Some intriguing things are associated with homeschooling. Dr. Lisa Meltzer does research on sleep in children with chronic illnesses, the impact of deficient sleep on adolescents with asthma, and developing objective and subjective measures of pediatric sleep. Dr. Meltzer and her colleagues (National Jewish Health , 2013) recently completed a study on the sleep habits of homeschooling teenagers compared to those in public schools and private schools.
“Adolescents need nine hours of sleep a night and if they’re only getting seven hours, on average, by the end of the week they are a full ten hours of sleep behind schedule,” said Meltzer, “and that impacts every aspect of functioning.”
Meltzer and her colleagues collected data on the sleep patterns of 2,612 students; about 500 of whom were homeschooled. The researchers “… found that adolescent homeschooled students slept an average of 90 minutes more per night than public and private school students, who were in class an average of 18 minutes before homeschooled children even awoke.”
Some think that simply sending the teen to bed earlier will solve sleep-deprivation problems. Dr. Meltzer says things are not that simple. “Melatonin, the hormone that helps regulate our sleep, shifts by about two hours during puberty. So, even if they wanted to get to sleep earlier, teenagers are battling biological changes in their bodies that are nearly impossible to overcome.” She said that some of them physiologically simply cannot fall asleep earlier in the night, and that some need to be allowed to sleep later.
Maybe there is a hidden benefit of parent-led home-based education that many people have not considered. “The study concluded that more than half (55%) of teens who were homeschooled got the optimal amount of sleep per week, compared to just 24.5% of those who attend public and private schools. Conversely, 44.5% of public and private school teens got insufficient sleep during the school week, compared to only 16.3% of homeschooled teens.” Dr. Meltzer said, “The differences are stark.”
It is possible that better sleep gives home-educated students an advantage in terms of academic learning over students in state (public) and private institutional schools. If so, it is possible that this might explain the consistent research finding that the homeschooled perform above average of public school students, on average.
Some institutional schools have attempted their schedules to help with teens’ sleep but the challenges are many. The timing and scheduling of sports teams and leagues, busing, and more are all intricately linked to the in-school schedule.
There are many things that are systemically available in the home-based education environment that are not in institutional schooling. Dr. Meltzer’s research suggests that the right amount of sleep for teens might be one of them.
National Jewish Health. (2013). Study: Homeschool students sleep better; Research supports later start times for high school. Retrieved June 19, 2013 from http://www.nationaljewish.org/about/mediacenter/pressreleases/2013/homeschool-sleep/.
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