Home-schooled students may be better equipped to learn because they're getting a lot more sleep, a new study suggests.
The first-of-its-kind national study of more than 2,600 adolescents, including about 500 home-taught kids, found that home-schooled students slept an average of 90 minutes more per night than students attending public or private schools.
By the end of the week, that's almost an entire night's sleep traditional students are missing, says Lisa Meltzer, the study's lead author and an assistant professor of pediatrics at National Jewish Health in Denver. She says the changes brought by adolescence include alterations to when the sleep hormone melatonin is released in teens' bodies.
Meltzer spent 2012 gathering and analyzing the data and finalized them this month. The study found that 55% of home-schooled teens got the optimal amount of sleep per week, as opposed to 24.5% of traditional public and private school students.
"You've living in Philadelphia, but your internal clock is in California," Meltzer says. "As the week goes on, that sleep debt accumulates and makes it harder to learn."
Holly Syx, 36, says home-schooling her six kids in Adger, Ala., means greater flexibility in schedules and a "very relaxed" atmosphere. She remembers hating to wake up early when she attended school, and she lets her kids wake up when they want. Learning starts around 9 a.m., she says, but they get more done than if the kids were in school.
The inflexible schedule of conventional school systems is a big reason many parents choose to teach their kids at home, says Brian Ray, president of the National Home Education Research Institute in Salem, Ore. Ray says more than 2 million kids are home-schooled in America. He says strict schedules, including early start times, means schools "run the family, rather than the family and kids running their lives."
"Home-based education makes it possible to have customization of education that schoolteachers dream of, and frankly don't get to do," Ray says.
Traditional high school educations provide valuable experiences and activities that home-schooled kids may miss out on, counters Frank Wells, a spokesman for the California Teachers Association. He says the sleep discrepancies may be caused in part by students' overloaded schedules, but "regardless of where kids go to school, parents and teachers need to work together to make sure students are getting the rest they need."
Hughes reports for the Fort Collins Coloradoan