The boy who knew too much: a child prodigy

This is the true story of scientific child prodigy, and former baby genius, Ainan Celeste Cawley, written by his father. It is the true story, too, of his gifted brothers and of all the Cawley family. I write also of child prodigy and genius in general: what it is, and how it is so often neglected in the modern world. As a society, we so often fail those we should most hope to see succeed: our gifted children and the gifted adults they become. Site Copyright: Valentine Cawley, 2006 +

Friday, April 27, 2007

The children who never sleep

Singapore is a country where sleep is not much prized.

Why do I say this? Well, I just have to look at the school children wending their way to school - at around 7 am. Yes, you read right. They are on their way to school by 7 am - often earlier - because school often starts at about 7.30 am.

That is hideously early for a young child to be getting to school. Yet, it is not just the school children who have to get up early - the teachers do, too. The result is that an entire profession and about half Singapore's children, suffer from sleep deprivation. I say "half" the children for a reason. Singapore once had too few schools for the children they had to teach. There wasn't space and they hadn't had the time to build them all. So they struck upon an idea: use the same schools twice in a day. The school day was divided into two halves: a "morning session" and an "afternoon session". To fit both sessions into one day, the morning session had to start really early - and the afternoon session had to finish really late. A child on the morning session will finish about lunchtime, or thereabouts. A child on afternoon session will finish in the evening.

So, this system was created for a time when there wasn't enough teaching space to go around. Now, however it is different. There are more schools. There are fewer children - yet many schools persist in this division of the day into morning and afternoon sessions.

The children don't look well on it. They are evidently tired. I have taught such children. Many of them have poor concentration, simply because they haven't slept enough. There is another factor. Many of them are addicted to computer games and play them late into the night - or watch TV to similar hours - then they have to get up before 6 am to get to school. The consequences are not good. These children are too tired to really learn much at school.

It is time that the tradition of an early morning session be phased out. The children would be less tired and could focus better - and the teachers, too, would be less worn out and better able to give their energies to the classroom.

Every nation needs to sleep: even Singapore. I would like to see schools that start at a reasonable hour - say nine am. It would be a relief not to see tired children on their way to school, at an hour when they should really still be asleep.

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 10:37 AM 


Anonymous zuraida said...

I love reading your blog. Each story inspires me to appreciate my daughter's ability. She's not a 'genius', as people might label today, but she's my sweetheart. I juz have a question, have u (or your wife) introduced Quranic lessons to them before? like, reciting a few short surahs as a lullaby before they go to sleep?

6:07 PM  
Blogger jaye__xx said...

could not agree with you more ! enough said.

12:06 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Thank you Jaye for your agreement. It really is time to change a system that is not really doing any child, any good.

Best wishes to you

1:02 AM  
Anonymous Isabela said...

Hi! I'm a Brazilian 15-year-old girl and found your blog, kind of, in the middle of nowhere. I read your text and I really liked it! I totally agree with you in the point that childen watch too much TV nowadays or play the videogame, while they could be studying or improving their knowledge. The huge role tv plays nowadays in our families could be replaced by the act of reading a book or anything like that. However, As a student myself, I strongly believe that if the classes started at 9am, the students would be as tired and sleepy as they are right now. The children need to get more sleep, and I think that the best solution is to go to bed earlier, not just make the classes start 2 hours later than the usual time. (Here in Brazil, my classes starts at 7:30 and go until noon as well).
Congratulations on the blog! Really liked your opinion!!

2:52 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Thank you Isabela for your insight into the Brazilian situation.

I don't know about you but if get up an hour and a half later I feel a lot better than getting up an hour and a half earlier.

Yes, it would be good if everyone could simply go to bed earlier - but they won't. There are just too many other things to do. So what do we have instead? People going to bed very late and getting up very early...a terrible combination!

Thanks for your kind words on my blog...I hope you continue to be a reader.

Best wishes

8:22 AM  
Anonymous uladelz said...

Hi Valentine,

Firstly, congrats for having lovely children with special gifts. Hopefully, they would be a great people in the future.

The same situation also occurs in Malaysia. I know most of Western countries used to start the class at 9.00a.m. But in my opinion, there are more benefits if the class started at the early morning. As a Muslim, we could practice a child to wake up earlier for the Subuh's prayer. Besides, that was the time when the brain is working optimally. To avoid any sleepiness or tiredness during the class, the children should go to the bed earlier so that they could get enough sleep. That's only my opinion. No offend. =]

9:34 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Thank you uladelz for your perspective on the situation in Malaysia. That is a religious reason for rising early - so in that context, yes, it would not be a burden to also go to school early.

However, there is a reason why Western schools start at 9 am (or a bit later in some cases). Most children do NOT do well early in the morning. This has been scientifically proven.

There are some early bird exceptions however and these children won't mind.

Best wishes to you

10:59 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In Germany school starts at 7.50am and it is a constant topic of debate over here, especially recently. I too believe 7.50 is rather early since it has been said that childrens' organisms 'wake up' later. School in England started at 9.30am and finished at 3.45pm - that's probably better for the children. I myself was an early riser and liked being out of school by 1pm ( and didn't really like being home by 4.30pm) but generally I'd be in favour of school starting later, perhaps by 8.30 or 9am. In a way that could also be seen as preparation for the time when the children start work. Take care, Carina

10:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here in Venezuela is the same case.

3:38 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

That is a pity. No child should have to start school so early.

11:47 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well..Im a Nicaraguan student,im 14 years old and here all school begin at 7:00 am and end at 12:45..some end around 2:00 pm. I wake up at 5 am ...and i have always been..since i was 3 becase the kindergarden also begin at that hour. I have to admit i hate waking up so early but i wouldnt like to begin class later..
Why? because first of all i love to have my afternoon free..second because i feel i get more concentration in the morning.
and sorry for my not really good at it..:)

9:33 AM  

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