I’ve written about rhythm before. I love the idea of rhythm in my homeschool where the day has anchor points and an orderly flow of activities that everyone can expect and take comfort in. Steiner believed following daily, weekly, and seasonal rhythms was important for our overall development. I believe the benefit of rhythm is not exclusive to those who do a Waldorf curriculum. Children thrive on structure and like many homeschool moms, I thrive on having a plan.
This year, the rhythm in my homeschool already has a much different flow from last year’s rhythm. Maintaining a daily rhythm last year was an ongoing challenge due to my boys’ in-home therapies schedule and my outside of the home job. Nothing says “rhythm breaker” like six hours of therapists INSIDE of your home each week and you (Mom) being OUTSIDE your home working another fifteen. This year, thank goodness, I no longer have to plan our homeschool rhythm around either of those. I would like to encourage those of you like me who are new to Waldorf, especially if you are struggling with rhythm. Hang in there. One thing I do know for certain– besides being something our families need, rhythm is meant to make our homeschools (and our lives) more enjoyable and not harder.
Within our daily rhythm, there is an order of activities but not specific times throughout the day of starting and ending. We do try to start early by 7:00 each morning in order to accommodate needing to leave in afternoon for activities. The older kids involved in these activities know which days these things are a part of their daily rhythm. Those not in those activities still have a rhythm, (usually independent work followed by free time for the older kids and free play for the littlest). We definitely have days, as everyone does, where mornings don’t go as planned and we start later than we wanted to. I try to remember that rhythm looks different for everyone; and I still strive to find the way that is best for my family.
Our rhythm of our days for 2014-2015 school year…
7:00 Wake up and morning routine (Breakfast/grooming), unhurried as possible
Come together for Circle Time (prayer, verse, calendar, etc)
Main lesson block…this includes a small snack break midway through
Lunch (kids have free play while I prepare lunch)
Shorter afternoon lesson block/foreign language (For us, this is French)
Theme activity (see themes above)
Extra curricular activities (ballet, etc)… or free time, depending on day
Evening routine (dinner, shower/grooming)
Bible time (we do this as a family, very informal, you could do story time here instead)
Bed time (9pm)
This rhythm in the home and knowing what comes next in the day to day activities, with activities flowing one into the next and not based on a clock, is one of my favorite components of Waldorf Inspired Homeschooling. It made a huge difference for the positive in our homeschool, in me, and in the kids– but especially with my twins with special needs. I will mention here that one way I have found rhythm to be so helpful to me personally is I previously had a tendency to move my kids quickly from one thing to another. Though I didn’t mean for them to be, there was a tendency for abrupt transitions, now as I start incorporated versus into our transitions (and a more patient demeanor), there is more of a flow from one thing to another as opposed to a stop-go.
Day Color Grain Theme.(Daily activities)
Tuesday Red Oats Drawing
Friday Green Barley Nature/Gardening
Sundays White Wheat Rest
There are regular things we do weekly in our home…clean the house, do the laundry, etc. I’ve never had these on a specific day before. This year I am going to try. So, besides Mass on the weekend, having a weekly rhythm for those activities is new for us.
In my homeschool seasonal rhythm is my favorite and because we live in an area of the country that does not have seasonal weather patterns, is the one I tend to put the most creative effort into in an attempt to pick up the slack where Mother Nature dropped off. We are in Arizona. In summer, it is hot. In fall, it is hot. In winter, the weather is like fall, and then it seems we go right back into summer again.
So summer is easy to teach and celebrate, but trying to teach small children in mid-October an understanding about fall’s cooler weather when it is still 112 outside can be challenging. Last year, really playing up what traditional seasons were in other areas, along with celebrating the holidays in traditional ways was very successful. We also travel a lot so we were able to go to traditional seasonal weather a few times as well. This year, I am building on the seasonal rhythm with the introduction of festivals into our homeschool. It is my first year doing festivals, so I’m going to go for quality over quantity and pick some main ones and try to do them well, specifically:
September 29th: Michaelmas
October 31/Nov 1st: Halloween/All Saints Day
November 11th: Martinmas
December 6th: St. Nicholas
December 13th: St. Lucia
December: Solstice and Christmas
February 2nd: Candlemas/St. Brigid
February 14th: St. Valentine
May 1st: May Day
June: Solstice/St. John
Of course we have previously done holidays and some of the Saints, like St. Valentine, are already in our homeschool rhythm. Being Catholic, I love this component of Waldorf, this celebrating certain saints within the calendar, but even for those not Catholic, the Saints lives are wonderful role models for our children and worth being celebrated. Virtues can easily be applied across all belief systems. One does not need to be Catholic, or even to believe in Christ, to see character qualities as bravery, kindness, and service to others as things worth celebrating with our children.
To quote Sarah Baldwin, Waldorf educator and creative force of the Moon Child blog and Bella Luna toys, “We give children a gift and nourish their healthy development by being mindful of a young child’s need for rhythm, and offering them consistency, and the comfort of knowing what comes next, as we move through our days, weeks, and years together with them.”