I had a friend recently ask me how our rhythm has changed with the change of the seasons, now that the shorter days and longer nights are settling in. My rhythm actually changes quite a bit according to the rhythm of the year, so let’s delve into that for a moment.
Once you start building a daily rhythm, hopefully by starting with consistent waking times, naptimes and bedtimes, you will then build in even more rhythm around meals and then your daily activities. Some of these activities will happen every day and some may only happen once a week. For example, once you start trying to do some real work with your 3 to 6 year old at home, you may decide to bake once week, garden once a week, do laundry on Mondays, clean on Fridays – whatever works for you and your family. This may stay pretty consistent throughout the seasons.
However, once you have a daily rhythm in place and a weekly rhythm in place, the next thing to look at is a YEARLY rhythm. This may affect your daily rhythm, depending on the season. Summer to me is the epitome of expansion; being outside, summer activities. Winter to me is contemplative, meditative, contracting, looking inward to prepare for the coming Spring. An practical example of this is that in the summer it is part of our rhythm to swim every afternoon in our neighborhood pool. Of course, I can’t do this in the winter, so the rhythm changes.
My friend gave me the example that part of their rhythm was to take a walk after dinner, and now due to the darkness and cold, they were no longer able to do that. Therefore, their bedtime routine now needs to change. One thing I thought of when she mentioned this was the notion of warmth. Some families work hard to include much of their nightly routine around one of Steiner’s twelve senses at this time of year: warmth, to counteract the darkness and coldness this time of year. So, a nightly routine may include a warm supper, a warm foot bath or bath by candlelight, warm tea or warm milk with honey, and telling a story by candlelight before drifting off to sleep under some heavy blankets.
Some families change their rhythms around the solstices and equinoxes, other families use more of the start of school and the end of the school year to signify change in their rhythms.
The other piece of the YEARLY rhythm is to decide what festivals you will celebrate and how you will do this as a family. I have a friend who has a great method where she figures out the date of the festival she is going to mark, and then works backwards several weeks and plans what she will do with her family each day leading up to the festival.
In our Waldorf-inspired homeschool, we celebrate many festivals, but not all of them are marked with the same intensity. The ones we mark with the greatest intensity are the following: January: January 6th – Epiphany; February: February 2 – Candlemas; Spring: Lent, Ash Wednesday and the Holy Week leading up to Easter; September: Michaelmas; November: Martinmas; December: Advent, Saint Nicholas Day, Christmas and the Twelve Days of Christmas leading up to Epiphany.
The more minor festivals that we mark include January: First Monday after Epiphany – Plough Monday- General Spring Cleaning; February – Saint Valentine’s Day; Spring – Spring Equinox; May– May Day; Ascension Day and Whitsun; June – June 21st- Summer Solstice, June 24th- Saint John’s Tide (Midsummer’s Day), July: July 4th; September: Autumn Equinox; October: Halloween; November – All Saint’s and All Soul’s Day; December – December 13th – Santa Lucia Day and December 21st- Winter Solstice.
Part of festival celebration for young children intertwines family tradition, religious tradition (within the homeschool environment), science (the passing and changing of the seasons). It is a wonderful way to involve young children in the passage of time and the joy of intimate celebration.
Just a few thoughts from my little corner of the world.