In 2005 I created An Unschooling Life, a blog detailing our unschooling experience after adopting our three children. Over time, An Unschooling Life became a hub for unschooling support and advice. The blog has been featured in print and digital media and was home to the popular Unschooling Carnival. I’m in the process of updating and moving all the posts to this blog where they will be housed under the An Unschooling Life section. This post was originally published on November, 11 2006.
My two daughters (ages 8 & 11) do not have a bedtime, as of about two months ago.
Let me back up a bit.
My kids don’t have a bedtime
From the day that I removed my three children from school (December ’04), I’ve been unschooling them, which means we don’t do school-at-home or follow a formal curriculum. Around the time I removed them, I started reading about radical unschooling or as I’ve seen it sometimes called whole life unschooling.
As I read more about it, I knew this was the path for my two daughters. My middle daughter, Shawna was making a lot of progress with trusting my husband and me after finalizing her adoption at 8 years old and I knew that I had to start placing more of my trust in her at the same time. The information on radical unschooling came into my life at a time that I needed it the most.
Basically radical unschooling is extending the principles of trust into other areas of a child’s life. In other words, by unschooling your children, you’re trusting that they will learn what they need to, without school (how to do this without school is a whole other post but it includes a great deal of parental involvement), and then you use that same trust in other areas of life.
I first started with food and letting go of controlling what they ate. Next was video/computer games and now we’ve moved to bedtimes. This was a hard one, not because of my trust in them, but because I need some alone time at night. I discussed it with them and see if we could come up with a solution that worked for all of us. We decided to say good night at what used to be their normal bedtime and then they would spend the rest of the evening in their bedroom, which gave me the quiet alone time I need.
This type of parenting is not for a hands-off type of parent. Being there, with your child discussing things, being involved in their life, listening and giving feedback, modeling healthy behavior is all part of radical unschooling and frankly, it’s not always easy. But for me, it’s worth it to have a better relationship with my daughters and give them the gift of trusting themselves as they grow and mature.
So, now my girls don’t have a bedtime. No, they don’t stay up until all hours of the morning or only sleep three hours a night. Funny thing is, most nights Jacqueline goes to sleep earlier than her old bedtime of 9:30. For those who are curious, since we lifted the bedtime, they have been going to sleep somewhere between 8:30-11:00 PM and they wake up between 6:30-9:00 AM.
No, not at this point anyway. Maybe if we had a bigger house.
My son stuggles with a lot of emotional issues (dharma-you’re read some of it at Forever Parents), and by the evening, I’m wiped out. If I don’t have a chance to recharge, I’m not the kind of parent I want to be.
It’s hard to balance the girls’ needs with that of my son but I do the best I can.
Oh. Well then I guess we already went the no bedtime route, because that’s what we do!
I imagined “no bedtime” to mean that the kids were actually out and about in the house.
When my girls & I discussed them not having a bedtime, part of what we talked about was me being able to have my own time in the evening and have some private time with Billy. I need to have some time for myself, to recharge my batteries. Otherwise, I’m no good the next day.
We discussed different solutions and came up with that they would stay in their room, with the door closed. My husband & I go in and say goodnight to each of them about 9ish and we usually don’t see them again until the morning.
It’s been working our really great and I’m so proud of my girls. 🙂
We have considered going the “no bedtime” route, too, but honestly, I need the time to pursue my interests and desires (such as reading a complete sentence in a book or taking a bath) without being frequently interruped. I put off many things that I would like to do during the day so that I can “be there” for my kids. The late evenings are my time to not be doing for other people.
Also, due to Desta’s special medical needs, she needs a lot of sleep. She frequently sleeps 13-14 hours a night (plus a nap during the day). She likes to stay up late sewing or listening to music, which sounds fine, but then she sleeps until 11 or noon, which doesn’t work because my younger kids have activities in the mornings and Desta can’t be left home alone.
I would like to work out solutions to some of these things so that we can go the “no bedtime” route. Maybe when Ramona and Efram are a bit older and don’t need my practical assistance so much …
It’s not always easy because there may be other factors at play. That’s what took me so long to let them set their own bedtime. Like you, we needed to find some solutions to a few issue first. Different issues that what you posted but issues that were effecting our family.
As far as it getting easier when they get older…I had to chuckle at that because when I adopted my three, my youngest had just turned five, so I have no idea what it’s like to parent a child younger than five years old. 🙂
Tammy Takahashi says
I’ve struggled with this too. I would love to just let everyone sleep when they need to (including myself 🙂
But there’s stuff we have to do at 9am, and I have a little one who gets up at 6 at times, and she can’t be out here by herself. Then there’s our quiet time at night…then, of course, there’s my husband who thinks that the kids should be in bed by 8 (although he stays up until 2 and can’t get out of bed in the morning). *sigh*
It gets easier when they are older, right?