A strange thing happens in our house, at about 8pm, every night.
As soon as we tell the girls it’s getting towards bedtime, suddenly all sorts of stuff starts happening:
– Cities start to be built out of megablocks…
– Colouring, drawing, writing suddenly becomes urgent…
– Workbooks suddenly become the most exciting books in the house…
– Jigsaws suddenly have to be completed…
– Elaborate structures have to be constructed from connecting cubes or magformers…
It’s almost as if, when that 10 minute warning signal is given, it’s all hands to the deck – no time to waste.
OK, I know in reality it’s my kids trying to pull a fast one: they get busy doing something, we let them carry on, they get to stay up a bit later than we’d planned…
But is that really a bad thing?
Well actually, I don’t think it is… And that’s why I find myself telling my husband, every evening, “Let’s just give them a little bit longer…”
They’ve learned to play the game – oh yes, they’re smart! They are only 3 and 4 years old, but they’ve learned that getting certain activities out, right before bedtime, buys them a few minutes of extra time. And in doing so, they think they have got one over on us…(!!)
Drawing, writing, counting, building, imaginative play, puzzles, jigsaws… you name it: they’ve tried it.
And they know it works.
In the teaching profession, after years of living by the bell and having to drop whatever we were doing when the bell rang for playtime or lunchtime or assembly time, one of the things that drew me towards home educating, was the freedom to learn whenever and wherever suited the child. And if that is at 8 o’clock at night, in the short time before bed, well… so be it.
If this is the way to achieve a child-directed education, we’ll do it.
If the best and most valuable learning takes place in the half hour before bed, then d’you know what? I’m happy with that!
Because we don’t live by the bell. Or the timetable. Or the curriculum.
We live our lives by the things our brains and our hearts are telling us. We live and we learn. And when the kids want to learn (even if they don’t realise they are learning), I’m going to let them learn.
Bedtime can wait.