Creating Rhythm & Routine
At Daily Wonder, we talk a lot about rhythm and routine. That’s because we know that young children feel a sense of good health when held by boundaries, including the layout of the day, week, and month. Children learn through play and doing until they reach high school, and they need lots of activities that spark their creativity and provide space for wonder. Then, when they know what we expect of them, the children are freed up to be in the moment. After that, it is up to the adults to create boundaries to free the children.
A friend once told us that she was not expecting the freedom that came when she built a fence around her property. It sounds backward that a fence creates freedom, but think about it; she has a dog that had to be tied up or managed all the time. Once the fence went up, the dog knew how far it could go, and the people trusted that it would just do dog things. We aren’t comparing children and dogs, but we are comparing the freedom fence to boundaries.
Rhythm is your wide-level organization, such as your year, when you start school, what holidays or celebrations you participate in, what time you get up each day, and when you start and end your morning lesson.
Routine – these are the details within your rhythm, such as singing a song to begin the morning lesson, lighting a candle before the story, and how you end the day. Routines are like the rules for how we do things.
Create a routine that works for your unique family.
Every family has different needs, so it's important to take a moment and create a rhythm that will work for your unique family.
You can create a routine by writing down the essential things for your family. These are the things which must happen every day, but also the things that you love so much you want to happen every day. Then consider what things you want to remove from your schedule to make your days more peaceful.
Daily activities that need to happen at approximately the same time each day, like meals, break times, and morning and bedtime routines, are the things which anchor your routine and provide the basic outline of your day.
After your anchor points, add the rest of your daily activities. Then, try to alternate more active and focused times of the day.
Here is just one example of a daily routine:
Here are some ideas for activities throughout the day:
Tips for setting a routine.
Allow plenty of time.
We can ease gently into the morning by ensuring we have enough time to awaken, get dressed, and have a hearty breakfast.
Simple rituals, like lighting a candle, reciting your opening verse or making some tea, gently signal to your child that it's time to begin the morning lesson.
Go for a walk.
If you're finding it challenging to begin morning lessons or to make it through the study before your child gets wiggly, consider adding a morning walk before you start or partway through to break it up. Walking outdoors allows one to connect with nature, notice its gifts, and observe changes throughout the seasons. Walking also brings oxygen and blood flow to the limbs and brain, helping your child feel more balanced and grounded in their body.
Give the routine time to take hold.
If maintaining a routine is not your strength, remember to be patient and give yourself six weeks to hold steady. Then, you will experience the rewards once the habits sink in. The prize is that your child expects and anticipates the flow and enjoys being in the routine. Then you won't need to use your will forces and constant verbal reminders. Instead, everyone will relax, held by the routine, and your days will be peaceful and more productive.
Know when to change a routine.
Like any good thing, you can overdo it. There always comes a time when a successful routine no longer works as it used to. Typically after a few months, a sign that it's not working would be that your children are resisting a once-enjoyed flow. Perhaps they're saying they are bored, or they resist getting started. The first step is to observe this shift in your children. Ask yourself the following questions:
You got this!
Check in with yourself and your relationship to routine, and have patience and compassion with your process and development. In reference to the words of Barbara Coloroso, from her book 'Kids Are Worth It," some of us lean toward being too rigid, like a brick wall, while others tend to be too loose and relaxed like a jellyfish. The ideal position is that of a spine, which is both supportive and flexible. Keeping this image in mind can help us check where we are on this spectrum on any given day.
Did you know that Candlemas has been celebrated for centuries under different names? As with many festivals today, it has its roots in pagan culture. For example, today, we are more familiar with references to Groundhog Day as a way to mark the coming of spring. However, way before Groundhog Day, this marking of the year was referred to as Candlemas, part of the Christian tradition. But, of course, before the Christian tradition, this day was celebrated by the Celtic people and known as Imbolc, which celebrates Brigid, the Goddess of the Dawn.
Regardless of the festival's name, the intention is to celebrate the return of the light that becomes more noticeable on this day. Traditionally celebrated on February 2, it marks the halfway point between Winter Solstice and Spring Equinox. In ancient times, this day was cause for a grand celebration, as our ancestors relied so heavily on what they could grow for nourishment. The sun's return meant restored health and strength in the deepest sense of the word. As well, without the convenience of electricity, once the sun set each evening, candlelight was all they had. Today, we can still feel this cause for celebration when we live in the northern hemisphere. Winter is long and dark and can often lead to feelings of depression in people. Therefore, marking this point can bring a sense of hope.
To honour the return of the light, our ancestors built bonfires and made candles. On a practical level, preparing another batch of candles was needed to get through the final weeks of winter. Superstitions around the weather on this day began to unfold. We know this today when we anticipate whether the groundhog will see its shadow. Poems and songs in the days of old referred to weather and what it meant if it was sunny or rainy that day.
Annual festivals are so important to help mark the passing of the year. The concept of time is challenging for children, especially younger ones. Festivals are a very meaningful and memorable way to mark time, and Candlemas is a lovely tradition that is very enjoyable for children to celebrate today.
Celebrating Candlemas at Home
Here are some beautiful ways to celebrate Candlemas, and the coming of spring with your children.
Candle dipping is a fun and interactive activity that brings this celebration to life. You can easily make beeswax candles in your home or prepare a candle dipping station outside. You will need some old pots, beeswax pellets, and string for the wicks. Here's some detailed instructions to make dipped candles at home.
Candle Dipping Activity
This is a lovely reverent activity you can do while dipping your candles. Set your melted beeswax at one end of a table and a pot of water at the other. Walk slowly around the table, dipping your string in the beeswax at one end of the table and then in water at the other. Continue circling the table in this way until your candles are the width you would like. As you circle the table, you can sing the following Candlemas song:
We dip our candles in the big old tin,
And we wait a little bit for it to drip drop in.
We make enough to last the year,
To bring us joy and bring us cheer.
Around and around and around and around...
Recite Candlemas Verses
Here are a few verses you can say with your children as you light your candles.
A farmer should, on Candlemas Day,
Have half his corn and half his hay.
On Candlemas Day if the thorns hang adrop,
You can be sure of a good pea crop.
When Candlemas Day is bright with sun;
Then Winter’s power has just begun –
But when Candlemas Day is dark with rain
Then Winter’s power is on the wane!
This is a verse that relates Candlemas to Groundhog Day:
Badger peeps out on Candlemas Day,
and if he finds snow, he walks away.
But if the sun is shining down,
Badger returns to his hole in the ground.
Other Ideas for Celebrating Candlemas
Since Candlemas is a time for new beginnings, this is a good day to get creative and celebrate all that is new.
At Daily Wonder, learning to read evolves for each child in the same form as it evolved from the beginning of humanity: spoken language developed first, then people drew pictures to communicate their ideas, followed by symbols such as hieroglyphics and finally the abstract letters of our modern alphabets. Once there was a written language, people learned to read. This unfolding inspires the sequence of the literacy program laid out in Daily Wonder curriculum. For Daily Wonder, the central theme for all lessons, in every subject, is the human story. We use storytelling to shape and deliver the living pictures behind every lesson, including the literacy program.
In the Early Years, from birth to age seven, the focus is on the spoken word. When children are young, the emphasis is on spoken verses and stories: nature stories, folktales and fairy tales. Parents and teachers are ‘storytellers’ and are careful not to ‘dumb down’ or simplify the language of fairy tales. Parents and teachers are encouraged to be careful to use clear speech and enunciate well, as this immersion in literature is the basis of literacy. This immersion in the spoken word also supports children later when learning to write and spell.
Repetition supports retention. When the same sequence and stories are repeated daily for weeks, children learn these stories, songs and verses ‘by heart.’ Current brain research confirms that repetition aids a child’s brain development. The connections of billions of neural pathways in the brain are strengthened through repeated experiences.
Writing Begins Holistically. In Year 1 of the Daily Wonder curriculum, the alphabet is introduced in an imaginative, pictorial way. Each letter of the alphabet is presented as a picture representing an element from a story the children are told. For example, they might hear the story of a knight on a quest who had to cross mountains and a valley. The children will then draw a picture with the letter “M” forming the Mountains on either side of the “V” for Valley.
In this way, the child develops a living relationship with each letter rather than going straight to the abstraction of the alphabet letters themselves. These ‘pictures’ can be described as the bridge between the pictorial thinking of the child and the abstract thinking of the adult.
After learning all the letters, children experience copying mom or dad’s writing into their portfolio. The portfolio is an artistically created record of the learning that children using Daily Wonder curriculum create themselves. These first written sentences and stories come from the children’s own experience, and the children’s first practice of ‘reading’ is the reading of their own text.
Reading begins with decoding. It is important to know that reading requires decoding skills that develop in children at varying ages. At Daily Wonder we understand that learning to read will unfold naturally in its own time for the vast majority of children when given the proper support.
Just as most children will learn to walk without our teaching them, and just as a child miraculously learns to speak their native language by the age of three without lessons, worksheets or a dictionary, so will most children naturally learn to read when they have a positive relationship with the spoken and written word and have been provided with the necessary tools and skills.
At Daily Wonder we follow the well-researched early Literacy program set out by Janet Langley and Jennifer Militzer-Kopperl in their book “The Roadmap to Literacy.” Over the three years of the program (grades 1 through 3), Daily Wonder supports parents to bring the six layers of literacy to their children (phonemic awareness, phonics instruction, vocabulary, fluency, comprehension, writing).
Once the child receives the alphabet letters and sounds pictorially and through verse and song, they begin to learn approximately 33 phonics rules over the three years. The rules support understanding and skill-building for future spelling and reading. Vocabulary, fluency, comprehension and writing are regular parts of the daily lesson plans and expand over time.
Classic books expand vocabulary. At Daily Wonder, we encourage parents to provide their child(ren) with age-appropriate, well-written literature to expand their vocabulary and keep their love for reading alive. We also love a good graphic novel for those who need shorter reading stints to maintain their enthusiasm for reading. Practice is key, and preference is personal.
There can be negative impacts of pushing reading too early. Research has shown the negative impacts of pushing academics, such as reading, at too early an age. Asking children to read too early often hurts their self-confidence and general passion for books. This research indicates that kindergarten and preschool-aged children should focus on age-appropriate activities such as playing, exploring and socializing. Finland is an excellent example of this, given that its schools lead the world in education standards. Finnish children generally don’t start kindergarten until age 6. And kindergarten is focused mainly on play and socialization; there is no reading or writing. Additionally, their school days are not more than 4 hours long.
We at Daily Wonder believe that children who read when they are ready maintain a passion for stories and a love of reading long term. In our experience, when reading is not rushed before writing, students are typically reading at or above standardized government levels and with improved comprehension.
We think we can all agree that we want our kids to love reading and have the ability to express their heart's desires and gifts in writing and speaking.
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