Someone wrote:

Also, 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?
Brandie responded:
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.
Good point.

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."

Jayn Coburn, by her mom

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.

My son just walked up to me and said "If you were one of those mothers who gave us bedtimes I would dress up in a Superman suit and say 'I don't need sleep.'"
Janet in MN
19 May 2007

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.


Sleeping Teens, captured and commented on by Zenmomma, in a blogpost about the Live and Learn Unschooling Conference in Albuquerque in 2006. These photos are pretty sweet. (blog is gone; sorry)

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 Always Learning:

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 sleeping well.
With one of my sons (not "special needs") this is true. He doesn't need to sleep with us and if he falls asleep in our bed he will either wake up and move himself to his own bed, or wake up and ask for help moving to his own bed. He sleeps better through the night in his own bed and he knows it. He's still afraid of the dark though, and he still likes to fall asleep with us, or cuddle with us until he is very sleepy and then shuffle off to his own bed. He's five.

Our older son (7) does have nightmares and night terrors, needs the physical comfort of being next to one of us while he falls asleep, and sometimes needs to sleep with us all night. Usually we move him to his own bed after he is asleep, which he doesn't mind, or his Daddy lies down with him in his bed until he goes to sleep. He doesn't like for me to do that, just Daddy, as they have a special bond.

It is not against the unschooling train of thought to insist that your children be in their rooms by a certain time each night.

If Unschooling (damned insufficient word) is a lifestyle choice, NOT an educational style, per se; then I disagree with this statement. "Insisting" that the kids be banished to their rooms after a certain time, on room arrest as it were, regardless of their wills, desires, or plans for the evening, is not respectful of them as people. Treating kids as second class citizens and subservient members of the family, subject to your whims, is not in sync with an "unschooling train of thought." Saying that you "insist" in the first place implies that you have some leverage you are using in order to bend them to your will. How will that be accomplished in a respectful and unschooly manner?

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 felt.

he knows the routine...

Routines are fine, kids often find it comforting to know what comes next, and a routine can help even many adults wind their minds down for sleep. But this is your imposed routine, which includes the threat of not getting the special time for story with you if he fails to toe the line. It all sounds very scary to me.

Around here we don't sweat the small stuff. We try to make sure teeth get brushed before hubby and I go to bed, because they like our help. We also make sure they have something comfortable on to sleep in before we go to bed, whether that is boxer shorts, a long t-shirt, sweats, pajamas (they do have them) or whatever. If they are still playing or watching a show or something when we are ready to crash, we tell them we are headed to bed and if they want a story they better come get it while they can, or we'll be asleep.

Sometimes they choose to pile into bed with us and fall asleep with us. Sometimes they choose to get a story or two while the getting is good and then go back to their play. Sometimes they choose to forgo the story and finish their movie, or whatever. They usually don't stay up long after we are in bed, but I imagine that will change as they get older. My point in sharing this though, is that it is THEIR choice. We get our needs met by going to bed when we need to, and they go to bed when they need to. Sometimes it's the same time, occassionally they fall asleep early because they are tired, like last night, and sometimes they stay up a little later.

Nanci K.

Andy & I went to bed last night at 1:00 a.m. The energy in our house between 10-1 was so incredible it made me giddy. There was lots of joyful learning going on for both of us, and that was so much more important than sleep. Not that we were sleepy anyway.

Here's to many more days and nights of paying attention to what truly matters!

~Paula L
at unschooling.com

Marty has an orthodonist appointment at 10:30 this morning, and works at noon. He has gone to ortho alone, and has taken Holly before. I asked yesterday if he wanted to go alone or me take him. He wanted me to go. He asked me to wake him up an hour before. He likes at least an hour before, and usually an hour and a half.

I forgot to wake him up, but I heard his alarm go off at 9:31 (and remembered I had forgotten).

He was tired and I offered to put a fifteen or twenty minute timer on and come and get him, but he said no, he wanted to get up.

There is a snapshot moment in the "don't have to" life of a sixteen year old boy.

I'm not saying that every child given leeway will be Marty.
I'm saying that every person who claims that leeway will inevitably cause sloth is proven wrong by Marty.


Kelly Traaseth wrote:
My daughter (11) just last night said she was so happy. So happy because we let her choose when she sleeps and when she doesn't want to sleep. Yesterday when I got up I found her still up at the computer. So she stayed up all night. Shortly after that she lay down and slept maybe five hours then got up.

Back to our conversation last night.

Abbi, "I'm so happy inside", she smiles.

Me, "why?"

Abbi, "I just don't know many parents who would be OK with me staying up all night then just letting me lay down where I want (on the couch), not geting on my jammies and sleeping. Sleeping where I want to and not sleeping when I want to. I'm lucky." She pauses. "I love my life." Big sigh.

Makes me KNOW I've made a good decision in unschooling. We didn't always live like this. She and her older brother still tell me stories of them when they were about 3 and 1 1/2 and would sneak around at naptime. Sneaking around, from room to room and pretending to be aleep. 🙂 I giggle, yet I also feel sad that I was that way too. I'm glad I'm not like that any more.

Thanks Sandra, thanks Pam, Mary, Ren, Rue, Kelly, and others too, but that's who I remember being part of UD then and advising me on our shift to unschooling. I can't believe its been over four years now.

Lovin our life. 🙂



It's funny how the littlest comment will make such a big impact: "I used to sleep with the kids, and go to sleep with or not long after the last one, and get up with or before the first one," Sandra stated.

This simple statement made me think twice about our bedtime routine. My 6 year old (youngest of 2) loves to have me cuddle with her every night. I will normally cuddle a little bit, but not long enough for her. I know this because, she will continue to get up to hug & kiss me goodnight. Why do I not cuddle longer? I'm either tired & ready for bed myself (we no longer co-sleep) or I want "me" time. As a parent, isn't the greatest gift I can give my kids is to give them what they need? Why do I deny her of this need?

So, this evening I cuddled until she went to sleep...aaaahhhh, it felt so right. And she kept saying, "I love you mommy, I love you mommy."

Thank you, Sandra.

Erica Hope

Co-sleeping resources and research

Sleeping at Just Add Light and Stir

Gearing up for Learn Nothing Day:

Late Night Learning, a Sandra Dodd article documenting some of the best conversations, "after hours," and more on "bedtime"

If/then contracts (part of the way down that page)

The (former) background is an M.C.Escher woodcut
called "Day and Night."

Click to enlarge.

I like it. It's soothing.

Sleeping upside down
Not just for bats anymore!