Moving Back the Clock for School

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Photo by Michel FilionSchool here starts in four days, the day after Labor Day. This year, instead of attending the public school down the block, my daughter is attending the school district’s full-time gifted school. She’s still in the public school system, and the city provides transportation, but the distance to the school means she catches the bus 45 minutes earlier. And that means she and I have to get up earlier.

Transitioning A Child’s Wake Up Time

Ideally, you would take a full week to do this, but most working parents with summer care schedules do not have that luxury. As a bonus, those children who are up early to attend camps will have an easier time than those children allowed to sleep well into the morning.

Figure out how much earlier the child must get up. In my case, my daughter needs 45 minutes to get up, get dressed, perform morning chores and eat breakfast. For us, that puts her wake-up time between 6:00 and 6:15. This is about an hour earlier than she is getting up now (7:00 am).

Divide the wake up time by the number of days available. I have three days to get her on schedule, so that means that I must wake her up 20 minutes earlier each day. Saturday will have a wake-up time of 6:40, Sunday 6:20 and Monday 6:00.

Wake them up. The key to setting a wake-up time is to get out of bed, get dressed and eat breakfast. Luckily, my daughter will watch cartoons any time she can, so this will be very possible.

Transitioning My Wake Up Time

Unfortunately, since my daughter is young, her adjusted schedule means that I must also get up earlier. This will be more difficult for me, since I have problems waking up without adequate light. Luckily my work schedule has helped me maintain a good rising time throughout the summer. For the past two weeks, I have been steadily moving my waking time back five minutes per day, and spend the first 20 minutes (after getting coffee) sitting by my Philips GoLite P1 Blue Spectrum Light Therapy Device. The light is adjusting my Circadian rhythms, and I am less groggy.


Here is the part I find most effective in either maintaining or destroying waking schedules: for the first few weeks of school, we will both be getting up at our weekday times on weekends. I have found that one of the fastest ways to derail a waking schedule is to sleep in on weekends. The rules are that I have to get up, get dressed and stay up for at least three hours. Then, if I am still impossibly tired, I can nap. The same will apply to my daughter.

I am hoping for the best with this method, so that we will not end up with screaming and tears on the school mornings, and where my daughter will be alert and awake during the day. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Photo by Michel Filion