Breathing In and Out: planning a family rhythm

linden in stone spiral

I first experienced “Rhythm” through my work in kindergarten.  I LOVED this term when I first heard it, and more so once I experienced it and began to incorporate it into my teaching, my own life, and later in my parenting. As an early childhood teacher I had been using rhythm for a long time, without naming it as such. I am referring to the flow of the day where one thing comes after another in a predictable manner. I had been calling it “Routine” but rhythm is a natural flow rather than one that is scheduled (you can read more about it HERE and HERE – this is part 3 of a series of articles on rhythm). After living a scheduled life, and teaching to a schedule I felt the freedom that rhythm offered as a cool, relaxing breeze through my day.

My favourite moment was when I noticed how the two kindergartens worked together in their rhythm. Without even checking clocks our two kindy rooms, side by side, breathed in and out through the day together. One class would be playing outside on an out breath, while the other would be inside, and then a natural swap would occur and the energy and breathing would be exchanged. After lunch both kindy rooms breathed quietly in their own rhythm as they rested and pursued gentle and calming activities before the out-breath that occurred at home time. And within each kindy room our children would move through the day without even asking what comes next: they would always know. Indeed, some days children would often start singing the pack-up song just at the same time we sensed it was time to draw playtime to an end. Our days were simple, uncomplicated, predictable and safe.

Do you know why it worked? It was because our rhythms were purposefully designed to meet ALL of our needs, our activities were timed for the part of the day when we had the right energy for it: highly creative, thoughtful and active moments at the start of the day, flowing through to quiet, reflective and more individual experiences in the afternoon. We were not trying to fight against the children’s natural interests, energies or capabilities, and our rhythm changed subtly as the children grew older. Presenting our daily activities in the same way each day offered predictability, which children find incredibly soothing, which in turn meant that they felt safe and relaxed. Held gently in this predictable space they could find the freedom to follow their interests, develop their skills and grow with each other.

Because the children felt so safe, every now and then we could mix it up and offer a surprise, a challenge, or a new adventure. A change to the rhythm! Rather than causing anxiety, our secure children rose to greet their challenges with enthusiasm. Our weekly rhythm would also offer a bit of variety, still maintaining that predictability .. and our seasonal rhythm would move us through the transformations of the year (and our own developmental transformations) with respect and reverence.

Once I became a parent it was a natural thing for me to bring rhythm into our family life, and every now and then we review it because while there is safety in predictability, we can also stagnate if we don’t find flexibility with our changing needs.

How do you breathe through your days? Being aware of breath, to me, is the essential part of creating a rhythm that works. There is no point planning activities or jobs at a time that I or my children would naturally be resting, or scheduling a barrage of activities without considering time for quiet moments and reflection. Being aware of my needs, and the needs of my family are key.

Our Daily Rhythm flows like this:

Morning: Get dressed, breakfast, make beds/tidy rooms, make lunches, go to school

Mid-Morning: daily task / errands (little one is with me)

Lunch

Afternoon: quiet activities such as craft, reading, cooking or gardening. School pick-up

After School: hang up bags, lunch boxes in the kitchen, afternoon tea, play, tidy up, wash hands/bath

Evening: dinner, wash up, teeth, pyjamas, books, bed

It just happens the way it happens.  For us, at this time of writing, this tends to be a typical 6am – 7pm daily rhythm for the children. We try not to schedule too much.  As the children grow older there are a few afternoon activities to consider, but kept to a manageable minimum so that MY needs are met as well as the children’s.

Our Weekly rhythm flows in much the same way, but is designed to get things done! Again, I keep mine as simple as I can. I tend to get interested in a lot of things so my week needs to be fairly flexible. As I still have a little one at home with me, I try to do only ONE big thing a day, and do that in the morning, so that we have the afternoon free to flow as it will. Throughout the week I am also careful to schedule as much home time as I can, because afternoon activities and morning jobs can mount up and keep us busy. It is important to me, and to my children (especially on school holidays!) to have a full day at home after a busy day out. My weekly rhythm looks something like this:

MONDAY –  Morning: house cleaning and exercising. Afternoon: baking

TUESDAY – Morning: playgroup. Afternoon: craft / reading.

WEDNESDAY – Morning: laundry, errands. Afternoon: writing/work tasks

THURSDAY – All day:  work day (little one at family day care)

FRIDAY – Morning: exercise, groceries / errands. Afternoon: writing / study / work. (little one at family day care)

WEEKEND – family cleaning, gardening and tidying tasks. Family activities.

There are other ways of celebrating a weekly rhythm: with colours, food, activities, awareness of planetary influences … I’ve written about them HERE. They are just other ways. There are many ways, and as we have discussed, the way meets your family’s needs is the way that is right for you. YOUR rhythm is unique and it is up to you to arrange it the way you need to.

A Seasonal rhythm honours the passing of time, growth and transformation. In our family we honour a seasonal rhythm by celebrating significant seasonal days and festivals, keeping a reverent space in our home to acknowledge our current season, enjoying the gifts our season through gardening, walking/exploring, song, craft and story. We enjoy coming together with community – and of course enjoy celebrating anniversaries such as birthdays.

Seasonal rhythms keep us connected to our immediate environment and our community and lifts us from the limitations of our daily predictability. Sometimes we get stuck in a rut. Seasonal rhythms remind us that all things must transform and grow, give us the opportunity to review our needs at this moment, and give us something to look forward to, and wonderful lasting memories.

Breathing in and out, through the day, through the week and through the year …

… happy breathing …

 

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2 thoughts on “Breathing In and Out: planning a family rhythm

  1. I have truly enjoyed your 3 part series on Rhythm..I never get tired of reading about creating rhythm, its music and calmness to my soul and my family all breath in and out. thanks for sharing

    • Many thanks Tania. I never get tired of reflecting and writing about rhythm either! It is all about flow. When we are in flow we’ve got a great rhythm going. When we are not flowing, then it is time to reflect, make a few adjustments here and there to get that flowing going again 🙂

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