With public education facing increasing cuts that affect the quality of education, and social issues becoming hot button topics in the country, the popularity of homeschooling has surged. Nearly 4 million students are being homeschooled in the United States alone. There are many benefits to educating teens at home, but something that tends to suffer is the establishment of a routine. This may seem like a minor issue, but the lack of deadlines and schedules in many homeschool households can have serious impacts on teens.
The Physical and Psychological Impacts of a Haphazard Routine
Many homeschoolers love the freedom that learning at home offers. The ability to make appointments during school hours, go on vacation in the off-season, and work at your own pace are popular perks. But there can be a downside to such flexibility. Teens need routines for mental and physical health. Psychologists say that having a regular schedule impacts a teen’s ability to feel secure and to practice self-regulation.
Developing an organized mind is not a naturally occurring skill; it is built from life experiences that require prioritization and the ability to defer desires in the moment in order to take care of responsibilities. One of the main avenues to learning these skills is the routine of deadlines and schedules that are imposed on students when they attend schools outside of the home. Even teens who are homeschooled through the high school years will most likely want to attend a few concurrent college classes, so they must learn how to manage their time. Homeschool parents who don’t follow traditional classroom hours may inadvertently curtail this area of development.
On a purely physical basis, teenagers need a set routine to support the natural rhythms of their bodies. Most parents know that their teens need between 8 and 10 hours of sleep a night. What they may not know is that it’s not just a question of how much sleep do I need. Having a consistent sleep routine is as important, if not more so, than the quantity of sleep. The body’s circadian rhythms dictate that sleeping at specified times will support the body while sleeping at other times goes against the body’s natural inclinations. When teens have the freedom to stay awake hours after it is dark and stay asleep well into daylight hours, their internal clock can become confused leading to poor sleep quality and imbalances in the chemistry of the brain.
The Sociological Impacts of Too Much Flexibility
Homeschooled teens who are not familiar with deadlines and schedules may find themselves ill-prepared to move into the adult world. Statistics show that homeschoolers tend to be independent thinkers and possess a higher incidence of complex thinking than their public-schooled peers; however, where they struggle in college is adhering to a pre-set and inflexible schedule. These homeschooled kids have developed in an atmosphere in which being on time was not a consideration. They may not have experienced strict deadlines on assignments or the pressure of sticking to a schedule of time-based tasks. All of this can result in a highly intelligent child struggling with the scheduling aspects of college life once they leave home.
As young people who were homeschooled enter the workforce, they may encounter similar difficulties with job requirements that demand they arrive at a certain time or complete tasks in a particular order or in a certain amount of time. If they are accustomed to a completely flexible schedule that allows them to choose which tasks to complete and in which order, they can find the structure of a job unreasonably strict and struggle to fit into the work culture. Offering your homeschool student even a loose schedule can help to strengthen an area of development that may find challenging in the future. Allow them to feel the pressure of due dates as well as the requirements of being at particular activities at a specified time.
The benefits of homeschooling are clear and documented. Homeschool students have deeper comprehension abilities, better test scores, and more complex reasoning capabilities. However, they may struggle with due dates and deadlines. For this reason, homeschooled teens should get in the habit of setting their own schedules, reminders, deadlines and time limits. The use of an alarm clock, stopwatch, countdown timer, daily planner, and the default calendar app accessed through Apple or Google will help with time management and scheduling. These simple things will allow your student to take their exceptional abilities into life after homeschool.