When my boys hit the middle school years, our family made a huge change to our homeschool. I called it our Grand Experiment because I felt that it was either a genius idea or it would lead to our downfall.
After reading about tweens and teens and how their sleep cycles change during this phase of life, I decided we needed to do something different around here. I realized that when I woke my boys up before they’re ready to be woken up, they were surly. They both complained that they didn’t sleep well, and it took a long time for them to be able to function properly.
So, that year, I tried something radically different!
Our Grand Experiment
First, I stopped waking them up in the morning.
Yes, you heard me right. I let my boys wake up on their own and start their schoolwork whenever they were ready. This was a challenge for me because I’m the type of person who would rather get up at a decent hour and dive right into our day. I’d much rather get the vast majority of our work done in the morning so that we can be free to do whatever we’d like to do with our afternoons.
When my boys were younger, this system worked well for us. But once they were 12 1/2 and almost 14, they tended to stumble through their mornings bleary-eyed and afternoons became a better time for them to do their schoolwork.
Next, I gave them a list of schoolwork for the week and let them manage their own time.
This was also a hard one for me. I was used to giving them a list of things I want them to do each day. But then, I found myself having to push them from one activity to the next because it felt like they were dawdling and wasting all of our time.
I asked both of my sons if they’d like me to give them a list of everything they need to get done for the week and allowed them to do as much or as little as they’d like to do each day. They both eagerly agreed that they’d like to make that change.
I was excited and told them that if they worked really hard the first few days of each week, then they could have a day or two to focus on whatever they wanted to learn about. They’d have lots of time to explore whatever their hearts desired. My boys responded to me with, “If we get all of our work done early can we have lots of time to do NOTHING!?!” I thought about it for a minute and then I told them that if “doing nothing” is what motivated them to get their work done, then I guess that would be fine.
There were some rules they needed to follow.
I told my boys that they must have all of their schoolwork done by the time Dad got home from work on Friday or I would jump back in and help them manage their time more wisely. Also, if that happened, they will be expected to finish whatever they didn’t complete during the week on Saturday. And that was something they definitely wanted to avoid.
Did it Work?
In the first weeks of our Grand Experiment, things went very well. One of my boys woke up at 8 am on Monday and started immediately working his way through the list. The first thing he did was to spend two hours doing Phys Ed. Seriously. Then, he did some science and some reading.
My other son slept in until around 10:30. He didn’t get very much done his first day, which was worrisome to me. After that, however, he kicked things into gear and started working hard to be sure he’d get all of his stuff done before the end of the day on Friday.
At the end of the first week, one of my sons had completed everything by 11 am on Friday and the other one had to scramble to get everything done later into Friday afternoon. But overall, it was a great success. I did talk with one son about how he hadn’t used his time very well at the beginning of the week and he agreed and talked to me about how he would do things differently the next week.
I must admit that in the years since we first started conducting this experiment, there were periods when my boys could handle a weekly checklist and other periods when they did much better with a daily checklist. Your results may vary depending on the age and maturity of your own child.
What have I learned so far?
- My boys’ favorite subject for several years was Phys Ed!
- My boys would rather focus on one subject for a longer period of time than to spend short bits of time each day on different subjects. For example, my sons sat down and read 10 chapters of the book they were reading for literature in one sitting versus reading 2 chapters a day like I would normally assign. Or they’d do all of their math lessons for the week in one sitting rather than doing one lesson each day.
- My boys may dawdle but they get their work done. And they speed up dramatically as their deadline approaches!
- If I trust them and let them move forward at their own pace, it is much more relaxing for them AND for me.
This new way of doing things was a radical change for me. It was counter-intuitive for sure! But it was definitely a positive change for our homeschool.
My boys learned to manage their own time, they got their work done, they got plenty of sleep, and everyone was in a better mood. I learned to take advantage of my alone time in the mornings rather than in the afternoons. And I learned to back off while they picked up more and more responsibility for their own learning. Making this change did have a few hitches along the way but it honestly had an amazingly positive impact overall.
If you’ve always homeschooled a certain way, try talking to your kids to see if they have any suggestions which might make things go more smoothly. Because our kids aren’t always wired the same way that we are you might be surprised at some of the changes you could make that will revolutionize their homeschool experience for the better – for you and for your kids.
Question: Do you wake up your teens? Are you teaching your kids to manage their own time? I’d love to hear about any tips you may have! Please leave a comment below.
And please check out the other What’s Working and What’s Not posts from other homeschool bloggers at iHomeschool Network.