Week Three or Four of Quarantine — Who can tell anymore?? April 13 2020

The days and the time seem to blend together when one is positioned in one place all the time, don’t they?  We can feel united in this phenomenon!

In speaking with parents whose children are home from school, yet who still have full time jobs for which they are still responsible, it is clear that this is not an easy time for parents made suddenly responsible for educating their children along with sustaining a profession. Limitless time for tending to a student’s schoolwork is not possible. I heard one mother say that everyone keeps sending “great ideas” for helping youngsters to learn. She said in exasperation that she did not need more ideas, because there just wasn’t enough time in a day to cover her job and her child’s schooling as well. It’s a fine example of the old paradigm crashing into our new reality.Waldorf and Rhythm

Here is one offering in an attempt to help: Rhythm is a key to all success, both in the material world and also esoterically, as you and your family navigate the strangeness and the demands of these times. Also, attention is a powerful tool for your young ones. Undivided attention for a devoted period of time can go a long way to reassure everyone (and yourself) that you can accomplish things together.

Rhythm comes in many forms but as soon as you focus on rhythm, a musical or artistic element lifts the ordinary things of life. This immediately lightens everything. Setting a schedule can also alleviate guilty feelings about not doing either the job or the schooling very well.  You can confirm for yourself that you have focused on each in their turn. A set schedule can give a feeling of having done what you can, concentrating on one part at a time when you do each. The schedule can make clear to children that their time is one part of the day and your job is in another part of the day.

If you were to take a page from the Waldorf school playbook, you could, for example, devote the first two hours of the morning to schooling of your children.

—So, let’s pretend this could be from 8:30 until 10:30.  (With students twelve years old and older, this might be difficult, getting them out of bed so early.  However, the concept applies for any time of the day. You can get work done before these teen types even wake up.)
—During these two hours, you can make it clear to your youngster that this is their time to accomplish what their teacher has sent home for them to do, or that you have decided you will do with them.
—The entire two hours need not be on your parenting shoulders. You can:

  • Sing a song or two together, for ten or fifteen minutes
  • Work on speaking a verse or a poem, play some rhythmic hand games — varied to accommodate the age of your child, for ten or fifteen minutes
  • After the first day, you can ask the student to remember what the previous day’s lesson was for fifteen minutes or so
  • Then there can be twenty or thirty minutes devoted to the lesson content. This can be told in stories or read from a book.
  • Following the content, the child can then spend forty-five minutes writing what is remembered from the previous days’ work, or drawing a picture of that lesson, or of the current day’s lesson.  These pages can be in a blank drawing book or on separate pages that can be made into a book at the end of a few weeks devoted to a single topic pursued in depth over a few weeks’ time.

When these two hours come to their ending, you can announce that it’s time for you to “go to work.”  Have a snack ready for your young learner(s) and then after, encourage the child(ren) to complete the work started, if they are still interested, take up a project, read, or have a time of free play. This quarantine time is a good time to get children started on a project like knitting, playing and practicing a musical instrument, working on a complex puzzle, practicing arithmetic from a math puzzle book, modeling with playdough or beeswax. For older children, whittling or carving in wood or soapstone is a possibility — messy but engaging and creative hard work. There can also be a time for just relaxing — call this free play for an hour or an hour and a half. Snack and this free play or project time can be a time when you insist you have concentrated time to work.

These two hours can be then devoted to your own work. You can let you child know that just as you concentrated on schoolwork, you need to concentrate on your own work for a while.

This might take a few days of insisting that this is the way it is. But expectations will settle if you are firm.  The focused attention right at the start of the day will calm everyone and give you leverage for the time you need.

Once this first block of four hours or so is completed, it might be good to have some lunch, again spending time with your family. Children from age nine and older could be expected to make the lunch for everyone as part of the morning’s work. Cleaning up after lunch can also be a shared work.

Half an hour for lunch and then you can declare a quiet time when everyone goes into a private place or corner and does quiet work or rests, sleeps, or uses head or earphones to listen to music or a recorded story (older children for this last). This might give you an additional hour to an hour and a half to do your own work.

If you are lucky enough to be able to go outside for a walk, after this quiet time would be a good time to do this. You might be able to get some phone calling done if that is part of your work, while you are walking. And after this walk or outside time, it would be a good time to give your child(ren) something to write about upon returning. Maybe a letter to a grandparent or a cousin or a classmate, now separated by the quarantining. Practicing handwriting is a good tool for brain development and writing is a marvelous tool for self-expression.

A little snack after the walk might be a good idea — carrots or apples, for example. Keep it simple. With ideas for some focused play, jigsaw puzzles, board games for siblings, reading or drawing, after the snack could take you to dinner at the same regular time each day. You can pick the time you will stop your own focused work to be sure to be ready for dinner. Once again, children over the age of nine years can help prepare dinner.  Washing up after dinner can also be regular rhythmic shared work.

Bedtime should also be at the same time each evening and be preceded with some ritual like a read- aloud story, a board game as a family, a song, prayers perhaps, and then lights out.

The important part of this whole idea is to have a predictable, rhythmic schedule, punctuated by mealtimes and bedtime. Once a rhythm is established the disciplinary problems, and arguments about what will happen when, fall away. If you feel good about the schedule you decide upon for everyone and stick to it (this is the hardest part!) you will see that it will lighten the oppression of being “trapped” at home. As the adults in our situation, the mood is ours to set.

Before you turn out your own light (at the same time each evening — this also helps) think through your day and adjust according to the things you discover. See if you can cultivate a sense of gratitude that you have this chance to be with your children. Consider what could be done the next day to improve your schedule. Also, if you have a loved one who is no longer alive — your own parent, or a friend who has passed —  think of them with love and ask them to help you. This need not be long but it is soothing and powerful to alleviate feelings of being alone. The love we feel for those close to us does not end with their passing.  They are likely to feel grateful to be remembered and included.

Making the rhythm of the days your own artistic project will help and if you are firm in your commitment (and if you have a job you must do, you will have good reason to insist) everyone will get used to the facts of the day and settle in. You might also have to be firm with your colleagues or bosses that the emergency situation puts limits on your work output as well. Under the current circumstances, there are adjustments to be made all around.

Most essentially, forgive yourself if this doesn’t work instantly.  Rhythm is a difficult thing! Notice as you gain strength in the practice of rhythm, forgive yourself the inevitable slippage. Once you have a rhythm established you will have more room to deviate from time to time; but then it will feel like a lark instead of like chaos! Be sure to notice when even small things go well. The rhythm will take care of the rest for you in time — and time, strange as it is, is one thing we have a lot of these days!