Sometimes I look back at my life before I started homeschooling and luckily, and yesterday I came across this post, 8 Tips for anger management. It describes what was a typical morning getting ready for school: I try so hard, my kids fight and cry, I scream at them. There are 250 comments weighing in on the crazy morning rush to get kids out of the house.
I am so happy to not have to do that morning routine anymore. I am so happy to not wake my kids up before they are ready to get up. I’m so relieved to not rush them through breakfast and jump to someone else’s rhythms instead of our own.
So the research on sleep deprivation really resonates with me. Because the act of rousing kids out of sleep every morning feels totally unnatural to me. And, in fact, it’s unnatural to them, too.
How do you know if your pre-teen is getting enough sleep? If they can go to bed easily at night and wake up easily each morning. It’s an important metric because sleep deprivation in elementary school students makes them low performers.
Sleep deprivation is much more serious among teens. The research about sleep deprivation among is unequivocal: Teens need more sleep than they can get if they go to school before 8am. We have known this for the last twenty years, but we can’t figure out what to do about it.
Because while we were learning how teens need more sleep, we were still sending women into the full-time work force. The conflict there shows how school has become not something the state needs in order to turn kids into factory workers, but is something parents need so both parents can go to work.
Parents have too much vested interest in getting their kids out of the house in time to go to work, so no one wants to mess with the start time of school. And schools have too much vested interest in kids getting high test scores, so homework loads keep increasing which means kids lose more sleep. And kids want to have their own interests and their own life when they are teenagers and the only time to do that is after school, so kids are hesitant to start school later if that means losing all their free time.
So everyone decides that it’s okay that teens don’t get enough sleep so they can go to school.
This decision directly affects the teen suicide rate. And suicides are higher when teens are in school. Google teen suicide and sleep deprivation and you get enough research for a dissertation.
What if we could link time spent playing video games to the teen suicide rate as closely as we can link school start times to the suicide rate? Video games would be banned, of course. Yet school is sacred.
This sacred cow syndrome doesn’t just affect teens in school. It affects our work life as well. As school hours got longer, and homework takes all night, we raised a generation of kids who have no problem taking Adderral off-label to work long hours. Society tells kids that sleep deprivation is worth it in order to do more! work harder! score higher!
So kids keep doing it in their adult life. And they encourage their kids to do it again, in school.
It takes brave people to break this cycle. People to say they will not be measured by destructive scales of achievement. People who say they will not sacrifice their sleep and their sanity to be part of the mainstream. It’s uncomfortable being outside the mainstream. But it’s more uncomfortable pretending everything is okay so you can buy into a system that is not helping you, your kids, or society.