Why you should consider ditching your set start time

 Written by Kara Fleck

This year in our homeschool the Fleck Academy is trying something new: no set start time. That’s right, we’re ditching it. The kids begin their lessons whenever they want to.

And it hasn’t evolved into total chaos.

No, seriously, it’s been a positive thing. All the boxes are checked at the end of the day. In fact, knock on wood, our mornings are going smoother than they have in some time.

I first read about this idea on Facebook when another homeschooling mom was talking about how it is better for her teens, who need more sleep. I was intrigued.

For years I’ve been dedicated to our rhythms and routines, including a set time to start the day. But I did wonder if this could have some benefits – especially for my teen, who I know isn’t getting enough sleep.

I also saw an opportunity to balance the needs of all four kids, who I imagined would naturally stagger their individual start times each day. I wondered if this would keep me from feeling spread too thin as a homeschool mom.

Could this possibly be a good fit for us?

It turns out that yes, I’m finding some solid benefits to this no set start time thing. Crazy at is sounds to me, the mama who normally sets many alarms on her phone to guide her day, this is working for us. Working well, in fact.

It is working for me and my younger kids

I’m naturally an early riser. I enjoy that time before my kids wake up. Even my earliest waking child is usually still asleep at 7 a.m. That gives me plenty of time for starting the day the slow motion way that I do best.

I set up my mama “camp” at the kitchen table the way that I normally would on a homeschool day, and as they are ready the kids get started.

It’s more relaxed, a little sweeter, and feels like things happen in a more natural flow.

That’s a plus for this mama.

I get more one-on-one time with my youngest kids. They want to jump right into lessons after breakfast and both have been consistently finished by lunchtime.  

Our mornings are books and crafts and writing and math and it’s fun, this little morning elementary school we have going on. This is working for them.

My older kids benefit from the flexibility

My middle child still stars around 10 a.m., which has been our traditional start time in the past.

Sometimes he is up early with his younger sisters, but he prefers to spend the morning reading or watching YouTube and moving at the slow motion speed of his mother. Ahem.

He gets math and some of his less favorite subjects out of the way before lunch, then after lunch works for a few more hours to finish up the rest, saving his history reading for last because that is his favorite.

This is working for him.

My teen has been in two modes. Some days she is up early and doing her first lessons of the day, books open while she eats breakfast and I’m still brewing my first cup of coffee.

Some days she sleeps in, joins us before lunch and then works away the afternoon and early evening. She is getting everything assigned to her done each day either way.

This is working for her.

No more nagging

You know what else is working? People are getting more sleep and are less grouchy. There are no arguments about getting going in the morning. I don’t have to nag them to get them to the kitchen table. They show up ready to get to work.

Before we started this school year I talked to the kids about no set start time. I clearly laid out what would be expected of them. I told them if I started to notice them slipping in their work, or if folks seemed like they were taking advantage, we would go back to our normal schedule.

To tell the truth my fear was that I’d be prying the Playstation controller out of my teenagers’ hand at 4 o’clock and angrily waving math assignments around every afternoon.

Instead, I’ve been impressed with the ownership of their time the kids have taken, especially my older three. Knowing these kids as I do, those fears weren’t really justified to begin with. I’m a pretty lucky homeschool mom in that regard.

Your mileage may vary, of course. I’m not convinced this would work in every homeschooling household, but this no set start to the school day is working out well for the Flecks. So far, so good at least.

I’m glad we decided to give it a chance.

Have you ever tried a staggered start time, or letting kids start on their own schedule?

About Kara

Kara is mother of four, a caregiver, and a striped sock knitter. Uncomplicated and unconventional, you can find her sharing simple living tips at K. Elizabeth Fleck.


  1. I like the ideas, but not the title of the post (“Why you should ditch your set start time”) I don’t think we all SHOULD do anything. I love hearing what is working great for others but it might not be what I (or other readers) should be doing right now. I, for one, do not want to ditch my (approximate ) set start time. 🙂

    • I completely agree and that was my fault, Jen! I changed the title from the one Kara had initially given, more as something for people to consider. So now I’ve updated it to reflect that intention. Thanks for the suggestion!

  2. Yes, we did this a few years back. We have an end time instead 😉 I discovered all of these and love the no nagging. Great article.
    Jen’s latest post: Family Hiking Safety Tips You Need To Know Before Hitting The Trail With Kids

    • Yesssss! We do this too now with a set end time – 4 pm is our stop & crash with TV or books before dinner prep, night routines, etc begin. It helps offset that feeling that I’m pulling a second shift doing all the night stuff, especially when we have an early riser & I’m wiped out by then.

  3. Hmm…I like this idea BUT I always start my homeschool day with our read alouds/talking about our personal devotions/going over our memory verse. My middle child hates getting going in the morning and daddles like crazy so this might work for her. If she isn’t nagged, it seems like she never gets anything done…Something I’ll have to think about.

    • I was thinking the SAME thing. How do I do that morning group work? We do Bible, memorization, etc. I like the idea but not sure how to reconcile the two.

      • One possibility would be to make the morning group work into late-morning or before-lunch group work. You could start the day with staggered starts–independent reading, things that need mom’s unique attention, or even chores–and then take a group gathering time at, say, 11 before lunch prep. Or at 2, or at 4, or whatever. I have our “group work” bag, and while we usually do it in the morning at the table, at least once a week, the bag comes with us on our hike and we do it in the tree house or meadow or creek bank.

  4. That’s how we have always done homeschool. My kids wake up pretty much on their own. We sometimes do paperwork first thing in the morning and sometimes it is after lunch. I agree with what someone else said about having an end time as well. I don’t necessarily have a specific end time; but if it starts getting closer to supper time, I would encourage them to find a stopping point and resume in the morning.

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