by Karen Rivers
June approaches very quickly and suddenly, and after that last assembly and picnic, it’s summer. Your children are home now for full days, day after day. The school rhythm is gone. The temptation is there to slip into a somewhat unformed vacation life where most, if not all, regularity has gone.
The daily and weekly rhythm of the school year have a deep significance for children especially up to the age of fourteen. Even high school students need the form and discipline of daily requirements to reach the ultimate goal of setting themselves demanding tasks as adults.
Therefore, we invite you to bring as much form and regularity into your child’s summer life as you possibly can. “Regular meal times, regular bed times, regular tasks – this is the backbone of a healthy and happy childhood” as Harwood writes in The Recovery of Man in Childhood.ˆ Try to install many regular tasks in your child’s day. Let them help with all kinds of chores. Allow in-breathing and out-breathing: chores, reading, music practice, should alternate with free time. Ask even more of your child in keeping his or her room neat than you would during the school year.
A daily vacation schedule written out on paper is often an excellent idea for many children. It makes them feel that their contributions are important and that they are taken seriously. If you approach it in the right way, children will love to take part in gardening tasks. Most of them have had gardening experiences at a Waldorf school throughout the seasons. Caring for plants and regularly watering them can be a most joyful summer activity.
Let there be a clear beginning and end to the daily activities, whether these are meals or work tasks. Try to build in a daily story-telling time in the evening. Even middle and upper-elementary school children are not too old for such story sessions. Of course, some activities are woven into weekly rhythm rather than a daily one.
The weekend brings special opportunities for full family activities. Many families enjoy visiting a particular place each week so that it begins to feel like home. With few adjustments, you will soon have a daily and weekly rhythm that is in harmony with the season and with the family. You may find that there is hardly any time for television.
When your children come back to school after a vacation, or even after a weekend, teachers can immediately notice to what degree they have been nourished and sustained by a wholesome rhythm at home. Such a rhythm is one of the greatest gifts you can give your children.