Creating a Family Rhythm

As I wrote in my post on the Essentials of Rhythm, “If there is any tool that will make parenting, homeschooling, and homemaking easier for you, it’s rhythm. Rhythm is my number one resource for increasing calm and decreasing crazy in my home.”  In the past month I’ve written posts on daily rhythm, weekly rhythm, seasonal rhythm, and what rhythm really is….but how do you pull it all together?

1.  Start with your values and priorities

Your family rhythm should reflect what matters most to you as a family.  What do you want to emphasize in your daily life?  What activities help you feel most connected?  What do you need to do so your home operates the way you want it to?  What helps your children thrive?  I find that many Waldorf homeschoolers start with the question, “What do they do in Waldorf schools?” but I would suggest you start with, “What do we do in our family?” and also, “What is our family’s greatest potential?”

2.  Establish your anchor points

In order for your days to feel rhythmic, there needs to be consistency and predictability.  What are the activities in your family which happen day in and day out, which happen best at a certain time, and which bring your family all together?  For many families this includes meals and sleep, and many would also add times such as bedtime routines, reading aloud together, Friday night pizza night, afternoon rest time, etc.  These are anchor points because they help your family life feel grounded.

3.  Play with in-breath and out-breath

This is where rhythm is different from a routine or a schedule.  Rhythm is a natural impulse like breathing, and the quality of breathing in is different from the quality of breathing out.  When we breathe in, we are gathering our resources, refueling, or making connections (think quieter activities such as sleep, alone time, listening to stories, or meals).  When we breathe out, we are engaging, exploring, learning new things, or communicating (think playing outside, social activities, being in our community, practicing with math manipulatives, or circle time).  It isn’t necessary to get caught up in labeling activities as in-breath or out-breath.  Just go with your instinct and aim for alternating times of outwardly engaged activity and inwardly processing activity.  When this part of rhythm feels right, everything falls into place.

4.  Smooth out transitions

For any trouble spots during the day (such as bedtime, cleanup, coming to the dinner table, or getting out the door to go somewhere), think about whether you can make that part of the day even more rhythmic.  For example, if you’re trying to make it easier to leave the house, think through all the steps that need to happen (snacks packed, sweaters on, potty, shoes on, lights out, etc.) and start doing them in the same order every time.  Find a way to stay connected with your children throughout the process so you are holding the space and they can imitate you.  Use songs, verses, or little games to keep everyone engaged (I sing, “Shoes on, shoes on, lights out, lights out, time to go to the library” etc.).  Before long, the transition will feel comfortable for everyone because it will be part of a familiar rhythm.

Above all, use rhythm as one of your tools for connecting as a family and nurturing your children.  You aren’t a taskmaster standing there with a stopwatch or rushing everyone through a schedule.  You are a mama duck making it easy for your children to move through their day.  When you create a rhythm for your family you set down patterns for your children to follow.  When they know they can follow mama duck around, little ones can relax, play, learn, and connect.

Now it's your turn:

What's your number one tip for creating a family rhythm?  Please share with us in the comments below!