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Homeschooling at Night: How Nightschooling Can Work for You

Homeschooling at Night: How Nightschooling Can Help YouEverybody knows that your kids should be up early hitting the books, right? Homeschooling goes better if Mom is organized and has lessons prepared for first thing in the morning. Homeschooling works well when kids focus on academics when they’re fresh, and they get to play when they’ve completed their school work.

Homeschooling at any other time of day is risking disaster.

That’s the conventional wisdom, anyway.

However, sometimes homeschooling at night makes more sense than the conventional wisdom. That can even include “nightschooling” – focusing all or part of your homeschooling efforts during the evening hours.

When does it make sense to homeschool at night?

  • When nightschooling works for your child’s energy level. I actually had one son whose day-time energy level was so high that he was much more interested in and capable of doing “close work” with me during the evenings. We developed an extended bed-time routine that included drawing, writing, reading fiction and nonfiction, and inquiry-based learning of science, social studies, and math, lasting from the early pre-school years nearly through the elementary years. Defying all conventional wisdom, his retention was extremely high during our night-time sessions. He simply had to be physically tired enough to be open to stillness and contemplation.This did not mean he stopped learning during the day. He was building, making, running, pretending, and exploring. I just worked with his predisposition to be extremely active during that time, and I took advantage of his dreamy openness and interest in traditional academics at night.Will this work for other kids? I’ll be honest, most kids I’ve been around, including my other sons, really are more able to do academics earlier in the day, and they sort of devolve and become less able to focus the later it gets. However, it may be worth a try at your house if you have an especially active child who has a quiet period in the later hours. We “nightschooled” for years, and I enjoyed our warm academic encounters by the light of the lamp on the bedside table much more than attempting to work against his day-time energy during the bright sunlight.
  • When the primary homeschooling parent is employed. If you’re working a paid job and homeschooling your children, you may have them with a child care provider during the day and homeschool on your days off and at night.
  • When one parent works the late shift. Not all employed homeschooling parents work day-time jobs. During the early years, my husband worked second shift in a manufacturing plant, and it meant that our family “dinner” was at lunch time before he went to work. His time with the children was during his own sleepy morning hours. Academics shifted into the afternoon and evenings to whatever extent extracurricular activities allowed. What a wonderful thing to have the flexibility of homeschooling so the boys could still have time with their dad.
  • When parents are tag-team homeschooling. Employed moms and dads are often tag-teaming the homeschooling these days. One parent may cover certain subjects or provide support for certain projects when the paid part of the work-day is over, trading off with another parent during the day-time. This extends the “homeschooling” portion of the day later, but allows both parents to have a hand in the children’s education.
  • When you are living a learning lifestyle. Homeschoolers who identify as interest-led learners, unschoolers, relaxed homeschoolers, or autodidacts often do not divide their days into specific times for learning. Their academics are integrated into “regular” life. Just as adults might take on learning a new skill or studying a new interest at whatever time of day works for them — including the evening hours — children in these families do the same. I will say that while I strongly identify with this approach, I have also used the technique of reserving specific hours of the day and days of the week to support my children’s learning and actively work with them, so not all “learning lifestyle families” typify an “any time, all the time” schedule.I’d also be remiss if I didn’t point out that many homeschoolers who do not identify as unschoolers are definitely in sync with the idea of “learning all the time.” They may schedule their curriculum-related homeschooling during morning hours, while still encouraging and supporting non-curricular learning in the evenings.
  • When kids are learning from a mentor or tutor. Homeschooling parents aren’t always the teachers for their kids. Children can learn from other adults, such as mentors or tutors who are available during the evening hours. Some homeschooled kids’ most valuable learning experiences come from working alongside a computer geek, a biking enthusiast, or someone fluent in a foreign language.
  • When kids are taking community classes. Don’t overlook community classes at your science museum, art association, local university, or recreation department. Many of these valuable classes are offered during the evenings and are a great experience for the late elementary through high school age groups.
  • When you are homeschooling multiple children. Some parents reserve evenings for extracurricular activities such as Scouts, youth groups, or 4H meetings (educational in their own right). Other parents reserve evenings for household tasks or their own downtime. However, others find that planning to homeschool some of the kids in a large family during evening hours is actually less stressful than trying to be “finished” by an arbitrary time like 3 pm or 5 pm. The caveat here is to guard against that “always on” phenomenon. While “living a learning lifestyle” might be seamless throughout the day, too many hours of curriculum-based teaching in a given day could burn out even the most ardent curriculum-user.

The flexibility to structure your time so it works well for your family is one of the top benefits of homeschooling. While it can feel non-traditional, homeschooling after dark might be a valuable part of your homeschooling approach.

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Jeanne Faulconer

A popular speaker at homeschooling conferences, business groups, and parents’ groups, Jeanne Potts Faulconer has homeschooled her three sons in North Carolina, Mississippi, and Virginia. She is a former college faculty member, former editor and book reviewer for Home Education Magazine, a long-time editor for VaHomeschoolers Voice, and a recent news correspondent for WCVE, an NPR-member station. Jeanne teaches writing and literature for her youngest son’s homeschool co-op, and she is a student of how learning works – at home, in the music room, in small groups, in the college classroom, on the soccer field, and in the car to and from practice. Holding her Master of Arts degree in Communication, Jeanne conducts portfolio evaluations for Virginia homeschoolers for evidence of progress. To read more of Jeanne’s writing, inquire about a homeschool evaluation, or ask her to speak to your group, see her blog, Engaged Homeschooling.

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