Waldorf-Inspired Homeschool Planning: Daily and Weekly Rhythms

This week we’re on the third post in our planning series:  Planning out your rhythm for the homeschool year!

If you missed the first two posts you can find them here:

Big Picture Planning

Planning Your Year and Main Lesson Block Plan

Now that you have a block plan you know when you’re going to cover the main lesson and story material for your child’s grade.  You’ve also decided what additional lessons or subjects you want to cover this year (handwork, painting, practice in math, etc.).  The next step is to figure out how to comfortably fit everything into your daily and weekly rhythms.

The key word here is “comfortably.”  One big difference between a schedule and a rhythm is that a schedule keeps you tied to a clock and it can feel regimented whereas a rhythm is a flow to the day that breathes.  A carefully crafted rhythm leaves plenty of room for your priorities as a family and alternates times of outward focus (out-breath) and inward focus (in-breath).  Rhythms are predictable and consistent and they create a structure or form that you can count on.  Within that form is lots of space and freedom.  Rhythm supports energy rather than draining it.

Rhythm is a central concept in Waldorf education.  It’s important that your days, weeks, seasons, and even your main lesson times have a rhythm to them that you and your child use to carry your energy.  It’s also important that there are many opportunities in your day for the rhythms of music, movement, and practical work.  If you are new to Waldorf or need more help with rhythm please see this Guide to Creating a Family Rhythm on the blog.

Step Six:  Create Your Daily Rhythms

If you don’t feel secure in your daily rhythm this is a very good time to start working on it!  Read about rhythm, write down your ideas, and start bringing it into practice.  You can plan a rhythm now that leaves some open space for when you will do your homeschooling lessons in the fall - just replace main lesson time with hiking, gardening, swimming, or other outdoor activities during the summer months.

If you are happy with your daily rhythm now, think about whether anything needs to change in the fall.  If you’re transitioning from kindergarten to the grades, you will need to block off time for main lessons.  If you already have a morning rhythm with circle, story, and an activity such as painting, it’s pretty easy to transition that block into a first grade main lesson time.  As you move up through the grades you might need to add in more homeschooling time to your day for practice lessons and independent reading.

Many homeschoolers like to organize their lessons into a three-fold rhythm of “head, heart, and hands.”  Typically people start the day with “head/thinking” main lesson time.  Next in the late morning comes “heart/feeling” lessons such as painting, modeling, music, or foreign language.  Finally, the afternoon is devoted to “hands/willing” activities such as gardening, woodworking, games, and handwork.

Even homeschoolers can get overscheduled and children in the grades (ages 7-14) still need a daily rhythm with in-breath and out-breath.  Please make sure that your child has plenty of time to play, be outside, and move his body every day!

Step Seven:  Plan out your weekly rhythm

Think back to your big picture planning.  Is there anything that you want to emphasize this year for your child or your family?  Is there anything you want to be sure you protect time for?  If you want to spend more time in nature as a family maybe Saturdays are set aside for hiking and getting outside.  Maybe you have a child who just wants to read all day so you balance that out with rock climbing Monday afternoons, swimming on Wednesdays, and a homeschool coop on Fridays.  Or you could choose to protect your homeschooling time at home by delegating all errands and outings to one or two days a week.

This is your chance to decide that Mondays are botany days, Thursday afternoons are for hiking with friends, and Fridays are for grocery shopping and music lessons, and so on.  Think about anything you want to happen on a weekly basis and plan it in.

Kindergarten children thrive on a simple weekly rhythm of practical and artistic work such as bread baking on Mondays, make soup on Tuesdays, beeswax on Wednesdays, park day on Thursdays, and painting on Fridays.  This can work very well to shape the week when you are working with multiple ages as well.  For example, everyone could have their form drawing lessons on Mondays, modeling on Wednesdays, and painting lessons on Thursdays.  Your first grader would be doing simple standing and running forms while your fourth grader tackled Celtic knots.  Your second grader could model animals with beeswax while your fifth grader works with clay and your toddler plays with playdough.

How many days a week will you have main lesson?

How will you handle lessons such as form drawing, painting, recorder, handwork, and modeling? Will these be part of main lesson or separate? Will you rotate subjects in blocks or do them every week?  Will they happen daily, twice a week, weekly?

For older children, what’s your plan for independent work or practice outside of main lesson blocks?  Are there themes for this grade such as nature studies, botany, geography, perspective drawing, or astronomy that you’d like to set aside time for each week?  When will lessons and social time outside of the house happen?

Finally, play around with your daily and weekly rhythms side by side until they make sense together.  I typically write out a few different possibilities until I come up with something that feels like a comfortable fit.

Next week we'll go back to main lesson planning and start filling in the details!