The flexibility that home education offers means that families can take advantage of the times when children learn best. And for teenagers whose sleep patterns are majorly disrupted that can be a real relief!
It’s not just laziness that keeps them in bed in the mornings, as some parents would like to think. Neuroscience is beginning to show that teenagers’ sleep patterns, their cycles of sleep and wakefulness, become completely out of sync with the rest of the world as they go through their teen years. This means that their performance is considerably disrupted. They do not function as well at nine o’clock in the morning as later in the day.
An article in the Guardian recently outlines another major experiment where 14-16 year olds will start their school day later and scientists will monitor how this effects their achievements and results. This result is hoped to increase our understanding of how best to plan our youngsters’ schooling.
Although some home educators like to stick to school times when guiding their children’s learning, many of the home educating families we learned with recognised the difficulty the teens had with early starts and allowed them to work in ways which better suited their natural rhythms.
So whilst other school children were trying to concentrate in a classroom at nine in the morning the home educated teens would still be in bed.
This gave rise to much criticism, implications of laziness and suggested neglect on the part of the parents. And critics also suggested that the children should be made to slot into the normal working pattern as soon as possible or they would never be able to function in the ‘normal’ world later in life.
This has turned out not to be the case.
To counteract their lie-ins the home educated teens worked quite happily late into the night sometimes to achieve their goals. In some households I know that the young people’s working day actually switched from day to night. And although it felt all wrong at the time for them to be asleep throughout the day when everyone else was at school, these teens still went on to achieve, pass exams, gain good grades, go onto College and Uni and slot seamlessly back into what is considered to be the normal working patterns and times.
So postponing their work until later in the day seemed to have no detrimental effect on their study, their achievements, or their later working lives.
We are conditioned to believe, by an age old system, that it is better to be up in the morning and getting on – there’s almost a snobbery associated with it. But there seems to be no disadvantage in allowing children to work round their natural sleeping patterns and some of these experiments may even show that children learn better by lying in.
The flexibility of home education gives a valuable opportunity to do just that.