Routines, Rhythms, Schedules, etc.

There is a commonly held assumption that a schedule or a routine is something that someone else (a parent, a school, a daycare) imposes on you. In unschooling, we tend to avoid imposing on our children, so the idea of unschoolers having a scheduled day seems antithetical.
I like the Waldorf idea of having a rhythm to your days/weeks/years. Rhythm is just what you do in your days. Creating a more rhythmic week means being more intentional to do the same things on the same days–and eliminating the things that disrupt the rhythm (but not eliminating the things that break up the rhythm in a good way).
Children (and really most of us humans) like our days to be predictable. But children need this more, because they aren’t the ones in control of the day usually. Children tend to be dragged around here and there, without understanding the reasons behind the chaos.
In Simplicity Parenting by Kim John Payne, he gives a good summary of children’s need for rhythm and transparency in the schedule. He also gives good suggestions for parents that have crazy work schedules to help their children cope with the constant changes. This quote is the way I think about our rhythm:

“Meaning hides in repetition:  We do this every day or every week because it matters.  We are connected by this thing we do together.  We matter to one another.  In the tapestry of childhood, what stands out is not the splashy, blow-out trip to Disneyland but the common threads that run throughout and repeat:  the family dinners, nature walks, reading together at bedtime, Saturday morning pancakes.” – Kim John Payne

– See more at:

Having a routine lets you be spontaneous. If I have a routine that keeps me caught up with work, it allows me to drop everything on a Wednesday in October that happens to be gorgeous and head to the lake for the day.
We naturally develop routines, even when we are on vacation.
Our rhythm is something like this:
Early Morning (pre-Caleb waking)-computer stuff and basement
Morning (post-Caleb waking)-food, games, stories, playing, garden tour (weeds pulled, checking for damage, harvesting, etc.)
Late morning- more basement for me, usually a video for Caleb unless he’s engaged in something else
Lunch time
Early afternoon- packaging, more play, maybe a story, dinner prep if we’re going to be out late, playing outside
Late afternoon- post office (quick stop), library, pool, track, baseball, park, plus any errands that need doing –obviously we don’t do that all on the same day that’s where the weekly rhythm comes in
Dinner time
Evening-walk or, lately, bike ride after dinner down to the steel mill
Before bed-clean up the toys, the dinner, vacuum, have a bed time snack (Caleb) and tea (also Caleb)
Bedtime-brush teeth, read story in bed, turn out light, have tickle time, then [try to be patient] at Caleb until he finally stops jumping all over the bed and goes to sleep 🙂
We never drive anywhere in the mornings, except Monday when we meet people at the park for my running group. And when we do have to go somewhere in the morning, Caleb is not happy about it.
I try to keep to a weekly routine as well, though I’m not where I’d like to be with that. One thing that I want to work on is streamlining my errands, particularly work errands (post office, Lowes, Busy Beaver, craft shore, etc.).
Grocery shopping is Tuesday, we have various activities on certain days, we have a meal plan with categories (Monday is mashed potato day, Tuesday is soup and bread, Wednesday is pizza, etc.). Weekends we stay home mostly. I try not to do errands then (this is a hangover from not having a car, the bus didn’t run on Sunday and only limitedly on Saturday). During warm season, we might go to the pool or creek in the afternoons. Saturday morning we always have pancakes. Sundays we almost always have a bonfire in the backyard.
In the summer, I would like to go to the lake every Friday, but that depends on the weather, and whether or not we are going to be in Pittsburgh over the weekend for a craft show or something. I don’t like to do more than one long drive (30 minutes or more) per week. Your rhythm will change with the seasons as well, but some things will stay the same.
I think there is a difference between kids that have been in school or living in a rigid schedule of someone else’s enforcing, and kids that are used to being in charge of their own time. There is an adjustment period.
When I left the world of being a student and an employee for self-employment and motherhood, it was a few years before I really started taking charge of the day. I had spent my entire life with someone else setting my schedule, telling me what to do, and abruptly losing that is an adjustment (a good one, but it takes time).
After 6 years of being alternatively employed and 4 years of having my own business, I feel like I’m finally hitting my stride. My hope for Caleb is that he will be self-directed all his life. I provide him with a safe, comfortable routine, but ultimately he decides what he’s going to do for his day-to-day learning.
Routines provide stability and security for children, and the children that need that the most structure are the ones that haven’t had it. If you have a baby and you are always there for the baby, and then you are always there for the toddler and the child, he will be more able to handle a flexible schedule.
My son and I have had a variety of living arrangements (including living in a van) and crazy schedules (getting up at 3 am to deliver newspapers), but the constant thing has been me–taking care of him, always being there when he needs me. Children that don’t have the security of a stable caregiver, can find security in the routine of the day. But children that are at home or with people that love them all day, may not have the same need for order and rhythm to their days.

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