From the Archives, August 2011
We have been discussing rhythm a lot over on our list. I recently did a mini workshop breaking it down into steps that I have used (in my own life and in working with others) to get rhythm going in the right direction. I have included the steps here, they are not intended to be done all at once but can be very helpful if worked on over a period of about a month.
One month to a better rhythm
Rhythm is more than just thinking about what you want to happen each day, it has underpinnings of Mom’s will development, cycles of the year and child development – all wrapped up in one. To have a life that flows (for the most mart) and doesn’t feel chaotic or stressful, it takes us getting control what we can and knowing when to settle down and let the rest go.
Step one – evaluate how you want your life to FEEL. This step can’t be underestimated! You have been walking through feeling chaos for some time, it can be an addicting way to live, going from one drama or crisis to the next. Take the time to really examine how you feel and thinking about how you want your life to feel. This should take one-two days. Take the time to write this out, sleep on it and then review what you have written.
Step two – commit to doing what ever you have to. How important is this thing called rhythm? How important is it to you to make a change? Are you done making excuses about why you can’t do it? There will always be obstacles – babies born, divorces, partner’s with odd schedules, sick babies, so many things that can get in your way, you have to be a find-a-way-make-a-way woman. You have to want a good rhythm more than you want to stay in bed.
Think about what you have to do in your week – You only have a certain number of hours in your week, be realistic. If you have a lot of outside commitments then be sure you are finishing your days with enough time to get to bed (so you can get up early). If you run a business, think about getting up extra early so you be sure to be done in time to have your daily rhythm with your children. For instance, I get up between 4:30 and 6am, even with a newborn and a snuggly husband, I have a lot to accomplish in my day and I don’t like it when our business takes a lot of time away from our children so getting up early gives me that freedom – it also means I am in bed early. So if you have a business you are running or if you are attending school, have outside classes to teach, etc., be realistic and adjust your sleep schedule accordingly.
If you have no major outside commitments, then consider rising around 6am – that means your bedtime needs to be 10-11pm if you need 7 hours of sleep and 9-10pm if you need 8 hours. With nursing infant, although she sleeps really well, I like to go to bed earlier so I can get a better sleep with all the interruptions I get in the night – I am generally in bed by 9pm, many nights before then. I do this because I know I need the sleep so I can function at my peak during the day with my kids.
We begin our day at 8am, so as soon as I can, I begin to teach what that means. With many older children that can tell time, they work to entertain my 5yo so that I can get completely finished with working, preparing, meditating, etc. and greet them. It is a process and it has gotten better over time, do not expect it to be perfect with little children, do expect though that they are teachable and you can change their habits through the power of intention. Many mornings the baby is up with me for a bit and then she nods off for a while longer until Daddy’s ready to get up. Daddy has to be teachable too, lol… Erik knows that I need that time in the morning so he does everything he can to make sure I get it. This was no different when he worked outside the home, he got up and helped with the children even more then because he knew that he was leaving me alone with these people all day and he wanted to make sure I was in a good head space to do that! Lol.
What do I do in the mornings? I rotate what I am working on. I have a list of things I want to get through in a week, two mornings it is email for part of the time, if we are working on a book like right now then a couple mornings are dedicated to that, but a portion of my time is ALWAYS dedicated to school prep and inner work. My inner work cycles. One morning I may read a Steiner lecture and then sleep on it, prattle on to Erik about it through the day and really hash it out, let it sink in. The next morning my inner work might be scripture or completely devotional, another morning might be dedicated to listening to someone like Wayne Dyer. Each morning might be different, but each morning is planned and has a flow to it. After years of doing this, I know which mornings I can study something deep and which ones I just need to hand over to God in meditation.
When I do my morning lesson prep, my lessons are already all the planned, I know exactly what I am doing that day and I am prepared because I planned weeks or months in advance. I read over my lessons, take final peaks at stories for each child (we have four in the mix 2-3 days a week this year and three children on 4 days, so we are busy with lessons.) I do any drawings that need to be done, practice a painting if I need to, get my chalk board ready, etc.
Step three: Now that you have mornings down, remember it isn’t meant to be easy, but it will become a habit and it will get easier – hopefully to the point where you will miss it if you sleep too late one morning. Most women get to where they crave the peace of the early morning.
Now look at your agenda… it helps to write it out just so you can get a good idea of flow. If you have a few days a week where you have to be somewhere by early afternoon, then it will give you space to see where you can put things. The written down agenda will help you also see holes of time that you could be wasting or that you could capture as peaceful if you only realized they were there, lol. I like a typical grid like a calendar day planner page for this exercise. I call it a plan sheet and will often do one even after my rhythm is completely established when I know I have something crazy on the horizon like a move for instance, lol. The grid will have the days of the week across the top and the times of the day down the left side (this left side grid should start at 5am so you can put your inner work time in there.)
Start by plugging the things into your plan sheet that you know occur each week – play groups, homeschooling groups, standing appointments, date night (yes, this is required, lol), if you work put that in, if you attend church put that in, etc.
There, now that you have all that in there then you can fully appreciate the rest of the time. You can start thinking about the nuts and bolts of your week, is there a day that stands out to be your cleaning day? Painting day? Baking day? Errands? Look at your plan sheet and be practical and logical. If you like a clean kitchen for baking day then place your cleaning day the day before baking day, etc. Keep these days the same each week, you can color code your plan sheet.
Running for the hills yet? Lol, don’t worry, once you are in a good rhythm then you don’t have to keep worrying about this sheet, but it is a good visual as you are trying to make a change.
Step Four: Now that you have looked at the whole and you have broken down some of the parts, lets talk about the pieces you commonly hear about – the school/morning rhythm. This is also the step where you think about your menu planning.
Think about what time you want your day to start – 8am works for us, but if there is a chance that you can include Daddy in some of your morning routine then consider starting a bit earlier to accommodate his work schedule – Dad loves to be included! If your children are tiny – say under 6, then you should probably get up, make breakfast and then get dressed. If your children are older or you have a mix, then consider having them dress and do their chores in the morning first, before breakfast as an incentive to get things moving. Many mornings I will start muffins or scones and then we will do scripture study and our morning gathering before breakfast too, it really gets us moving for the day.
We then will generally go on a walk, but not a long one, this walk is just to get the wiggles out. We are generally back by 9:20, the kids all take a moment to go to the potty and then we come together. Big kids might start on their reading, one might work on our snack tray (entirely scripted, they know what should go on it, I generally make a list). This is when I generally sit down with Sammy for his story, this year we’ll incorporate more of a circle after a few years of just morning singing and anchoring that wasn’t as circle looking. We also have our music practice in here.
After working with Sam, we then begin the rotation with the big kids, there are three to work through so it might sound all messy but it generally isn’t. We tend to start with main lessons and then do our math afterward with the goal of being done by lunch (with the snack tray this is no problem at all.) Occasionally we have a child straggling until 2pm. A few afternoons per week we will have handwork – more about this in a minute. The rest of the afternoons are often taken up with errands or trips to the park.
Having your menu planned well will be such a huge help to you, I also try to keep simple things on hand in case we get home late and I don’t have it in me to make a meal. Sandwiches, simple soups in the freezer, etc.
Handwork is only an assignment when it needs to be. I have worked through the years to make handwork a part of our rhythm to the extent that they are just in the habit of doing it. I work daily on handwork so that is partially why it comes with ease. Even my older sons will always have a project going. It is super helpful if there is a goal in mind – a gift for someone, a birthday or holiday gift – this is the best remedy to any whining during handwork. I will settle down in our common space with my handwork and put on either a book on tape or some soothing music and pretty soon they are all in there with me. If I notice they are slacking then I make it assigned for a few weeks to get them back on it, it doesn’t take much for them. My middle son will baulk at times but when everyone else is complying then he often falls into line.
Step Five: Now that you have had a bit of time to watch your rhythm unfold, see if you need to make any adjustments. It takes a good month to feel it and live into it fully. Holidays will come and go and you will have to see it coming and make slight adjustments so that things don’t go wonky. Remember that it all, every ounce of it, depends on how you act and react. If you are in a good place then the rest of your house will be.
You can do it!! Give it time and believe in yourself. It won’t all come together over night, but with persistence it will come together.