Two schools, two start times - time to lighten up

Two schools, two start times - time to lighten up

I’ve had a little trouble adjusting to our school routine this year.

It’s not just the usual end-of-summer shock to the system, when I go from leisurely watering the flowers in the morning to fixing lunches, signing permission slips, searching for errant homework and yelling things like, “We have to leave in five minutes!”

We have entered the world of multiple school start times.

Our new middle-schooler is up by 6:30 a.m. and out the door at 7:30, to make it to school in time for the first bell.

My third-grader’s school, meanwhile, pushed its start time back 15 minutes this year. So by the time I drop her off, chat with parents or teachers and head back home, it’s almost 9.

By the time I roll into work, I’ve already been up for three hours — and not because I’ve been primping. I believe in the 10-minute shower, the wash-and-go hairstyle and the whatever-is-clean wardrobe choice.

In the old days, I’d be rushing two kids out the door at the same time, so in a way this is easier. I get more one-on-one time with them, as my daughter isn’t a super-early riser. But I feel like I’m doing everything twice.

Some families have to divide their time even more, with kids in three or four different schools, if you count preschool. One mom I know with a child still in elementary school just sent her oldest off to college (a scary thought I will not entertain yet).

The maintenance level for kids diminishes over time, of course. During preschool, my son had his own team of personal assistants tying his shoes, combing his hair and shoving his backpack on before he sleepwalked out the door. (I do not exaggerate.)

Now he pretty much gets himself ready, other than an occasional reminder about breakfast dishes or brushing his teeth.

For the time being, one of us is still walking to school with him, and several of his friends, which is the way he wants it. But I’m assuming at some point we will become superfluous.

Even on the first day, when I knew our 11-year-old wanted us there, he spent most of his time talking to his friends. I stayed a few proper steps back, chatting with a veteran middle school dad.

I carried my camera, of course, surreptitiously taking photos when they weren’t looking.

When we got to the corner just across the street from the school, the dad stopped the boys so I could take a group shot. I got the message.

“So I guess I’m not supposed to cross the street, huh?” I asked.

“You can,” he said kindly.

I started to ask my son, but he was already giving me the head shake. The message: Don’t rock the boat, lady; just go with it.

When I looked across the street, I didn’t see any other moms, so I said a quick goodbye and stayed put ... until I saw a few sixth-grade parents gathering just outside the school yard. I darted across the street and chatted with them until I saw my son hook up with a friend, then watched through the fence as they piled inside with hundreds of other kids.

In my defense, there had been some confusion about his classes during orientation, so he was just a little nervous about finding the right homeroom, teacher, etc.

As it turned out, he was fine. And he’s had a good first week.

He likes his teachers. He figured out his schedule and the route to all his classes. He’s intensely focused on getting his giant binder and other supplies organized for each class (despite the fact that his mother failed to pick up the supply list at registration and inadvertently used last year’s — which, I must note, was still posted on the school website).

He quickly sized up the lines in the cafeteria and decided to pack his lunch at home to maximize recess time.

The new two-minute passing period is a bit intimidating, and I’m not sure any of the kids go to the bathroom all day.

But all in all, everyone seems to be handling the transition well. We’ve had no tears or outbursts — and the kids are doing OK, too.

One of my son’s first assignments was to fill out a “Facebook page” about himself for language arts, which asked for his favorite quotes under the heading “philosophy.”

His suggestion: “Lighten up, Francis” — an homage to Sgt. Hulka, for those of you who don’t list “Stripes” among your Top Ten movies. (No, he hasn’t seen it, just heard the line from his dad). He changed his answer, if you were wondering.

So he has a sense of humor about this whole thing. And, despite the fact that there’s not a lot of parent-teacher contact, at least compared with elementary school, he’s pretty good about keeping us informed. So far.

We are all adapting. I am officially a middle school parent. But I’m glad to still have a foot in the elementary world, where I can pop in the classroom or talk with teachers on the playground without embarrassing my child (most of the time anyway).

I’ll work on the yearbook and be room parent for my daughter, and check grades online and attend band fundraisers for my son. I still feel a little disjointed, but that’s just how it’s going to be, at least until my kids are again in the same building (for one year) in high school. Not that I’m anxious for that.

In the meantime, I’m trying to take Sgt. Hulka’s advice.

Julie Wurth writes and blogs about family issues, social services and the University of Illinois for The News-Gazette. Her family column appears in the paper every other Tuesday. Leave a comment below,  contact Julie at 351-5226 or or follow her on Twitter at


Students gather at Edison Middle School on the first day of school Aug. 22.

Time to haul out the student planner!

News-Gazette staff photos


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