In the fall of 1994, we had just moved to Washington, Primo had just turned three, and I had finally sought out services for his speech delays (our previous pediatrician in California had been vehemently opposed to our seeking services). Primo was diagnosed with a Language Processing Disorder. Autism was never even thought about. Overall, his behavior was good, but there were times when he would he’d go off into his own little world or just become irrationally angry. Though the speech therapist ensured me that this was caused by his frustration with people not being able to understand him, I wasn’t so sure. I noticed that he really liked to have things stay the same. For instance, when summer came, he really fought switching to shorts and short-sleeved shirts. I began to notice that he was much happier when he had a predictable routine and when he knew exactly what was going to happen when. Fortunately, he was a very early reader, so I was able to establish and intricate calendar system with stickers and colored markers, so he knew what was going to happen to who and where and when every day. We very rarely waivered from that calendar. I also started keeping a very predictable routine, each and every day. He became so calm and enjoyable, it was like day and night. Over the years, Primo lost the need for such extreme structure (yes that is what our playroom did look like some days when I had four kids aged 2-9, though obviously this must have been a bit extreme as I named the photo “chaotic playroom”), though he still, to this day, has problems with things being rearranged or changed much. Still, with five children, of various ages and stages, I have been hard-pressed to stick to any routine. Then I began looking into Waldorf for Dora and the one thing that has been emphasized over and over again in my studies is that children need rhythm in their day. In all honesty, I like daily rhythm, myself.As I set about trying to establish a rhythm to our day, I needed to take into account that Dora turns into a really, really, really, grouchy ladybug in the evenings. In addition, with my health issues, my energy deteriorates as the day goes on, such that by the afternoon, I no longer have the energy to do my household chores. So I am left with two conflicting agendas in the morning, I either do my household chores while Dora and I are still rested and then do “circle time” with Dora, or I do “circle time” with Dora and then do my chores. The problem lies in that, more often than not, something interrupts us and whichever is the second task, gets pushed to the wayside and is left until the afternoon to do. I’m working on trying to find balance and prioritizing, but I suspect that things will continue to be a bit out of equilibrium until the summer, as we just have too many commitments that occur in the middle of the day (we are homeschoolers, after all). I have decided that next year, we will not do anything in the middle of the day, except for our once-a-week co-op.At this point in time, these are the routines that I have been able to establish:
- Our days-of-the-week and weather gnomes – Dora doesn’t know the names of the days of the week, but she sure knows the colors and she sure knows her weather gnomes! If I don’t get to it early enough, she has been known to set out the appropriate gnomes herself.
- Circle time occurs every weekday, preferably before lunch, and includes a few songs, poems, finger plays, and/or action rhymes, followed by reading a book that ties into our theme of the week. The same songs, poems, finger plays, and/or action rhymes are repeated daily for one week.
- Ideally, we get some sort of “outdoors time” in every day, but it is hard during these short winter days
- My “yoga time” occurs in the afternoon and involves Dora lighting a candle for me to do 20 minutes of uninterrupted yoga/stretching. Sometimes she joins me, sometimes she doesn’t. My “yoga” also happens to include 15 minutes of Choroi flute practice, which I consider to be my “mental yoga”.
- We do one “enrichment” activity a day (in addition to our “circle time”) – painting, drawing, baking, crafting, or modeling. These extras occur on set days, so that Dora knows what to expect. For instance, Mondays are “painting days”.
- We have one outside activity most days. For instance, Mondays are “music class day” and Thursdays are usually “field trip day”.
- Dora’s evening routine has gotten pretty set in stone and this has really helped with her sleep habits.
I would love to say that I always do chores before or after circle time and that I always go over Gohan’s bookwork in the early afternoon, but our days are highly unpredictable. My three grown children through wrenches into my system at times, I have far too many doctor appointments to work around, a cat will crawl in one of our laps and refuse to leave (or more likely throw up a hairball on my just-mopped floor), Gohan will suddenly decide he needs me to drive him somewhere, we’ll have guests in town, we might have play or symphony tickets, etc. None of these are things that I want to give up. I had a large family, mostly because I wanted a family that was always “present”, in a house that was never empty, where there was always someone to talk to, where there was a constant hustle and a bustle, where my kids always knew they belonged and never felt lonely in their own home. I have achieved this and have never regretted it, even for a minute, but it does have it’s drawbacks, at times. One day, when it is only Gohan, Dora, and I in the house every day, I’ll have plenty of time to focus on a daily rhythm,, until then, I can say that we have achieved a weekly rhythm, which is what I am going to have to be content with for the time being.
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