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.
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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.
Rhythm in Waldorf Homeschooling
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.
We really can Start with Rhythm Rather Than Curriculum! (Check out that article and video where I talk all about that. )
And here’s more simple advice from my favorite parenting book. I’ve included an affiliate link here for your convenience. You can read my full disclosure policy here. 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. That’s why rhythm in Waldorf homeschooling is so helpful.
Make rhythm your friend!
Need help figuring this rhythm thing out? I have a Masterclass, Reset Your Rhythm, inside my mentorship community, Inspired at Home. For a small investment, you get this Masterclass plus 25+ others. And monthly support so you can feel confident about your homeschooling journey.
I made the major mistake of thinking as my kiddos got older I didn’t need to be that rigid about our rhythm. Boy was I wrong! Everyone got out of sorts especially me..Rhythm is an essential piece to keeping the peace in your home.
I’ve made that same mistake before too, Andrea! Crazy, but rhythm works. Even for us as Moms, rhythm works wonders. Like if I have a quiet, meditation time in the morning before everyone else is up, I am a much nicer person all day! Go figure!!! Sending you hugs across the miles.
Thank you for making this easy! I have been struggling with this for years.
Certainly! Glad this was helpful to you, Kristina. That’s what we all want, isn’t it? More ease!
Oh my goodness, you were thinking of me when you wrote this, I think! 😉 Rhythm has been a challenge for us on and off for awhile. I have been meditating on what to let go of to free time and space for rhythm to re-enter. Part of it is just letting go of the thoughts of what I think Waldorf homeschooling “should” look like.
Hi Jean …I’m Ananya frm India. I’ve worked as a kindergarten teacher in some of d waldorf schools in India. Im planning to start a waldorf inspired kindegarten very soon. I was looking for some help in making a brochure which explains the importance of rhythms in a waldorf kindergarten. It would be nice if you could suggest some books or articles that I could read. Awating your reply. Thank you.
Hi Ananya, thanks for being in touch! My go-to book about kindergarten is You Are Your Child’s First Teacher by Rahima Baldwin. The book Work and Play in Early Childhood by Freya Jaffke looks like it would be a great resource for this as well. Wishing you all the best as you bring your project into the world!
Jean, Thank you so much for all this information. I’m a teacher-trainer in Spain and I’m trying to help Spanish teachers – taught with virtually no creativity – to relax and consider different methodologies. I’m now preparing a workshop on methods using the Waldorf philosophy as a foundation. I’m desperately trying to find music that I see all Waldorf teachers use as transitions from one activity to another. Is there any way you can help me with that? I’ve found some books in Amazon, but not the music itself. I need a site where I can give them musical examples, or a CD, etc. Thank you so much in advance.
Donna, there are a number of songbooks that also have CDs such as Sing Through the Day. I share some of my favorite resources at the bottom of this post: How To Do Circle Time at Home. https://artofhomeschooling.com/how-to-do-circle-time-at-home/ You can even learn some songs on YouTube! All the best on your teaching journey. ~Jean