Monday, August 18, 2014

Following the Sun

(This is the final installment in my rhythm series. To see the first three posts please see here: daily, weekly, monthly )

As the sun starts to fall towards darkness again, I can't help but be excited.

I'm a darkness kind of girl.

I love the shorter days, cooler temperatures, and festivals of the season.

The darkness surrounds me like a security blanket. I. Love. This. Season.

That being said, as a family we aren't as in sync with the sun as we are with the moon.  To be honest, all that extra daylight that starts in the early months of the year really throws us for a loop. The days are almost too long, the nights too short.  And not one of us enjoys the heat.

I think the majority of our issue with all this darn daylight is that we are a family that thrives on routine.  And that includes bedtimes.  So in the summer, when the kids are tired and going to bed at 8:00 and 8:30, with the sun still streaming in their window (or busting through the edges of a blackout curtain), everyone gets a bit cranky.

To illustrate our love of darkness, this quote comes from my son on the night of the summer solstice.
"FINALLY!  The sun will start sinking again so the nights are longer."

 Maybe we were all bears in a previous life, looking forward to the months and months of hibernation. HA.

So, moving right along, we suffer, sometimes not so silently, until we notice it getting darker again.

One thing that has really helped anchor our yearly rhythm is marking the year with celebrations.  We mostly celebrate the vernal and autumnal equinox and the summer and winter solstice, with a few other nature festivals thrown in the mix as well, such as May Day and Michaelmas.  These anchor points through the year help it us to move through the months back towards the end of the year, giving us something to look forward to while we make our way back to the dark.

Why celebrate festivals at all?  Well, simply put, they are good for the soul.  The help us to connect with the rhythms of nature.  Many of the festivals celebrated in the waldorf year have been celebrated for centuries, and as preparations take place, the anticipation and excitement of the festival create a quiet sense of joy and connectedness within the family and community.

Many first time Waldorf families will try and fit in many many festivals and celebrations, giving each and every one their all. And I get it.  There are so many wonderful things to celebrate, so many beautiful verses to say, so many stunning chalk drawings to covet.  But try and do too much and many families will also soon find out what burnout feels like.

To them I say choose the festivals and celebrations that mean the most to your family.  Find the ones that really speak to you and your heart, and leave the rest.

And don't over do it.  Keep things simple. The goal is to create an event that is special in a quiet, unobtrusive way.  A wonderful yearly routine that everyone looks forward to, but doesn't exhaust you just thinking about it.

If  you start to think "Oh man,  not St John's Day AGAIN!", you are doing too much.  Each festival should be preceded with anticipation and calm, and shouldn't make you want to hide. 

If you really want to touch on all the festivals in the waldorf year, find a friend, school or community organization that celebrates the festivals and attend their celebrations.  It is nice to let someone else do the work sometimes!

Here is a list of what we celebrate through the year:

January - a small new year celebration
February - nothing
March - spring equinox
April - Easter
May - May Day
June - Summer Solstice
July - nothing
August - nothing
September - Michaelmas
October - Halloween
November - nothing (we might try Martinmas this year, as we'll be in the midst of a saints block)
December - St Nicholas / advent / Christmas (its a big month long celebration!)

As we go through the year, I will post pictures and explanation of how we celebrate so you can get a better idea of how we celebrate.

The most important thing to remember is it isn't what other families do that counts.  It is the memories and connections you make with your family that makes a festival mean something to your heart.


Monday, August 4, 2014

Monthly Rhythm

(This is the third installment of my rhythm series.  To see the first two posts, please visit daily rhythm and weekly rhythm. )

I cherish our monthly rhythm.  It really is the heart and soul of our family.

We actually discovered a monthly rhythm well before I ever danced with the idea of a Waldorf inspired lifestyle.  I wrote a bit about my daughter and the moon in my daily rhythm post. Once I became aware of how strong the pull of the moon is for her, we quickly fell in to a happy monthly rhythm.

Now that we are homeschooling, I have expanded that rhythm to recognize how the moon effects our learning.

The full moon is a time of great excitement and lots of outdoor time in our house.  During the day before, the day of and the day after I try and plan to be outdoors as much as possible.  This helps us all reconnect with the earth and allows us to absorb as much light as possible.  In a way it resets our internal clocks.

I find that during a full moon, we don't sleep as well.  There have been studies (you can read a report on one here ) that have proved this to be true, but I don't need a study to know that it takes the kids longer to fall asleep and that they wake up earlier each and every time the moon shines bright (even if it is cloudy).  I take this in to account when I am planning and make sure that we not only have lots of time outdoors, but quiet time indoors.

From the full moon to the new moon, we fall in to the darkness, gradually slowing down our days until we at last come to the darkness of the new moon.  On this day we often close the curtains and use candles during the day, do quiet activities like handwork and read alouds, a movie afternoon, or a walk on a trail through a thick forest.  It may sound crazy, but we all really look forward to this day!  The kids call it our cozy day and it functions as an anchor for us each month.

During the two weeks from the full moon to the new moon we focus on things we have learned, continue to work on projects we have started, discuss goals we have or things that need changing.  This is a time of review and contemplation over where we are and where we want to be, a time where we plan and reflect, preparing for the next two weeks.

The next two weeks are full of activity and new beginnings.  As we climb back in to the light, we focus on introducing new concepts, starting new projects (or new wings of old projects), learning a new skill, and put lots of energy in to our days, finally hitting the climax of the full moon. We spend increasingly more time outdoors, basking in the light of the sun and the moon. 

Once the full moon has passed and we fall back in to darkness, we take all the new skills and concepts we have spent the last two weeks focusing on and let them sit.  We rarely introduce any new concepts during this time unless they are entirely child led, but even that is a rare occurrence.  It seems the children have a natural understanding and pull towards living in the moon cycles.

And there you have it!  Our happy little moon rhythm.

Next up is the final installment of my rhythm series, seasonal rhythms and how we follow the sun on her journey around the world :)