if he's falling asleep in front of the tv and not
getting himself to
bed, is he really listening to his body about sleep?
A bed isn't the only place to sleep though. The idea
that sleeping must equal a bed is the same thing as
saying that eating equals a fork.
When our children were babies and others would ask "when does he go to bed?" Keith used to say "About half an hour after he goes to sleep."
For the first MANY years of their lives, our kids fell asleep being nursed, or being held or rocked by dad or mom, or in the car on the way home from something fun. They slept because they were sleepy, not because we told them to. So when they got older, they would fall asleep near us, happily.
We never minded putting them in the bed after they were asleep. It was rare they went to sleep in the bed. They would wake up there (or in our bed, or on the couch or on a floor bed) knowing only that they had been put there and covered up by someone who loved them.
Going to sleep wasn't about "going to bed."
Emily Strength wrote, in early 2016:
With bedtimes, sometimes in an unschooling household it looks like seeing that the child is engaged in something fun and interesting late in the evening and saying "yes, you can continue!" or answering a request to start a new project at 9 at night, because the energy and enthusiasm is there. Sometimes it looks like helping a tired child wind down earlier with a relaxing routine, some snuggles, a tv show or whatever helps. Sometimes it's saying no, we can't stay up late tonight because we have a big day planned tomorrow and sweetly helping them transition to bed.
What it shouldn't look like is "Time for bed, because it's 8pm and that's when the experts say you need to be in bed and I'm tired of dealing with you." Big world between that and a gentle routine with a young kid.
Just be prepared to be flexible and willing to change as your child gets older and maybe wants to stay up later. As you deschool and say yes more, knowing how to handle it in a way that is beneficial for unschooling, and for your relationship, will get easier.
Kerryn, on UnschoolingDiscussion:
I have just been reminded how children don't naturally hate to go to sleep. What I mean is, when a child in our house is tired, they choose to go to bed.
My 3.5yo dd comes to me at night and asks for someone to help her get dressed and put her to bed. My 1.5yo ds takes me by the hand when he is ready for sleep at night and takes me to bed.
Even when I flake out pretty early, I know the children aren't far behind. They'll finish their book, or movie, or craft, or computer work, make sure the fire is stoked, and head off to bed.
I remember in the early years of parenting I had made arbitrary bedtimes for various ages. There have been times of tears and stress. But I feel I've been liberated over the last couple of years. I trust the children to know when they are tired and when they are ready to sleep.
I will say, though, that my 11yo ds took quite some time to catch on to understanding his sleep requirements. I allowed him to choose his retiring time (not spoken) and it was for many months the early hours of the morning. He'd need toothpicks to hold his eyelids up, but he felt the need to explore those early morning hours. It was his response to definite bed times for many years.
Now he'll go to bed when he is ready, and it has tended to be earlier rather than later. He has just slid into what most of the other family members do. I am not saying early to bed is more right, just that he has decided to 'do as the natives do' so to speak.
I am glad for our family that I have been able to let go of control of my children's sleep and allow them to regulate their rest times.
Joanna Murphy wrote on Always Learning, in May 2009:
The biggest mistake I made in transitioning to radical unschooling was that I didn't transition. I thought I needed to make a pronouncement about bedtimes and food. I really didn't. I now, many years later, see that I just needed to make MY shifts in seeing how to support them and facilitate their lives—and then do it.
My son asked me, soon after we "stopped doing bedtimes" to please be more present with bedtimes. I had an idea that he "needed" to make these decisions for himself—but that wasn't true for him at all. It was too big and scary, and he stopped wanting to go to bed—probably because he didn't want to face the lights-out transition alone. 20/20 hindsight! LOL I really didn't get that there might be fear and/or abandonment involved—that insight came much later.
We now have a way that works well for us that everyone goes to bed with the last adult (that can stay awake—LOL). It is more important to both my kids to have that help and companionship at bedtime than it is to stay up late. It also supports their desires to do things earlier, since they are still both sleeping about 11 hours. If they go to bed much later than me, the next day is mostly gone when they wake up (as far as doing things with other people).
Nancy K. / aisliin, responding to someone new to the idea (the one in italics) on AlwaysLearning@yahoogroups.com:
Now about the not enforcing a bedtime - WHY???
I think one word in this sentence says it all:
Enforcing. I certainly don't want to live in a home
where I feel that other people are "enforcing" things
upon me, and so I don't subject my children to that
sort of behavior. Around here we talk about issues
where we might be in disagreement and try to reach
solutions that appease everyone.
Your kids do not need you to help them sleep and you
being there probably actually keeps them from
It is not against the unschooling train of thought
to insist that
children be in their rooms by a certain time each
We remind him about 7:00 every night that it is about
time for bed...
So at seven every night he is reminded that he is not
allowed free will in the simple act of knowing when he
is tired and acting accordingly. I'm not trying to be
snipey, just translating how it would feel to ME if I
were in his shoes. I HAVE often been in such a
circumstance as a child myself, and that IS how I
he knows the routine...