Radical Unschooling: Sleeping Outside the Box, Part 2

About 6 weeks ago, our family made a radical switch.  If you’ve already read the first half of this article, Radical Unschooling: Sleeping Outside the Box, you know what it was.  If you haven’t, here’s a quick recap: 2 parents + 4 kids + 3 bedrooms = mayhem.

At least, it did for our family.  Our kids all prefer to co-sleep, so we often had between one and four small – and not so small – guests in our bed. Every bedroom was chock full of toys, clothes and miscellaneous, most of which ended up on the floor on a daily basis. I began to see the upper floor of our home as my white whale; conquering it became an obsession.  But try as I might (and I tried it all), I could never seem to capture that elusive ideal I was after: sanctuary.


Friends, if you don’t belong to an unschooling support group of some sort – either in your community or online – let me stop for a moment to encourage you to find one post haste. Because when the chips are down and you’re out of ideas, the support and suggestions from such a group can be invaluable.

I took my woes to my local unschooling group and came away encouraged and inspired. My wise and wonderful friend, Adele, shared with me the model her family had adopted.  And although on its face it sounded, well, a tiny bit crazy, I started to wonder if it was so crazy that it just might work.  So we tried it.

For six years, our upper floor had contained three bedrooms: the master bedroom, my son’s bedroom, and a bedroom shared by my twins. Today it contains none.  Instead, we have a sleeping room, a calmful room (yes, the kids named that one), and an office/playroom.  And here’s how it all shook out.

We transformed the master bedroom into a family sleeping room.  Along with our king-size bed, we added a queen and a twin. Because the room is so massive, we also moved in all clothing. This, as it turns out, is a huge plus.  You would not believe how fast it is to put away laundry – even 4 kids’ worth – when it all goes in one room. I get so much laundry folded and put away these days that I feel a little bit like superwoman.

The calmful room contains bunk beds and a trundle, along with tons of books and places to snuggle up and be – you guessed it – calmful! It’s a toy-free sanctuary that we use when we need some quiet time. I’ve even been known to take the occasional power nap in the oversize bean bag! At night, Katy or Thomas may fall asleep here listening to audio books, after which Ted brings them into the sleeping room. It also serves as a guest room, or a place where Ted and I can reconnect.

My son’s former bedroom is now our office/playroom.  Our various computers, files, etc. which used to occupy a messy corner of the master bedroom finally have a home of their own.  A few toys have landed there as well, while the rest of our toys are packed up until we are able to finish a room in our basement.

When I first broached the subject of rearranging our upstairs with my children, I must admit my expectations were bordering on nil.  They’d had ownership of these bedrooms for years, and change is not easy for them.  I was truly amazed at how open they were to trying it.  I think on some intuitive level, the idea of being together at night just felt right to them.  So right that they were willing to let go of what had been and embrace an entirely new approach.

So here we are, six weeks in to our radical sleeping arrangement. How’s it going, you wonder?  It feels like the most natural thing in the world.  We’re sleeping better, we’re enjoying using each room in creative ways, and as an added bonus, it’s way easier to keep tidy.  Yes, our neighbors probably think we’re crazy. But I’ll take this kind of crazy any day.

As with any other aspect of radical unschooling, our sleeping arrangements will be a continual work in progress.  As our kids’ needs change, so will our use of space. But it has been so wonderful to discover this freedom: that we can think – and sleep – outside the proverbial box.  That by following our own inner wisdom, we were able to transform an ongoing challenge into a peaceful and nurturing experience.

Finally, the white whale has been vanquished, and sanctuary reigns!


  1. Alicia says

    It feels so right because it is – we are built to be “in community” and mammals keep their young very close, if not in direct physical contact, for a long period of the young ones’ lives. Our son, never a great sleeper, began at around 2-1/2 years old until he was 5, to come to our room every night (or rather, early morning because it was invariably between 3-3:30 a.m.) seeking the comfort of proximity. He was too busy to be in our bed so we kept a sleeping bag on the floor next to the bed. He would quietly come in, pat me on the face and tell me he was there, then climbed into the bag and went to sleep. Whether it was because the night terrors also ended the, or he was more tired or perhaps just more secure within himself, we’ll never know for sure but within a couple of weeks of starting kindergarten, it stopped. As with all things, there is a time and season. Enjoy this season of togetherness!

    • admin says

      Alicia, you make such an interesting point! As I read your comment, so many images came to mind of other mammals snuggled up to their young -from a lion with her cubs to a cat with her kittens. We are indeed created for community!

  2. T.W. says

    Thanks so much for this idea. We moved the bunk beds into our room yesterday, and last night was the best night sleep we’ve all had in a long time. The dressers are moving into one shared closet today to help conquer the laundry messes that pile up. Oh the space in the bedrooms now! LOVE IT!

    • Nicole says

      I’m SO glad to hear that it’s working for you. It’s wonderful to find a solution that’s right for your unique situation. Sleep well! :)

    • Ammar says

      Hurray! I’ve noticed once a mom gets to the point of relaly thinking that unschooling may be the path ahead, she’s actually a fair piece down the road already. . . JJ(unschooling mom of two whose mistake was trying to school math)

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