Did you know that recognizing your child’s most alert times of the day can help you with homeschooling? Young children may not even realize that there are periods during the day when they feel more energized, and older children may need you to point it out to them so that they become aware of their own degrees of alertness. Being observant about your child’s most awake times of the day can help your homeschooling flow more smoothly and be more productive. As with so many areas of development with our children, though, things change as they grow and the most alert times of the day may also change over time.
Generally speaking, most young children are alert after a good night’s sleep and are ready for tackling the most challenging school subjects right after breakfast. At this stage in a child’s life, I would suggest starting the day with a devotional time or brief discussion of the day’s schedule. Following this, I would encourage working on the homeschool work that requires the greatest level of alertness and concentration. Working in accordance with the child’s physical state is not only strategic but is also consistent with individualizing instruction to meet each child’s needs. Being able to customize our child’s school day is one of the great blessings of homeschooling and the flexibility we have as home educators to determine the best schedule for our child and family.
When I began my homeschool journey, I started teaching my oldest two children together. Since they are only 15 months apart, I was able to use the same curriculum for both of them. My oldest, Josh, was later to be diagnosed with severe Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) although I was only beginning to understand what that meant. His sister, Beth, was a typically developing child who was anxious to keep up with anything done by her big brother. They were great kids, generally very active and energetic, so it took me a while to realize that mornings were the best time to hit our harder school subjects. In our family, the challenging subject was math, and although I loved our math curriculum the children were clearly less enthralled. I didn’t always teach our school subjects in a certain order, and realized later on that our days would have been more productive if I had provided a more structured approach.
To complicate matters more, I wanted my children to learn to think for themselves and be able to make good decisions, so I started with small things like allowing them to choose their outfits for the day. Sometimes I thought they looked like they were dressed like circus performers, but it was harmless and they were learning how to make choices. I also allowed them some say in what subject areas we worked on throughout the school day. Over time I discovered that they always put off doing math until the very end of the school day in hopes that we would run out of time and they would have a reprieve from math. With the usual daily life disruptions and a baby in the house, too often their wish to avoid doing their math work became reality. Live and learn.
Since I eventually realized that if my children had their preference they would always put off doing their math work, I continued to give them leeway when it came to scheduling work on other subjects but I had them do their math early in the morning when they were most alert. This worked well because they knew they were getting their hardest subject out of the way early in the day and could look forward to their more preferred school subjects after their math assignment was completed. Just as I thought I had the best school schedule worked out just right, my older two children entered adolescence.
During the pre-adolescence and teenage years, growth spurts and physical changes wreaked havoc on my carefully plotted school schedule. My youngest child was still most alert in the mornings and was raring to go from the moment she woke up. My older two children seemed to be in something like a fog until noon, but they perked up right after lunch. Their new time of greatest alertness was now early afternoon. Unfortunately for me, that was not my own best time for being alert. Given the opportunity, I could easily have napped at that time! Instead, I once again altered our home school schedule to accommodate what my growing children needed, and we began to work on easier school subjects in the morning while they gradually became more awake and alert as the day progressed.
There is a definite transition during times of physical growth spurts. For my children, one change I noticed was how different they were when awakened in the morning. During the younger years they were instantly awake and high energy, ready to start a new day. During periods of significant physical growth and changes, they needed time to come awake gradually and their energy level didn’t peak until early afternoon.
Working with a child’s alert times just makes sense. Homeschooling gives us the freedom to teach our children in the ways they learn best, so let’s make the most of the opportunity. Be aware of your child’s timetable for being able to concentrate and sustain focus on school tasks. Know that the timetable will probably change as your child grows. Recognizing and meeting our child’s needs as we teach them is a blessing we can bestow as we raise them up to be the individuals they were created to become.