Life in the summer is good…until it is not.
Summer energy is as light and expansive as the air that surrounds us during these hot, sun-filled days. As parents and teachers at a Jacksonville Beach preschool, we savor the days of not getting up early, waking the children up, packing lunches, driving kiddos here and there by this time and by that time…
As parents we crave open-endedness.
A little inconvenient news: Open-endedness is quite uncomfortable for a young child.
Young children crave time, even though they cannot put that into words. They crave the time to dive deep into play, but they also need to know when they’re going to eat (and even, perhaps, what they are going to eat), when they’re going to go to bed and what they will do right before bed (book? bath?) In short, children crave a rhythm, not necessarily a schedule. At our LifeWays and Waldorf inspired school rhythm is key.
So what’s the difference? A schedule tells you what time things are going to happen. A rhythm tells you when things are going to happen.
For example, if your child knows that every morning after they wake up (and quite possibly wake you up!), they will have some quiet time while you get going and start breakfast. A young child doesn’t need to be told that they will eat at 7:45 a.m. A young child simply needs to know that they will eat when Mom or Dad wake up.
It’s very easy to combine the two concepts during the school year. However, the magic of summer is covering up the clock and focusing on the rhythm.
Here are a couple of things to ponder as you begin to develop a rhythm that will meet your family’s needs. Again, focus more on the actions and not the time!
* Look at your day as divided into three basic sections: Morning, Afternoon and Evening.
*Come up with 5-7 “anchors” that occur throughout your day and week and when they occur (morning, afternoon, or evening; Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday…). Anchors are events that naturally occur. For example, meals, naps and basic errands are all anchors.
*Just like a puzzle, place these anchors into your days. Again, don’t focus on specific times, rather the order in which they will occur. For example, you will eat breakfast every morning, but on Mondays you will go to the library after breakfast, on Tuesdays you’ll go to the beach, Wednesdays stay home, Thursdays to a friends, etc.
*Remember that the simpler you keep your rhythm, the more “portable” it is! In other words, a very simple rhythm can easily be maintained during your summertime travels. A simple rhythm also allows for more spontaneity! Did you run into a friend while at the beach and they want to come over? Great! All you have planned is lunch before the kids nap, so “Yes! Please come over for sandwiches!”
Is a friend or relative coming to keep an eye on the children while you get some work or errands done? No problem! A simple rhythm can easily be carried by another adult.
*Think about how you can simplify mealtimes. Who wants to be inside cooking for hours when everyone else is outside enjoying the day? The heat of our Florida summer days also begs for cooler foods. Think about make-ahead salads, sandwiches and fruit. These are things that can easily be toted to the beach, park or outside for a summertime dinner picnic.
*Another possible simplification is laundry. Consider taking some time to clean out your child’s drawers and closets. What clothes have they outgrown? What clothes are seasonally inappropriate? Pull these items out and donate or store them. By simplifying a child’s clothing options you help to decrease the chances of something being tried on by your child and then tossed in the dirty clothes hamper. Less clothes in the drawers ultimately means less time that you spend doing laundry and more time that you spend enjoying these sun-filled days with your child.
Kim John Payne describes the value of rhythm in a child’s life:
“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.”
Take comfort in knowing that by creating a healthy home rhythm, you are not only making your days together flow more easily but also creating lasting memories and rituals that your children will carry with them into adulthood.
And we would be remiss if we didn’t mention finding some time for YOU this summer. Reach out to others in your community and plan for playdates so that you can take turns running errands, resting or getting your work done. The beauty of a simple rhythm is that is can also allow for time for you to look forward to spending on doing things that YOU love to do; a simple rhythm naturally allows for a balance of in-breaths and out-breaths and time to nurture all that you love, including yourself.
Keep in touch with us and follow our blog to learn more about our nature inspired programming, forest school, and LifeWays and Waldorf inspired school offerings.
Wishing you a summer filled to the brim with love, sunshine and joy!
Miss Anna and Miss Natalie