What’s it like to homeschool as a night owl?

How to homeschool as a night owl

So… it’s 10:24 p.m. and I’m sitting down to write this blog post. In fact, I’m sitting down to do a bunchΒ of tasks, of which this post is an early entry on the list.

I have always been a night person. In high school, it wasn’t uncommon for me to be up until 2 or 3 a.m., watching movies with friends in my living room, then rolling out half-functional at 7:30 a.m. in my neighbor’s truck, headed for school and downing enough iced tea to get me coherent along the way.

During my worst semesters of college, I worked a full-time job from 5 p.m. to 1 a.m. or later.Β I’d come home, wake up Sarah, who was an infant, and hang out with her for a few hours before dozing off around 3 a.m., and heading back to school around 8:30 a.m. I was tired, but I got to see my girl!

I met Sarah’s dad, Chris, working on the night desk at our local newspaper.Β We were often the last pair standing – heading out the door around 2 or 3 a.m.

Sarah has always needed a lot of sleep.Β When she needed to be up for school at 7:30 a.m., she’d go to bed around 8 p.m. – and when middle school started and she needed to be up at 6:30 a.m., she was crashing at 8:30 p.m., barely having time to do more than cram in her homework and wolf down dinner after getting home. And let’s not mention how Chris and I looked, walking her to the bus after (still) getting done work overnight.

So among all the other reasons that homeschooling sounded like the right fit for us, getting out of that cycle was a great bonus!

It’s definitely been a huge relief for us to be able to adapt much more to our “night owl” schedule. At the same time, we’ve come face-to-face with a lot of misconceptions. Most are the same misconceptions I faced when I worked night shifts. And most come from people who know us, and know our schedule.

I can tell you that I’ve never been upset when someone we don’t know calls us at 9 a.m. Yep, it wakes me up, but if you don’t know otherwise, I accept that. Those are “business hours,” and I’m fine with that.

I can also tell you that when people who KNOW us get upset when I don’t answer my phone at 8:30 a.m., that’s frustrating. When someone asks us what time is convenient to get together, and we say “any time between 1 p.m. and midnight,” and they laugh and suggest an 11 a.m. lunch, that kind of hurts.

Sometimes, it’s easy to want to be snappish. To want the world to operate on our schedule. That’d be awesome. (Museums open at midnight? YEAH!) But that’s not actually my goal.

Really, what I’d love is simply to have “night-owldom,” and especially homeschooling as a night owl, recognized as a legitimate and viable personality trait, the same as a preference for lima beans or hot weather – maybe not common, but totally OK.

  • We’re not lazy when we’re in bed at 10 a.m., just like you’re not lazy when you go to bed at 9 p.m.
  • We’re not antisocial when we opt out of 9 a.m. group trips, just like you’re not antisocial if you don’t join us for an 11:30 p.m. movie.
  • We don’t find midnight science experiments at all unusual, just like you don’t find 8 a.m. art projects at the breakfast table uncommon.
  • We’re not hurting our daughter’s chances at getting a “real job” someday. (This was probably the most hurtful comment I’ve received.) If Sarah wants to, she can and will get up. If she prefers, which she probably will, she’ll get a job that has her starting at 5 or 10 p.m. Hey, it worked for me and for her dad! By the same token, we know that not everyone can work second or third shift, so if your kids are getting up at 7 a.m., that’s fine too – just please, trust them to know their bodies and know the times they’re most productive.

Most of all, please know that our night-owl family isn’t judging your early-bird one. Maybe we’re even a little jealous, because you get to go to museums fully conscious! (If we do that, we’re only there 2 hours before they close!)

In return, though, let it be OK that we love nighttime. There’s plenty of daylight – or starlight – for all of us.

And if you’re a fellow night-owl homeschooler, feel free to share our nocturnal friend above. I’d love to start a tribe of “night-schoolers!”

Many thanks to Flickr user Michelle Wright for the base night-owl image!

51 thoughts on “What’s it like to homeschool as a night owl?

  1. I actually love this!! I work 12 hour shifts at night and homeschool during the day. It is draining to say three least. The other half works days though. Hhhmmm. I so need to figure out a way that we can sleep days and be up at night without disturbing him. The kiddos are all night owls just like me and would love it!!

    • Amanda, you bring up a good point and something I didn’t get into – we’re lucky because we all generally can operate on the same schedule. And in our case, having only one child, and her being older, means that even if someone’s in bed (my mom often goes up around 9:30 or 10), we’re all quiet enough and the house is large enough that it doesn’t matter too much.

      I’m glad you’re part of the night-owl club, but I can’t imagine then homeschooling during the day! You must be pretty tired! πŸ™‚

      • I do basically the same thing. I work from 3pm-12 or1am, then we have school during the day. My husband work daytime hours. I am exhausted to say the least. It’s good to know I’m not the only one doing this, though.

        • Parker, I’m glad to hear from another off-scheduler! But please, if you haven’t already tried this, don’t make yourself too exhausted by trying to cram in too many “school hours!” That’s the great thing about homeschooling – it doesn’t mean an 8-hour “learning day!”

  2. This makes me think. Lilah had the hardest time getting up for school (she still has a hard time getting up) because she likes to lay and bed and read, or write, or draw until 11:00 or so. The problem? I am not a night owl and neither is her sister. This often causes conflict when I have to close my eyes for the night and her sister wants to do things at 9am. This gave me perspective into Lilah’s point of view. Thank you.

    • Jessica, that’s the hardest thing, I think – when your family members are best at DIFFERENT times.

      The thing that works well for us is that now, we’re all at a phase of our life when we can operate separately. So some nights, actually, Sarah stays up later than Chris and I (if we have an “office morning” where we need to be out the door at 8 a.m. And that works fine for us!

      Tell Lilah she’s in good company, though πŸ™‚

  3. I really appreciate this post! I am not a night owl, but my 15 year old son is. He starts his schooling at 3pm…just when I need a break. We are still struggling to work out a reasonable way of working it out, but I strongly believe in his right to do things when he wants to, despite the fact that some people think he is just being lazy.

    • Phyllis, I so agree! And at 15, he is really becoming aware of his own body and what works for him. Sarah really is just now starting to “realize” she’s a night person – before, she was just a tired, unfocused daytime person, and now, she’s finding that when she works at her prime time, she can really accomplish things, so it’s been nice for her to have that feeling of satisfaction in it!

      But I think managing in a larger family has got to make it much harder to accommodate that – especially, like you said, because that’s when you’re ready for a REST! And with the number of activities you guys do together, that’s got to be hard too! πŸ™‚

    • My Mr 15 and I are running into the same issues. A couple of compromises are helping. Firstly, I stopped “helpfully” reminding him to start work at an hour that was acceptable to me, and he stopped assertively requiring my help in my “off-duty hours”. As he’s got busier with outside stuff we realised we needed more overlap in on duty hours so he is now starting earlier and I’m remaining available later. It’s mostly working.

  4. Thanks for stopping by my blog. I think I might have gotten the ad off. IT was a vocal ad. So when you open the page it starts playing this ad. YOu hear it not see it. I went in Html and looked around. I found something there that didn’t look fimilar so I deleted and I haven’t heard the sound since. I am hoping whatever it was that that was it. πŸ™‚

  5. Super cool image, Joan! Great post. I love how homeschooling is so flexible for a family. If I ever run for president — we should all homeschool and work at home. Imagine how peaceful our lives would be then? : )

    • Pick me for a Cabinet position in THAT administration, Shawn!

      I hereby enact the yoga pants law of 2016. Yoga pants shall be considered appropriate attire for all situations! πŸ™‚

      And you’re so right – the PEACE that comes with flexibility, that’s the part that’s priceless!

  6. I think it’s awesome that you all have found a way to make your sleep/awake schedules work for you! I LOVE the flexibility of homeschooling πŸ™‚ We are not exactly night owls, but we do tend to do things on the later end than lots of people. Whenever my nieces spend the night with us, it’s always a struggle because they’re used to going to bed much earlier than my girls.

  7. I love this Joan and so agree. At this point in my life I am not a night owl but I have been and I struggled through my days too. Keilee still gets up early but I have already decided if she wants to sleep until noon that will be fine with me. I have ALWAYS believed that one day they will discover that alarm clocks take years off your life. It has got to be a shock to your system day after day to be startled awake. Thankfully we use our alarm clock very rarely. Wonderful post. Isn’t it amazing how homeschooling works differently for different families? πŸ™‚

    • That’s the key – that you both respect each other and that whatever works for you will be OK with the other! I like that you guys have the same “personal time zone,” just like I like that we do, because it means we can spend more time together, but if it didn’t work for Sarah, I’d be OK with that too!

  8. I’m so happy to have found your blog! I am a total night owl and it is really hard to homeschool.My son isn’t an early bird but he gets up at 9 or 10 usually. I struggle to get up at 11 am. I feel like such a bad mom. What stinks is even when I force myself to go to sleep at 9 or 10 pm….I still oversleep. My son is able to get work done on his own until I get up but lately we’ve had problems with him sneaking food or playing until I get up. I try to get my sleep schedule to fit him but I constantly fail. I’m honestly thinking about starting school at 1 pm like a friend of mine. I’m just not sure how we will finish in time before afternoon activities. I don’t mind him playing in the morning if I allow it but I do worry about the sneaking food issues and tormenting the cat. I worry something might happen to him. He’s seven and we’re finishing up 2nd grade.

    I also get a lot done at night. I’ve always been a night owl. Even in elementary school I could stay up all night during sleepovers. My Dad made me go to bed early during Highschool when I lived with him but I was still late almost every day. When he let me help him with his late night paper shift (starting at 1 am) I had fun and did good staying up…eating at the waffle house. Those close to me know that I am very productive at night but I know some people think I’m lazy. I’m constantly told that it’s unhealthy. Our homeschool group has field trips really early. The one that was at 11 frustrated some people because their kids were ready for naptime and lunch. We were happy to make it to a trip for once. I truly think this world is made for morning people.

    I’m 28 and I have actively tried for years to become a morning person…or honestly just a daytime person period. Sunday morning church is such a struggle for me….especially Sunday School. I hate alarm clocks but I do have a hard time waking up on my own. I fall back asleep several times. I truly feel weak in the morning (noon even). It takes me a couple of hours to get fully awake. When I was a kid my Mom would put a wet rag on my face, bring me hot tea, and turn music on to help me up. The music got my adrenaline going. My hubby helps me sometimes and my mom still calls me every now and then to wake me up. Pitiful I know. Anywho, I’m so glad to find your blog and maybe this will help me make my afternoons and nights more productive. Sorry this comment was so long. I’m just so happy to meet a homeschooling night owl! God bless!

    • Amber, I am so glad you stopped by!! I am here to tell you that you’re NOT lazy or a bad mom. You are amazing. I think people negate how hard it is to operate on the world’s general schedule when it’s NOT your prime time, and I for one know just how hard that is!

      I will tell you, too, that it gets easier the older your kids get. Even if we had been homeschooling, I think I would have had a harder time of things when Sarah was younger. So my prayer is that you and your son will find a rhythm that works for both of you in the coming couple of years (though I know it’s hard in the meantime!)

      I also had to laugh, as I am NEVER one for Sunday school or early service – 10 a.m. service is a job all by itself!! πŸ™‚

      I’m definitely going to be following your family’s journey – and I hope you’ll stop back sometimes and see what we’re up to at night! (Did you see our midnight yoga post that was a couple weeks after this one?)

  9. A big fat amen and God bless you for doing what is right and true for your family no matter what the nosy insecure busy bodies say πŸ™‚

  10. My husband has continuously worked jobs where he winds up with late shifts. For so long I tried to keep a different schedule and it just caused repeated problems. Plus, my husband never got to spend any time with the kids. When I lined up our “night owl schedule” with my husband’s, things went much more smoothly. I have lived with the same prejudicial behaviors from others. The implication that we are lazy because we get up later in the day. Amen, good post!

    • Andrea, I’m so glad to hear we’re not alone – and also glad that you guys were able to line up that way. It really is hard to juggle opposite shifts; we did that for WAY too long and it was such a stress on all of us.

      I’m so much happier now (even with the prejudices!) and I have to keep reminding myself of that.

      Thank you so much for stopping by!

  11. I just had to comment and say that I am a fellow night owl and a fellow homeschooling mom. We learn everywhere, anywhere, at any time of day πŸ™‚ My husband used to work until midnight and I got such flack for having my 4 year old awake past midnight, but otherwise he wouldn’t have gotten any time with dad at all since dad was asleep during most of the day. I don’t do things conventionally in many areas of my life because I try not to squeeze us into a tiny little box of guidelines that have been set by others because this is our life, not theirs! I really have never been more proud of the life that we lead because we are making all of the choices based on what is best for our family and how can we be faulted for that, right? πŸ™‚ Cheers!

    • Kori, I’m late answering your comments but HI!! I love, love, love meeting fellow night owls. We’re actually even shifting later than we were when I wrote this post earlier this year, because my husband is back on primarily evening/night shifts, getting home around 2 a.m. most nights. And you are so right – when else would you have family time! πŸ™‚

      Glad to make a new unconventional virtual friend. πŸ™‚

  12. Such a nice article! My hubby is a night owl, so are my kids, but I’m a morning person!! I feel guilty if I let them sleep in, so struggle to wake them up every morning. i cannot get over the feeling that early birds get the worm and they are missing out, will be seen as lazy, and the worst – how will they ever get jobs? Does the Bible have much to say about sleep/wake habits or times?

    • It is definitely a mindset change, that’s for sure! As far as Biblical references, there are people who will quote parts about rising before the sun and so on, but there are as many that reference those who stay up all night to keep the lamps burning… even in those days, we had a night shift! πŸ™‚

  13. Love this! That describes my homeschooling family exactly! I find myself constantly feeling guilty or even having to defend ourselves to the early-birds that surround us. I, as well as my husband & children, have spent a large portion of life rising early to try to conform to everyone’s standards here. We finally had to take a stand, pull our daughter out of school, & do it our way. We may not start schoolwork till after lunch, but it gets done. It’s nice to see my daughter actually learning on her own schedule instead of “sleepwalking through school mornings like a zombie”-her first-grade teacher’s words! Thanks for validating us. Now if I could only convince my retired, but still 5:30am rising, 10:00 pm bedtime mom! Lol

    • Hey, one step at a time, Crystal! You rock… and I am so glad you were willing to stand up for what works for your family. It isn’t easy – and you’re right, there’s a lot of time where I feel like I have to defend my decisions too. But I’m so glad your daughter is no longer sleepwalking through learning!! πŸ™‚

  14. This is precisely the reason we intend to homeschool our 4 year old. My husband and I are both night owls, and our son has been one since he was born. His NICU nurses even told us that his testing was bad at 7am, but fine by 11. Everyone around us are frightening morning ppl, but I told ppl that if they called us at 9 am, I was calling them at 2am the next night. They eventually got the hint. πŸ™‚ Thankyou for this post. I was beginning to think we were the only night owls out there with a kid!

    • HA. I use that line too and it really does work (eventually), doesn’t it?!?! I’m so glad you know now that you’re not alone. I used to get really weird looks when I’d have Sarah out at the store at midnight when she was 4 or 5… people would be outraged! I wish I had had better strategies at the time for dealing with it instead of being embarrassed.

      Good luck, fellow night owls!

  15. I’m right there with you. Until the last year or so, we were all night owls. I’m slowly changing my ways. My oldest would frequently do her schoolwork between midnight and 3 AM. My mom used to ask how she was ever going to work a regular shift. I said, “She’ll either adapt or work 3rd.”

    Now that same kid is in cosmetology school. She has to be there at 9:30 every morning. As you know, that’s EARLY for a night owl. You know what, though? She’s adapting, just like I said she would.

    • Kris, that is what we always say too! I’m never going to be a morning person, but I’m getting a bit earlier the older I get (I also just feel like I need more sleep lately?!) The funny thing is when we have to be somewhere early, Sarah (the biggest night owl of all) is the one who’s up and ready; I’m the laggard!

  16. Thanks for your post! I work night shift as well from home and homeschool, makes me feel a little less alone! lol

  17. This is a revelation to me. I have always been a night owl, struggled through school. My children all night owls and struggling. Time for a change! Trying to get schoolwork done in the AM is impossible as we would all like to be doing a million other things instead. We are behind at least 2 weeks due to trying to fit in schoolwork,housework,chores and life during the day. So now I say screw it , my hubs and I chose homeschooling because we were not happy with our kids being made to conform and fall into line at someone’s bidding. So why was I trying to get them to conform to a 8-3 schedule that We all hated? Thank you thank you for showing me the light.

  18. Here I am at 12:30 am-ish googling “Homeschool Night Owl”…so happy I found your post! The kids and I could manage when their school went from 9:30 am to 4pm…but then when moved to land-of-the-earlybirds where grade school starts at 7:50am. The bus (which we never made) came at 7:05 am…pure insanity! My kids asked why I was getting them up at night (the winter is very dark here)! One semester of that was enough. I never thought I would homeschool, but the early schedule and homework made us all super cranky and snarly. I just couldn’t go on living that way. We are half way into our first year of homeschooling and I feel so much better physically. The kids seem much happier. BUT I have been feeling guilty about our late starts…I usually tell people we start at 10ish if they ask, but really it is more 11ish. Knowing that there are other night owls out there makes me feel so much better. Thank you!

    • Melissa, I’m so glad you found us!! I’m so glad your family has found a way to live life on a schedule that works for you. The guilt is hard – I totally get you there – but it gets better. Honest. Keep embracing who you are! πŸ™‚

  19. So glad I found this! I am a single mom, full time grad school student and homeschooler. My child is such a night owl! She is only 7 and I have tried for 2 years to “put her to bed at a normal hour” but all that happens is that she gets up at 10 wide awake “Thanks for the nap mom” LOL. That’s the whole point of homeschooling right? to adjust to your families needs, even if it’s just 2 of you. I feel much better about night homeschooling, and she actually seems to be happier when she sleeps later in the day and goes to bed when she wants, which is usually 11 or 12 midnight. I think some people were made to be night people, after all there are nocturnal animals, why not nocturnal humans?

    • Yay!!! I am so glad you found us , but more importantly I’m glad you are finding what works for you and your daughter! I firmly believe that working with your natural schedule instead of against it means you learn and accomplish a ton more. I hope you’ll stay in touch and let me know how it’s going.

  20. Hi. My name is Marisa. I am homeshcool my two boys. I;m a single mum and have always been an night owl. I have always felt guilty about my desire to stay up late. I’m also a writer and that’s my me time. the bewitching hours. My kids enjoy playing music..They are still young,but I feel my kids just follow their passions and interests. They go to sleep when they feel like, and lately it’s been like five in the morning. It’s not always this late or early but that’s how it is. I worry that I have corrupted my kids with this night time inclination I have. They are quite creative and clever. But I still don’t feel good about it. What do you think?

    • Marisa, I wouldn’t worry about that at all! People – yes, kids too – find the schedules that work for their bodies. If they didn’t feel good on that schedule, they would not keep it. Also, I will point out that people who put their kids to bed at 9 p.m. or earlier because it’s the schedule the adults in the house are on do the same thing you’re describing every day and it’s not viewed as “corruption” by any means!

  21. I like many others here, am so happy to have found this blog. I work overnights and my son who is almost 14 doesn’t sleep due to some health issues and his ADHD.

    I have been trying for so long now on how to make homeschooling not so hard on him or me and I have come across some amazing ideas here!

    Thank you, thank you!!

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