Is it lazy letting sleeping teenagers lie?

 Five thirty every morning and a cheery little infant face would be pushed into mine. We could almost set our clocks by our early risers when they were little and nothing we seemed to do changed it. We tried keeping them up later, lots of exercise, busy days. It didn’t work. We just ended up with tired grumpy children.

Fast forward ten years and it was a miracle if our teenagers were up before midday. Then we had to make the decision as home educators; do we get them up to get on, or do we leave them to sleep and work later?

I got into a fierce argument about this with an old traditionalist non-home educator once. His argument was that lying in bed till midday was ‘lazy’. My argument was, if they’re doing the work later, studying till the early hours and in the case of one family I knew still managing to get A* when they took exams, what was wrong with that different approach?

He wouldn’t have it. According to him it was still ‘lazy’. But that was the kind of bigoted attitude we came up against sometimes when we were trying to take a different approach to our children’s education. People can’t see beyond conditioned thinking even if it works better!

I know this is a dilemma for some home educating parents; whether to get the kids up or to leave them to their own sleeping/working patterns. Our understanding of the teen brain (see here)has grown enormously over the years. Teenagers not only need more sleep but their sleeping patterns are so disrupted by hormonal changes that keep them awake into the small hours they are often sleep deprived. And even some schools are recognising that, to be able to function at their best, teens need a different working day and have changed their school day (see here) to suit them.

When you homeschool, you can plan your working day to suit your child’s personal needs at the time. Some of the home schooling families ours grew with shifted their working day to much later. But it was still no problem for the kids to adjust back, as some parents worry about, into a more common routine that fitted in with college and universities and work.

For myself, I didn’t let them lie in too long because quite frankly I wasn’t up to helping them in the small hours – so you do have to take into account your parental needs too. But don’t worry that kids may not fit into the ‘normal’ social and working pattern. All the HE kids we’ve known interacted so much with the world anyway that they are better able to slot into that world than school kids who’ve been shut away in institutions all their growing lives.

It’s entirely up to you how you manage the timing of your home school days. What’s most important of all is that you suit whatever you do to your child’s and family’s needs and not be influenced by bigoted ideas of ‘lazy’.

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13 thoughts on “Is it lazy letting sleeping teenagers lie?

  1. Interesting post…
    I learnt getting up early is the key to many things get done. It is perfect timing especially if I want to concentrate something…not many are awake so not many will disturb you.
    In early morning, the Internet connection is super fast, road is empty, so quiet, beautiful air to exercise, perfect timing to go to nature to see real life of animal and insects (when I was young I did this a lot) , perfect timing to meditation and it is nice time to do some creative things as well (I do saw all children’s cloths). My mother was waking up 5:30am everyday (she still do) so she could get done washing, taken care of vegetable garden, start cooking breakfast and prepare lunch box before she goes to work. The sound of knife chopping and nice cooking smell used to wake me up. And I loved that kind of warm and welcome feeling in the morning as a child.
    I also worked in the foods and service industry so I used to go to the morning markets. I learnt it was really refreshing to see cheerful and full of energy people with variety of fresh vegetables, fish, flowers and etc., and I just fell in love with the atmosphere. It gives me the instant uplift even I had a bad day night before.

    Japanese also have a saying “”the early bird catches the worm” and I just think it is really the truth.
    I also see the benefit for the health since our body influenced by the nature and sun and moon especially affect it. So it is natural to sleep when the sun is down and wake up before or with sun rise. It also save energy and helping the earth in that way so we do not use extra electric power at night. I just think nature is keep letting us know what is the best for us….
    My children and I sleep at 8pm together (it is tradition to sleep with young children in Japan) and I wake up when I feel enough and children wake up around/before 7am. If they have a time before breakfast, they start drawing, play construction set or do other creative things. Watching children, I just think it is positive way to start a day…
    Well, that how I think…

  2. Pingback: Working outside of ‘normal’ | Ross Mountney's Notebook

  3. I have two teenage boys…both have, in their time being home educated, slept until very late morning. The eldest started an apprenticeship last year and has always got up by himself and got himself there on time and the younger of the two is currently getting up at seven to help the local farm shop out with their livestock whilst the farmer is out of action!
    Let sleeping boys lie, I say!

  4. I think we might be the ones referred to here! We’ve always let sleeping teenagers lie. All my three sons are definitely night owls, and in their mid-teenage years almost became nocturnal. But this hasn’t stopped them achieving well academically and coping with the requirements of university and college. In fact the middle one now has to get up at 6.30am three mornings a week to get to college, and does so with very little grumpiness because he’s allowed to catch up with sleep on the other days.

  5. Ross, sometimes I think you have a secret window into my house! This is something that I’m tackling at the moment.

    B, aged 16, could sleep for England. I am truly embarrassed to say what time she gets out of bed given the choice. She’s sitting some GCSEs this year, subjects chosen by her, so I’ve been trying to get her out of bed so she can have some reasonable study time. It’s just not worked – I’ve spent ages going up and down stairs, getting increasingly frustrated and not achieving any of my own work. She eventually gets up but is fed up with being nagged, in a bad mood herself and rarely has the positive attitude needed for effective study.

    A couple of weeks ago I decided enough was enough. Now she gets up at whatever time she likes, as long as she understands the importance of the study schedule she has worked out with me and keeps to it. After all, there are plenty of night workers (her father included) who keep unconventional sleeping and waking patterns and as long as she is aiming towards those exams, what does it matter what time of day it happens?

    So far, so good. Her attitude towards her study has improved enormously, she seems to be responding to the responsibility and trust. Fingers crossed!!

    • Thanks so much for adding your story Jane. And for the lovely opening comment. That’s really nice to know – especially since it’s not the first time it’s been made. Good luck with the new plan – course, it’ll all want changing again in a little while as always with kids! 😉

  6. Fab post, as always. Its such a shame that some people still view it as lazy behaviour, even though there is evidence that teens’ sleep patterns are different to other age groups. So glad we were already home-edding before the teen years.

    The boys, especially Gordon, have never had problems getting up early, even when they became teenagers … though Liam is like me, he likes his lie-in ;o) Usually they’re asleep by 22:30 but sometimes they’re still awake when I go to bed after 23:00. Most days they’re up before 08:30 but there are days when they’re still asleep at 9am; if there’s no reason to be up early, I don’t have a problem with it – the way I see it, if they’re still sleeping then they need it. Yet on the mornings he has to be up by 06:40 for college, Gordon manages it even if he hasn’t fallen asleep particularly early the night before … me, on the other hand … *yawn*

  7. This is extremely interesting to me as I am interested in sleep and how it affects different people. In other words, I listen to people about sleep, I ask people about sleep and I watch how sleep or lack of it affects people. All my past nosiness has led me to believe that teenagers need to sleep longer. There are times when their brains and bodies just slug out. So I think this needs to be considered. I don’t mean let them lie in beds until 3p.m. I simply mean that if they can sleep until gone 9 a.m. when they need it, we don’t get grumpy teenagers and they seem to be able to concentrate more. Your article is super and I’m so glad that you are approaching these issues. Thank you.

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