2.09.2016

Establishing a Home Life or Homeschool Rhythm

Creating a home life rhythm did not come naturally to me at all.  I am a free spirit.  I don't like to be bossed around, especially not by the clock.  Schedules felt constraining, if not suffocating to me.  I wanted our days to be wide open to whatever possibilities, needs, or opportunities arose, whether that was meeting a friend for lunch with my kids in tow, creating an enormous mess doing crafts, or snuggling in together, reading as many books as we could.   We had a general routine around nap time and bedtime, but other than that, our days were mostly unstructured.


For awhile, that worked for us.  When I only had two kids, I appreciated the freedom.  After we adopted Tia, she was such an amazing sleeper, sleeping 12 hours at night and 3 hours during the afternoons, that we naturally fell into a rhythm.


But everything changed after Iris was born, which happened around the same time that Jude started grade school.  Suddenly, it was like we had so many balls up in the air at once.  I felt like I was being pulled in a million different directions.  My house was a mess, I had no time for myself, and some days felt like pure chaos.  I was working so hard, and yet it felt like I was getting nothing accomplished.


Around that time, I enrolled in a course on Waldorf education, thinking I might learn a few things that I could incorporate into our days at home with my toddler and preschooler.  That's when I was introduced to the Waldorf concept of rhythm.  We started implementing it before we started homeschooling, but it laid the foundation which later made homeschooling doable for us.  


Rhythm is a guiding principle in Waldorf education, so I have since spent many hours learning about rhythm through Waldorf books, audios, and mini-courses.

Rhythm is not the same thing as a schedule.  It is not clock-driven, it's priority-driven.  Relationships still come first.  It's more about creating a predictable flow to the day.  There is no perfect rhythm. Your rhythm should be tailored to fit your family.  It won't look the same for everyone.


Having a family rhythm might feel initially like it would be stifling or boring.  But I have found that it actually brings freedom.  It allows you to nail down what's most important to you and your family, then make the time and space for those things.  You can also build in some time for yourself, too.

Rhythm is about being intentional with the way you use your time and being true to your values.  It allows you to focus on the one thing you are doing, knowing there is time and space carved out for the priorities of that day.  It alleviates the pressure of feeling like you have to do all the things, all the time.  And it helps prevent you from being carried away by the inertia of the day.



The first step in establishing a family rhythm is to assess the way you are currently spending your time.  You might consider logging the way your time is spent in a journal.  There are also apps to help with this.   In doing this, many people find they actually have more time than they think they do. As you record what you are doing, try to pay attention to how you feel as you go about your day.  Notice what feeds your soul and nourishes you and conversely, what leaves you feeling exhausted or drained.


Afterward, you can evaluate.  Here are a few questions that I have found helpful.

Which parts of your day could run more smoothly?  
What things have become time sucks in your life?   
What makes you feel like your day was a success?  
What would your dream day look like? 
What are your priorities?  
Where can you build in time - at least a little time - for yourself?  As mothers, it's so important that we also take time to nurture ourselves.  
What activities align best with your family values?

In this brainstorming process, I found it important to only consider things that I can control.  For example, my husband will probably always work late and put in a lot of hours at his job.  My toddler is simply not one to take long naps and she doesn't need a lot of sleep.  And as a homeschooling mother, I am not going to have a lot of time alone.  Those things are simply unrealistic for me to try to build into my rhythm in this season.


The Waldorf philosophy is to create a rhythm that balances what they call "in-breath" activities with "out-breath" activities.  In-breath activities tend to be more quiet, peaceful or centering.  Out-breath activities are active like unstructured play, running outside, singing or general movement.  Small children will often get restless if asked to sit for too long, so structuring our days this way has been immensely helpful.  It helps keep things running smoothly and keeps the house feeling more peaceful.



Another interesting piece of Waldorf pedagogy is to structure the day in the order of engaging first the head, then the heart and finally the hands.  This has worked out so well for us.  We do our more difficult subjects in the morning, namely math (head).  In the afternoon, we do a read aloud, quiet reading time, and music practice (heart) and we often work on crafts, painting or knitting in the late afternoon or into the evening (hands).


This is our current daily rhythm.  The times are estimations.  Remember this is a rhythm not a schedule.

Our Daily Homeschool Rhythm
Spend time with the little early birds
8:30  Breakfast 
Morning Clean Up / Jude and Indigo start Math
10:00  Morning Walk 
Finish Morning School Work (Math, Handwriting, Spelling)
12:30  Lunch / Clean Up
Read Aloud
Quiet Reading Time / Quiet Time
Piano Practice / Finish School Work / Crafts
4:00 Whole House Clean Up (15-30 minutes)
Outdoor Play / Bike Riding (2-2.5 hours)
6:30 Make Dinner
7 or 7:30 Dinner when Dan comes home
Bath and books with the three little girls
Wrap up any school reading
9:00 Bedtime for Hazel, Iris and Tia
10:00-10:30 Bedtime for Jude and Indigo

This is the backbone of our daily rhythm.  It gives us a lot of space to fill in the gaps as needed.  There is plenty of time for art and unstructured play.  There's room to breathe.  Layered within this rhythm are a few more specific routines, but this is the general flow of our day.


If you have a part of your day that is particularly sticky, stressful or just plain not going well, it can help to create a very specific plan or even a schedule initially for that part of the day.  We have had to do this several times, especially around bedtimes.  Imagine how you'd like that part of your day to flow, dream even, and then write it down.  For us, once the expectations and flow are established (within a week or so) we can let go of the schedule and things fall into place naturally.


I find I have to re-evaluate our rhythm quarterly.  Sometimes our ship drifts out to sea. Things come up and we get off track.  That's okay.  But when our life starts to feel chaotic or frenetic, I know it's time to go back and evaluate our rhythm.


The Waldorf philosophy of rhythm extends beyond the daily rhythm to the weekly, monthly, and seasonal rhythms as well.  However, I have found that our weekly rhythms fall into place easily and effortlessly, perhaps because they usually involve being somewhere at a certain time.  A few of our weekday examples include:  homeschool park day, piano lessons and library day, Children's Chorus rehearsal and Friday movie night.  Some people like to assign certain chores to certain days as well.  I do this by setting alarms on my phone, assigning different chores to different days of the week.


I don't believe there is one right way to parent or to homeschool.  But for us, incorporating the Waldorf philosophy of rhythm me has been so beneficial and so grounding for me.  Perhaps what has surprised me most of all is how much the kids love it, too.


18 comments:

  1. Rachel this is an amazing post . I learnt a lot And It if great to get a real insight of How You structure your days ! YOU should be come a writer !!

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  2. This makes so much sense, thanks for sharing. <3

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  3. So interesting to peak inside your life, and see how you organize your day!

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  4. Whoa this is awesome! Thank you for sharing!

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  5. Great post, Rachel! Totally an a-ha moment for me!

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  6. Thank you for this. We are currently homeschooling Grade 5, 4 and preschool and it has become difficult to keep up. I love this idea.

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    1. It has been such a lifesaver for us! I'm so grateful to have learned about rhythm through various Waldorf teachers and homeschoolers. It's had such a profound effect on our family life.

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  7. Running things this way makes perfect sense. Love the photos of your kids doing their things :)

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  8. Love these daily-life pictures of the children!

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  9. "Schedules felt constraining, if not suffocating to me. I wanted our days to be wide open to whatever possibilities, needs, or opportunities arose, whether that was meeting a friend for lunch with my kids in tow, creating an enormous mess doing crafts, or snuggling in together, reading as many books as we could. "

    "I was working so hard, and yet it felt like I was getting nothing accomplished."

    This is exactly how I feel. I home school my 2 daughters and often don't feel like we are getting to do as much as we should or I want to do or they want to do. You posted something about rhythm some time last spring and I have been thinking about it since. I really appreciate this post and I'm going to do some reading and thinking about our home school/life rhythm. I think our family could really benefit from mixing our "in breath" and "out breath" activities, rather than trying to squash all of the in breath in before we lose our focus and then spend the rest of the day on out breath.

    So- thanks for sharing. :)

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  10. Yes! I so enjoyed seeing and hearing about how you've carved out your days, Rachel. So glad for you. I know how very satisfying it is to get into a good groove. In the year of Eleni we totally lost rhythm. We were more juggling or sprinting all the time. Now I have been thinking about finding a new rhythm but it is strange because the two kids need me so little. I struggle to find ways to connect with them other than through school. What does it look like to "Waldorf" big kids, I want to know?

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  11. This is a great reminder, and such a well thought out post. Thanks!

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  12. Love your blog. I just get here through pinterest because I'm taking some how to sew girls clothes (heirloom) and like your photos. Then found your blog, your beautifull big family, homeschooling...and this post that is great, thank you. And nice to "meet" you. (My blog is mama-arte-eco.blogspot.com is in spanish because I'm from Puerto Rico.)God bless you.

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  13. You mentioned having enrolled in a course on Waldorf. I plan to homeschool my little one and am very drawn to the Waldorf pedagogy. Could you please recommend a source for classes, and are they available online? Any information would be greatly appreciated.
    Thank you,
    Leah

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    1. Hi Leah! I really like Donna from Christopherus. I always have this disclaimer that I put out there with Waldorf education - that it can seem too "Christian" for secular folks and too secular for Christians. There's also a side to it called "anthroposophy" which is a bit odd. But the general curriculum really speaks to me, even if I don't always agree with every 'reason' behind their pedagogy. I feel it is rich and beautiful and has worked well for our family. We do supplement with other things quite a lot and I plan to write about that over the summer. :) But Donna's audio lectures are my favorite Waldorf resource out there. And she has loads of free info on her website.

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