While it's easy to see how regularity and predictability are important for children, sometimes a tight schedule can cause more stress than stress relief. That's why we have a rhythm instead of a schedule.
Isn't a rhythm the same as a schedule? No. Not quite. With a schedule, you have set times in which things are started, finished, and put away for the next thing on the list. There are days on which we need a form of schedule, like when we have band and choir, or when Hunter has speech. But for the most part, I do not really care so much about the when as I care about the flow and order of things.
A rhythm is just an understanding of what comes next. Rhythms are a big topic in Waldorf education, and an aspect of the method that I really appreciate. We recognize annual rhythms like the changing of the seasons, weekly rhythms of 5 week days and 2 weekend days, and so it only makes sense to be aware of our daily rhythm as well. Having a rhythm instead of a schedule gives the kids the predictability that they need while giving me a more open ended sequence of events to feel like we're staying on track without me being on the kids' backs all day about what we should be doing at that very moment.
Here's our rhythm and an explanation of what it contains.
~Nourish our bodies - eating, of course
~Ready our environment -this means doing our chores so that our physical environment is made orderly and ready for the rest of the day's events
~Nourish our spirits - this is when we meditate, pray together, and we usually do a little dancing or yoga to stretch out and free ourselves up from any lingering sleepies that might try to mess with our productivity.
~Train our minds - this means traditional school work.
~Nourish our bodies - more eating!
~ Rest and Create - this is where we nap if it is needed and we make art at our leisure
~Bless our Home - clean up time!
~Connect with our Family - this is dinner time when dad arrives home from work and our evening moves towards a total family affair! Our evening chores are done together, we play together, read together, and do whatever we choose to do as a family.
~Ready for rest - this is all of those pre-bed time things like bath, teeth, pj's and story time.
That's our general outline for each week day and it is pretty easy to follow even on days when we have other obligations because generally our outings in the morning are school related and our afternoon outings (if there are any) are creative endeavors. This easy going way to block our day has provided a lenient framework that allows for give and take without causing the stress of not knowing what comes next!
I also found and copied this neat idea from a Waldorf magazine for a calendar that is more intuitive and visually represents our annual rhythm at a glance than a traditional calendar. I love how you can run your finger around it and what's going on with mother nature it right there with the number of the month. You can add visual reminders of holidays and such. We've got a Christmas tree, a jack-o-lantern for Halloween, and a party hat for Ayyam-i-Ha. In the number area are circles that represent our distance from the sun. There's just so much here that makes it easy for a younger child to have a feel for how long it is until their favorite holiday or for the snow to arrive or melt. I love it!
We do, of course, spend time with a traditional calendar each day, but we also have this Waldorf rhythm of the year chart, as well as a Baha'i calendar. My kids will either grow up to be really confused about the marking of time, or very proficient! Haha!
If you like the idea of rhythms over schedules and want more information, consider searching the web for Waldorf Daily Rhythms to see what other families and schools are doing along these same lines!