Unschoolers Have Bedtimes?

Last night, around ten, Orion told me he was ready to go to bed. He is only three years old. About an hour later, Ivy came crawling up the stairs and said, “I love going to bed!” She brushed her teeth, and snuggled in next to us and asked me to tickle her back.

All of my children love bedtime. I know it is because they were never forced or coerced to go to bed before they were tired and ready to. Living the Radical Unschooling life, we choose to respect our children’s natural sleep cycle. I believe this is the healthiest way for children to live, without a parent-imposed bedtime.

When others hear that Unschoolers have “no bedtime”, it isn’t exactly true. Unschoolers do have bedtimes, but only when they say they are ready to sleep. It is a very organic, easy, joyful process for my children, and something they have never had any issues with. I know that most sleep issues in children today are because of parents imposing their needs before the needs of their children. Unschooling not only allows children the freedom to choose their own bedtime, but is releases them from the cultural notions that bedtime is a difficult process for parents and children.

With Radical Unschooling there are no power struggles.Our children have developed a very healthy, balanced, natural attitude about bedtime and sleep. So much of what you hear today about the difficulties with parenting young children surrounds bedtimes. Living a life in partnership with our children, we are changing the way that parents have historically viewed bedtimes and bringing peace and connection to the process. My children love going to bed, just as I do, and we have the Radical Unschooling philosophy to thank for that!

~Peace & Love, Dayna


  1. I love this article.. I am beginning to see the light of day with this current conflict in our house.. My question is this.. My boys love to stay up late doing what ever it is that they like to do .. but my husband has to work a lot in the mornings early… so we are having a hard time making a balance for everyone.. he really likes to have his own time in the evening… We have a small house with little space.. any suggestions would be great…


    • Living side-by-side as a family is just part of our life as Unschooling parents. When you are living in a partnership paradigm, rather than an authoritarian one, parents do not feel the need as often to “get away” from their kids for some time alone. When you are spending all of your time controlling your children and living with a lot of power struggles, it is a very exhausting way to live. It is something most parents need a break from. Who wouldn’t?!

      Living in a partnership paradigm with our children, we enjoy life with them. We don’t need the breaks or time away that most people in our culture do who are living with a lot of negativity, coercion, punishments and unpleasant attempts of control. When you live in connection you want to be with your kids and they with you. It is a really beautiful thing!

      • Kristy Hinds says

        You do a great job of explaining what this lifestyle is about, rather than admonishing for living the old paradigm. I really appreciate this – thanks!

      • Nicole Laing says

        That does sound wonderful, and I have to say I could see that working with our family. But what about sex. Particularly if your children are sleeping in your bed, usually co sleeping parents woukd use that evening time together in rooms away from ehere the children are asleep to get intimate. Thats an important part of our relationship (especially if our som wants a siblinh in the future!)Or when you want to talk about the children without them there? Ie talking through supporting eachother in parenting and on the same page in terms of philosophy.

  2. Our child (14) was staying up *all night* (literally), seeing me off to work in the morning and then sleeping until 4 p.m. … this made it difficult for him to have a social life and just about impossible to schedule medical or dental appointments for him…. he was not open to sleeping on a more normal schedule. Finally we gave his laptop a midnight curfew and now he usually goes to bed around that time!

    • It is normal for a teen to stay up all night! It is the natural rhythm for a human being of that age. Thinking you know what is best for him sleep wise and socially and choosing to force and manipulate him to meet your standards of living radically affects the parent/child connection, which is the most important aspect of the Unschooling life. Respecting a child’s autonomy is what Radical Unschooling is all about. Freedom to choice is everything!
      Thank you for your comment and for visiting my site!

  3. This is an interesting one for me. Up until recently, I have been a full-time, traveling, working mom. When looking for childcare my main issue was sleep. My daughter was to take her naps daily–and the caregiver was to watch her, put her down when she was ready and let her sleep as long as she needed. My husband/I would then do the same at night. Having private childcare complimented the other side: we were never to wake her. She could get up on her own as we worked our work schedules around her sleep.

    Now that she’s approaching 3, and though we still have flexible calendars, I push a bedtime at night. We stick to our routine so that she isn’t stressed at bedtime. Lately she has been challenging us. But, we do follow her lead. For example: last night it was 9:45 before she went to bed (though I strive for a 7:30-8 bedtime.) We could just tell she wasn’t ready for bed. However, all things being equal: I do believe in setting her routine, within reason. I believe this routine has helped her be a 12 hour sleeper, along with a two hour napper. She appears to need sleep so I protect it.

    I read an article of yours that states unschooling is more for the parents than the children. I guess I am still learning. However, I do believe in schedules as it seems to help the household run better. The good news is, we do trust our daughter and therefore we trust her to lead us–and hopefully she can the same about us.

    • Hi Shannon, thank you for your comment and for visiting my website.

      Just because Unschoolers do not live by schedules, doesn’t mean that we don’t have a rhythm to our day. My children go to bed when they are tired and that usually is around the same time every night, when they choose to.

      I am not sure the article that you are referring to, but I believe my comment was in regards to who has to do the work to come to the Radical Unschooling life. Parents are the ones who have to undo so much cultural conditioning and deschooling to shift to a partnership paradigm. Children are designed by nature to live in partnership. It is being controlled that is truly unnatural.

      It sounds like you are finding your balance with your daughters needs for sleep. If you ever need support or assistance just let me know. We can set up a consultation to take it one step further in your awareness and understanding of parenting in partnership and the Unschooling life.


  4. Dayna,

    My youngest daughter, 9 years old, doesn’t have a bedtime. She goes to sleep when she is tired & wakes up when she is ready to wake up. Some family members don’t agree with my letting her stay up or sleep whenever she wants. It works for us…most of the time. The only times that it doesn’t work is when we have an appointment or an event going on that we need to go to. I try to never plan any activities that require “registering” because I never know if she will be awake to go participate but occasionally there is something important that we may either miss or she’s grumpy because I’ve woken her up to go. I try to avoid having to wake her up unless absolutely necessary. I have no problem with her going to bed when she’s tired and waking up when she’s ready to. My only concern is that her days are not 24 hour days. Her days are more like 35 to 45 hour days. Take these past couple of days for example. She woke up on Wednesday around 4pm. She stayed up until Thursday night when she fell asleep at 7:30pm. She was up for 27 1/2 hours. She then slept from 7:30pm Thursday until 1:00pm Friday. She slept for 17 1/2 hours. I have no clue how she can stay awake that long without getting tired. I also have no clue how she can sleep that long either. She told me that she fell asleep around 4:30am this morning so she was only awake 15 1/2 hours. However, I had to wake her up a little before 7am since I had to go to work (I only work 2 to 3 days per week). Usually she can stay home with her 16 year old brother but he had plans today so she needed to either go to her grandma’s or come to work with me (I have the option of bringing her with me to work). She decided to come with me but the poor girl only had about 2 1/2 hours sleep. I feel so bad when I have to wake her up. Her schedule is just never the same. It’s not like she goes to bed between 10pm to 1am every night and wakes up between 10am to 1pm everyday. Her waking/sleeping schedule is literally different every single day. Do you have any thoughts on our situation? Thanks for any insight that you may have, Dayna. ­čÖé

    Take care,

    • HI Sherri,
      If you want to schedule a time to chat, I would be happy to give you my one on one, focused attention about this issue.
      Thank you for visiting my website and for your comment.

  5. Hi Dayna,
    I have been following your website and blog, and i find it very interesting and inspiring. I unschool my 2 kids in Italy.
    Sleeptime freedom, I must say, seems like something impossible to me. I know that my kids need about 11 or 12 hours of sleep usually, and if i do not push them to go to bed on time: between 9 and r10 at night, they would probably sleep less, actually my older daughter who is 6 will sleep in and my younger son who is almost 3 wakes up early even if he goes to bed late. So here I am stuck in the house until one is sleeping in the morning. It also means I have to prepare or heat up 2 breakfasts instead of 1. Later we go out on trips or for a walk, and I have the little one crash in the car ‘ in which case it is not possible to enjoy some things with the older one or will crash at dinnertime (while being also pretty cranky because he did not get enough sleep).
    What do you do if somebody decides to take a nap while the other one is ready to go out or has a class or an appointment.
    I find it impossible to have children on different schedules if i am by myself with them. In the end we also adapt to their schedule: wake up when they do and so on.
    I have friends that are very relaxed about sleeping schedules: their kids go to sleep when they want and take naps when they want. So we can NEVER plan anything together even the same day, because we never know when the kids will decide to crash. Once even we had a really interesting meeting with a homeschooling mom who was from out of town. The mother of these 3 bedtime-freedom children made incredible efforts to come to the park with 3 kids only to leave 10 minutes later because the oldest 5-year-old was exhausted and had to take his nap at 5 pm
    so what do you do never go anywhere or carry around tired and cranky kids.
    thanks so much for your answer.

  6. Hi Dayna,

    Im new to your website and way of thinking, so far I really like the differences and the thing s you are trying to educate people about.

    I have one little boy Luca who is 16 Months old. Sleep for us has always been a HUGE issue. Any articles you have for me to read would be great.

    We co-sleep and breastfeed on demand but he wakes almost every hour at night and its starting to wear me down and some days Im really not the mommy I know my child deserves.

    Please help!

    Thank you in advance – Shez

  7. Great explanation! According to John Holt, this problem is not universal, it’s one of our many misguided cultural beliefs:

    “I can’t help noting that no cultures in the word that I have ever heard of make such a fuss about children’s bedtimes, and no cultures have so many adults who find it so hard either to go to sleep or wake up. Could these social facts be connected? I strongly suspect they are.” – John Holt, Teach Your Own

  8. I am really wanting to let go of “bedtime” but not sure how me and hubby can have our “alone time” if you know what I mean?:) He has to get up super early for work and he really enjoys our one on one time in the evenings after the children are asleep. Our children are 7, 5, 2, and 4 months (we co-sleep with the baby).

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