‘Tis the gift to be simple, ’tis the gift to be free
‘Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be,
And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
‘Twill be in the valley of love and delight.
When true simplicity is gained,
To bow and to bend we shan’t be ashamed,
To turn, turn will be our delight,
Till by turning, turning we come ’round right.
“Simple Gifts” an old Shaker hymn from the 1800’s
It is in indeed a gift to be simple and a gift to be free. This old Shaker hymn brings me immense inspiration, joy, and contentment, for it speaks volumes about steadfast truths about mindful living that our family values and holds dear. Which brings me to the topic of rhythm – the flow with which we conduct the time and spend the energy within the scope of our days. It only recently occurred to me this summer while we were off in Yosemite camping with bears (more on that in the coming weeks!) that rhythm beautifully echos the sentiments held by both simplicity and freedom. In its very nature, rhythm is what gives something a steady beat, thereby marking cadence and flow. An indispensable component of music, song without rhythm is a song without melody, and a song without melody is a song without harmony, which is hardly a song at all, and more like a pile of dusty notes swept haphazardly into the corner of one’s room. Harmony connects us to music and it needs rhythm to do so. Likewise, rhythm holds space for us to make more meaningful connections with ourselves, others, and the natural world throughout the day, week, season, and year.
Rhythm is what offers patterns in time, and similarly to how it makes a song flow from one beat to the next, it’s what can also give our days energetic movement and creative balance. Unlike structure or routine, rhythm is less ridged and more organic in nature because it breathes. Like the rhythm of your breath and the cycles of the seasons, rhythm is both dependable and fundamental to the order of all living things. Without our breath we cannot live, and without the seasons we cannot thrive. In this way, rhythm is a part of what it means to be a human being living in this complex but beautiful world, and reclaiming the way we order the time and energy in our days through the means of rhythm is how we’ll begin to infuse more simplicity and freedom into it.
Which brings me to this season and the how’s, what’s and why’s our family chooses to make rhythm a priority in our home. The dawn of a new school year ushers a host of new to-do’s, gatherings, outings, and so and so forth. Daylight is beginning to dwindle, and the promise of crisp air is just around the bend. It’s almost autumn here, and rhythm is what helps us find our way. This summer was a fun-filled adventure, as summer should be! However, our family has been good and ready to inch back into a flow that better holds our needs and wants as we began to incorporate more learning and making into our days. Rhythm is that net, so to speak, and I am delighted to share ours with you.
Below is an example of our weekly rhythm at home, with several things I’ve chosen to focus on with regard to pre-school with Alfie, mealtimes, and outings we shall take during homeschool. I believe I’ve mentioned it before, but our children attend a Waldorf school and are also home several days. Because of this, we are able to do things like field trip Fridays and library Thursdays. It’s a bit untraditional, but that’s why we love it. I have yet to print out our daily rhythm flow, but you can find a lovely template I’ve made right here to print off and create your own.
Our Daily Rhythm
6 am | Mom and dad wake, make coffee and read, slowly unfolding with the rising of the sun in the week hours of the morning.
7 am | The kids are up by now and everyone is gathered in the kitchen, eating breakfast, making lunches, and talking about the day ahead.
8 am | Everyone gets dresses and ready for the day.
9 am | School begins for the older two, and mom does reading and craft hour with the littlest.
10 am | Mom does daily chores, writes and works while the littlest free plays either indoors or out. This segment of the day is quite variable, changing from day to day based on the needs of our family.
12 am | Lunchtime, followed by supper preparations and/or baking.
1 pm | Quiet time at home, which either means a rest in bed or quiet play in one’s room.
3 pm | After school free play, preferably outdoors until supper. Mom finishes daily chores and does what’s needed around the home, while finishing up the meal or doing a creative project.
6 pm | Suppertime around the table, followed by everyone pitching in to help clean up before heading upstairs for jammies and baths.
7 pm | Depending on the energy in the home that evening, we will either read, watch a show, play a game, or go for a late night family stroll around the neighborhood.
8 pm | Kids are in bed by now, if not earlier, and mom and dad spend time together until we decide the day is done and retire to bed.
The beauty of rhythm is in the grace and flow it encourages, so we are not very strict with the times as much as we are that our family does things in this order. Life has its way of offering us heaps of snafus throughout the week, so one must not take it too personally when following the rhythm isn’t a possibility. That being said, when one does lean into the movement of rhythm, things manage to coast along much more swimmingly if there hadn’t been a rhythm in place! Above is an example of our current autumn daily rhythm, but let’s chat about weekly rhythms, shall we?
Weekly rhythms are different than daily ones because they do not break down the hours, but rather note what you will do on this day or that one. Mondays, for example, are for laundry and painting. Monday is when I do the bulk of our laundry for the week, and whatever I don’t get to I either leave to a time that I have later on or let hang out in our laundry space until Monday arrives again. The painting we do is the craft of the day, and something I do with Alfie after reading some seasonal books together. Being a former teacher, I love coming up with creative ways to make a bridge between what we’ve just read and what we’ll make that day. It’s different from week to week as our reading selections change and flow with the cycles of the natural world, and so too does the kind of paint we use. The craft changes from day, as we move on from different mediums and materials while we work with our hands.
And lastly, one thing I do to help me when it comes to meal planning is simplify the kind of meal I will make on any given day. For example, Mondays are for slow-cooked meals which are much easier to prepare when spending a lot of time at home, but are also perfect because they require little preparation and are therefore a good starter to a busy week. Tuesdays are for tacos, a food our family really loves. Wednesdays for casserole or pasta, Thursdays for leftovers, and Friday for pizza or a fun seasonal dish. Planning our meals this way breaks things down and makes grocery shopping so much easier, freeing up my time to do other things that I enjoy, such as reading or writing this here post! I’ve also found that incorporating meal plans into our weekly rhythm not only saves time, but money and energy. When I know that Tuesday is taco night, I don’t have to thumb through cookbooks for ideas to narrow down because the narrowing has been already done. All I have to do is see what we have, and go from there.
On our weekly autumn rhythm guide I’ve also included two breakfasts that the kids can choose from, making mornings more simple and free as well. We have quite a few oatmeal lovers in this home, so I make a big batch and heat it up as needed through the week. Same goes for muffins. Once a week I’ll make several dozen and store them in the refrigerator, making a wholesome and healthy breakfast item for mornings on the go if we need it. I also added some ideas of seasonal crafts I’ve collected from various resources to give me inspiration when in a bit of a creative rut. Sometimes it’s just comforting to have list of possible ideas handy for whenever an artsy mood may strike. Our rhythm on weekends is left to little else besides rest, play, and worship. These are the three things our family prioritizes at the end of the week before we begin a new one, and we find that each of these things renews and grounds us in countless ways.
Now, I am sure you’ve got a question for me and I am sure there’s something I need to further explain, so do ask! I am going to add your questions to this post as they roll in in F.A.Q. fashion to make things easier to find, and I sincerely hope it helps you on your journey to infuse more rhythm in the flow of your days.