Discussions, bedtime, perception

PREFACE, February 2014:

The exchange here isn't for beginners. If you're looking for ideas about sleep, please go to SandraDodd.com/sleep

At one level, the info below is about the problem of "no bedtime!"—how people misinterpret "no arbitrary bedtime" to "never ask a child to go to bed, ever."

As the discussion went on, though, it came to be about whether someone can say that another is "a good parent." —Sandra Dodd

This is from a thread that was deleted from Radical Unschooling Info (a facebook group), but there were good responses. Mom1:

So am I doing this wrong?? 4 year old and one year old have a set bedtime so does my highschooler (on weekdays) my 11 year old just goes to bed whenever.... The younger 2 are just full of cranky if not on a schedule.... They only really get to choose what they want for breakfast or lunch altho the younger 2 are just eating what I make the majority of the time.... I feel like reading some of these posts that I'm a"bad" parent for making my kids eat what I make or making them have a bedtime....they also have chores too.. Is that wrong???
Sandra Dodd:
"A set bedtime" might not be as good as letting a one-year-old fall asleep when he's tired. But if it's working for them, for now, let it be as it is. If they eat what you make, bonus.

If you're *making* them, though, that's not the same as "just eating what I make," so be honest with yourself about what is pressed on them and what they're choosing.

You asked "Is that wrong???" about chores. Don't do anything you don't understand. Figure out gradually how and whether you want to change what you're doing. Don't do anything because you vaguely think unschoolers "have to." THAT is wrong.

Read a bit here now and then, and let it seep in gradually: SandraDodd.com/chores There's a lot of good writing on chores on Joyce's site, too: Chores

Radical Ideas about Chores
Kids blossom and get bigger from doing adult things because they want to, instead of kid-things they have to do because they're small.

Sandra Dodd:
The whole bedtime thing has become a kind of monstrous religion for some families, and a disaster for some others.

NEVER, ever did my kids stay up all night when they were young. I was the first one to be writing about not having arbitrary bedtimes, because we never did, from birth. But for a family that DID have a bedtime by the clock, for them to let kids stay up later sometimes, for real reasons, makes sense. For them to tell the kids "You can stay up as late as you want" makes ZERO sense, especially if someone needs to go to work in the morning, or they're in an apartment building where the neighbors are trying to sleep, or if the kids will stay up late for no other reason than that they finally can and it seems wild and exotic and exciting.

I'm very sorry that ever happened in ANY family.

When Marty was 14 he stayed up nearly all night beause a friend wanted to. Marty saw no purpose, and fell asleep just before morning, but his friend was THRILLED with the **freedom** from his mom's house and rules.

When we were all sharing a computer, and then when he first had his own computer, Kirby used to stay up until about 5:00 playing video games, but it was because it was a time when he could get uninterrupted hours on his games, when others were asleep.

Without all the crazed excitement of years of rules being lifted, children will get tired and want to go to sleep at some point. Parents can help them wind down, and get the house darker, and quieter, and make bedtime peaceful and desirable. But after years of "NO, I said get in the bed and stay there" (which I heard a few hundred times myself), the idea of that changing is very exciting.

Holly Blossom:
More important than the question " am i getting it wrong?", is asking the question:

Is what I am asking of my children building our relationship, responding to their changing needs and helping our days flow with ease, are our days infused with sweetness, responsiveness, joy?

After a day of play and togetherness my 2 year old will often be tired and need to sleep before my older one.

I make it easy by snuggling, reading, in bed, dimly lit room. I respond to her energy levels and how she is showing me she is feeling. Some nights she is full of beans and will crawl into my lap when she is done, some nights there is a knowing between us that its time and I make a quiet space for her to chill and fall asleep.

"unschooling" bed time and meals is about responding to each child's different and ever changing needs.

Robin 'Ehulani Bentley:
This page has links to lots of common parenting issues: SandraDodd.com/life
Joyce Kurtak Fetteroll:
*** NEVER, ever did my kids stay up all night when they were young ***

By "young" do you mean 4ish?

I think Kat would occasionally stay up all night at 8. It became more often as puberty approached when she found friends she talked with all night on the phone or over the internet.

One draw of the night is total freedom from interruptions and the rhythm of daytime life. I rarely interrupted her in the day but knowing that there was zero chance of being interrupted I think felt empowering for her. It was like living on your own without all the responsibilities

But none of that applies to 4 yos

I've got 4 kids and I'm only one person so responding to each child's ever changing needs is a little hair pulling
My daughter has a bed time, it's 6.30...but sometimes it's earlier if she's very tired, sometimes it is later if there's something interesting going on in the evening...but the later she goes to bed, the earlier she gets up. This makes her very cranky and miserable through the day. As for chores, my little one is 3 yrs 6 months, and she does chores. She does them with me because she enjoys them - makes her feel like a valued member of our family. She sometimes asks me if there's any washing for her to hang out. I don't know a great deal about radical unschooling, I joined group out of interest (though I am going to home ed her), but I think as long as you're not forcing your kids to do anything/shouting etc, and you give them love and attention, you can't possibly be a bad parent. Have some faith in yourself.
Alex Polikowsky:
"....and she does chores. She does them with me because she enjoys them..."

Are people under the impression that we do not let out kids do chores and help us out? that we make chores something forbidden or that they are not allowed for some reason? that unschooling parents do not ask for help with chores?

That is why we ask people that are not unschooling or are new to read and not post. It can confuse people that really want to get it :)

Ask questions if you need.

If you are interested how unschoolers do chores and why they are not required read here: SandraDodd.com/chores/

Chores and an Unschooling Childhood

No, that's not the impression I'm under at all, just this lady was wondering if she was a 'bad' parent or doing unschooling wrong because her kids have chores. I was just telling her that my daughter does chores. It was an attempt to give another person some support.
Alex Polikowsky:
My kids have never had bed times. What they had was a parent that was aware of when they were tired and helped them go to sleep.

Many parents will trust a baby to sleep when tired . They know their baby usually sleeps at certain times and they work with that. They will take the baby to a quiet room, or go for a walk, whatever helps their child sleep.
They read the signs of tired baby and help them sleep whichever way necessary for each individual child.

A child hits one or 2 and those same parents now decide that the right time to sleep is, lets say, 7PM.

So instead of looking at their child for signs of being tired, they start looking at their clock.

Struggles start to occur when kids are shifting nap times, seasons change, and other outside factors. So instead of the parents being aware their child is tired or not they are still going by the clock.

What if you kept looking at your child even if they were 2,3 or even 8?
What if you still facilitate and help and you are aware when they are tired and help them and create a sleep inducing environment?
What if the child can sit with you and watch a movie until they zonk out the same way you nursed them to sleep when they were babies? without struggles or bed times.

Lack of bed times does not equal leaving your child to just crash alone and unassisted . Lack of bedtime does not mean a parent not paying attention and facilitating their sleep or not creating a sleeping environment for their child to peacefully fall asleep.

I have always done that. I have always been a partner of my kids sleep.

Both my kids have come to me and asked to go to bed because they were tired but I was not waiting for them to do so. I was usually the one facilitating, helping them and being aware they were tired and ready to sleep.

I remember going upstairs to a quiet room to watch a movie and nurse my 3 year old to sleep when I could see she needed it. It happened most days at around the same time. So that was our bed time.

yeah...I'm not "radical" I guess i'm in between
Alex Polikowsky:
If you are going to give support in this group it needs to be support for her to move towards unschooling and you have stated you are not an unschooler.
Joyce Kurtak Fetteroll:
*** I think as long as you're not forcing your kids to do anything/shouting etc, and you give them love and attention, you can't possibly be a bad parent. ***

Kids will react to their perception of how they're being treated, not to the mom's perception.

The more a mom understands her kids, listens to them, sees their reactions as feedback to how well she's doing and adjusts to support them in exploring joyfully the less likely the kids and mom will have different perceptions.

But I would bet most conventional parents have a different and more positive perception of how well they're doing than their kids do. That's because conventional parenting is about molding kids into decent human beings. People -- which include kids -- don't like to be molded. Which means conventional parents accept kids being unhappy with parent decisions as part of being a parent. And in between they do love, attention, refraining from shouting and do their best not to force.

For a radical unschooling parent, an unhappy child is communication, not part of being a parent.

Alex Polikowsky:
So the question is : Do you want to keep doing what you are doing and for people here to give you support to keep doing or Do you want to understand the ideas and principles behind radical unschooling? If you want the kind support that pats you in the back and tells you you are doing great here is some for you: SandraDodd.com/support/
I am going to home educate my child autonomously, but am interested in radical unschooling, it may very well be the path for us. Why would I join the group if I wasn't interested in it? Though I think I'll go and find the info elsewhere. Mom1, good luck settling these issues/anxieties
Joyce Kurtak Fetteroll:
*** I've got 4 kids and I'm only one person so responding to each child's ever changing needs is a little hair pulling ***

If you see the big picture, yes. If you break it down into smaller problems, into moments, you could bring a recent issue you had problems with here and people might have some ideas.

People *can and do* radically unschool 4 kids successfully. They even radically unschool high needs kids, special needs kids. *If* you think your problem is unsolvable, it is! If you're to the point that what you're doing is so very definitely not working, then different won't be as scary as what you have. If you haven't reached that point then doing something different won't make sense.

Joyce Kurtak Fetteroll:
*** I feel like reading some of these posts that I'm a "bad" parent ***

Helping people change means making the people who don't want to change uncomfortable. The forum *is* for people who are seeking to change. It would be unfair to them to water down the advice so that people the forum isn't targeted for can feel more comfortable.

But if that discomfort is a voice that's whispering "I've always felt uncomfortable doing that but everyone else does ..." maybe you're ready to listen to it. But be prepared to be uncomfortable! Change is hard. It's scary. It's letting go of something familiar to embrace something that doesn't seem stable. But once you understand and get used to it, it's much more stable -- and peaceful! -- than the old way.

Sandra Dodd:
-=I've got 4 kids and I'm only one person so responding to each child's ever changing needs is a little hair pulling-=-

I hope it's your hair and not theirs.

Would having them in school make your life easier? Seriously picture it, and if "yes," consider school. If "no," then it's not the unschooling that's causing the problem. Wouldn't you want to respond to their everchanging needs if they were in school, too?

Sandra Dodd:
-=-By "young" do you mean 4ish? I think Kat would occasionally stay up all night at 8.-=-

Maybe it's easier with an only child. But I meant young, single digits. They *could have,* but they didn't. Every night, they were tired and went to sleep at some point.

It might be easier now with skype and international Minecraft games for a child to want to stay up, too.

A large house with solid walls can add to the peace and ease of a family. A tiny apartment with walls shared with neighbors, or thin walls and a dad who needs to be at work early, those will create a smaller range of reasonable options.

-=-I think as long as you're not forcing your kids to do anything/shouting etc, and you give them love and attention, you can't possibly be a bad parent. Have some faith in yourself.-=-

We're not certifying "good parents" here. We're trying to help people understand radical unschooling. Anyone with any different desire or intention should only read and not post.

If someone walks around a mall telling other people "You're an awesome mom!" and "You're a great parent!" how much is that worth? At least in that instance they would be seeing the person face to face, and could see whether the child(ren) seemed happy to be there.

But here, with just words, we don't know who's doing well. What I know is that when someone comes and asks us a question, the responses should by by radical unschoolers who are volunteering to help her see her situation in that light.

Ultimately, "better" and "good" will be seen in retrospect, or in realizations that things are WAY better than they used to be. That "better" is between children and parents, and happens when it happens, not because of anything anyone here says or thinks.

Sleep when you're tired

photo DSC_0249.jpg

It can help to encourage a child to sleep when he's tired. When children get older, parents can do it too, without feeling guilty, if it has been a policy for anyone without immediate responsibility to sleep when sleep comes.

photo by Nicole Kenyon


Whenever possible, let children wear something they could sleep in. Or let them sleep in something that wasn't really for sleeping. Put sleep above tradition or appearances. The purpose of sleep doesn't require special equipment or costumes.

Twice in the past week, I've fallen asleep in my clothes, and the sleep was wonderful. The photo is of a camphor lamp, to keep mosquitos away, in the room I'm staying in this month in India.

The top quote is from the "Toddlers" section (page 68) of The Big Book of Unschooling


If you get to sleep for a long time, be glad. If your sleep is interrupted, try to be like a cat, and just accept it. Measuring sleep and being angry about the clock will lead to neither peace nor rest. Children will wake you up. Breathe in love and remain restful.

photo by Ve Lacerda

Sleeping as love

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."

Kirby, four, fell asleep while playing.



Peace for unschoolers