I’m a classic introvert. I need time to be quiet and to process my thoughts. Because I homeschool my 5 kids, and have a husband who works really long hours and is often only home while the kids are sleeping during the week, I felt like I was sinking under the weight of words every day. I was talking – or listening to someone else talk – every hour of every day until bedtime. And I was exhausted.
It was really out of necessity that I instituted mandatory quiet time. I was so worn out and felt like I just couldn’t continue to function without some down time. I’d hear about friends going out for coffee, or getting their hair done, or even going to the store alone, and I’d think that I didn’t need to get out alone – I just needed QUIET in my own home!
We instituted quiet time twice a day – yes, twice – and while these two times look different, they have both brought a new level of peace and loveliness to our homeschool days. I truly don’t feel like I’d be able to function well on any other level without them!
Our days stay in a pretty stable routine – I wake up at 4:30, read for about 15 minutes in bed to help me wake up, and then work until about 7:30 when I exercise and do the necessary tasks I planned out in Makeover Your Mornings (yes, I took that course a long time ago, and YES, I still use the system every day!). Then I get the kids up for breakfast and morning chores. We usually play a fun song to start our school day (like Pentatonix’ “Sing”, Matthew West’s “Day One”, “Sh-Boom” by The Chords, or “Happy” by Pharrell Williams), we do one school reading assignment as a family, and then we have our first quiet time of the day.
This quiet time is 20 minutes long, and everyone gets an assigned reading book and has to sit without talking (this is so hard for 2 of my kids!) for 20 minutes. This gives my bigger kids a chance to do their reading assignments and think for a bit before I’ll ask them to narrate, and since everyone’s quiet, everyone can concentrate. I usually spend the first 10 minutes with my Bible or another book, then the second ten minutes looking over our school assignments.
These 20 minutes have made a huge difference in our house – mostly because I have one child who gets overwhelmed by ANY reading assignment. I could say, “Please read one page out of this book,” and she would get totally overwhelmed. But if I invite her to snuggle with me on the couch, she is happy to do her reading quietly and can ask for help with bigger words. I love it!
After our first mini quiet time of the day, we spend several hours on our homeschool subjects. When we are done, I send the kids out to play for 10-15 minutes before lunch, and then we head upstairs for our second quiet time of the day. My little ones nap in my room, and the big ones have to be quiet and in their designated area.
Now, here is where the “Tips” come in – at first, my three oldest kids would choose from these activities during quiet time:
- Running and jumping
- Sneaking downstairs for food
- Sneaking food back upstairs
- Getting into a terribly messy craft and leaving permanent marker on the walls/comforters/furniture
- All of the above
Obviously, that didn’t work for any of us. So we figured out a few things to help them settle down, and everyone gets at least a good hour of rest in the afternoon. Here’s what we’ve learned:
For the big kids:
- Make sure quiet time is right after snack or lunch time to make sure they aren’t hungry.
- Send everyone to the bathroom (ok, so I don’t have to tell my 12-year-old to go to the bathroom before quiet time, but my 7 and 9-year-olds definitely need the reminder!).
- Make sure everyone has a space, and that it is far enough away from the other kids’ space that they won’t be distracting each other. I asked my kids to choose a space, then to come up with ideas of something peaceful or lovely to make their space more enjoyable. All three of the big kids stay upstairs – my oldest stays in her bedroom, my son stays in his bedroom, and my middle daughter takes an open area loft at the top of the stairs. They have a list of items they want to purchase or make to make the space special for them (my middle daughter wants a really big pillow, so we are in the process of making one), and we are working our way down the list.
- Make sure everyone has something to do. Each of the big kids has to have a book, quiet craft, or silent activity. I had to stress the “silent” part – my son likes to practice karate kicks – complete with yelling his kick count at the top of his lungs – which results in cranky babies who are unable to sleep. I’ll let them listen to audiobooks with headphones, but we only have one portable CD player right now, so that’s being rotated. This is the CD player we have, but I'm planning to buy these little personal CD players for each of them for Christmas. We get our audiobooks on CD from the library. My girls like things like arm knitting, but I only give them projects that I've already taught them to do or that they can do without help – I wouldn't send them to quiet time with a kit like this without instruction, because I know they'd be coming to me for help when they're supposed to be resting. My son is not allowed to play with legos at quiet time, because legos are not quiet. Instead, he plays with his giant sticker pads, colors, or reads.
- Quiet time means you have to be on your bed or laying down in your special spot (this also deters the karate-kicking).
- Have a zero-tolerance policy. If I let the kids tattle on each other once, they’ll be barging into my room every 30 seconds and keeping the little ones awake. Obviously, tattling is a result of some heart issues that need attention, and we’re working on those, but to start with, if someone comes to my room to tattle during quiet time both the tattler and the perpetrator of the crime get disciplined. That cut down on tattling pretty quickly!
For the little kids:
- Make sure they have full bellies – after lunch is the perfect time for little ones to nap!
- Play quiet music – we like Sing Over Me, and I think I’ve accidentally conditioned them to sleep when this music is on. More than once I’ve turned it on in the car and had them doze off within the first few minutes (fortunately, it doesn’t work on me!).
- Make sure they don’t have toys hidden in their pockets or chubby little hands. My 4-year-old is a master at sneaking toys in to nap time. A toy within a three-foot radius will provide way too much distraction for a good nap, so I have to make sure she has a book to look at, but no toys!
- Teach them to lie still. This is a valuable, valuable skill, but it takes a ton of patience! My toddler is allowed to have a book if she lies still and quiet. If she talks or gets up, the book gets taken away. Telling her to lie still is pretty much a guarantee that she’ll fall asleep.
Do you have quiet time in your house? I’d love to hear about it in the comments!