“How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.” – Annie Dillard
When I wrote this post about rhythm and this post about my day, I saw how rhythm – and more importantly the sense of purpose derived from having a rhythm – influences how I spend my day. I know that a rhythm and a schedule are two different things, and that in certain Waldorf circles even the word “schedule” is verboten. But the fact of the matter is, time is spent doing things during the day, and for the sake of simplicity, I am going to call the actual time spent during my day, my “schedule”. I think rhythm is bigger and broader and that without rhythm, your schedule (again, how you spend the waking hours of your day) can be lost in the rush.
Carrie over at the Parenting Passageway asks this question in her current series of posts about rhythm: “What is most important to me? Does the use of my days and time currently reflect this?” I think this is a great question to start thinking about rhythm in larger terms. I think it begins to lead you down the path of how your ideals can be translated into reality. At this point in my life, I know I want my time to be intentional. I want what I care about most to be what gets the lion’s share of my time. For me, that would be 3 things: food, books and quiet.
Three meals and several snacks are made and eaten at our house everyday – this takes a lot of time. As I have said before in this space, I love to cook. So do my boys. They think nothing of making soup and bread from scratch for lunch. This task, however, can take up a large part of our morning, pushing our main lesson closer to noon than I would like it to be. I try to let this be okay in my mind, and remember that making the soup and the bread is a bigger lesson than any I have slated for our formal schooling time. I want my boys to know that food doesn’t just instantly happen, that it doesn’t just appear on the table. And I want them to know this on an intimate and experiential level: meaning, I want them to do it themselves. Not just see me do it or just be semi-aware of something happening in the kitchen several times a day.
Books are right up there next to food on my priority list. Both my boys and I are avid readers and spend a good portion of the day reading. I think it is important for them to see me reading for pleasure, as well as all the reading that comprises planning and homeschooling! I also read aloud to my boys everyday. Solitary reading is different than listening to a story together. Both are valuable, and we make time for each every day. Again, this takes time, and not something that I want to happen in a rushed manner. I allow about 90 minutes of our afternoon for story time – this is more than we typically spend on main lesson. However, there is a reason for this. My 4th grader needs stories. Lots and lots of stories to balance his voracious appetite for facts and non-fiction. Time is built into my day to allow for this.
Finally, I also make time for periods of quiet during the day. In the beginning, this was the hardest for me to cultivate, but has been well worth the effort. In the midst of the doing and the busyness of our day, I try to make sure there is no unnecessary background noise. So that when those serendipitous moments of each of us settled to a task happens, the house is silent. This has caused me to give up my once sacrosanct radio in the kitchen. I am not a tv watcher, but the radio used to be my constant companion. Kim John Payne, in his book Simplicity Parenting, talks about filtering out the adult world and the need children have for silence and convinced me to give up this habit. Tangential to this quest for quiet would be time alone for me. I make time to take a walk by myself every day. I usually get 30 minutes, but it can sometimes be a whole golden hour. During this time, I listen to a podcast, make a phone call or just do nothing except get my heart rate up. This time alone translates into the patience I need to finish the day. There are, of course, those days when I could walk to China and still not find all the patience I need, but having this pocket of time helps tremendously.
These are the priorities that govern my day. They may not be yours. However, I think that if you are struggling with rhythm – like we all do at times – or are just starting to establish a rhythm to your day, begin by asking yourself Carrie’s questions: “What is most important to me? Does the use of my days and time currently reflect this?” You may be surprised by the answers, and I urge you to listen to them. You may be telling yourself something.