Do you ever feel like no matter what question you ask about the Waldorf approach, rhythm is always the answer? Kind of annoying, isn’t it?! How do we embrace rhythm in Waldorf homeschooling?
The truth is, that when we have a clear understanding of rhythm, our homeschooling goes so much more smoothly!
What is this rhythm thing and how can it help us? Why is rhythm always the answer?
I want to try to simplify the concept enough that you can embrace rhythm, rather than bristle every time you hear the word!
For me, the best explanation of rhythm is “a repeated pattern.”
Ok, so I like repeating patterns. I love to doodle and keep drawing those lines out and out and out. (Have you ever made a Zentangle? Try it; they’re very relaxing.)
And rhythm is more about sequencing and grouping activities than it is about a schedule with time slots.
Here’s the thing. We live in a sea of natural rhythms, really.
There is the rhythm of the seasons: every year, spring follows winter (thank goodness!).
There’s the rhythm of the months…April, May, June…
The rhythm of the weekdays hours, and minutes. The rhythm of our breathing and of our heartbeats.
As I see it, our job as teachers (homeschoolers and classroom teachers alike) is to create the rhythm of each day to bridge our inner rhythms with those naturally occurring outer rhythms
Rudolf Steiner, the founder of Waldorf education, gives us a lot of help with using rhythm in our lessons in his idea of sleep as a teaching tool. Sleep helps us (and our children) to rest our minds and integrate new material and even gives the “unseen world” an opportunity to help us digest it all a bit. (For the “unseen world” think elemental beings, higher power, spirit of the universe, your choice here.)
So how can we use sleep as a teaching tool in our homeschooling?
By structuring a three-part lesson in a two-day rhythm.
Day One’s three-part lesson:
- Warm Up our bodies and our breathing (through speech and movement).
- Explore new material through Story.
- Go deeper into new material through Artistic Activity.
Sleep to integrate the learning.
Day Two’s three-part lesson (only step #2 is really different):
- Warm Up.
- Review material presented yesterday (retell story and write a summary).
- Engage in Artistic Activity (either by finishing yesterday’s or doing something new).
This rhythm of the lessons then allows for us to slot in the arts into each of these steps. So that we can get creative with the material we are teaching and learning, by choosing which stories, songs and verses, drawings, clapping games, and handwork projects we incorporate.
The Waldorf approach is really very simple. Not always easy (especially in today’s world where so much swirling all around us is a-rhythmic, meaning you can access just about anything any time of day or season you want), but simple. And we can give ourselves permission to let it be easy!
I invite you to embrace the simplicity. And to allow yourself to experiment and get comfortable not knowing everything before you begin.
So truthfully, gosh darn it, rhythm is always the answer when things go awry or seem utterly chaotic. Establish regular meal times. Sing or recite a blessing before eating. Go for a walk each day after breakfast or lunch. Kim John Payne, author of Simplicity Parenting, says that even saying “please” and “thank you” regularly can contribute to a rhythmic life.
The beauty is that rhythm is comforting. It helps us all know what to expect and frees up our brain space and our will for good work. Make rhythm your friend!
Need help figuring this rhythm thing out? Consider a Mentor Session with me. I can help you map out a plan and empower you to carry it out!