At Home,  Homeschool

Consider the Bedtime

Because of the crazy times, people are suddenly home with their young children for extended and unexpected periods of time. I’m writing up a few general ideas I’ve learned over the years of being at home with one, two, three, and now four children. 

General idea number three…

Consider the bedtime.

Is it working for you? What is it that your family needs out of bedtime if your schedules have changed? What do your energy levels look like in the evening right now?

When sharing a house all day with children, bedtime is a method to close up the day so that you still have a few hours of thoughtful mental space before you fall asleep.

A bedtime after a day apart and full of activities is one thing. The bedtime after a day together is a garden feature of a different sort. It is a hedge between two yards. On one side of the hedge, adults relax on the couch with books, silence, glasses of wine. On the other side of the hedge, bedside lights are lit, piles of books threaten to fall off the bed, there’s talking, there’s gazing off into space.

Some things to consider:

  • Is bedtime early enough? Not likely–on average American children do not get enough sleep. Nine hours at a minimum for ages six and above. We plan on twelve hours in the bedroom, more on that below.


  • Is the process itself beginning early enough? If bedtime has always been your cozy time together to unwind, consider beginning it earlier than usual so that you can take it at a leisurely pace–the teeth brushing, finding the pillow, resetting the blanket. The goal is to have two hours to yourself afterward before you need to sleep.


  • Wakeful bedtime allows children to practice time apart. You may be surprised to see how much a child wishes to accomplish when suddenly freed of the mundanity of adult availability.


  • If they stay up, let them sleep in. This is one of the greatest perks of not having to get the children out the door by any specific time in the morning! I like to project a 12hr cycle. (Here’s a sleep chart by age by Dr. Sears, though 9 hours does seem like the absolute minimum for a six/seven year old.) If they stay up until 9pm, wake them around 9am. If they stay up until 10pm, it’s up to you, but I like to wake them up at 9am anyway. If they wake up at 8am but you wish they’d slept in, be sure to let them stay up until at least 8pm.

Here’s what we do, having been on a homeschool schedule for over a year. I do not expect it to be guidance for you in any way, this is just what works for us right now. 7pm: Baby in bed. 7:45pm: Begin bedtime for the older three. 8pm: Girls in bed. Parents out of the room. 10pm: Lights out, but nightlights are allowed for those still reading.

In the morning, the baby and I will wake between 7-8am, and have some peace to ourselves. I often write for a twenty minutes or so during this time. The four-year-old will wake around 8:30, and the older two will likely have to be waken at 9am. They would sleep until 10am but that doesn’t make for a great morning cycle for us.



  • Amy

    Thank you for your thoughts and guidance Rachel! It’s a whole new world for us, “homeschooling” a 3-year-old for the next 6 weeks (minimum) in Seattle. Folks like you help me feel calm and anchored – and truly a bit excited – as we wade in.

  • Alli

    I love this reframing of bedtime. Do you know how much more enjoyable it would be if I wasn’t stressed about how long it takes them to fall asleep? Wondered how you handle it when they come out of bed? These little interruptions feel brutal for some reason.

    • Rachael

      They are brutal, because the hedge has been crossed! It’s disruptive to your quiet time, but this way your quiet time can begin so much sooner.Two things help. Once your mind becomes adjusted to the idea that they are still awake, you will get used to it. And two, they eventually learn that there isn’t much to get from you after bedtime but dull answers and “maybe tomorrow” responses.

  • Katharine

    My 3yo used to have lovely long quiet time by himself in his crib after we put him down — talking, playing, paging through books. But once we transitioned him to a bed last month, suddenly he wants us in the room with him as he falls asleep, and won’t take that time to himself! And I think he really needs that space alone in his own head to refresh and be ready for good sleep/a good tomorrow.

    Do you ever find your girls insisting that they want your company, or are they content with each other?

  • Margaret

    This is great. I love hearing what other families do about bedtime. We somewhat recently put our 4 and 2 year old in a room together and while it took me a while to relax about the fact that they were staying up later I’ve learned to really love hearing their laughing and chatting (and sometimes singing and squealing) upstairs. I feel like it’s really improved their sister/brother bond and it makes me feel less responsible for whether or not they are falling asleep “on time.”

  • Victoria

    Do you have a post or would you do a post with a rough schedule of your days with the girls? I have two girls, 4 and 18 months and am trying to figure out how to be productive while also allowing plenty of free time/imaginative play etc. Thank you!

  • Danielle Landherr

    Oh I love this. We do something sort of similar but my oldest two are morning birds and will wake around 6:30 no matter when they go to bed. They were always grumpy after staying up late reading, so we’ve instituted a lights out time as well and now they also will read/hang out in the morning before I am up to get things going. That quiet time is essential.

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