Rhythm of a Homeschool

August 19, 2009

Warning, Long post ahead 🙂

I was drinking my coffee this morning, enjoying the gorgeous weather on the front porch, when a very large vehicle drove by. The Big Yellow Bus has started it’s year, along with almost every child in our neighborhood.

The excitement, anticipation and fun of getting on that bus can be felt everywhere right now. Some are beginning their first day of Kindergarten, while others are savoring their last year of school. For us, we simply watch in excitement as the bus passes, and then return to our home to begin our day as a homeschooling family.

Homeschooling is a huge blessing to our family. My children spent two years in a Waldorf school, which they loved, before they were diagnosed with Celiac disease. The beauty of Waldorf education is their almost daily bread making, but with two little ones who can not even breathe in flour without getting sick, it simply was no longer a choice.

Many of you have emailed me over the past year asking what our homeschooling days look like, what the rhythm is, and how we plan for our days. I decided that today, on this first day of school here, I would finally try and answer this.

The most important thing that I have found in creating a rhythm for my family, is to try and not use someone else’s (I know, great intro, huh?). What I mean is that each family is so different. The needs of your family may not be the same as mine. However, in reading about and learning about the idea of rhythm, that is where I have gained most of my confidence, and my ability to meet the needs of my little ones.

I base almost all of our days on a Waldorf model, and there are SO many resources our there for learning about Waldorf and Montessori homeschooling. Our days always revolve on the season that we are in, mainly because being outdoors, and learning with nature is a main part of each of our days. When I say there are hundreds of books out there that help parents and children learn together in the great outdoors, I am not exaggerating. I normally will spend some time at the beginning of each week looking through some of these, and then plan our week around where we can go to enjoy a few of the activities (a lot of time, the backyard will do).

In creating rhythm, my main goal is to create as little over stimulation as possible. The way that the children wake up, and the way that they go to bed is a huge focus for us. Allowing our little ones to wake up quietly, to greet their morning without much busyness, and to transition into their day in a peaceful way seems to make the rest of the day go much more smoothly. We have two bags hanging from our bedroom doors, one for each child. On one side is fabric that greets the day, and on the other side, one that greets the evening. In the morning, the bag contains clothes for them to dress in, and a book to read quietly. In the evening, their pajamas, their reading books, and a stuffed animal hang ready for them.

In the Waldorf model, creating warmth for children is very important. Even in Summertime, there are many ways to enjoy this: A warm bath before bed (or in those afternoons when the wildness just can’t be contained), a steaming bowl of oatmeal in the morning upon waking, and the quiet joy of reading books in the sunshine. We also spend a lot of time under the covers, reading or telling stories.

In between rising and sleeping is the challenge though. For the most part, at this age, we do not have a lot of planned “studies”. As the children get older, this will certainly change, but for now, it is their own imagination that is important. As I have mentioned in previous posts, a lot of what we learn comes from the museums, art galleries and events that are going on in our area. We do spend time each day at a table together, learning to read and write and beginning the early stages of understanding mathematics. My children showed an interest in learning these things, which is the only reason that we have begun to explore it. I am a big believer that watching the cues of children, to see what they are ready and interested in, is what makes homeschooling so special.

We do also spend about two hours a day enjoying handwork, sewing, and creative time together. We took our living room and created an art studio, and our dining room and created a sewing room. These two rooms are joined together, and that makes for open space where we can all do the things that we are most called to that day. This is, however, a time for more independent play. I normally get out my knitting needles, or take to my sewing machine so that I am out of the children’s way, and not creating an activity, but rather letting them find their own. Watching me create normally sparks their desire to do the same.

We spend around an hour each day cleaning and caring for our home. The boys sweep, help me cook, set the table, clean their space, garden, and wash. This is actually a really important part of our day, because it is used as more of a transition. Cleaning up, and getting ready for the second half of our day seems to create less chaos and work at the end of it.

In the afternoon, we head out for any activity or errands that need to be run. If errands is on the agenda, we try and stop and take a walk, or hit a park to get some time to run our energy.

As evening approaches, we return home and begin to wind down. I cook, and the boys play outside, or read, or rest. We prepare early in our house for nightfall. I don’t know about you, but evening can be a killer. If their dad is in town, he inevitably arrives home just as dinner is getting ready, and he has a notorious problem with getting the kiddos roweled up. The bath is drawn during dinner, and then the end of the day truly begins. A warm bath, a bedtime snack, books read, and kisses given. The main thing that I have found in having successful bedtimes is the same routine every night. It is a cue for them as to what is coming, and that seems to trigger a sleepy response.

Obviously there are things that come up that throw us off, or a day that has doctor appointments, or play dates. Nothing is ever set in stone. We simply try and create each day with as much of our rhythm as possible.

Creating peace, quiet and a sense of place is really all that homeschooling seems to need. Listening to your family, seeing what works, and working it into your day is the best rhythm of all.

{ 25 comments… read them below or add one }

Kate August 19, 2009 at 6:19 pm

Thanks for sharing this – my oldest child just finished his pre-K education at a Montessori school, and we all loved it.
He's moving on to public school kindergarten next year, and one of the things I looked for in the school was how the rhythm of the day was. He enjoys school so much right now, and I didn't want it to feel hectic or fast-paced or high pressure on academics (this is kindergarten, after all).
We were very fortunate that our neighborhood school offers a good start time (so we don't have to alter sleep schedules), and lots of free play activities to encourage imagination and socialization.


Eva August 19, 2009 at 6:34 pm

I have two children in public school, and this reminds me that even though they are gone for a lot of the day, I can still make sure that their morning and afternoon is quiet and healthy. Thanks for sharing.


BarbaraH August 19, 2009 at 7:18 pm

Thank you so much for sharing. Very inspiring. I've been longing for change and you've given me lots of great ideas.


Kristyn Knits August 19, 2009 at 7:23 pm

a family rhythm is my husband's goal right now. this summer we've seemed to have gotten out of step…out of rhythm. I'm looking forward to that changing once school begins again.

I'm so with you on the bedtime routine! Our kids start the bedtime process at 8:00 and are in bed by 8:30 on school nights, and sometimes even this summer.

thanks for sharing!


Chelsea August 19, 2009 at 7:32 pm

Heather, I truly enjoyed reading about the ebb and flow of your days. My little one is still so young, actually, there are days where I feel so young, and we struggle to maintain this balance and rhythmic pattern in our days. Since I've been home on medical leave, we've found our breath a bit more, and I can't believe the difference it has made. The baby is eons happier, sleeps more and at anticipated times (which helps enormously in being able to have set times throughout the day to accomplish different tasks). Just reading how it works for other people, people who have been doing it for a while, and with older children, is inspiring and encouraging — and guiding, even. Your writing is such a joy to me. +Chelsea


julesinseach August 19, 2009 at 7:45 pm

Heather…I'm dying to see your bags that you hang on the door for the boys.

I would love to make something similar for Eben so that everything is together for his day when school starts.

I seriously thought about homeschooling and went as far as getting a packet from NY state, but honestly, they are so stringent with their requirements and standardized testing etc, quarterly reports and reviews before the boards of education…. It got so frustrating, it felt as though I would have to homeschool the public school's curriculum.

We are going to see how he does this year and go from there. If there are issues I will have to rethink things.

I AM excited though. I am anxious to see what sort of changes to our rhythm the school year brings.


Larissa August 19, 2009 at 10:03 pm

you are so right about the rhythm of the day. we had a bit of a problem at the start of summer when I decided to prepare fancy breakfasts- complete with fruit salad. they needed their food and milk by 7am. so I started saving the fruit for their morning snack and made a much simpler and faster breakfast – ready by 7 so that bellies were full and crises diverted. it's not about being fancy or 'perfect' – it's about keeping the rhythm. thanks for the great post!


shelle August 19, 2009 at 11:21 pm

What a beautiful post! I love hearing and seeing homeschooling in action. My husband prefers the kids to be in school and I like to supplement at home. I think the bedtime ritual is the key to a good day. We do very early bedtimes (7 for our 5yr old, and 8:30 for the 10 yr old) and love it, I have time to reflect and unwind.


renee ~ heirloom seasons August 20, 2009 at 1:15 am

A long post on homeschooling and rhythm is quite nice. I have been thinking a lot about our rhythm lately, I think my thoughts will probably turn into a rambling blog post of my own… Thanks for sharing!


stitching under oaks August 20, 2009 at 1:24 am

It's always fun to get a peek into the lives and daily routines of other people. Thanks for sharing your day with us. I love the idea of the bags hanging on their doors…so secure, knowing what will be in their to greet them in the morning and at night. Thanks Heather. Have a great 'school' day!


Anonymous August 20, 2009 at 1:51 am

Thanks for the great post Heather. I have 2 children in public school and our mornings and bedtimes are so disorganised that we struggle to get to bed and school on time. It's a great inspiration to read how you and others organise your days so well and I will take a lot of your ideas to try and slow things down in our house. I also love your night-time/morning bags!


Green Acres in the City August 20, 2009 at 2:44 am

Thanks for sharing your day. I love the bag idea. I think that would be so good for Cameron. By the way I high lighted you today at Green Acres. I hope you approve.
Thanks for the support! Have an amazing and blessed night!


Kayla August 20, 2009 at 4:40 am

Just reading your post about rhythm brought me peace! I am working on finding our family's rhythm. I started working full time in May, and we have been struggling for a less stress approach to life. I am seriously thinking about setting up a bag for morning and evening. That's a great idea!


Ann August 20, 2009 at 1:54 pm

I have been a teacher for many years and thanks for sharing your ideas, as I firmly believe in the family values and experiences that you are giving your children. I teach Home Economics to children aged 3 – 16 and my room caters for the family atmosphere. I teach 8 pupils at a time which is just wonderful.


kyndale August 20, 2009 at 3:56 pm

I will have to find that rhythm next week. I am looking forward to it actually. Thank you for sharing how you do it. I love that you put your boys' clothes and books in a bag. That would be very helpful for me to do.


Jasie VanGesen August 20, 2009 at 4:05 pm

This was a really pleasant glimpse into how you make your family work… I really enjoyed it.

I bet your house is MELLOW. 😉

Also, you've inspired me that when we buy a house, there will most certainly be a room that is a dedicated studio for all of us to explore our artsy and creative endeavors in!


Heather August 20, 2009 at 4:35 pm

You know, reading all of your comments is such an amazing gift to me everyday. Thank you for your thoughtful words, and I am glad that you enjoyed the post 🙂


gennysent August 22, 2009 at 1:19 am

I am wanting to put my son in a Waldorf school and I know that it has some similarities and differences with Montesori…but I can never seem to really understand what is different about them (or I guess I'm not really understanding Montesori completely)…any chance you can clarify?


gennysent August 22, 2009 at 1:20 am

by the way, thank you for the reminder about rhythm. There are some things we do with rhythm and others just seem to be a free for all. Hopefully this will improve as he ages, but for now, the day greatly depends on when he will agree to get dressed! (2 1/2)
Seeing how you do this is a lovely reminder.


Kyrie August 22, 2009 at 3:53 am

This was to be my next post, and you have done such a lovely, lovely job I almost feel as though I shouldn't do one of my own! Our days look very similar to yours, complete with the bags (embroidered sun on one side and moon + stars on the other).

On another note, my two little ones also have Celiac; I would have liked to send them to a Waldorf school, but am finding more and more that homeschooling is truly where my heart is.

The spirit in your home must be a truly wonderful one.

xo, K


victoria August 25, 2009 at 6:27 pm

What a wonderful post. I am not a homeschooler but would like to incorporate some waldorf philosophy into our every day lives. Thanks for the inspiration!


Adrie August 26, 2009 at 1:39 am

Thank you so much for sharing this. I find it so lovely to hear about the day to day of other families.


whimsygal September 6, 2010 at 8:10 pm

I am so happy to have found your site! as we begin another magic year of homeschooling (mainly unschooling) with my girls (nearly 7 years old and 4 years old). Now that I am working part-time, I am itching to have a bit of a "schedule" this time….a rhythm seems much more like what I am actually looking for…..your ideas inspire me and I look forward to hearing more about your journey (and perhaps sharing our stories with you too).



peacebeginsathome September 13, 2010 at 9:00 pm

I am in the midst of looking for our own rhythm as we move into fall. I'm doing a lot of reading and thinking about what is most important for us. I loved reading about your family's rhythm! I'm inspired especially by your description of your daily creative time. I'm wondering how old your children were when you started this, and any more that you would like to share about how you make it work? Thank you for your beautiful blog! 🙂 –Kelly


peacebeginsathome September 13, 2010 at 9:01 pm

Oh, and my email since I had a question (above)…kellyjean275@yahoo.com Thanks!!!


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