Rhythm in the Home
There are numerous aspects to a Waldorf way of life that are appealing to me, but the one that I hold closest to my heart, is rhythm.
Rhythm is the daily, weekly and yearly recurring activities in our lives. There is something so magical about such a simple concept. Children thrive on familiarity and consistency. It is a sense of security for them, they feel safe and reassured to always know what comes next, to have a predictable day, a rhythm they can count on. My children remind me of this every single day.
Is rhythm just a fancy word for schedule. NO. While they have similarities, rhythm is more about a gentle flow, a knowing of what comes next, whereas a schedule is more rigid and by the clock. I sometimes have to remind myself that rhythm is not cut and dry. It is not some regimen that needs to be followed strictly, “to a T.” That will just drive me crazy and destroy the peacefulness that rhythm is supposed to bring about. For example, it is not important for us to have lunch at noon exactly every single day but for us to have lunch after we have read our mealtime blessing and before some quiet play time. This way my children always know what is coming next and knowing what to expect makes them feel relaxed, safe and happy.
Rhythm already surrounds us all. The flow of the universe. The beating of our hearts…but nowadays it takes a conscious effort to bring it into our home lives. As Rahima Baldwin Dancy (Midwife and Waldorf early childhood educator) put it, “Doing things rhythmically simplifies life.” I couldn’t agree more. Our family rhythm has saved us on more than one occasion.
I am often asked how I introduced rhythms into our lives. I started with simple verses and songs throughout the day to lead us from one thing to another. When we wake up and my children are still half in the dream state, we say our morning verse. This helps to gently wake them up and prepare them for getting out of bed to make breakfast. It is not an abrupt transition but rather, a gentle flow. Once I felt this new rhythm was comfortably established I was able to start adding more daily activities into our rhythm… an activity for each day of the week, and so on. I took it slowly but surely, just one step at a time, to not overwhelm myself or the rest of my family. When things started to move more fluidly and really came together easily, is when I knew I had a good rhythm that worked for our family.
Of course our rhythms have been sculpted and changed over the years with the arrival of our youngest daughter and our oldest becoming more grounded in this world, but that’s the beauty of rhythm. It’s fluid enough that changes can be gently added. We recently had a major change in rhythm by taking a ten-day drive cross-country to move from Virginia to Oregon. Just the thought of my husband and I, our two daughters, two dogs and three cats all in the same van every day for ten days in a row made my head spin. Thankfully rhythm rescued us. Our days were long, fun and a bit exhausting, but our nights, oh, our nights were perfect. We followed our nightly rhythm, just as if we were back in our home, and everything returned to normal no matter how out of our element we were.
While every family’s rhythm will be different, I thought I’d share an overview of ours. This is just a brief glimpse into our lives and is not a list of our rhythm in it’s entirety.
Daily rhythms include:
activities of the day (i.e. if it’s Monday then we bake)
tending to our animals
Weekly rhythms include :
Monday is baking day
Tuesday is painting day
Wednesday is handwork day
Thursday is drawing day
Friday is crafting day
Saturday is gardening day (when it is not gardening season we go for nature walks or hiking on this day)
Sunday is resting day (a day just spent at home as a family)
Monthly rhythms include:
hand-washing our woolens (2 times a month)
beeswaxing our wooden bowls (the last Sunday of the month)
errands & grocery shopping (1 – 2 times a month)
Yearly and seasonal rhythms include:
planting our garden
If you are interested in incorporating more rhythm into your home, a wonderful resource is You Are Your Child’s First Teacher by Rahima Baldwin Dancy. I still thumb through that book quite often. Another great resource is Beyond The Rainbow Bridge by Barbara J. Patterson. For verses and songs that help with the daily transitions of one thing to another, I have found “Seven Times the Sun” by Shea Darian, and “This is the way we wash-a-day” by Mary Thienes-Schunemann to be my ‘go to’ resources. I have also found other Waldorf families to be extremely helpful, supportive and resourceful when I hit snags in our rhythm or just simply need others to relate to.