Monday, June 24, 2013

Finding a summer rhythm

I feel like we are finally settling into to our summer rhythm here. It took a while.

It always seems to when "school" ends for us. We need a few weeks to figure it out.

Rhythm has played a big part in our days since Owen was tiny. I was searching for a gentle structure to our days that kept one from running into the other, and helped us to enjoy our years at home and get every minute out of them.

And so, I began reading about rhythm -- a Waldorfy idea that kept me sane. When I had Ellery and then we began homeschooling it was my lifeline: Mondays we baked, Tuesdays we painted ... every day had some little purpose. It felt real and important.

As the kids have grown, there have been times when we've needed to do pretty big rhythm overhauls. But we also often find ourselves needing to tweak things as the seasons change.

I see summer as a really good time to focus on "life skills" stuff, like our morning routine, or this summer, teaching the kids how to do laundry. There isn't an expectation that either one of them is about to take the family's weekly laundry pile down to the creek or anything, but some basic familiarity with the process is good for all of us, I think.

A few weeks back the kids and I created morning lists (Ellery's also has pictures), and I am already feeling like it will make things a bit easier in the fall, when our homeschool group begins again. Those mornings are always really busy, and make me super grateful that I don't have to put people on buses at 7:15 five days a week. We like our slow mornings around here.

We tried to keep the morning chores really simple. They begin after breakfast dishes are cleared:

  • Get dressed
  • Brush teeth
  • Brush hair
  • Make bed
  • Feed pets
  • Empty dishwasher
  • Check chickens
  • Start a load of laundry
The kids switch off on who feeds the pets and who empties the dishwasher in a very elaborate system which I don't think can be put on paper or otherwise quantified. It might be the most complex thing that happens here before dinner time.

This summer transition means a lot more time outside, but that small change weaves in as naturally as it will weave out again in November. And our big touchstones -- meals, our bedtime routine and "Quiet Time," remain the same.

"Quiet Time" has gone by other names in our family. For a long time it was "Nap Time," but Owen transitioned out of naps at an early age because he despised the very idea of them. We tried "Rest Time," but my oldest saw through that ruse.

At the beginning of summer I again explained my need for quiet time (about an hour when we find our quiet pursuits -- reading, knitting, crochet or beads for Ellery, playing quietly, listening to an audiobook, etc.).

"This is about Mama needing a little downtime," I said. I reminded them of my love of reading after lunch, and everyone was amenable to the idea when they remembered that it was in no way a punishment, but a break and breather.

I think the biggest change has been to our daily rhythm which is still "settling." We like to stick with Wednesdays for our library day, so we can visit our good friends. But Wednesdays are also our favorite farmer's market, and we haven't yet successfully combined the two. Tuesdays are great for meeting up with friends because that is our homeschool co-op day during the traditional school season. There are so many great parks and fun activities during the summer, so Thursdays have been set aside as a travel day, but we also seem to do best with at least one day at home all day. Those days remain our old "baking" day from years ago, and often turns into the day when we tackle some big cooking project. We also do a lot of crafts that day, play more games, and sometimes we'll plan something fun and special, like when we set up our home science lab.

So our weekly rhythm now looks like this (in our best weeks!):
  • Mondays: Home day (cooking, baking, crafts and projects)
  • Tuesdays: Visit with friends
  • Wednesdays: Farmers market and library
  • Thursdays: Travel and special activities
  • Fridays: Errands and shopping (I try to factor in a special treat these days because who really enjoys shopping? You do? Really? Even without chocolate croissant?)
The thing about rhythm, I find, is that it's never really exact. What if friends call on a Friday, or we want to sneak to a dollar matinee on Wednesday? We roll with it.

Our rhythm is really a framework. It's something to go back to when we start to feel a little scattered. It's always there waiting for us, and when we need it, it feels like home.

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