Homeschool moms should always schedule nap time into their days. Nap time is good for everyone from infant to teenager. Even over-worked moms need a break. You don’t have to actually nap, in fact we don’t nap at all anymore. Call it a reading time or quiet time. We call it rest time and we use it to read. When I told my kids the topic of this post they laughed saying it’s my favorite topic. My husband regularly teases me (in a sweet way) about my one hour off every afternoon. But I endure it all because it is my favorite time of day and I am adamant about fitting it in. A one hour time block set aside to rest is an intentional component of our daily schedule – and I think you should try it too.
When my oldest child was just a baby my next door neighbor advised me never to allow nap time to stop. Her kids had gone to public school, but every afternoon when they came home she had them lay on their bed and read quietly for an hour. It gave them time to destress. Time to be alone. Time to read. My oldest daughter never stopped having a “nap” time every afternoon. I’ve heeded my neighbor’s advice for twenty one years and it is one of the best tips I can share with you.
Nap time, or rest time, actually serves to meet profound needs in our home. Here are ways you and your kids can benefit from it:
Homeschool moms should always schedule nap time to take care of themselves
Nap time allows you to schedule “self-care” into your daily routine. I know it sounds silly, trendy, and shallow. The reality is you need to take care of yourself body, soul, and mind. You cannot compromise your commitment to hard work, denial of the selfish flesh, and taking great care of your children. But if your game plan as a homeschool mom is to ignore your body, mind, and soul until all your kids have graduated and left home, you are going to burn out.
I am not talking about spa days, manicures, and lattes. I am talking about taking care of yourself in lasting and nourishing ways. In the same way your body needs good food and exercise, you need rest. You need to feed your mind and grow intellectually. This is your time for mother culture. Your soul feeds on Christ in stillness, and without the milk of the Word there will be no growth. These things all take time, and time is in short supply as a homeschool mom.
Nap time is not the only time of day you can fit these things in, but it is a realistic way to be sure they happen. If you schedule an hour of rest time each day you have an hour of free time that is not dependent on your husband’s work schedule, or the baby sleeping past six in the morning. Take control of the daily schedule and be sure it includes all the most important things. Taking care of yourself is one of the most important things.
Homeschool moms should always schedule nap time as part of the school day
During our one hour rest time each afternoon we read books. My kids have done this from the time they were small (see my hints below for what to do at each stage). This one hour of reading in the afternoon is part of our school day.
I encourage my kids to save their fun, easy reading for the afternoons. I do not allow my kids to read fluff during this time, unless they have finished everything on their school list. Classic novels or historical fiction are great for reading stretched out on the bed. This is not the time for close and careful reading that you expect oral narrations or written papers on. The exception to this rule is when someone has gotten behind on their school work, then rest time needs to be used for catch up. When I select books for the year I plan for easy books that my kids can enjoy on their own, but still tie in to the topics we cover that year.
My kids consider rest time fun, even though it is also school time. I always talk about our school morning lasting from eight until noon. The kids love having a short school day. Then with sleight of hand, I guide rest time so that it serves as an educational time as well.
Homeschool moms should always schedule nap time in order to raise readers
You train kids to be readers, don’t count on them becoming readers on their own.
An hour a day devoted to reading adds up to a lot of hours, and even reluctant readers will use those hours if you give them time and space. If the choice is reading or boredom, most kids will pick up a book. With pre-readers and early readers you cannot force the issue. I would give my kids a pile of books that had great pictures. They could look at the pictures or lay quietly on the bed (or kick the wall), but they could not get out of bed. No pressure. Then keep providing great books that are easy and approachable, and I think every kid will eventually use that time to read.
This is just a guess, because we have always done rest time, but I think only one of my kids would have spent an hour a day reading if I hadn’t given them time and space to do it. I have one kid who could lay around and read for hours. My other three like to be doing things – whether that’s sewing projects or mock battles in the back yard. They wouldn’t naturally lay down with a book, but they did. And in the end they enjoyed it and learned to read. Really read, not just sound out words.
Homeschool moms should always schedule nap time because you have so little time
That’s counter-intuitive, right? Homeschool days are busy and demanding. There’s laundry and dishes and grading and disciplining and cleaning and cooking and…and…and. No matter how hard you work you will never finish. If you wait for a quiet day when you have caught up with life, you’ll never have a break.
Create a break for yourself in the midst of the chaos. Remember, you are not sitting around doing nothing. You are making high value choices that feed your mind or soul. Secondly, a short break allows you to push hard and focus all morning. Then you’ll be exhausted and ready for a break. Then you will get up and have more to give for the rest of the day. If you skip nap time are you really getting more done in the day? Or are you frittering away time in imperceptible bits that don’t give you anything in return?
Homeschool moms should always schedule nap time because you can’t be together every minute of the day
As a homeschool family you and your kids are with each other twenty four hours a day. You all need a break! Give each child their own space to relax and give them some time by themselves. A little time alone may cut down on arguments and fights. And you know you’re longing for a few minutes alone!
A note about kids who cannot be trusted
If you have a young child who cannot be trusted to be alone – don’t trust them. Train them. Train toward the ideal. It will take a long time, but it will come. You finally think you’ve arrived – and then they’ll leave for college.
I had one little friend who spent rest times on an area rug beside my bed. I gave him a pillow, a blanket, a pile of picture books, and I said, “Don’t get off this rug. Don’t talk to me.” It worked – more or less. Later he moved out into the hall way, just outside my door where I could see him. The next step was to move him into his room. I could hear him if he got rowdy and he had to run past my door to get away so I could stop him. He needed to be where I could keep an eye or ear on him for years – like eight years. But he learned. He also loved having a timer set for him, so you can try that with kids who are having difficulty.
When I tell you that nap time gives you an hour alone, I mean MORE alone. Not really alone. Sorry.
Training your kids for daily nap time
Babies – The littlest ones who are nursing may need to be with you. Use your rest time to enjoy a few minutes alone with the baby. It’s a rare treat. As they establish a nap schedule, plan your family rest time around the baby’s nap time so that you get a short break. Even twenty minutes would be great! And moms of little ones can always use a few minutes of extra sleep. Sleep when the baby sleeps.
Toddlers – As my kids started outgrowing naps I gave them board books and stuffed animals, and trained them to stay in bed. We did lose a few books – even board books can be peeled apart and shredded. But it was worth it.
Pre-readers – I kept a basket of books beside the bed that I carefully selected for fun pictures. Then we would rotate the choices so they did not get old. Then I told my kids they could look at pictures or lay in bed. As long as they were quiet I didn’t care. This is also a good age to let them listen to audio books.
Early readers – When reading is really hard work, don’t expect them to do it all by themselves. Keep the focus on books with great pictures. You can add a few simple books that they may be able to sound out, but don’t have any expectations they will actually read them.
Middle elementary – This is when I started guiding my kids’ book choices during rest time. I might ask them to read one chapter of an easy history novel, then encourage them to read picture books the rest of time. Be sure to keep the reading you ask them to do alone slightly below their actual reading level.
Upper elementary and junior high – I still gave them a lot of guidance on how they used their rest time. I’d ask what they planned to read that day and if they didn’t know I would say, “Let’s look at your book list and pick something out.” Help them see several good choices and pick one that sounds interesting.
High school – By this time I usually just left them alone. They had been trained to spend the hour reading and were old enough to make their own choices. If I noticed them getting behind on their school reading, I would remind them that they needed to be using rest time to complete that reading. Rest time gave them an hour every day so they would not fall behind. Lots of freedom.
How you can use nap time
Here are eight ways I have refreshed and reinvigorated during rest time. Try some!
- You can take time to read your Bible. In about twenty minutes a day you can read through the Bible in a year. Twenty minutes won’t even use up all your time. Or complete a Bible study. Meditate on a Psalm. The time you spend nourishing your soul and growing in wisdom will benefit your family in countless ways.
- Read a book you have always wanted to read. Continue to push yourself and grow as a mother. You don’t need to feel guilty about enjoying a good book. Although I admit, sometimes I set a timer for myself so I won’t lay in bed and read for the rest of the day. If you want to raise readers, you need to be a reader.
- Read your children’s school books. This isn’t the time for read aloud books, these are books I assign as independent reading. I make it my goal to know all of the books my children are reading. That’s quite a challenge and doesn’t always happen. If your kids are young and you still read everything together, start reading classics they will read in high school. Having a head start is your only hope.
- Grade essays. I hated doing this during rest time, but it needed to be done while I could concentrate and time was in short supply. Then we could go over my suggestions during tea time. (Tea time naturally follows rest time.) Grading papers is not as fun as reading a great book, but it did earn me peace of mind and a sense of accomplishment. My caveat is that you not let this take over rest time every day.
- Take a real nap. Were you up all night with the baby? Did you loose sleep worrying about your teen? Are you a little sick? A twenty minute nap will give you a boost for the afternoon and evening.
- Write a letter or make a phone call. Don’t use rest time to pay bills or call the doctor. But it’s nice to have time to write a friend or visit with your mom.
- Pray. Rest time provides a few minutes to bring your requests before God or pray over the daily homeschooling troubles that you can’t solve. God gives wisdom to all who ask.
- Just lay there. A full hour might be too long, but a few minutes of doing nothing will be good for you. And you won’t really be doing nothing. Your mind will be processing and your body will relax.
After your hour of nap time, when two or three of these have allowed you to rest and accomplish something, you will be able to give 100% to your family for the rest of the day. If you are intentional about your breaks you will have more to give in the long run.
A word about social media: scrolling though Facebook or Instagram feels relaxing. But research shows people are usually discontent and more depressed after looking at everybody else’s perfect life. Another reason to avoid those during rest time is because it is so easy to loose track of time. You promise yourself five minutes of screen time and next thing you know your hour is gone. I try not to do social media during rest time and somehow always manage to squeeze it into my days. Use your hard earned hour well.
For your own sake, and for the sake of your children always schedule “nap time.” Make the most of that hour of peace so you have a rich and fulfilling homeschool life.