Routines, Rituals & Rhythm

It’s always changing, but after 4 years I’m really enjoying the rhythm we have going on right now. Baby Everleigh is at a fun age (15 months) where she LOVES to feel included in everything big sister Penelope is doing.  For better or for worse, I’m loving it!

What’s this “rhythm” I speak of? I like to use the word rhythm rather than “schedule.” A schedule sounds too set in stone for me.  Whereas a rhythm is more of a dance, breathing in and out.  These ideas come from a Waldorf education perspective.  This is the part of Waldorf that I personally love and use in helping us establish routines, rituals and rhythms.

Not a lot of research has been done on creating family routines and rituals at home, but the little that has been done claims establishing them is very important.  I couldn’t agree more, especially if you are a stay at home parent and educator.  A review of studies published states during infancy and preschool, children are healthier, and their behavior is better regulated when there are predictable routines in the family (Fiese, Tomcho, Douglas, Josephs, Poltrock, & Baker, 2002).

Although this review of literature states the importance of routines and rituals, it warns not to discount other vital forms of family life. Clearly relationships and attachment are most important. So when figuring out your rhythms and routines and rituals, do what’s meaningful to you and your family.  What makes sense.  If you have little ones, they’ll tell you, or more likely show you what’s working and what’s not working.

Finally, we warn against studying family routines and rituals as more powerful pre- dictors than other aspects of family life. We contend that family routines and rituals may indeed be markers of more traditional family process variables such as cohesion and organization. However, in terms of scientific endeavors, the study of family routines and rituals provides a unique opportunity to compare and contrast practices and representations—a contrast that has been fruitful in other areas of research such as in the case of attachment theory. Further, we contend that family routines and rituals make sense to families. Family members can identify what routines they practice and distinguish whether they are important or unimportant in their particular family. Such routines can be directly observed in their practice. The study of family routines and rituals thus may allow us to break away from the tradition of identifying “good” and “bad” traits and focus on how families find success and meaning in their collective lives (Fiese, Tomcho, Douglas, Josephs, Poltrock, & Baker, p.385, 2002).

Rudolf Steiner, founder of Waldorf Education, describes rhythm as In and Out Breath. In Donna Ashton’s The Waldorf Homeschool Handbook, she says, “Like the ebb and flow of a tide, the rhythm in our days has an ebb and flow.  This is what in-and out-breath means.”

She goes on to explain that an In-breath activity is one where a child or adult comes back into him/herself- relaxing or quiet activity.  An out-breath activity is something more active like singing, running, playing, dancing or even running errands.  I have found establishing In and Out breath activities to be key to a more balanced peaceful day.  Even if the schedule changes, I can observe my kids and see where we’re at.  Are we doing more relaxing or active activities right now and what should we do next?

Today I’d like to share with you how we begin each day. We begin by taking an “In Breath” activity, of coming together. I’m not sure if it’s because of my American Italian background, but I love doing rituals at breakfast.  I think we get the most done with food in front of us.

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Our piano happens to be a convenient place for storing and displaying the materials that make up our rituals and routine. We decorate it 5 or 6 times a year. Mainly for the seasons, Advent and Lent.  This display is our Spring to Summer transition with the focus on birds.

First we do calendar. I bought Penelope a perpetual calendar for her 4th birthday and we’ve been using every day since! I bring the calendar down to the table and together we figure out the weekday, date, month and season.  This calendar is beautiful and will be a family heirloom for sure. The artist is Lisa McSpadden and this unique calendar can be found at her SimpleGiftsToys Etsy shop.  Next we read a poem for the day. Now I know this may sound crazy, but I found a way to re-use our old Highlights magazines…I copied poems from them on our printer, reduced their size so they would fit in our card holder and printed them. The girls seem to really like picking out a poem and seeing it on display.  You can do this idea with your favorite poems from poetry books as well. Towards the end of breakfast we read a devotion or scripture reading. Right now we’re reading Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing.  We also try to review the day together.  Sometimes I draw a picture schedule or talk about the plans of the day with the girls. This always seems to make our day go much smoother because they know what to expect ahead of time.

That’s the gist of our morning routine.  We add and take away stuff too. On slower mornings when it’s a “home day,” we may do more and take our time.  If we need to be somewhere in the morning we might do less at breakfast and more at lunch. We still have our window bird feeder which continues to bring excitement.  Today I responded to the girl’s excited reaction to seeing a squirrel get close to the window by writing a story together. Penelope says that Everleigh is the author, she’s the illustrator and I’m the publisher! I’m sure I’ll be blogging more about this soon!

Although families may be challenged to meet the busy demands of juggling work and home, there is reason to believe that routines and rituals may ease the stress of daily living, according to Fiese, Tomcho, Douglas, Josephs, Poltrock, & Baker (2002).  We find this to be very true for us.

Thanks for reading! Check out what else we’ve been up to on our SeeSaw Documentation Blog, 

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