Some families get really upset when talking about rhythm or trying to make a rhythm for their family. It is okay to start and tweak and start, and most families experiences successes and failures! Rhythm can be a beautiful tool to use to obtain a harmonious and peaceful family. Having all family members home does not have to be complete chaos, and life doesn’t need to feel so hurried and harried. With rhythm, you can tame your household care, the nourishment of your family through warming meals, help gently guide your children, establish security and stability for all family members, and have enough time for sleep, rest, play, alone time, family time, and time outside the home.
Everyone’s rhythm will look a little bit different, but the main shared feature is that rhythm is just that – a rhythm where things flow and balance and not a tight schedule that is a noose around one’s neck where one always feels behind!
For those of you needing help to get started, try the back post Rhythm for the Irregular and the tips in this post!
Here are just a few suggestions by area/age:
Taking care of the household:
For a rhythm with household chores, begin with the immediate. Do the emergency clean up, and then find a system that works for you to systematically go through your rooms and de-clutter. It is hard to clean when there is clutter everywhere! Some people swear by FlyLady, some use Konmari. Finding the system that works for you can really help!
Tackle daily tasks household tasks daily – sorting through junk mail and throwing it out; the daily toy pick up before lunch and dinner or before bedtime; the wiping down of counters – for every house it may look different dependent upon your tolerance, but figure out your daily tasks and do them. I have found FLYLADY to be helpful with this over the years because it involves a short amount of time.
Involve your children. Even toddlers can do meaningful work.
Don’t let your older children off the hook- if they want to go and do things, the house needs to be taken care of first. We are training adults who will go off and have a house and perhaps a family of their own. What habits do we want them to have in terms of household care? Here is an interesting article from NPR on how habits form and how to break bad habits.
For a rhythm with meals:
Try to focus on the fact that it isn’t just food you are serving. I love this quote from Kim John Payne’s book “Simplicity Parenting”: “The family dinner is more than a meal. Coming together, committing to a shared time and experience, exchanging conversation, food and attention…all of these add up to more than full bellies. The nourishment is exponential. Family stories, cultural markers, and information about how we live are passed around with the peas. The process is more than the meal: It is what comes before and after. It is the reverence paid. The process is also more important than the particulars. Not only is it more forgiving, but also, like any rhythm, it gets better with practice.”
That being said, for the physical act of meals, try weekly menu planning and shopping.
Look for recipes for the crock pot or Insta Pot for busy days.
Let your older children cook dinner one night a week.
Rhythm with Little Ones, Under Age 9:
Rhythm begins in the home. In this day and age of so many structured classes for little people, be aware of who the outside the home activity is really for! Seriously think about how many structured activities you need outside the home! Remember, it is almost impossible to have a healthy rhythm if you and your children are gone all the time scurrying from one activity to another. Children under age 9 deserve a slow childhood with time to dream and just be (without screens) and I would vote for no outside structured activities for these tiny ages. Mark off days to be solely home with no running around!
Rest is still the mainstay of the rhythm – a first grader may be going to bed around seven, a second grader by seven thirty or so, and a third grader by seven forty-five. This may sound very early for your family, but I would love for you to give it a try. If you need ideas about this, I recommend this book.
Here is a back post about garnering rhythm with littles
If you are searching for examples, here is one for children under the age of 7 over at Celebrate the Rhythm of Life from 2012.
Remember, though, I don’t think a rhythm is about throwing out who you are, who your family is, what your family culture is in order to replace it with something that someone else does. Rather, rhythm with little people should build upon the successes in your own home. Every family does something really well, so what is your thing that you do really well that you could build upon?
Rhythm with Ages 10-14:
Rest! Rest and sleep are very important components of rhythm. Sixth graders who are twelve are generally sluggish, and teenagers have rhythms regarding sleep that begin to change. This article from the New York Times details many of the changes for teenagers (seventh and eighth grade). In order for these children to get enough sleep, and since the starting time of public school middle school may be later (but probably not late enough!), I highly suggest limiting late night activities. Again, choose your activities outside the home carefully and with much thought.
Media is harder to keep at bay for most families. Remember, media impacts rhythm and vice versa. It is often a time filler, and can prevent middle schoolers from solving their own problems of what to do when they are “bored” (or just being bored; there is value in boredom as well!) and tapping into their own creativity. It can derail any kind of “doing” rhythm. Hold strong standards about media! Some ideas: use a Circle to manage time and content across devices ; strongly limit apps (because every app you add generally leads to more time on the device) and do not allow social media. We introduced the computer in eighth grade (which I know is not always feasible for public or private school students who are using technology as part of school from an early age) as a tool for school work more than a plaything, and I think that attitude also made a large difference. If you allow movies/TV shows, I recommend using Common Sense Media , but I also feel this needs to be strongly limited (and I would vote toward not at all or extremely limited for the sixth grader/twelve year old) since these middle school years are ages where children feel heavy, awkward, clumsy, and don’t particularly want to move. So, more than anything else, I think watch what you are modeling — are YOU moving and outside or are you sitting all day on a screen? Modeling still is important! If they are sitting all day at school and with homework, it is important that they move vigorously when they are home from school and on the weekends! With both things that unstructured in nature and as far as structured movement.
Remember that your middle schooler is not a high schooler. The middle schooler does not think, move, or act like a high schooler. Please don’t force high school schedules onto your middle schooler. There should be a difference between the middle schooler and high schooler.
Rhythm for Ages 14 and Up:
I still believe the more natural point of separation for teens is around age 16. So to those of you with fourteen year olds and early fifteen year olds, please hold steady in rhythm, in holding family fun, in holding your yearly holidays, and in mealtimes. These are really important to young teens, even if they don’t act like it!
For those of you with older teens, 16 and up, ( which I don’t have yet but have many friends who do) : honor this time. Most teens this age are spreading their wings with activities, driving, jobs, relationships, getting ready for life past high school. Don’t rush it, but allow space and time. Just like walking, they will be ready for things when they are ready.
Bedtimes is controversial topic for older teens on many high school homeschooling boards. Only you can decide what is right for your family. If you have younger children in the house, your teen just may never get to sleep super late.
Media is another topic of controversy that, as mentioned above, can really impact rhythm, and for the homeschooling family, how schoolwork gets done (or not). Some teens handle media really well, some need super strong limits. There is no one way families handle media for their teens, even in Waldorf families.
Do make family dates, family nights, family vacations, and so forth. The family still trumps whatever friends are about.
Consider the impact of outside activities upon a teen’s stress levels. Choose wisely and carefully. We can’t do it all, and neither can a teen.
Rhythm For Spread- Out Ages:
Some parents who have large families make the centerpiece of their rhythm the home, and then for an outside activity choose one activity the entire family can participate in at different levels, such as 4H or a scouting organization that is co-ed. Some choose one activity for boys and one for girls.
Parts of the rhythm can and should be carried by older children and teens for the littles.
Lastly, I did a 7 part series on rhythm in 2012, so perhaps these back posts will be helpful: