It’s afternoon. We’ve just finished lunch and are clearing the table. My daughter goes to get a piece of chocolate, her daily treat after she finishes her lunch. I reach over and give her a hug and look into her eyes. “Are you ready for school?”
“Want some tea today?”
“Yes, please. Can I light the candle?”
With tea and matches in hand, we climb the stairs to our school room loft, and start our school day.
In both Waldorf and Charlotte Mason, the two pedagogies that I draw the most inspiration from, there is a lot of talk about rhythm. Rhythm is different than a schedule. The specific times attached to a schedule give it a strict, unyielding feel. Rhythm in contrast is a flow, a dance through time. Adhering to a schedule for homeschooling is not necessary. However having a family rhythm to our homeschooling day gives us a course to move through, a direction for our day.
The routines for homeschool vary as much as homeschoolers vary themselves. Our homeschooling even changes based on the season. Most of our homeschooling friends school in the morning, but my family has had a variety of routines. Both of my children are very active, so when my son was an only child (which he still remembers) we went out to play in the mornings. The more outside time we had in the morning, the easier school was for our day. When his sister became older, I was able to school them together for a short period of time, but there are six years differences in them. When he reached middle school I was no longer able to do this, and our daily rhythm changed again. I did our circle time and school with her in the mornings, filling her bucket first, and then moved on to do his individual lessons in the afternoon. This past year as he worked on his first year of high school, our family rhythm changed yet again. He is ready to start the day mid-morning. She is still playing, and I want to insure that she gets plenty of play time, so I work with him in the morning, and then after lunch, we usually make some tea, light a candle, pull out our schedule cards, and start our school time together.
In establishing natural rhythm it’s important to observe your family natural rhythms. When your children are most naturally engaged with you? One hint is when do they come to you and tell you they are bored. When are they most naturally self-engaged? Be sure to include yourself and your needs in your decisions. I personally need some quiet time and coffee in the morning, so I don’t schedule anything that I have to keep up with including making sure the children are doing any chores at that time. I’m also pretty tired after 5:00 from the day, so I want our schooling to be finished by this time.
There are many ways to establish rhythm for the day. Little rituals like having circle time, singing a song, lighting a candle, using essential oils or making tea can make your day go smoother by establishing connection and signaling transition. Spark the senses. Some people use a morning basket – a basket full of books or lessons that they work through in the morning one by one. When my children were little we used a Good Morning song to signal the transition into our circle time. Currently our rhythm is tea, candles, and connection for the school day.
In the beginning of a new rhythm I have to be very intentional. I usually type or draw our new daily routine so I have a visual, and I am able to stay on top of it and remind the family what to expect next. As it becomes more of a habit, I can discard the printed paper and just flow and move through our day. In our family chores are worked into this daily rhythm. Currently my daughter is helping to put dishes away both morning and afternoon. My son washes our dishes after breakfast and lunch. Each child has their responsibilities that happen with in the series of activities that we do through the day. Here is an example of our daily rhythm, but I’m curious. What are your homeschool rhythms?
- Quiet time and coffee
- My daughter helps put dishes away
- We get ready for the day (brush teeth and hair, wash faces, change clothes)
- Play time for my daughter, schooling for my son
- My son washes the morning dishes
- Tea and Candles and schedule cards for school with the youngest
- Free time and play