Rhythm in the Elementary Years
Children in the elementary years still need rhythm. A predictable flow to the day, week, and lessons helps your child focus on the task at hand. It’s also a huge help to you in planning and learning the lessons you’ll teach.
Elements of the Day
The biggest changes to daily rhythm in the elementary years are adding in lesson times and giving your child increasing independence and responsibility for her routines and lesson work over time. Here are the elements of the day for the grades child:
- Anchor routines for waking, meals, and going to bed
- Chores - opportunities to do real helpful work in the home and with meals
- Creative play inside and outside
- Main Lesson - including storytelling, artistic work, academic work, movement, and more
- Practice or Track Lessons - included in main lesson or another time, regular practice in math, reading, etc.
- Music - singing everyday, recorder lessons, and adding a musical instrument around age 9
- Movement - play (especially outside), walks, and rhythmic movement in lesson
- Afternoon rest time - time for everyone to get a quiet break
- Read aloud
- Handwork - this might be part of your daily rhythm or something you do a few days a week
A balanced day with in-breath and out-breath is just as important in the elementary years as in kindergarten. Your child needs time every single day to play. Playtime should be a priority over organized activities, sports, and excessive time in lessons through at least age twelve.
Time to play, move their bodies, be outside, time for a feeling of reverence, connection, and peace in the routines of the day - these are all crucial for building a healthy child.
Elements of the Week
The elements of the week for the elementary years include:
- Main lesson (3-5 days a week depending on the age of your child)
- Art lessons (painting, modeling, handwork, etc.)
- Social time
- Weekly activities, classes, etc.
Your weekly rhythm can include anything you want to do on a regular weekly basis such as getting together with friends or a homeschool group, errands or house cleaning, math games, nature lessons, outings, library, activities or lessons out of the house, etc.
You’ll want to decide how many days to do main lesson and any other lessons and how they will fit into the rest of your schedule. There’s a lot of flexibility in Waldorf-inspired homeschooling for when to bring in subjects like painting, modeling, handwork and crafts, music, and form drawing. You could:
- Continue with your weekly rhythm from kindergarten for painting, modeling, and handwork (this especially works well if you still have kindy-aged children at home too)
- Set aside one main lesson day each week for art lessons
- Bring these subjects in as part of the artistic and active portions of your main lessons
- Teach these subjects in blocks as a mid-day or afternoon lesson
- And so on!
There isn’t a right way to do it, and as with everything else, your goal is to find a rhythm to your week that works great for your family.
Elements of the Main Lesson
In Waldorf-inspired homeschooling, the lesson itself has a rhythm to it.
Every main lesson includes engaging with the material actively (hands), artistically (heart), and academically (head).
- Active - including rhythmic movement, crafting or modeling, acting out stories, form drawing, speech
- Artistic - including poetry, singing, storytelling, painting, drawing
- Academic - including writing, reading, solving math problems, retelling stories, copywork, spelling and grammar, learning something new
Main lessons also include a time to review, revisit, or practice what has been learned before (from the previous day and also in previous weeks or blocks) as well as learning something new. The time and space between main lessons is also a key element of the main lesson rhythm. This is when your child is sleeping on or digesting new material. Much of the learning work that our brains do happens in the off time when we are not consciously working on something. Then when we revisit the material it begins to consolidate in long-term memory. So a teaching rhythm over the course of a few days looks like this:
- Introduce - new material is usually introduced through story or activity
- Sleep - let the concept rest over night
- Revisit - review and practice what was learned to deepen understanding
- Practice - continue to practice regularly
This is a lot to pull together, and crafting a rhythm for your lessons will help you to bring in all these elements with ease rather than chaos.
For example, your main lessons in broad strokes might look like this:
Circle/Verse Review and Practice (from previous day, and often from previous weeks and blocks) Activity (the main focus of your lesson - could be painting, form drawing, reading, place value, a mural of animal homes in the winter, something to go deeper with what you learned the day before…..) Main lesson book work, Story (learning something new)
Putting it all together
So how do you pull together a rhythm for the days, weeks, and lessons in the grades? Start by listing out which subjects and activities you would like to do on a daily, weekly, or rotating basis. For example, do you want to paint once every week (and maybe maintain your painting rhythm from kindy), or would you prefer to paint during certain lesson blocks and take up something different in others?
Then think about a pattern for your days that gives you time for your lessons, time for your family life, and open-ended time for play. Many homeschoolers like to think of the day as having a head-heart-hands rhythm, with main lessons (head) first thing in the morning, mid-day lessons such as painting or recorder just before lunch (heart), and afternoon lessons such as games, movement, or handwork (hands) later in the day. This can work very well, but it isn’t something to get stuck on, especially keeping in mind that a Waldorf main lesson includes a vast amount of time on heart/hands activities!
You have a wonderful amount of flexibility to do what works for your family, but do think it through so your days don’t feel scattered!
Here’s just one example of a rhythm that could work in the grades:
Morning Routine, Breakfast, and Chores Neighborhood Walk Circle - singing, recorder, speech, movement Main Lesson - including story Snack Play Mid-day Lesson Lunch and Playtime Read Aloud Afternoon Quiet Time Outside Play and Snack Afternoon Lesson Play Dinner Bedtime Routine
Mondays - Form Drawing (main lesson); Baking Day (mid-day); Handwork (afternoon) Tuesdays - Math Games (mid-day); Cooking (afternoon) Wednesdays - Painting (mid-day); Handwork (afternoon) Thursdays - Beeswax (mid-day); Music Lessons and Swimming (afternoon) Fridays - Friends Day; Handwork (afternoon) Saturdays - Hiking Day (summer) or Crafts Day (winter) Sundays - Family Day