Could a slight schedule-switch work wonders for you?


The following is a post by Kari Patterson of Sacred Mundane.

One simple schedule-switch worked wonders for us.

One of the main reasons we homeschool is to have the freedom and flexibility to “go with” what life brings and what needs and situations present themselves, so we’re far from rigid. But though it’s fluid, we definitely have our daily routine, and I love it.

Except when I don’t love it because I hate it.

I mean this: For me there was this particular time of day I hated. Almost always. The time when we transitioned from our morning routine (chores, breakfast, etc. ) into formal learning, namely MATH.  It seemed that every book I read said, “Do math first thing in the morning, when children’s minds are fresh.”

Bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, right?

But every day, even though I knew my son knew the material, we would struggle. He would space off. Blank-stare for ten minutes at the simplest subtraction problems I knew he knew. I would push. He would cry.

Some would say, “Don’t worry about it! Just let him study what he loves.” If the subject were something peripheral perhaps I wouldn’t mind. But math matters! Some would say, “It’s the curriculum!  Get a new curriculum.” Certainly there are times to switch approaches altogether (and I may at some point), but I liked our curriculum.

So I did what many a desperate mom has done before me. 


And then something rather obvious occurred to me:

My son is not a morning person.

So why were we doing our most focused (and most challenging) material first thing, groggy-eyed and grumpy-tailed?

Then I did something else many a desperate mom has done before me.


And interestingly, there is some research finding that time of day does greatly impact certain students’ ability to learn. And isn’t one of the benefits of homeschooling the ability to cater curriculum to each child’s needs?

Now, for those of us early-risers whose usual answer to everything is work harder, get up earlier, quit complaining, it can feel like a cop-out or really excessive catering to a child’s every whim. I didn’t want to do that. The world doesn’t revolve around whether or not you’re cheerful before 8 a.m.

But I most certainly wasn’t cheerful after waging the math-war each morning, so it was worth a try.

To my surprise, it worked.

When I suggested afternoon-school to my son, his eyes widened, incredulous. It seemed too good to be true. “You mean, in the morning I get to play?”

“Yes, after your chores you can read and play. We’ll do math after lunch.”


To my delight he spent his mornings doing what kids do best — learning as they play. He read encyclopedias and whole novels in one sitting, played outside with sticks and rocks and imagined worlds at war. He did his own thing, mostly ignoring me. (Read: my house got clean!) Then after lunch, when he was full of fun and food, I brought out the math book.

He did his lesson in record time. Not just once, but over and over. Now, I’m not saying it’s perfect, but way fewer blank stares, way fewer frustrations, way fewer tears.

All this to say, as you pencil in your schedule for the coming school-year, consider circadian rhythms.

It might just take a slight schedule-switch to work wonders for your struggling student … and you.

Your turn: How have you found schedule and/or time of day influences your homeschool?  What adjustments are you making to your schedule for next year? Thanks for reading.

About Kari Patterson

Kari Patterson and her family live out in the woods of the Pacific Northwest. As a 2nd-generation homeschooler she espouses the same philosophy her own mom did in the 80s: Cultivate a love for learning and one's education will never end. She bakes bread, brews kombucha, speaks at conferences & writes at Sacred Mundane. Her new book Sacred Mundane is available now.


  1. My kids are young still so we don’t do any formal schoolwork yet. But I have found that what we do when can make a big difference. The biggest difference I’ve noticed is how me taking 30 minutes or so of snuggle/cuddle/play time before starting everyone with chores, getting dressed, etc. has made a big difference in attitudes and cooperation. This is surprisingly hard for me because I’m a get your work done first kind of person (and a morning person on top of it) but I’ve come to enjoy the connections we make first thing in the morning. And the cooperation and productivity that follows it!
    Steph’s latest post: Where Our Influence Stops

  2. We did the same thing last year. We don’t start formal learning until after lunch. It worked SO much better. My housecleaning, phone calls, etc get done in the morning when I am at my best & his structured learning happens in the afternoons when he is at his best. I am the only one of all my HS friends with this schedule. They finish by lunch & want to set up play dates for the afternoons. It has been harder on me to stick to our schedule because of that but no drama school days are the motivator to keep going. I’m so glad I’m not the only one with an ‘afternoon boy’!

  3. Yes! We are not morning people. For as long as I can remember, we’ve done the bulk of our schoolwork in the afternoons. Morning work is the stuff that doesn’t require as much brain-power, such as read-aloud time. It works wonderfully for us.

    My older daughter just graduated. She is very much a night owl and would often do her work for the following day at midnight, then, sleep in. It worked for her and , hey, somebody’s got to work those third shift jobs. 🙂
    Kris @ Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers’s latest post: How to get the school year off to a smooth start

  4. The first three years of homeschooling we tried to pack all our school into the morning. Selfishly, so that I could run errands and clean in the afternoon. Last year I starting taking an exercise class in the morning, giving our family a 2 hour break in the middle of the day. That break has done wonders for us, recharging the day and giving us fresh minds.

  5. Yes! My son usually does so much better when we get school done right away in the morning. If we wait until the afternoon, there is lots of frustration. Even though I’m not a morning person, its much more pleasant to have school ready to do right away in the morning. I’ll need to make sure I have things ready the night before, so that will happen this coming year.

  6. I love this! Thanks for sharing some unique inspiration as I pray and prepare for our next homeschooling year. Definitely something to consider!

  7. Oh, how I love this! I have a picture on my desk that says “Be Free” to remind me that I don’t always have to do things like everyone else. It’s easy to forget sometimes though…
    Stacie’s latest post: Freebie Friday: FREE $5 at Educents for Homeschooling on a Dime Readers

  8. I had to learn this with my oldest son, thankfully the younger ones learn better in the morning or we would struggle to get school done. But my oldest learns best after 12 noon.
    Martha Artyomenko’s latest post: Life Behind the Wall by Robert Elmer

  9. I had a very similar experience. My oldest son (I have three) IS a morning person, but trying to do school in the morning was a constant struggle because he wanted to be playing with his younger brothers and not sitting with me doing math. I ended up switching our days around so he plays in the morning and we start school when his younger brothers go down for nap/quiet time after lunch, and the fights disappeared. It’s sometimes hard for me to motivate after lunch because I usually have a dip in energy around then, but we’re always guaranteed to be home and it’s not a struggle for my son to focus, so it’s worth the effort to me.

  10. This is so good to hear! My kids are both SO very active in the morning that as I was beginning to consider our homeschool schedule, I just know that it won’t work in the mornings. But it also seems that everyone does homeschool in the morning. Not us! We’ll be jumping in straight away with afternoons!

  11. Miranda says:

    My 9 year old daughter would struggle with math most mornings AND afternoons. Grrrr. But… Then I sat with her at night after the littles were in bed and wouldn’t you know…she busted through it! We tried that a few other times and it worked like a charm. Yes it was a long day for the mama but isn’t that why we homeschool? For the sake of spending more quality time with our children and teaching them HOW to learn and that everyone does it a little differently.

  12. We spent the last year doing preschool at home to get our feet wet. Now I’m trying to figure out how much structure we need and where we need it for kindergarten. One of our reasons to homeschool is that daddy works a rotating schedule and we like spending time with daddy, so that means the school day will probably be rotating with his work schedule. Which means we’ll be trying morning, afternoon and evening school. We’ll see what works.

  13. My children are grown now, and we homeschooled through high school with both of them. All you mamas are smart to pray and listen for answers when you begin thinking about your school year. Continue to pray and listen as the year progresses. Don’t be afraid to move things around, take breaks, change curriculum, whatever it takes to make your home and school work. You have your children home because you want what’s best for them right?

  14. Don’tcha just love the flexibility of homeschooling?

    My son struggled with math early in the morning, too. We started school at 7:30 because I wanted to be done earlier in the day and the kids did too. But that was just too early for him for math.

    So instead he did History and Science and English and by the time Math rolled around he was ready!

  15. My oldest is 11 and my youngest 4. I got 4 kids. WE have switched things around a lot. It really depends on the season of the year, what we are studying, their age and their current interests. Like right now, they are in the MInecraft rave. In order for them to be able to play and watch Minecraft videos, we are doing our school after our chores and morning routine in the morning. The play first and then work second was just not working. They were never ready to move away from the computer. So we had to institute a few rules: good attitudes, school and chores done will get you Minecraft time. Bad attitude, grumbling and whining about school and chores, no computer time later. It’s working so far. WE do school year around but we keep it to an hour or so every day. We do a lot of our learning with hands-on activities, reading and listening/ watching to documentaries and audiobooks. I get bored pretty quickly with the same curriculum/ routine, so we change things on a monthly base. It keeps things interesting around here. 😉
    tereza crump aka mytreasuredcreations’s latest post: Learning Log of May 2014

  16. Last year we went round for round over reading. It was the hardest thing for my 7 year old so I felt like we should do it first. It was AWFUL. This Summer, I randomly asked if she wanted to stay up an extra 30 minutes to read to me and she shocked me by saying YES! Since then, we start our bedtime routine a little bit earlier and she reads chapters (PLURAL!!) to me before bed. I thought she couldn’t read well. Turns out, she just couldn’t read well first thing in the morning. I’m planning to do a lot of schedule changing in the Fall to hopefully make our day run more smoothly.

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