If your child has attended a regular state school before, or any other kind of school for that matter, did you ever notice that maths class was most often in the early morning? Many schools seem to avoid putting subjects like maths and physics after lunch or in the afternoon if they can avoid it.
Why is that? The main reason for this is that they are the subjects many students find challenging, and so teaching them when students are freshest, and most alert is better. This principle still holds well in the homeschool environment.
Benefits of studying in the morning:
Benefit 1: The brain is more refreshed
During sleep, the brain doesn’t just switch off. It goes into “de-frag” mode, where it organises and consolidates all the information you’ve taken on board that day. If you’ve ever noticed that after a night’s sleep, you suddenly have the solution to a problem that was nagging at you all day previously, you know what we’re talking about.
After waking up, the brain is at its most organised, least distracted and more receptive to new information. This is why difficult subjects are best placed in the morning session.
Benefit 2: Natural light helps to keep you awake
There’s no better light to keep us alert and feeling bright ourselves than that of natural light. The morning sun has an invigorating and inspiring effect on us, and so this makes for a better learning experience. This is even true with the greyish cloud-covered skies of England. Even that is better than any artificial light source.
Benefit 3: Helps maintain a regular and healthy sleep schedule
By completing hard study in the morning, eating a healthy lunch and then completing familiar subjects and exercise in the afternoon, we get a nice balanced school day where we expend energy and engage productively with the time we are given. The evenings can then be used for rest and leisure time before settling in for a comfortable and healthy sleep.
People who lose and then regain this cycle will always marvel at the marked positive impact it has on our productivity and ability to learn and finish tasks more satisfactorily.
In Nolan Pope’s March 2016 paper, “How the Time of Day Affects Productivity: Evidence from School Schedules,” he remarked on the stark differences in maths scores between students who took subjects earlier in the day to those who took them nearer the end of the day. Those studying earlier in the day did quite a lot better, and while it’s not conclusive by itself, it’s a strong indicator of the validity of teaching harder subjects earlier.
Does this mean night-time study is definitely out?
Absolutely not. The fact remains that none of the above is absolutely 100 percent true for all people. By and large, it applies well to many people, but that doesn’t mean you can’t do anything productive with your afternoons and evenings!
There are numerous benefits to learning at night if you feel you’re more of a night owl. This is especially true during GCSE and A-Level preparation when the benefits are strongest.
First, it’s quieter at night.
With little or no traffic noise outside and no hustle and bustle in the house, nighttime is a pleasant time to study, especially for subjects where you have to write essays and therefore benefit from peace and quiet.
Second, there are fewer distractions.
With most people asleep, you’re less likely to get distracting text messages and other smartphone notifications, which are often more geared to keeping you distracted during daylight hours. This means you can focus better.
Third, you can experience a lot of creativity at night.
When searching for inspiration or insight into creative subjects like art and English literature, the dark, solemn night may well give you the jolt of originality and curious thought you need to find your way to your learning goals. The night does interesting things to us, and the effects can be both academically valuable and productive.
If you’re wondering what styles you might use to teach the more difficult GCSE and A-Level subjects, then you should check out part 5 of the homeschooling series, which covers different teaching and learning styles. You should also check out other parts in the series --- part 1 deals with budgeting, part 2 with courses and exam boards, part 3 with exam centres and part 4 with getting the best out of online materials. Look out for the next part of the series, too, which will be about making use of outside help.