“Meaning hides in repetition: We do this every day or every week because it matters. We are connected by this thing we do together. We matter to one another. In the tapestry of childhood, what stands out is not the splashy, blow-out trip to Disneyland but the common threads that run throughout and repeat: the family dinners, nature walks, reading together at bedtime, Saturday morning pancakes.”
– Kim John Payne
One of the best things you can do to create a peaceful family life is to bring rhythm into your days. Rhythm helps children feel secure and comfortable - it provides a safe container for all of their beautiful energy, imagination, and creativity.
A daily rhythm is an intentional flow to your days. There are many things which you do day in and day out no matter what because they meet everyone’s basic needs (such as eating meals, brushing teeth, and sleeping). And there are many more activities on top of that which you do every day because they support the family life you want to have, they are things you enjoy, or are meaningful to you (such as cooking your meals, singing together, housework, or going outside to play). When you put some thoughtfulness and consistency around the order in which you do all these things, you create a daily rhythm.
What are daily rhythms?
the activities we do day in and day out
the breathing in and breathing out feeling of the day
the rituals that make up our family culture on a daily basis
the predictability that children need in order to settle into playing, connecting, and resting
Last month I wrote about the essentials of kindergarten homeschooling. The essentials are not specific activities (baking, painting, etc.), but rather an underlying philosophy of Waldorf-inspired kindergarten at home: It’s play-based, non-academic, and nature-inspired. The children learn through creative play, movement, and imitation, and the parent’s role is to form the rhythm and relationship. If this sounds great, then you are in the right place - but you might still be wondering: What do we DO all day?
Here are some daily activities which support the needs of young children:
Morning and Bedtime Routines
- Meals and snacks
- Creative Play
- Rest Time
- Outside Time
- Purposeful Work (such as helping to prepare dinner)
- Music and Movement (such as a circle time)
- Artistic or Practical Work (especially in the kindergarten years as part of the weekly rhythms which we’ll explore next week)
You’ll enjoy your daily rhythm most if it’s created just with your family in mind. It helps to read about what other families are doing and what the typical activities in a Waldorf kindergarten are, but just copying someone else’s rhythm can lead to unpleasant expectations and stress. So when you think about your rhythm, think about what’s most important for your own family and the work that you need to get done each day. Your family might read aloud each day, do farm chores, garden, go for a nature walk, have homeschooling time for your older children, say prayers, or make art together on a daily basis.
Crafting your daily rhythm
Now, a list of activities is not a rhythm! A daily rhythm is an intentional flow to the day, so the order in which you do things matters. This doesn’t mean that every day looks exactly the same. But when the general order of operations is consistent (first we do our morning routines, and then we do our morning activity for the day) you’re giving your children the predictability they need and you’re giving yourself a plan for the day. A strong rhythm is just that - rhythmic! It has a feeling of breathing in (focused, quiet, and individual activities) and breathing out (expressive, active, and social activities) throughout the day. It feels balanced and moves along at a comfortable pace. Getting that flow just right is a topic for a future post, so for now I’ll leave you with a few guidelines for getting started with your daily rhythm:
First steps to daily rhythm
1. Start by writing down what is most important for your family. What are the things which have to happen every day? What are the things that help your family thrive, or you love so much you want them to happen every day? Is there anything you want to eliminate from your schedule to make your days more peaceful?
2. Decide which daily activities need to happen at approximately the same time each day. For most families, this includes meals, resting times, and morning and bedtime routines. Those are your anchor points, the activities which anchor your routine and provide the basic outline of your day.
3. Add in the rest of your daily activities. Try to alternate more active and more focused times of day.
Read the rest of the series: