Do Not Sit Up Late: Three Practical Do Not’s

sleepy homeschool mom

In reading some advice that Charlotte Mason gave to her student teachers, three little gems stood out to me. Interestingly, they all start with “Do not.”

But don’t let the negative wording intimidate you. These Do Not’s are not designed to impose a hardship on you—quite the opposite, in fact. I think that as you implement Charlotte’s counsel, you will find a great freedom that you may not have experienced in a long time.

Curious? Let’s dive in to the first practical Do Not.

Do Not Sit Up Late

Do Not #1:

“Do not sit up late preparing lessons; what you seem to gain in preparation you lose by tiredness next day.” 

We’ve all been there at some time or other. The day has been crammed to overflowing with housework, schoolwork, errands, meal preparation, phone calls, and a couple of last-minute appointments thrown in for good measure. When you finally get the last child tucked into bed and drag your weary body to the sofa, it hits you like a bolt of lightning: you don’t have your schoolwork planned for tomorrow!

Here is the crucial moment. What will you do?

Charlotte recommended that you go to bed. Well, at least that you not sit up late working on plans. If you think about it, two opposing factors are involved in this decision: a list of assignments or your energy level. Which factor is more important to having a good day tomorrow?

We can have impressive lists of assignments and still have a horrendous day because we’re so tired that our thoughts are fuzzy and our attitudes are terrible. Yet, when our energy level (and accompanying attitude) is refreshed, we can meet the challenges that come at us with grace and creativity.

Charlotte emphasized, “The children need your utmost freshness of mind and energy.”

Of course, Charlotte was not advocating that we consistently put off school planning and just “make it up as we go along” for schoolwork every day. She highly esteemed a good school plan, reminding us that well-planned work can make our lives easier and our days smoother. But she also realized that we are human and that life happens.

Perhaps on those evenings when the thought of tomorrow sneaks up on you, some of these ideas might help:

  • Set a time limit and work on your plans only until that time. Call it “good enough” and give yourself permission to get some sleep.
  • Set your alarm to waken you an hour earlier in the morning. You’ll probably get more planning done in less time when you’re rested.
  • Select three “must keep going” subjects for each student and make plans only for those three. Use the extra time tomorrow to catch up on your planning.
  • Declare tomorrow to be a nature study day. Take your nature notebooks, field guides, and a picnic lunch to a local park. Throw in your family read-aloud book too, if you want to.
  • Dust off your mental list of local field trips that you haven’t gotten around to recently and choose one for tomorrow.
  • Declare tomorrow to be a community service day. Visit a local nursing home. Do yard work for a widow in your church.
  • Declare tomorrow to be a game day. Play educational games and read books together.
  • Use tomorrow to teach a new life skill or handicraft to the children. Give them lots of time to practice.
  • Or just give the children an unexpected holiday. Take time to play, to rest, to plan, to live.

Have any of you experienced the truth of Charlotte’s wisdom in this first Do Not? Leave a comment and share your thoughts.

“The children need your utmost freshness of mind and energy, so do not sit up late preparing lessons; what you seem to gain in preparation you lose by tiredness next day” (The Story of Charlotte Mason, p. 150).

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  1. I agree with this 100%. I tend to stay up to late sometimes, the next day i am a grump!!!! I cannot concentrate nearly as well as if I had a good night sleep. Also I am more short tempered, which is not fair to my dd. We can always do the math, copywork, independent reading. Studying spelling wisdom. Those dont even need to be prepared. Read where you left off in your book. These things will make the rest of the planning much easier.

  2. Oh yes, this is a worthy rule indeed. It took me a long time, but I finally learned to be firm and unapologetic about my need for sleep. I’m simply a better wife, mother, teacher, friend and home-keeper because of it! ~K

  3. I have had more peace with taking it easy because of Charlotte’s advice to let somedays just be days for children to absorb and soak in the previous days learning. Whenver I need a little break, I happily remind myself of this!

  4. Amen, Amen, and Amen!
    I think I am going to print this list of alternatives out and put them in my planning notebook! I fall into a rut of having a day off, or just doing must move forward things when I have one of those days, this gave me some fresh alternatives to keep in the back of my mind. 🙂 Yay Hooray! Thanks guys! 🙂

  5. The first do not was so fabulous – what are the other 2? Are you leaving us in suspense or is there some place to read the other 2?!

  6. I cannot tell you how important this key ‘do not’ has been to setting the atmosphere of our home! serious. I posted about it here. My ‘freshness’ of mind and attitude can make or break the day. Sadly, even knowing this, I sometimes make a foolish choice!

    In considering how we as moms have a HUGE influence in setting the daily atmosphere of our homes, I think this post would make a nice contribution to the upcoming CM blog carnival!! hint, hint… 🙂

    I’m looking forward to reading the other ‘DO NOTs’

    amy in peru

  7. i love this! i home school my 11 year old who has a nonverbal learning disability- and i use charlotte masons methods. i find so often, the need to step back and remind myself of the big picture- to remember who my student is- (and she’s not me and that’s ok!). It’s very typical of kids with learning differences to have a lot of inconsistency in their work and in their day to day. One day she’ll fly through things and another it’s like pulling teeth!

    the most helpful thing has be me letting go a little- me trusting the big picture – that her process will be different than mine was- and that it’s OK. the days that we set out to discover together- will a very limited agenda- are the days we both learn and enjoy the most!

  8. Have you and Charlotte been watching me lately? I have a serious problem with this. I find that it’s late at night that I begin to question my decision to homeschool, my ability as a mother, my choice of math programs or history books or whatever. Late at night is the time I start to panic that I can’t do it, that I made bad choices, that some other program would be so much better.

    If I get adequate sleep, I almost always feel confident in myself and the choices we’ve made. I also struggle with health issues and one night of little sleep can affect me (and our home/school) for days, sometimes weeks.

    I appreciate your list of alternative things to do…sometimes we need a break even if we got lots of sleep!

  9. Absolutely affirm this advice. I think a lot of behavioral problems in children and sickness in all people is due to lack of sleep!

    A good night’s sleep and rising early (before my daughter) are essential for a productive homeschool day.

  10. I so needed to read this. I’ve got in to a bad habit of playing catch up in the eveinings, and then it all goes wrong in the morning. I can’t even think straight and end up feeling disapointed with the lessons I prepared anyway. Really good advice, thank you so much.

  11. i’m so grateful to see this right now. We just recently gave birth to twins and I find my self nearly delerious by nightfall. We began homemschooling only a few months ago and I find that I’m constantly staying up late….thank you.

  12. I have found this to be so true. When I stay up late planning in a hurry I end up not having enough energy to do all that I planned. I am cranky and short with my children and no one is enjoying themselves. I love the suggestions made and I will remember to give myself permission to use one of them the next time I am caught off gaurd and unplanned.

  13. This is soooo true. And it seems lately that things just kind of snowball–DH coming later from work, so supper is later, time for dad and kids later, bedtime later, mom trying to keep up with everything–pointless! And then the next day because I’m not ready, the school day is already doomed to near failure. Slowly we’re trying to change things so whether or not DH gets home we can stay on track and I can get the rest I need. When I get my sleep everything does run smoother.

  14. I too needed this advice, as I write this comment at 1:15 in the morning! I guess I consider this my “off” time after being with the children all day long. I admit I get carried away with planning, researching on the internet and watching t.v. Like almost everyone here has said, in the morning I am cranky, and unmotivated, while my children are refreshed and ready to go. Thanks for the reminder!

  15. Great stuff! Thanks for the encouraging words. This is such good, sound, practical advice! I sure do need my energy as I home school my five sons ages 7-17! 🙂

  16. Charlotte was a genius! It is often so hard to realize that Mom needs to take care of herself, and a tired Mom is not always a good teacher. I want to hire someone to sculpt a statue of Miss Mason on my front lawn so I can look at it whenever I forget to “give myself permission” to go to bed at a decent hour! 🙂

  17. Great article! This is so true. I can also tell a difference in my attitude when I am well-rested. I do all of my school preparations on the weekend. This is such a huge help! I have everything paper-wise hole punched and in individual binders for each child. I have all of the books necessary for the week in white plastic dishpans sitting on the bookshelf. It is great to have everything ready for the week!

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