Tonight, J really wanted to go to bed. At tea-time.
I arrived home from a tutoring session to find him standing in the lounge in his Pyjamas, enveloped in his dressing gown and the sweet scent of baby lotion and toothpaste.
“Are you tired sweetheart?” I asked, worrying slightly that he was poorly again (he had a temperature at the beginning of the week)
“Nope.” Came the indignant reply, “I just want to go to bed.”
My husband was standing behind J, looking as confused as I felt. Usually, J would stay up all night if he could. There’s always something else he could be exploring; an exciting new use for a piece of lego and a scrap of cardboard ripped from an amazon box.
Don’t get me wrong. J has a great bedtime routine. As much as I am a strong advocate of children being free to play and learn what they want and when they want, I’m equally firm in my belief that sleep is hugely important. And to me, a good night’s sleep begins with a good bedtime routine. Nothing complicated. Just a wash, clean teeth, a few stories, lots of cuddles and then a peaceful journey into the sleepy old land of nod.
So off we went together, J taking the stairs 2 at a time, me following behind thinking how surreal the whole thing was. As he was already washed and his teeth nicely scrubbed, we went straight into his bedroom and I nearly fell over when I spotted that he had tidied it. And I don’t just mean tidied it. J’s room looked as if the cleaning fairies had been around and polished like there was an inspection due! It was immaculate.
“So you’re not confused then?” I looked at my husband quizzically, “He just wants to sleep in a tidy room for a change.” I don’t really *make* him tidy his room. If he’s spent ages arranging his toys so that they can all act out one of his stories or his cars are in the middle of an important race, I think it’s unkind to put them away. I wouldn’t like it if someone did that when I was halfway through something.
“No, I’m still confused.” My husband replied. ” He never usually cares whether it’s tidy.”
By this point, J was just staring at us, probably wondering why on Earth it mattered whether he wanted to go to bed or not. He had a point really.
I was just about to ask him which story he fancied starting with tonight when he hopped up the ladders on his cabin bed and began to pull down his quilts and blankets.
“Can I sleep on the floor tonight?” He asked. “I’m going to pretend I’m camping and lie on the blanket and pretend it’s soft grass.”
For a split second, I opened my mouth to say no and then I luckily stopped myself. Why not? If he wants to create an imaginary world for himself where the rain isn’t tapping on the windows, it’s actually whipping against the side of the canopy of leaves over his head and the noises he hears from us downstairs are not muted conversations but whispering beasts ready to pounce, then who are we to stop him?
He’ll still have had a story, be nice and clean and relaxed but now, he’ll be learning when he sleeps. How fantastic that – if you let it – learning as a home ed child never stops!
Feeling warm inside and secure in the knowledge that J is always learning (I think being new to home ed makes me worry about this constantly!) I remembered a conversation I had with a teacher when I was on a course once. She said that she didn’t understand parents never getting through homework with their children as she was “so on top of it” she even made her children count, recite their times tables and go through their “high frequency” words in bed, before they went to sleep.
I felt not just a little smug (but also quite sad) that tomorrow morning that while they’re waking up half way through the 8 times table, J will be waking up with a head full of tents, forests, fields and adventure!