When I first began learning about parenting and Steiner Waldorf education, one thing that struck me was the importance of rhythm in the lives of children, especially young children under the age of seven. Rhythm can transform a child’s behaviour, bring them more confidence and stability and can make daily tasks run more smoothly.
Naturally, wanting the very best for my son, I wanted to incorporate a rhythm of our own to our days. Yet there was one big obstacle, namely, my dislike for routine and predictability. I like, no, I LOVE my freedom. I love spontaneity and adventure, and despise having my week all planned out, knowing exactly what’s to come. It stifles me.
At first, I went ahead with it anyway, hoping I would adapt and grow to enjoy it. I planned daily tasks that looked something like this-
Monday: Painting AM, Beach PM
Tuesday: Forest school AM, Clay PM
Wednesday: Nature walk AM, Baking PM
And so on.
I also tried to squeeze in a circle time, singing, and several other rituals which sounded oh so magical on paper. But each time I vowed to stick to the routine, I failed. By day three I was always rebelling and refusing to play along. I felt inauthentic doing things because the wall chart said I should, and conflicted when my son resisted my perfectly crafted weekly plan. And the regular groups we went to were getting to be too much for him too. He was bored and frustrated with having to go to forest school just because that’s what we do on Wednesdays. He wanted more freedom and choice in his life too.
So we said goodbye to our strict and not so magical routine once and for all, and instead went with the flow. It was lovely, and it gave us the time to figure out what we wanted to do with our days. However, I still really believed in the importance of rhythm for a child. I could see the difference in our motivation, along with Little Cat’s behaviour when we had no rhythm at all. I didn’t want to return to our regimented scheme, but I wanted a flow to our days.
As it happens, this occurred naturally over time and we now have a very familiar rhythm to our days, at least Monday to Friday.
Controversially perhaps for the Waldorf home-schooling world, we are not early birds and I do not rise before Little Cat to centre myself for the day to come. I am a night owl and my son has joined me in this habit. We both rise anywhere from 8.30am to 10am, though it is usually around 9.15am.
Although our days are not the same week in week out, they do have a pattern to them. We rise slowly. We talk about our dreams. Little Cat goes and sits on the potty while I get up and ready for the day. We always eat breakfast together, and Little Cat enjoys choosing several pieces of fruit which he brings to me to prepare. I don’t sing a morning verse, I don’t do a circle time. These things just didn’t come naturally to me – I felt like I was putting on a show and going through the motions. Instead, we often eat in silence, enjoying our food and waking up properly.
From there our days can look very different, but we will often go outside in the fresh air for a few hours in the morning. It could be the woods, the park, the beach, or to meet friends.
We tend to eat lunch at home around two pm, then rest with free play, stories, crafts or whatever else takes our fancy for a few hours. We have a snack about five, because we both usually feel hungry then, but this is set by our hunger, not the clock.
When Daddy arrives home from work (any time from 5pm to 8pm), he and Little Cat have their time together, often doing some household task or building a den. This is not scheduled quality time, but I like to go and have some time to work when he gets home, so it just naturally happens that this time becomes theirs.
Dinner is any time between 7pm and 8.30pm and Little Cat will often help to prepare it, but has no obligation to whatsoever. He also frequently sets the table and lights the candles we always have at dinner time – see we do have one or two of those special walforfy touches still!
After dinner, it is Little Cat’s job to feed the guinea pigs and give them fresh hay. This has been his job since we got them several years ago, and it is a task he has enjoyed and then ignored in cycles. Right now he loves the responsibility of feeding them and rushes to do it after his dinner.
Then it is his bedtime. This is almost always straight after dinner, although if we have finished eating earlier than 8pm, he can play for a while until it is a more reasonable bedtime for our little night owl. We started his bedtime routine when he was a year old and it has pretty much always been the same. Mummy and Daddy alternate nights, he goes upstairs with one of us, potty, pj’s, teeth and then story. Then we lie down with him in the family bed until he falls asleep. This usually happens sometime between 9 and 10pm. We have some of our best chats at this time and both myself and Daddy have our own habits for bedtime – mine are usually singing, massage and up until recently, milk.
So as you can see, although we still have a lot of freedom and spontaneity in the activities we fill our days with, there is a gentle and predictable rhythm when it comes to eating, sleeping, outdoor play and rest times.
If rhythm is something you would love to incorporate but you are finding it hard to stick to, I encourage you to go right back to basics looking at these areas and seeing where you can bring familiar stability to them. A predictable bedtime routine and eating together as a family are great places to start.
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