer where they're allowed to lay their heads on their desks.

One of the reasons I homeschool and won't change that any time in the foreseeable future is the ability to let the kids rest. I don't regulate bedtimes for the older kids, though sometimes I will send them up to their rooms. And I don't let people sleep in until 2 pm. I haven't often had anyone try to sleep that late, but I would put a check on it if they tried, and send them to bed earlier the next night.

Last semester my oldest, an owl, had to take an 8 am class, and to my surprise she got herself up every morning, got her own breakfast, and out the door on time every single class. I think that getting oneself places on time is a matter of good executive function, and that sleep issues do often fall under the EF aegis. So if a teenager wanted to sleep in ultra late once or twice, that's fine, but repeated ultra late wakings might be a sign of needing to work on EF matters.

Christy P.

We get our kids (ages 10 & 13) up earlier on weekends than weekdays lately so that we can go skiing. Having an early morning 'job' that they want to do helps. It's fun to read a longform piece again, BTW.

Jenny

I have been meaning to comment for days. You know this is right in my wheelhouse.

I don't think forcing early mornings accomplishes much from a habit forming point of view.

My high school started at 7am. I don't know how I survived it. I commuted to work before 7am for nearly a decade. I don't know how I survived it.

The honest truth is the only reason I accomplished any of it is because there was some morning person, already awake, hounding me out of bed every. single. day.

If left to my own devices, I am not sure I could rouse myself before 7am at the earliest.

All that being said, I generally don't let my kids sleep the whole day away. I expect them out of bed between 830 and 9.

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