Monday, February 22, 2010


This word is used quite often with Waldorf education.

What is rhythm? What is the rhythm of life?

Rhythm is movement, flow, pattern, form, pulse, cadence. Rhythm is a place between polarities, that of being stuck and rigid on one end and that of flowing wildly in every direction without form or the ability to pull in, complete expansion at one end, contraction at the other.

Rhythm is the place of healthy movement between the poles. Like breathing, if we contract too much we are gasping and quickly exhausted; this can be very stressful with no out breath. If we are in one long out flow of breath for too long, we may not be able to rouse ourselves to action when necessary.

Children thrive in a place of healthy rhythm. Rhythm provides balance, ease, strength, reassurance and predictability, a feeling of safety and calm, much needed in this hectic world. To find the harmonious rhythm is a process in this busy life, a process of striving to find the rhythm that best serves children and family life.

The young child incorporates the rhythms of life into his or her very being by internalizing the experiences of the external world into his or her very being. The experience of harmonious rhythm that surrounds the child is taken in deeply by the child. A healthy relationship to rhythm nourishes the sense of balance, the feeling of calm and the ability to rouse to action and then withdraw and flow into the next activity. Rhythm helps form good habits. To find and provide a healthy rhythm is a form of discipline rooted in guidance through deeds not words.

Nature provides external rhythm with the cosmic flow, the natural rhythm of the movement of the planets and the stars , the rising and setting of the sun, the waxing and waning of the moon and the turning of the seasons.

Rhythm is also internal with the rhythm of the body which includes breathing, with inspiration and exhalation, the rhythm of the heartbeat, the pulse, the rhythm of the menstrual cycle and the rhythm of the unfolding soul.

Before birth, the fetus knows the rhythm of the mother's body, of her heartbeat and breathing, of her sleeping and waking, of her active time and quietude and of the light of night and day. The mother often knows her child's pattern of movement and sleep in utero.

The newborn child develops a rhythm of heartbeat and breathing, of eating and sleeping, of active observation, exploration, and movement, as well as quiet dreaminess. Rhythm that we provide for the infant includes breastfeeding, the sucking and mother's heartbeat provide strong rhythm and warmth, rocking, cradle and lullabies.

The toddler's rhythms expand from those of eating and sleeping and play to joining in activities of the household which might include the rhythm of the day, the week, the month and the year. Nursery rhymes, rhythmic songs, rhythmic ring games, finger plays and the telling of simple rhythmic stories are ways to bring rhythm to the toddler.

Activities of the daily rhythm include laundry: washing, drying, folding, putting away, meals: preparing, serving, enjoying and clearing , washing dishes, sweeping the floor, mopping the floor, bringing out the compost, feeding the turtle, rabbit, dog, cat or hens, making the beds, turning down the bed covers, taking a bath, hearing a story and going to sleep.

Weekly rhythm might include soup stock day, soup day, baking day, craft day, ironing day, shopping day, cleaning day, trash day and family day.

Seasonal rhythms for us in New England include the harvest, apple picking, applesauce, apple crisp and apple pie making, leaf raking, scarecrow building, pumpkin picking and carving, seed toasting, salve making from the garden's calendula and lavender, gingerbread men baking, snow shoveling, sledding, skiing, bird feeding, seed planting, garden tending, strawberry, raspberry and blueberry picking, preserving and cooking, pesto making, beach going, swimming, kayaking and harvesting the garden through out summer and fall. The food we eat reflects the season with warm comforting soups, stews and roasts in winter, baby greens, peas, lettuce and rhubarb in spring, summer's bounty of fresh vegetables and herbs and the harvest of fruits, grain and vegetables in autumn.

Festivals that we celebrate include Michaelmas, Halloween, All Soul's Day, Martinmas Lantern Walk, Thanksgiving, St, Nicholas Day, Advent and the Spiral Garden , Christmas, New Year's Eve, Epiphany, Valentines, Mardi Gras, Easter and the summer solstice. The stories, songs, finger plays, food and decorations, often from nature, return each year like the seasons, the familiar forces of nature take hold of the earth in a breathing sort of way, a predicable assuring way with a past we can look to and a future to anticipate, with balance and ease.

And so dear reader this ends my first real post. I will continue with more specific elements of how we celebrate the year in future posts, as well as make some musings and meanderings as to the why.


  1. Excellent post! Beautifully written and a great introduction for parents new to this basic Waldorf concept.

  2. I've a question...I'm so uneducated but journey'ing along...I thought steiner was athiest...why is there so much saint stuff? I'm attracted to waldorf, but so confused by the god/saint/athiest thing...books seem for those who have been raised or apart of it/in a tribe. I've no one around me but the rhythm, the home, natural, all draws me... Advice please?....


    1. Steiner was not an atheist, he was deeply religious. Waldorf education sees a being as a three-fold unit, body, soul and mind. An atheist would have a problem with the soul part, wouldn't they? If you're attracted to it, go for it, your instincts will lead you right. One wonderful thing with Waldorf education is that it respects all religions; christians, muslims, jews, pagans, whatever - as long as you recognize that there is "something" spiritual existing in all of us. I used to think I was an atheist until I realized that I really believed I had a soul. I found my religion, and has been a happily practicing mormon for many years now. And I have no problems when my daughter celebrates pagan or muslim holidays at school. It teaches her respect and tolerance and appreciation for other cultures. The stories about the saints are not about their religion, it's more about their personal attributes, and what we can learn from them.
      I hope you find your path. Waldorf is one choice that might be right for you, but only you can decide.

  3. I just found your blog. Is really interesting and full of lovely information, thank you for sharing :)

  4. Honey, check out Lynn Jericho's offerings on inner work, She helps us clarify what matters and what hinders us in our own lives, to better see our children, ourselves and each other. Her work is very empowering. And she works out of anthroposophy which is what Waldorf education emerged from.

  5. You explained that wonderfully. Thank you

  6. You're welcom Castlequeen, glad to hear you like it!

  7. This is what we have started to get in tune with the last 2 weeks. Our days were filled with so much energy there just wasn't peace and time to rest during the day so I'm looking at how our daily, weekly, seasonal rhythms work.

    Within a week I have seen a difference just by working on things happening around the same time so meal times are consistent, bedtime is consistent waking up and how we go about getting ready for the day is consistent - my toddlers are in tune with it and it's much smooth for us all.


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