14 September 2010

Waldorf Rhythm How-to for Beginners

So, I thought I'd share how our days came to have their current rhythm, pattern, flow. Call it a totally basic and not entirely orthodox guide to Waldorf-type home ed for littlies. Note, I am writing as an utter beginner, and an unschooler, and a Waldorf sceptic. :) I don't know yet if this is just a season that we need, or a more lasting change, but for now I am loving it so much I want to share the joy!

The first thing that came was seeing and setting a theme for each day of the week. (On a repeating cycle).

Mondays were always our library days, so now we have Story Day (where I make time to tell a story in keeping with the season and our current interests, that will take us through the week in play and activities). Last week our story was Peter and the Wolf (tying with the bigger recent themes of both classical music and listening games, sometimes together). This week it is John Barleycorn (with activities to do with corn and the harvest, and some more apple activities for good measure).Tuesday here is handwork day. Wednesday is wash day (and Montessori activities). Thursday is baking day (and food planning, and making meals ahead). Friday morning is for art, and friday afternoon for erand running and preparing for holy time. :)

When I plan an activity, I don't insist that they join in, just get on with things myself. But I've rarely had them turn something down and then always simply because I am cutting short something they are enjoying. So I don't cut short their time, just work alongside them unless and until they want to join me. :) This is the unschooler in me insisting that they don't *need* this stuff unless they want it for themselves. The need is in me, and I am meeting it. (I do think they need more opportunity to experience NEW activities, and this does also meet that need!)
The next thing to come was enhancing and invigorating our gateway times. Getting up used to be more chaotic. Now we have woven another little rhythm around washing our faces and cleaning our teeth before we go downstairs (usually this involves singing, but I swear this has nothing to do with me and my various Waldorf-related books, the children started it)! Then there are the little bits of ritual around bedtime (book, candle, story in the dark), meal times (blessing and candle before meal, prayer and extinguishing candle after), all these daily signposts.

I won't be prescriptive here, the important thing to me is that I followed their lead, I listened to what worked, I tried what appealed to me and fitted my working assesment of their unique characters. When I first started reading Waldorf books I got carried away with extremes, either trying to force something to fit that just wasn't US or rejecting the whole thing out of hand.

Even now, when I read these plans and my own writing about them I have this unschooler's gut reaction against being rigid and inflexible. ;) But it hasn't been like that in reality. Having something written down has given us more freedom and more time, because I have been doing more of the fun stuff and less of the sitting around wondering what to do next (or even asking myself if it's OK to direct them to something fun, because I might be interrupting something not visible to me as an adult). Then I decided that I was being silly, and if I feel that they would enjoy a period of having more things put in front of them I should go ahead and try it out!

To start with I was setting a walk time in the mornings, but I've since realised that it's easier to be flexible and listen to them - and easier to enjoy our walk - if I just remind myself to get out of the house either in the morning or afternoon "work" time. Some days that has been the garden, but most it has also been the park or somewhere else nice for walking in nature. :)

The only other thing that has changed is that the rest time in the afternoon - that we used to have when Rowan was smaller - is back. This is purely because as the days get darker and colder we spend more time inside and have that terrible slump in the afternoons AND now it's confined to the living room where we all get on each others' nerves until someone shouts! SO rest time is back, after lunch and a short outside play, we eat our snack and all settle down either for a sleep or to watch a DVD or sit for stories on the sofa. Sleeping is not compulsary, but calm time is! Otherwise I become controlling through all the *rest* of the day. So, baby steps, autonomy yes sort of, but within the limits of my own abilities. If you see what I mean.

Perhaps this has all led to me getting a bit overexcited with the ringbinder-and-charts side of things. ;) Anyhow, I have my list of activities for the near future, and I've taken a week at a time and planned one for each day (though I suspect they'll be moved around a bit and perhaps lots get done one day and nothing the next some weeks). Obviously the main themes this month are the High Holy Days and Autumn/Harvest. Beyond that, Jenna has also announced that we have a theme for the year. She must have been reading Steiner (lol) because I've found online that this is something most Waldorf schools do. So the golden thread through this year is "Our Beautiful World"!And here we are. Looking very much like a Waldorf kindergarten home setting. But still feeling like unschoolers. Rhythm and ritual, but freedom and autonomy. Somehow a happy union of different styles! Who knows where this will take us? :) We live, right here, in what is. So far it's wonderful. :)


  1. This is exactly what I needed to read, how real people incorperate this sort of thing into their lives.

    I am worried that at the moment I would be meeting more of my needs than Abigail's needs, I'm sure things will become more obvious as she get's older.

    Also, the hill rolling picture and the picture of Rowan examining a flower are adorable.

  2. I enjoyed reading this Sarah. There is nothing rigid about guidelines, or writing them down. Often i feel i have to commit things to paper, otherwise, ideas just get lost in the general chaos that is my mind. So i might really want to offer lots of harvest activities, but by teatime i have lost the thread and gone on to something else. Writing ideas down is an impostant thing for me. I have just spent a happy morning making apple print pictures - James spent most of the time mixing up autumn paint colours together in a big splodge! hey-ho - both will find space on the wall. xx

  3. Thanks Sarah, what an interesting post. I too have been thinking how to incorporate some sort of rhythm in our days, especially now Henry is getting a bit older...I'm taking special note of your planner (I love lists and things lol) xx

  4. Lovely post, Sarah.

    I'm finding just having a skelton framework for the day is helping me to offer far more activities; we're reading more stories again, and Rye is suddenly showing a lot of interest in books again. They are playing different ga
    mes too, less squabbling. All round much happier - and yah, I barely shout these days, which is great too.

    LOL saying that I did find popping into town earlier with the children, stressful. I didn't shout but I did have to have a firm talk with Rye at one point... just now unfrazzling with a cuppa. ;-)

  5. Great post, Sarah. Really enjoyed reading it. Food for thought. Rhythm is something we probably need here. We always had a set day for going to the library and things when I was little. Thank you for sharing your ideas xxx

  6. Thanks for this too, I was wondering how people keep the momentum going after the initial push. A list/plan must help with this. Maybe I am being fick and just can see them somewhere, but do you have a list of books you would reccommend?

  7. Thanks all!

    Hi Valerie, for reading around Waldorf lifestyle and early years education, I would recommend Heaven on Earth and You are Your Child's First Teacher. The former is more accessible, the latter is a bit more "far out" and much more theoretical.

    For seasonal celebrations, craft ideas, etc, I would advise Festivals Family and Food, Earthwise, All Year Round, and Spindrift. If you were just going to get one, with toddlers I would get All Year Round, but I would choose Festivals Family and Food for doing things with a school-age child. :)

    PS: Eoforhild, Rowan is blowing a dandylion clock in that picture, I LOVE the puffy-out cheeks! *grins*

  8. Thanks Sarah, I am just coming to the end of 'Teach Your Own' by John Holt which I have found informative but obviously a little dated. I will check out your books on Amazon. :)

  9. For just home-ed books I do love John Holt, but I also rather enjoyed the Unschooling Handbook (Joxy prefers Free Range Education). My mum is a primary school teacher, and a huge John Holt fan, and she would say they are barely dated and that only in current legal advice. ;)

    If you are interested in NVC and autonomous living I would also recommend Unschooling: A Lifestyle of Learning.

    I am a huge book lover, so I will read anything. But the ones I come back to are those. :)

  10. Am at the mo studying to be a teacher, but know it will be very hard to fit all my values into the tight national curriculum. Are there a lot of people who home school? And for how long? Is it hard to do things with children of different ages, or do they just naturally get out of it what they need? Interesting to read your blog anyway, thank you!

  11. Hi! :) Yes, there are estimated to be far more homeschoolers than the system is aware of, and almost as many different styles. I think all ages are pretty well represented - there are some who enter school at some point but also plenty who come out of school for various reasons.

    With different ages, it's actually easier than lots all the same age in a lot of ways. They feed off each other differently. It also helps to be fairly autonomous and see my role as supporting their interest and learning rather than pouring stuff into their heads. ;)

    Have you read any John Holt? My mum is an experienced teacher and srecommends him as a must-read (including the later very anti-school writings). :)

  12. Thank you for posting this! Exactly what I needed when I needed it! :)

  13. I really love you ideas.I'd love to add some of this to my daycare class :)

  14. Lovely, inspiring post.
    I hear you about the rest time :)


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