The First Day of Our Homeschool Rhythm

It’s not always easy to practice what you preach.

I put up a good fight, and tried to keep our rhythm this summer. Somewhere in the middle of July, it became a free for all. So of course I was concerned as we geared up for Day one.

No need.

Our day started Sunday night. I read him a Folk Tale called The Fox’s Snack before we went to bed.

He wanted more. Traditionally, in the summer, I’ll read forever. This time I said nope, it’s bed time and we’ll talk more about it tomorrow.

In the morning I let him sleep until he woke up.

Once he was up, uncrabby, dressed and snuggled on the sofa, I handed him his sketch book and colored pencils and said “I’m going to make you breakfast, while I do that can you tell me the story about the Fox that we read last night? And while you’re telling me, can you draw it too?” (of course this is me being tricky because he loves to draw as he tells a story)

His retelling was phenomenal, he retold it with his own twist! In the end the Fox steals a train!

Since his twist was so much fun, we decided our cursive sentence would be “The fox stole the train.” I wrote out the sentence and he traced it. Then I let him just play around with cursive for a while.

learning cursive waldorf

Also trying to explain why you can’t write cursive from bottom to top.

Then I read him a chapter of Charlotte’s Web (Trophy Newbery), and he read me Scholastic Reader Level 2: Inside a House That is Haunted.

in breath

In Breath

It was time for a break, and I told him to go play a little.

When he came back we were ready to review some math. We use Math U See, he really loves math and although we started with traditional Waldorf Gnome math, after a while that was too abstract for his very literal mind. And frankly, I find gnome math confusing.

 

Our next block was Science; I asked him if he wanted a break and he said no. At this point in his life it is fairly obvious to me when he needs an “out breath” or time to burn off some energy. He said he would rather keep going.

So we worked on learning about the Earth’s rotation around the sun using the old-fashioned method of balloon around a lamp. It was cool, we had a lot of fun, and afterwards Isaiah made a few balloon inventions and played while I did some chores.

out breath

Out Breath

Our day was over by 1:30, (we didn’t start until 10) and in there we took a mini walk to see some construction, he played on his scooter, had some tea, climbed a wall and had lunch.

It was a great day.

 

A few other mentionables. We have implemented a chore a day chart. He was pretty headstrong about that, I was headstronger.

He is also going to cook one meal a week, a simple meal, and of course I will be his sous chef.

We bought new colored pencils and sketch books to start our year off. We love these things Koh-I-Noor Progresso Woodless Colored Pencils 24 Color Set he wore his last set down to nubs. We stick them in a pencil-case and it goes with us wherever we go.

 

How is your homeschool prep going? Any exciting plans?

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How Your Daily Rhythm Affects Your Child’s Behavior

I don’t know how many of you know about Waldorf education, there’s plenty to read about on my site if you don’t.

Until six years ago, I had no idea.  It seemed oddly more like being a Jehovah’s Witness, than a homeschooling method, in my mind.

I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Making the choice to home school my son was not an easy one in light of the stellar school system we live in and my academically focused family.  Yet it was a decision that was not optional for me. Once I understood Waldorf, knowing that it would be the method to my madness so to speak, I knew I could do no harm.

Don’t worry, I am not suggesting that if you have a child with Sensory Processing Disorder you should home school.  (Although if you are curious, please ask)  What this post is about is how bringing some Waldorf methods and ideas in to your home could make all the difference in the world to you and your child.

It’s about Rhythm. Rhythm affects your child’s behavior more than you realize.

Read any Waldorf blog, website, book or text and you cannot escape that word.  However, it took me about 2 years to grasp the meaning of rhythm and what that meant to me and my family.  I am hoping to pass this on to you, as a lay person, in just one post. Tell me how I do.

How many of you have noticed how much better your child does during a structured day, then a free-for-all day?

When I say free-for-all, I include running errands, visiting family, things that disrupt a normal flow.  You may actually notice it in the reverse so to speak.  You may say, wow, today went really well, and when you look back you can see a pattern to your day.

Any basic parenting book will tell you that a child, from a young age, needs a schedule.  They need to know what to expect, and when to expect it.  From meals, to bedtime, to play, to sleep; the more they know, the more well-adjusted they are.

I believe this is even more true for special needs kids, like mine, who has Sensory Processing Disorder.  These kids are thrown more than any others when they are forced into a life of unpredictability; and to them, almost anything different is unpredictable.  Miss a meal, or a snack, change a nap time or miss a loved class and you better watch it.

This idea of having a set schedule is basically Waldorf’s idea of Rhythm.  However when Waldorf speaks of Rhythm, they include not only the idea of a schedule, but the needs of the whole child.  The child’s need for movement, for up times and down times.  Times to use their minds, times to use their bodies and times to use their hands.  In Waldorf terms this is described is “in breaths” and “out breaths”.  So do that for me.  Take a deep breath in, and a deep breath out.  Now think of that.  When you take that deep breath in, imagine quietly taking in a story, or sitting quietly and drawing.  When you release that deep breath think of running in the yard, playing hopscotch or singing songs that involve finger play or hand movements.  Your in breath is introspective time, time to be quiet, to think, to create.  Your out breath is releasing time, time to be free, to play games, to laugh and sing.

In order for a child to feel balanced, the child must have both of these things, and they must have them as an in and out pattern throughout the day.

rhythm affects behavior in breath

If your child is in school, you have very little control over that, unless you have an IEP you can manipulate.  But for the most part, I think they experience it in the form of class time vs.  recess, lunch and PE.  Maybe also music and art if those things are offered at your school.  Still, there are so many things you can do at home to facilitate that experience.  And once again, here’s where I call on you mom’s to put your kids first and make some changes about what you do when they are around.

Try to save the errands for when there are no kids home or when you can leave them with dad, another family member or a friend.  If that’s not a choice, pick a specific day that is errand day.  Keep all errands to that time and day so that it is an expected part of your rhythm.  Try to never take them out hungry, and also to give them plenty of free play time before you leave for your errands.

Please, do not over schedule your child.  You are not helping anyone by having your child in multiple activities throughout the week.  All you are doing is stressing yourself, and your child.  The best place for a child to learn and be nurtured is at home.  Think about what your motivation is.  Are all the other kids in his school doing it?  Does this other mom you respect think its a good idea?  Are you just looking for some more time alone?  If you add rhythm to the picture, I think that last point will be moot.

rhythm helps behavior

This is my suggestion for a healthy home rhythm.  Depending on how your child comes home from school: is it a bus ride?  Or is it walking with plenty of romping and fun on the way home?

If it is a bus ride, go for some free play right when they get home.  Set a timer, this is to remind you when to rein them in, not as an alarm signalling the end of fun.
At that point guide them to their homework, make it fun, think of ways to encourage them to come to their work space.
Try these things:
Sing their name instead of screaming it.
Ask them to be a certain animal on their way to a special place.
Or be as elaborate as using a little verse to get their attention.  This is one I love:

Dip Dip Dip
My blue ship
Sails along the water
Like a cup and saucer
Dip dip steady:
I am ready!!!

If your child has a fun romp on the way home, I suggest straight to homework, with a snack of course 🙂  And then they can have free play when done, until dinner.

If there is an inordinate amount of homework, please make sure they have some time to play or run before dinner, or dinner may not be as enjoyable as you like.  This goes for both scenarios.  If we need to get back to homework after dinner make the transition gentle so you can preserve that feeling of taking an in breath.

After dinner, keep things quiet and low-key.  The time leading up to bed time should be peaceful and calm.  You may know how I feel about media right now, I say very little, if no screen time before bed, and definitely no video games!  Also, I cannot stress enough the need for a bedtime routine.  This is when we go to bed every night, and this is how we do it.  Whether it’s a bath and a story, some milk and a story, whatever is your ritual.  It should remain the same night after night.  And it should be quiet, not animated. This will help your child sleep, this will comfort your child, this will be the backbone of their childhood.  Of course there are always special situations, just stick to this as closely as you can.

Weekends can be hard, they are hard. So trying to create a weekend rhythm would probably be a great idea.  Look at how your typical day runs now, and see if you can’t make it more predictable.  We always wake up at 7, we have breakfast, we do some chores around the house (please include your child in the chores!  more later on that), we have some play time.  Maybe now we have a snack?  If you need to run short errands on the weekend this might be the time to do it, right after snack and before lunch.  Then consider some sort of structured project for your child, a craft, reading a story (alone or with you), coloring.  Then lunch.  If you need more time to do errands, do them now, after lunch.  No one is hungry, they’ve had a fulfilling and centering morning and will probably behave so much better!  If you can get away with no errands, or certainly not on both Saturday and Sunday, continue some sort of pattern into the afternoon.  I strongly recommend a rest time after lunch, even if it’s just quiet time in their rooms.  I know we haven’t napped in 3 years, but now I read to my son, lying in bed, and gauge how he feels.  Does he seem sleepy?  Do I?  I go from there.  Be the example, we all need a rest sometime during the day.  After rest time, their can be more free play.  Try not to be the “entertainer”.  If your child has trouble playing on his/her own.  Consider taking some favorite toys and setting up a scene.  Then lead your child to that scene, maybe tell a little story about it, and let them run with it.  It may take a couple of tries, but believe me, it works!  Then let’s go for an afternoon snack.  Maybe some more structured activity, or coloring, or here’s an idea!  Helping mom cook!  Prep work, table setting, straightening, working together as a family!  My son loves to make menus.  So we discuss the meal and he draws pictures of the items with check boxes next to them, to distribute at the meal.  And then we come full circle, it’s bed time again!

On weekends we have a family movie night.  I try to stay with something low-key, probably older (60’s-70’s) so it doesn’t have all the flashy animation strobe like effect.  Your choice shouldn’t affect their ability to have a restful night.  Some of my favorites are Mary Poppins, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Bedknobs and Broomsticks, The Incredible Mr Limpet, The Cat From Outer Space, and Herbie the Love Bug (the original).  At Christmas we often indulge in the old animation/claymation Christmas specials of the 60’s and 70’s as well.  If you have any favorites that fall into these categories I would love to hear about them!

I realize now, that I really only touched the surface.  I would still love to discuss rhythm with a child who is not in school.  And certainly so much more about Waldorf.

Please, do not think that I have a perfect Rhythm in place. In my life, I am constantly growing, changing, improving, and having set backs too.  Parenting is a struggle no matter who you are, I don’t care how perfect you look on the outside.  However, if you try to implement even a little of what I’ve mentioned here, I think you will find things will get a little easier!

Here are some of my favorite Waldorf Sites, I am sure I have forgotten some, but they’ll come up again.  I’d love to hear from you!

  1. The Parenting Passageway
  2. Our Seasons of Joy
  3. Waldorf Essentials
  4. Waldorf Reviews
  5. A Waldorf Journey
  6. Why Waldorf Works
  7. Rhythm of the Home
  8. Christopherus Homeschool Resources
  9. Little Acorn
  10. Simplicity Parenting
  11. The Magic Onions

rhythm affects behavior

Holding the Space

So I never really got it. Melisa Nielsen always said let your kids do … and you be there “holding the space”.  I thought I got what she meant. I thought I got it, but I couldn’t do it.  Be there in the same area as them?  Be somewhere where they know you are?  Maybe I didn’t get it, maybe that’s why I couldn’t do it.

Finally, I believe I have figured it out.  It’s really quite simple.  And truthfully this may be something you need to experience to believe, so if you don’t want to experience it right now, no hard feelings.

This is the deal. I’m a writer/blogger, I also am involved in a family business, help a friend with a budding business, homeschool and completely run my household.  So hearing things like “hold the space” don’t translate to me.  I am figuring, if he’s occupied, I can write, catch up on some blog-love (for those of you non-bloggers that’s reaching out to bloggers you like, commenting on their posts, sharing them, etc), do some tax work, help my friend place some orders.  You know, stuff.  But I noticed that when I did those things while my son was occupied, whatever he was doing became louder, more rambunctious, dare I say more irritating?  I noticed the more I worked on my blog during the day, the worse it got, so I decided to try what I thought a Waldorf homeschooling mama might consider “holding the space”.  Since I do not knit, the two things I did were sit on the sofa and read through our curriculum, planning the weeks ahead and needle felt.  See my post on needle felting here.  Let me say, I don’t really believe in magical thinking, but well, this kind-of worked like magic.

My son doesn’t need my un-divided attention.  That’s not it, because he didn’t have it.  What he did need was something that was not sucking all of the energy out of my body.  Something that was beautiful, calm and peaceful.  I was not in front of a computer.  I didn’t even keep my cell phone by me.  I had a cup of tea, a notebook, some colored pencils (I am obsessed with colored pencils, pens and sharpies) or my felting stuff.  And you know what?  He played calmly.  He stayed focused, and when he was done he started to put things away.  Because what I didn’t mention before is if I did any of those aforementioned activities he would play indefinitely and make a complete mess.  This was different.  I was facing him, although not watching him, he knew when he was ready I would be there.

The boy busily doing his own thing.

The boy busily doing his own thing.

Folks it took me 2 years to figure this piece out.  Maybe I am a really slow learner.  Maybe it wasn’t explained just right.  But you gotta try it.  It’s worth it, and you know what? It strengthens your relationship with your child too.  You are seen as available.  Who wouldn’t want that?

So here’s the short list: Your child is involved in a constructive activity, whether it is self directed school-work, legos, painting, etc.  You, instead of busily occupying yourself to get something done in those few minutes your child is occupied, sit calmly, somewhere nearby. In that place you do something that does not engross you. Some knit, some read, I felt or read up on our curriculum.  DO NOT USE A COMPUTER OR IPAD. I know it’s hard to believe but it makes a difference.  Try it, I think you might be amazed at the results, and if you are already doing it, I would love to hear all about it!

Our Block of Chess or Our Chess Block

Who says chess can’t be a block?  I’ve never read about it on one of my homeschooling sites.  Wait, let me look…nope, even my favorite site Homeschool Share doesn’t have one.  You know every time I read that over I read cheese block!  LOL!IMG_0359

Recently Isaiah has developed an interest in chess.  I was never a chess player, but we have my father’s old chess set in the house.  I know how the pieces move, I know how you win, but I do not know one ounce of the strategy that goes into winning.  I figure that doesn’t matter much, what does matter is that he’s waking up, getting himself ready, setting up the chess set and excited to go!

So I’m liking the idea of chess as our first block of the day for a week.  We are replacing movement, which I think isn’t a bad idea for this boy.  He tends to be hot and cold when it comes to movement.  I figure If I don’t force a circle time or movement time and instead alternate week to week we have a better chance of it not becoming a struggle.  This is a way to make our first block of the day a win-win.  After reading the research , I am happy to alternate movement and chess week to week.

From Johns Hopkins University “It’s not about Kings, Queens, and Rooks, but rather, quadrants and coordinates, thinking strategically and foreseeing consequences. It’s about lines and angles, weighing options and making decisions. Chess might just be the perfect teaching and learning tool.”

“Research shows, there is a strong correlation between learning to play chess and academic achievement. In 2000, a landmark study found that students who received chess instruction scored significantly higher on all measures of academic achievement, including math, spatial analysis, and non-verbal reasoning ability (Smith and Cage, 2000).

IMG_0361While studies have shown chess to have a positive impact on kids in elementary, middle and high school, AF4C targeted second and third graders as the evidence, and certainly our experience, suggests it’s the ideal age. Eight and nine year-old minds and thinking skills are developing rapidly, and chess teaches higher level thinking skills such as the ability to visualize, analyze, and think critically.” (read this article here)

For me the test results are not an issue.  Whatever happens happens, but I can’t deny the strengthening effect that chess has on the way my son uses his mind.  Without forcing him to think like an adult, or teach him formal reasoning, he is learning all of these skills passively.  Just as they point out later in the article, my son originally knew how the pieces moved, but moved them without much thought.  Then after a few days he began to ask, “If I move here, then you can get me right?” he would spend much more time deciding exactly which piece to move where.  He still was operating more on the defensive than the offensive, but I am sure that’s coming.  Funnily enough, he didn’t even seem to care who won, although it often ended in a draw.  Since chess is new to me too, who knows who will be the chess champion before long?!