The new morning schedule

We are still over a week from school starting around here, but I’ve gotten the bus schedules, and I’m trying to figure out what school mornings are going to look like. I would like not to have the entire morning feel chopped up, as if long hours are devoted solely to getting people ready.

But…it kind of has that look. I need the kids to take the bus most days (I will drive the high schooler some days for reasons that will become apparent below, but I do need to have bus service available, which means he needs to take it at least a few times per week).

The high schooler will get on the bus around 6:40 a.m. (!!!). I don’t think he’s been awake at this time in ages. This is also kind of ridiculous, as the school is 8 minutes from our house and starts at 7:30. (The good news is that he is the first kid dropped off in the afternoon — so the afternoon commute will be very short…I wish this were flipped but oh well). The middle schooler gets on the bus at 7:30 (school starts 8:15…though again, it’s only 10 minutes from our house). The elementary kids will get on the bus at 8:30. The toddler has generally been waking up around 6:30 a.m. but that is highly variable. Sometimes more like 6, sometimes closer to 7. Our nanny currently starts at 8 a.m. but that could shift if there was a compelling reason for it.

I think the high schooler will shower the night before and have things ready so he can get up at 6:15, eat a pre-made breakfast and shuffle out the door on his bus days. While I’d love to have this not involve me….I think it will need to involve me. The middle schooler will likely get up at 7:00 and his morning will follow the same format. If needed, the elementary school students can be woken up around 7:45, but they’re often up by then anyway.

At the moment my husband is mostly around too, though that could change. We both think of our workdays as starting at 8 a.m. In the past I’ve waited at the bus stop with the elementary school kids, but I think I am not sure I want to commit to doing that this year.

So…any thoughts on how to make this morning more enjoyable? When should I eat? Shower? Should I try to build some sort of morning routine into this? I do like the idea of morning exercise, and one option would be for me to cover the 6:15-7:15 kid shift and then give the baby (and responsibility for getting the middle schooler out the door) over to my husband and run from 7:15-8 or so at least a few days per week. I could then shower, say goodbye to the kids, and start my work day for real at 8:30.

But I am open to suggestions! If anyone else has multiple bus pick ups staggered over two hours, let me know what your mornings look like….or what my rule should be on when we drive the kid with the really really early pick-up….

Photo: The old coffee maker, now no longer with us…

48 thoughts on “The new morning schedule

  1. If it’s an 8 min drive to school, how long would it take to cycle? Maybe your high schooler would be motivated to cycle a couple of days to be able to sleep a bit longer? Your school times blow my mind- all kids in Australia start between 8:15 and 9:30am (dependent on school). I think the evidence is that very early starts are quite detrimental for teens.

    I hate mornings with a vengeance. I’d be kind and drive the high schooler more often than not because I think that’s a hideous bus time.

    1. Cycling would be great exercise for the teen, too.

      I suppose it would depend on what traffic is like on the roads he’d have to cycle on: is it safe enough?

    1. @Hayley – it’s about 3 miles so really not walkable! Driving 7-8 minutes at 30 mph still carries you a long ways…

  2. Oh man! I think I would offer to drive (or walk with if this is possible???) the high schooler twice a week. That is so early for a teen. Then he can get up early 3 days, sleep later 3 days and really sleep in on the weekend to catch up.

    Here for the first time since 2013 we have one start time! All 4 kids are at two schools which are in 1 building (our elementary, middle and high schools are housed in a single building) and start at about the same time 8:20 give or take 5 minutes. We also live directly adjacent to the school property. On the days I am home in the morning (3 days per week I am up and out by 6 am and with any luck no one else is up), I get up around 6:30. My 5 and 8 yos are nearly always already up, but can be trusted to entertain themselves. We have a few breakfast options around. Backpacks get double checked and anyone bringing a lunch packs it for his or herself. Sometimes my husband makes eggs. I will often look at email or some other low-stakes activity if everyone is occupied. My 2 middle schoolers get up around 7:40 and get dressed etc. Everyone gets on shoes at 8:10 and we walk out the door between 8:10-8:15. By 8:20 I have embarrassed a couple of teens/preteens by waving goodbye to them and kissed the little guys and left them at the door. Then I head off for a run.

    1. @Maggie – it’s actually almost 3 miles still so not really walkable. In theory bike-able but some busy streets he would need to navigate to get there. Our district definitely encourages kids to bike (there are bike racks and all that) but it’s not quite so doable from where we are.

      1. Hmm, it’s a 10 minute bike ride. What if he takes an alternative path to avoid some busier stretches? Even if it’s 15 minutes, it’d probably be really good for things like clubs, independence etc.

      2. One thought on an unexpected benefit of biking: it really helps once your teen starts driving! Navigating intersections, understanding traffic patterns, becoming aware of what others do behind the wheel, etc. I realized this after my oldest started driving and I’m encouraging my two younger sons to do more biking as well.

        1. This is such an unexpected benefit – thanks for sharing! We’re thinking of having my younger one bike to school as she gets older and we live in the city, so this is great.

        2. biking as training for driving for kids @ and/or this issue of kids getting themselves to school
          private school choice can involve a lot of driving. busing post covid given busing shortages of drivers and this issue of teens and pre teens being asked to start and end school too early for working parents -these are all really interesting issues..
          This is a really interesting point.

          Also Parenting magazine the editor often writes in her letter to the editor about dropping her child off at preschool for two hours but doesn’t mention how she worked the rest of the day.. if she is the editor of Parents magazine she was probably working full-time while they were little unless she has a special political connection right? So interesting she doesn’t mention the nanny or how she worked the rest of the time. One of the issues with free preschool is that preschool and Kindergarten are often not full day so really why not just discuss childcare or not taxing women’s income …

  3. What about non school public transit for the high schooler? Some buses may go by the house in the right direction. But also second the walking out bike riding. Is the concern that you’d lose your bus spot in the winter if you bike in the warm months?

    1. That’s a good idea to consider, non school public transport. I had used it one year for my kid, and it had worked well. It involved a bit of walking. 5 minutes from home to bus stop, and 3 minutes from destination bus stop to school. Good exercise.

    2. @Kat – we live in a very suburby suburb. The only bus goes into Philly – there is no stopping in convenient places around here. Bike might be an option but we would have to investigate safe routes as he would cross a busy road. There is no way to get to the high school without crossing it! I suspect it will be a combo of bus and a lot of days of driving…

  4. I would like to second (3rd, 4th) the biking idea. For my teen taking the bus would be an hour, involving a 20 wait at both ends of the day to switch buses. He bikes the approx. 4 miles in 30 mins with a friend. While initially it didn’t seem that bike friendly, we used google maps to find a route that mostly avoids the busy streets. It isn’t always obvious but there is usually a route that can be found. Unfortunately for us as we live in Canada, he can’t really bike from mid-oct to mid-April but for the months he can it is definitely a win. He has less commuting time and gets exercise in.
    Also just to note that here high scool starts in grade 7 so he has been doing it since he was 12. Not sure how old your middle schooler is but might also be an option for him too.

  5. I probably would only drive him on Fridays, so that he’s not getting up at different times on different weekdays. Better for the body to just adjust. I’m grateful that our school system in Northern Virginia has required high schools to begin after 8am. This means my middle school child gets on the bus at 6:42am, for a 7:30 start, but at least this lasts for two years, not four.

  6. We have three bus pickups starting at 7:09 and ending at 8:30 each morning. Because it is a steep half mile walk uphill without sidewalks or good visibility, we divide and conquer drop offs. My husband leaves for work shortly before 7. Our nanny arrives at 7 and I take our middle school student to the bus stop and drop off. Then I start my commute. At 8:10, our nanny drives both elementary school students up the hill. She drops off the fourth grader at her stop and stays with the kindergartner at his stop until he is picked up. Three kids at three schools with two different bus stop locations was stressful at first but we seem to have it going smoothly two weeks in. Afternoon drop off is equally complex.

  7. Wow! That is certainly a puzzle! It sounds like your rough plan will work. How will things change when you move to the new house? Will your kids be in the same schools? I’ll keep my fingers crossed the bus schedule is friendlier! And good luck figuring out the best system for your family!

    My kids attend a rural-ish K-12 school. With only about 70-80 kids in a graduating class, there are definitely some advantages and disadvantages over a larger school, but after reading this, I’m grateful for a single bus and single start/end time. My youngest is in preschool and with the start of speech therapy (“conveniently” located at the school, which is not near the preschool or the sitter) he requires the most shuffling!

  8. It could just be my teenagers, but I feel like you might wind up spending more time dragging him out of bed at 6:15 and cajoling him to get ready, or suffer for it in terms of poor mood due to his sleep deprivation. If it were me, I’d have him take the bus in the afternoons, but drive him in the morning. He’d get an extra hour of sleep (still worth it to shower at night, especially for boys) and you’d probably gain back enough time by not having the misery factor.

    Another idea, depending on regulations in your area, would be to drive him part way. I see lots of parents doing that for drop off in our area. The kids are “walkers” but the parent picks them up or drops off on a neighboring side street to avoid the car line traffic. The upholder in you might not be able to stomach that, but…

    We moved partially to be closer to the high school we wanted, which has a 9am start! My 9th grade son sleeps until 8:15 and is like a totally different person than he was for 8th grade, when he had to leave the house an hour earlier.

    1. @Catherine – I might investigate the driving part way part. We actually had police officers patrolling around the middle school some mornings to keep people from doing that. I kid you not. Apparently I live in a safe district if *that* is a major concern.

  9. Thought of another idea! Any other high schoolers in your neighborhood you could carpool with? Then maybe you could drive two days, and they could drive 2 days! And you could have him bike (or bus) the other 1.

    1. Or share an uber a few times per week? Unless the bus is free, i don’t know your system. In The Netherlands 3 miles is off course biking distance, even with a detour for safety.

  10. What would the timing be if the HS and the MS kids were all driven to school? I see the HS is only 8 minutes away and the MS is 10 mins away, and they have similar start times, so it might make your morning easier if they were all just dropped off rather than taking the bus.

  11. Holy moley that is an early pick up time. Since he is first to be dropped off after school, he must be the last to be picked up? So I can’t imagine how early other kids are getting on the bus! Eeks. What a puzzle to solve. I’m sure you will find your rhythm with time. I’d probably consider doing drop off for HS and MS versus trying to get the HS up so dang early! Or pursue the biking idea that others have suggested.

    1. @Lisa – they run the bus in the exact same order – so the first kids picked up are the first kids dropped off. It is, in a way, more fair. You get one long run and one short run.
      Unfortunately, the HS and MS are no where close to each other. Opposite directions! That will change in a year when the new MS opens but for now, it would be a lot of time in the car.

  12. Love SHU’s idea of carpooling! Also the biking, with carefully selected routes, makes sense. Maybe you could bike with him a few times before school starts so he gets the hang of it and feels more confident? Or maybe join him once a week, and fit in a burst of morning exercise?

    As for when to eat, what about prepping breakfast the night before – something like overnight oats, healthy muffins, or hardboiled eggs?

    Or, something more radical – I rarely eat breakfast. I don’t try to push intermittent fasting on anyone, but I LOVE not having to prep breakfast and find time to eat during busy mornings getting everyone out the door for school. Depending on hunger cues/exercise schedules, I’ll eat something around 11:30 or 12:30. After a few days of doing this several years ago, I got over feeling hungry in the morning and it makes for an easier start (and I prefer to exercise on an empty stomach anyway).

    1. I am a big proponent of IF too. The earliest I ever eat is about 10 am (not including coffee). On days when I am at work I often get to 12:30 without eating. Key is also to finish eating early. We are typically done with dinner around 7:15-7:30 p.m.

      1. Fasting bkfast is an interesting post 40 strategy for health and weight control w a family bc you have to eat dinner w kids and really maybe only need one meal before dinner post age 40 and is interesting as a post covid strategy since so many people had to eat so many meals all together …
        fasting ( one Meal) is a good health and spiritual strategy etc.

  13. I would also probably just drive them. Less than 20 minutes + more sleep for your high schooler. One of the many benefits of self-employment!

    1. @Stephanie – given the car lines around here, I suspect it would be more than 20 minutes. We drove him to middle school last year and it was never less than a 25-30 minute proposition. Maybe high school would be different but we shall see!

      1. Though as I think about it, probably 25 percent of high schoolers would be driving themselves and parking in a different lot than the drop off spot, so maybe the carline wouldn’t be so bad.

        1. @Laura Do you know of an older high school kid in the area you could pay for rides to avoid the early HS’er bus time? The teen/sleep thing becomes high priority pretty quick; for some reason they all of a sudden become night owls and aren’t the friendliest of beasts in the morning (ha!).

  14. I think the high schooler needs to befriend some juniors and seniors in the neighborhood with cars! Maybe easier said than done. Providing gas money may sweeten it for them.

  15. What about having your nanny come earlier and drive the high school and middle schooler? If the toddler is up, I’d just put him in the car too for a morning drive and you get a toddler free bit of time with the elementary kids. Not sure on the timing, but if that’s too early for regular middle school dropoff right after high school dropoff perhaps the school has a morning care option. While your nanny is doing the dropoff run, one of you can get the other kids out the door and when your nanny gets home start your workday. This allows for only one parent to be essential in the AM while the other can work or exercise and it won’t require a major juggling of routine if one parent is out of town or has an early meeting. In our household, morning time is not “quality” family time (everyone is a bit grumpy, including me!) so I let go of thinking I had to be there for most/all of it. This lets me get started at work earlier in the AM when I am more focused, and enables time after school for me to connect with more awake and alert kiddos.

  16. My three kids have different start times. School started a couple of weeks ago, and I am splitting my morning schedule to fit in 30 minutes of exercise. I wake up around 5:30 and drink coffee/read news, then wake up the older two at 6 and get them situated. My husband drives teenager to band rehearsal (leave at 6:45a) and my 6th grader leaves house at 7 to catch the bus. I exercise between 6:30-7 before waking up the 5 yo. We don’t leave the house to drive her to school until 8. I used to wake up at 5 to exercise before waking the older two up, but now I like to get more sleep.

  17. My two had that unearthly 6:40 am pick up for a small town school district (no public transportation) that started at 7:45…they arrived at school at 7 AM, so 45 minutes of time-killing. Our middle and high school are on the same bus route so I wasn’t juggling other runs. We drove to school a minimum of twice a week so they didn’t have to get up at 5:40 to catch the 6:40 bus. Our district finally went to a late start Wednesday schedule for teacher professional development and the students started at 9 AM (and IMO should be the only schedule). I don’t regret driving them the other four days so they could sleep an extra hour as I hate early mornings too. Once the oldest started driving at 16, he was assigned to drive them both. I only had to go back to driving the year he left for college and she wasn’t old enough to drive. I drove that route for 6 years total and the kids drove themselves for 4. I also recommend finding the nearest Start School Later chapter (they are nationwide) and getting parents together to make the district change from that ridiculous schedule. We are still working on getting a more healthy start time here.

  18. Have you listened to Matthew Walker, the sleep specialist, talk about early school start times for teens and how deleterious it is to their health? It opened my eyes to so many things. My oldest also start very early in the morning (7:40 am), and it’s a good 20 min drive from our house. Nonetheless, I have taken to refusing to let him take the bus (pickup at around 6:30 pm) because I can see that it makes him a zombie. I’ve had to call in “the village” (i.e., my husband, mother and brother) and we alternate driving in the mornings. Our goal is to leave by 7:20, but even if we leave at 7:30, he’s only 10 minutes late, and they start with a sort of morning assembly thing, so I don’t care all that much if he’s late. (I got into a mini-tiff with the Principal about this, and told him I’d be happy to get a medical note…he let it go.) Now that my daughter started high school (a different one but pretty close to my son’s), she will be driven as well (she starts at 8 am so will be a little early, which suits her personality). Basically, it’s a pain for us as parents, but I couldn’t live with that wake-up time for my kids. I rarely try to convince other parents to do anything, but I honestly feel like the solution here is to drive your oldest son (and maybe even the middle schooler). If there was ever a benefit of working from home, this would be it! Plus, you’ll find as he gets older that he confides in you less. I’ve found that no place is better to get a teen to talk than in the car. Think of it as your morning bonding time. (OK, sorry…I’m off my soap box now)

    1. For teens and pre-teens the schools start too early and end too early for working parents. This is an important issue for children and their mothers and their working fathers who want to be more involved.

  19. Huh. I only have 1 kid, so am no help on the schedule juggling angle, but am grateful to be in a district that has high school @ the latest start time, and see how that could also be helpful in a multi-kid family — keep the more independent kids around longer and get the more dependent ones out the door earlier. My kid walks out the door a little after 8 a.m., catches the bus, and starts school a bit before 9.

    But I do want to empathize with the not walkable, not bikeable idea. Ironically we live on the same side of a very busy, 4-lane divided road as the school and yet, to walk or bike to the school it would be necessary to cross said road twice, and there aren’t safe places to do so. So … yeah. My kid can actually catch the city bus almost home (well, a mile away) but then still has the on-the-wrong-side of the street problem, and can’t catch the city bus to the school at all, because of the way the route loops. So, yeah. In our case, town plans for multi-use paths will solve this problem but only once they’re implemented.

    Anyway, hope you can find a system that works. The get-the-nanny-to-do-some-of-the-morning-driving seems like a good idea, if that’s feasible?

  20. I know you love running in the morning but is cycling with your son to high school an option? It will be safer for him and you have been outside before your workday starts. And maybe after some practice months you have found a safe route and feel confident he can do it alone.

    I’m from the Netherlands where cycling to school is very common. My son is old enough to ride safely alone. Our daughter is younger and has to bike a longer route. I really enjoy our time together on the bike in the morning. Plus: it forces me to go outside before I start my work from home.

  21. Tons of great suggestions here already so I don’t have anything to add re: solutions. My kid goes to a school that’s a 25 min drive away and there’s no school bus so our two parent WFH family now has a commute again 😛 My husband and I split that commute (younger one is at a school two blocks from our house and if it’s not burning hot we walk) so we’re each only driving once and that helps a ton.

    It’s actually my podcast catchup time on the way there, and I enjoy it. On the way back, once I’ve picked up the kid, it’s TOTALLY worth it for the quality time. She tells me all about her day (and she is generally a reticent kid) and she has already brought up stuff she wants to talk about without her sister listening in. So as much as I grumble about the commute, it’s actually been a bonus on the relationship side. So maybe consider reframing that way? 🙂

  22. Despite the usual tendency for teens to sleep late, my 2 late sleepers have been surprisingly ok with getting up early for school. Here, high schools start at 7:20. My daughter prefers to be driven, but gets herself up on time (I never would have believed this when she was in middle school). My son is going to high school in person for the first time this year because they were remote last year, and prefers the bus. I drove him when we had heavy rain last week but another day I offered to drive because I needed to get to work early, and he chose the bus. (We have school choice and they go to different schools)

  23. Why are you trying to make it too convenient for him? I remember i had the same issue through out all my college years ( i had to take the bus every single day, very early at 6am and my classes start at 8am) and the college is 30 minutes away.
    I really look back to those days with lots of affection, although they were tough. I had to rethink my commute time and downloaded lots of books on my ipod (no podcasts back then) i figured out a nice quite space on campus and would have my breakfast and people watch. Just let him figure it out.

  24. What is your moving date? What impact will that have on your school mornings? (Just wondered how much brain power it is worth dedicating to move this issue if it may turn out to be short lived…?)

  25. I have always had this weird spacing of school start times, and the only things I really try to do until both kids are at school are 1) get dressed and ready, usually just in workout clothes unless I have an early meeting 2) make and eat breakfast/drink coffee with one or both of them 3) check email to see if there is anything crucial, just skimming not responding to anything yet 4) talk with kids and help them get out the door.
    I do drive my high schooler most days, but I make her take the bus at least one morning a week to keep her place on the route, so it is an option when we need it.

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