Sorry Kids: Back to School = Back to Bedtime

Sorry kids, back to school means back to bedtime. One of the odd characteristics of our time is our apparent need  for scientific verification of what we should know by simple common sense. Well, help now comes in the form of a research project undertaken by University College London. The bottom line—children with a fixed and consistent bedtime performed better on tests of cognitive ability.

As Sumathi Reddy of The Wall Street Journal reported, “Researchers at University College London found that when 3-year-olds have a regular bedtime they perform better on cognitive tests administered at age 7 than children whose bedtimes weren’t consistent. The findings represent a new twist on an expanding body of research showing that inadequate sleep in children and adolescents hurts academic performance and overall health.”

The researchers in Britain were not concerned with the amount of sleep or the time of going to bed. Their concern was the function of a consistent bedtime for children and adolescents. As they reported, having a fixed bedtime turns out to have significant cognitive advantages.

The Wall Street Journal did also report on research about the amount of sleep needed by children at different ages. As Reddy explained: “In general school-age kids—kindergarten through eighth-grade—should be getting about 10 hours of sleep, while 3- and 4-year-olds might need 11 to 13 hours, including day-time naps, said Shalini Paruthi, director of the pediatric sleep and research center at SSM Cardinal Glennon Children’s Medical Center at Saint Louis University.”

As for adolescents, research indicates that teenagers need between 8 1/2 and 9 1/4 hours on average—though many teenagers get much less sleep.

Dr. Paruthi of Saint Louis University also explained that children need about 15 minutes to transition from mental alertness to a quiet state. She recommends that parents start early with a 15 minute routine that transitions the child from wakefulness to readiness for sleep.

Of course, that is what many parents have done for years. This is the secret power of bedtime stories and the emotional closeness between parent and child as the day comes to an end. This is the perfect time for Christian parents to assure their children of God’s love and care, encourage them in the Gospel, read them a Bible story, and end with a prayer together. The gift of this kind of parental care and teaching is priceless—the perfect transition to sleep.

So, if you needed scientific research to validate your instinct about bedtime, now you have it. Sorry, kids. Bedtime matters. Handled rightly by a Christian parent, it matters even more than secular researchers can understand.

The Injustice of Helpful Parents — Yet More Insanity

French President François Hollande recently announced that he wants French schools to put an end to homework. That is certain to thrill school children in the nation, but the reason for Hollande’s war on homework will likely puzzle many French citizens.

President Hollande wants to end homework in order to level the playing field for the nation’s students. As France 24 reports, Hollande told an audience at The Sorbonne, “An education program is, by definition, a societal program. Work should be done at school, rather than at home.”

He went on to explain that it was unfair for students with parents who are engaged with their schoolwork to gain an educational advantage over others, whose parents do not offer such support.

Hollande wants to neutralize the impact of parents by keeping students at school longer. As France 24 notes, French students are already staying at school longer than students in many other nations, often leaving the school “only at 5pm or 6pm.”

The more hours students spend in the government’s schools, the less hours they are at home — where inequity abounds.

As Dylan Matthews of The Washington Post explains, Hollande argues for the elimination of homework, “not in terms of student learning but as a way to equal the playing field for all students.” Further, “Poor children, he argues, are less likely to get parental aid for homework, and so requiring homework can widen the achievement gap.”

Hollande is right about the inequity. Children whose parents are not involved, for whatever reason, are surely at a serious disadvantage. Every effort to help them should be made. But even if homework is eliminated, the inequity will remain.

The reason for the inequity is clear, and it doesn’t begin when the child starts formal education. It starts at the beginning of life and in the earliest stages of infancy and childhood. Parents who talk to their children and, even more importantly, read to their children, give their children a priceless head start. Parents who spend time with their children and are involved in their school work, offering encouragement and accountability, increase that advantage. Involved and engaged parents give a child a priceless advantage.

There is another dimension to this picture, but one that most political leaders will not acknowledge. The presence of two parents in the home at least doubles the opportunity for a child to get the needed help. The breakdown of the family is a major part of the background to this problem.

The only way for this particular inequity to be eliminated is to remove children from the care of their parents and to raise them as wards of the state. Such proposals have been made by statists ranging from Plato to Lenin. To a lesser degree, similar arguments have been made in this country by educational leaders such as philosopher John Dewey. Adding even more hours to the school week is just a further step in that direction.

This is the logic of statism, proposing the state as the answer to inequities it cannot possibly resolve, and marginalizing or subverting the family in the process.

This story from France should prompt all of us to do a little homework of our own, reminding ourselves of the central importance of the family.

I discuss this story and more in today’s edition of The Briefing: A Daily Analysis of News and Events from a Christian Worldview. LISTEN HERE [The program will be available at 6:30am, EST]

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