Saturday, December 15, 2007

Gentle Learning: Rhythmic Days

Still meandering slowly through my ideas for gentle preschool years ... I posted a while ago about yearly rhythm, and here - after a long hiatus - is the follow up installment on rhythmic days.

What do I mean by rhythmic days? Not days lived according to a timetable, but days that follow a regular and comfortable pattern. To me rhythm means something more than routine - it gives each day a natural flow, it allows for variation according to season and opportunity, and it encompasses the inevitable crisis days without falling apart as our routines have a tendency to do. Learning opportunities can be worked into a daily rhythm in such a way that learning happens naturally and gently.

Having said that, for me the way to routine and rhythm is often a timetable. I am not the most self-disciplined of people and my days can easily run away from me if I don't have a plan, and preferably a plan on paper. Setting out a timetable for the way an ideal day would run is a valuable exercise for me. I can see what it is realistic to include in our day (or week) without running into a time crunch. Once I have an "ideal" day on paper, I test it and tweak it in practice until it mutates into a routine or rhythm, and the original timetable disappears. The timetable is a tool and a means to an end.

The educational philosophy that lends itself particularly to rhythmic days is Waldorf, so this is where I have been looking for inspiration in this area. Charlotte Mason schedules are typically more formal and start at age six, and Montessori (as I understand it) allows for a specific period of "work" within which the child has free choice of activities. This schedule from Practical Waldorf at Home: Kindergarten with Your Three to Six Year Old by Donna Simmons includes much of what I would like to include in an early years routine - housework, outdoor time, "Circle Time" (which for us would include morning prayers), creative play, stories, art and craft, and reading aloud.

  • 8.00 Household chores
  • 8.30 Morning walk
  • 10.00 Snack time followed by Circle Time and finish with a story
  • 10.45 Creative play or project based on the story
  • 12.00 Lunch preparation and lunch
  • 1.00 Rest time
  • 2.00 Outdoor or indoor play
  • 3.30 Craft activity or painting
  • 4.30 Read aloud followed by supper preparation

The specifics would be different to fit into the natural rhythm of our family, but this gives an outline I could use as a starting off point. I know from experience that our daily rhythm constantly mutates as the child grows and changes, and it is also seasonal - we tend to spend more time out and about in the summer and more time indoors in winter. Days that include outside activities, play dates or errands obviously look different to those spent entirely at home.


Melanie B said...

This is thought-provoking. I've only just begun to think about preschool type activities.

Do you already do painting and crafts with little Cherub? I've been wondering what to introduce when with Bella.

Right now other than mealtimes and sleep times and going for walks or outings we don't really have any structure to her days. I read her books before she goes to sleep; but otherwise do it when she asks.

She's starting to be interested in playing with making marks on paper with a pencil and I've been thinking maybe she might enjoy watercolor or crayons. But she also doesn't seem to really be lacking anything. I wonder if I should go out and purchase some supplies or hold off until it seems she needs more activities and structure.

The Bookworm said...

No, I haven't been doing arts and crafts with Cherub as yet, but I'm planning to start in the new year.

Like Bella she is interested in scribbling and mark making. She spends quite a bit of time "pretend" writing / drawing - mercifully she hasn't yet worked out how to get the lids off all the pens and markers that get left around here ;). She has some chunky wax crayons, but doesn't like them (apart from tipping them out and putting them back in the box) as they need more pressure than she can manage. I'm putting some chunky coloured pencils in her Christmas stocking which I think she will like much better.

For Christmas we have bought her one of these. It's plastic and made in China :(, but I think she will be able to get quite a bit of visual reward without needing too much manual dexterity or coordination, and it only uses water, which means minimal clean-up. I have a hunch Star will enjoy it too.

I bought First Art: Art Experiences for Toddlers and Twos by Mary Ann Kohl recently, and plan to start doing some of the activities from that with her soon. I really like this book. It gives lots of suggestions for open-ended toddler art - you provide the materials and allow them free rein to create and experiment with them. There are instructions for literally dozens of different paints, doughs, clays, and other things to squidge, squash and make marks with. It also gives levels of difficulty, preparation required, mess likely to be made - all the information you need to know before finding yourself in the middle of a mess you really didn't want and that has taken more time than you had available to create. (Been there, done that!)

Cherub doesn't have any structure to her days either, but I think she is getting to a stage where it would be a good thing. We have recently got her into an evening routine - dinner, TV (while we clear up), tidy up toys, bath, nurse, play a little, snuggle, read, prayers, bed - and it is obvious she loves knowing what comes next. This seems to be an age for developing a sense of order - what should happen when, what should go where, and so on.

I have a lot of half-thunk thoughts on preschool art and craft, which I'll try to turn into a post in the next few days. This comment already seems to have turned into a post in its own right!

Melanie B said...

Oh that book looks interesting. I may have to see if I can find a copy.

I think you're right about the sense of order. Isabella has taken to asking me to wipe her hands when they get dirty during a meal, or wiping them herself. And wiping the table when she spills. She likes to put spilled food back on the plate too.

She does have a sense of routine too. A few times after we've finished dinner she's gone to the bathtub and asked for a bath because she knows that's what happens next.

I look forward to your post on preschool arts and crafts.