Tuesday, September 18, 2012


Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about rhythm and balance.  With the autumnal equinox rapidly approaching, I'm more aware of the balance of light and dark, of day and night, and the transition into fall.  I’ve been planning curriculum for the very limited amount of formal ‘school’ I ask from Skyler (I know, I know, I’m late!!!) and trying to find a way to fold teaching into our day -- or to fold our day around teaching -- while still enjoying these beautiful days outside.
Rhythm is an idea I’ve embraced since first learning about it through Waldorf education.  Rhythm is our movement through the day, repetition, the balance of in breaths & out breaths.  Of all the many wonderful things I’ve learned from Waldorf, this has been perhaps the most helpful, and not just to homeschooling, but to parenting in general.  I like thinking of our days, not in terms of schedule or structure, but in terms of rhythm.   How do we begin & end each day?  What is the pace of the day?  When do we socialize, stay outside?  When do we come in and embrace quiet?  What do our transitions look like?  Rhythm is not rigid, it’s paying attention to the flow of your day, finding the balance.
Beginning our day with Yoga
As parents, I think we all recognize those days (or weeks) when the rhythm is working.  Those days that we move through with a certain amount of ease: things get accomplished without feeling rushed; it feels like everyone’s (even mamas!) needs are getting mostly met.  We have moments to breath, enough time alone, enough time outside, enough time with others.  Perhaps even clearer are the days (or weeks, or MONTHS) when our rhythm isn’t working: when everything feels rushed but nothing really gets done, we’re all crabby, we’re too busy, too alone, or bored.   Those days when things just feel ‘off’. 

Morning work - Skyler math

Morning work - Gryffin math
When the boys were babies, their very clear needs dictated the rhythm of the day.  Even last year our rhythm was dictated by early risers, a need for a lot of physical activity, and Gryffin’s very important afternoon nap.  The boys were up at 5:30, leaving Skyler time to eat breakfast, get dressed, play, & still do an hour or so of mama-directed school work BEFORE we left the house @ 9:00.  We filled our morning with activities, playground time, library, science museum, adventures, and then would head home for lunch & nap – when Sky & I (both introverts) would retreat with our books to opposite ends of the house.   About once a week we would go out again after nap, but mostly that time was spent playing, doing ‘projects’, cleaning and cooking dinner.   This rhythm was easy for me to hold, Gryffin’s nap was a precious and necessary (for all of us) priority.  The balance of busy morning and quiet afternoon felt right.

Homeschool meet-up - Playing 'Capture the Flag' with 20 other homeschoolers

Then, this summer Gryffin rather abruptly outgrew his nap.  Both boys started going to bed later & sleeping later (until almost 6:30)!  We let go of any formal lessons as the weather got warmer and the rhythm of our days changed.  We started hanging out at home longer during the still cool and comfortable mornings, playing, cleaning, and cooking.  I started packing our lunches to go, and we’d leave the house around 10:30 or 11 for afternoon adventures – to Walden, the beach, the woods, or just park hopping around the neighborhood.  We would come home late – usually right before dinner – cook something fast (to not heat up the kitchen), eat and take long lukewarm baths.   This rhythm sometimes left us a little too busy to work on projects or keep the house tidy, and I have to say we welcomed those few rainy days to balance all the sun and fun. 

Lunch at home on the backporch

 Now it’s time to find a new rhythm.  The weather is changing once again – autumn brings a return to our home, to cooking, inside work, crafting and ‘school’.   But without the strong dictates of naps and weather, it’s a rhythm I will have to create – a HUGE challenge for me.   I like a certain amount (read – ‘lots’) of floating through the days.  Without structure imposed externally, I easily become un-tethered.  I will start writing here & not notice that the kids haven’t eaten in hours…until I hear them start to fall apart in the other room.   Some of the rhythm of the week is determined by activities, but the internal rhythm of our days is imposed by me, & I find this sooo challenging.  And although Skyler easily floats through the day with me, Gryffin (because of his age and who he is) desperately needs a strong rhythm to lean against.
Late afternoon playtime with Cousin Bea
Working on a project at the 'Fountain Park'
So I try to find the balance.  I try to make sure we have time to work on mama-imposed work AND time for the boys to create their own wonderful projects and explorations.  I try to find the right rhythm between activities and time to read and play and imagine.   I am trying to make sure that we have time to breathe and notice our breath.  That we have time to socialize, make friends, play with other children, explore being a team and time to be alone.  That built into the rhythm of our day and week and year are moments of stillness, time to honor the change of seasons, time to pay attention to the natural world, and time to recognize the sacred rhythm in ourselves. 

What does the rhythm of your day or week look like?  Do you find it changing for fall?


  1. Ah, yes, it is changing so much!! As our homeschooling activities start back up I am finding our own rhythm is starting as well. I have done well not planning too much and allowing time for the activities we have chosen, and like you I am fine to float, but both of my boys need that strong sense of "this is what we do". Challenging. It is good though and I feel it coming naturally as the weather is changing.

    1. Yes! The "this is what we do" sense! Skyler needs it less, but our days are easier when the rhythm is consistent. Particularly transitions - when the transitions are the same (we light a candle before dinner, come to the table to work, say a particular focusing poem, etc.)then the movement from one thing to the next is so. much. easier.

  2. Yes! Great post. I completely agree with you that the days and weeks when our rhythm is working are wonderful, and those times when the rhythm is "off" are challenging. But you're right, it's up to the mama to set the tone and rhythm for our days -- even if it does seem to be constantly shifting and evolving. -Kerry

  3. Thanks Kerry! I've been thinking about your recent post about play...and about finding the balance between mama-set rhythm and the flow of creative kids moving from one project or game to another. I'm finding that when I start & end the day with a little bit of focus, the middle flow is much easier for us all.