I've been participating in and following several conversations at the 4Real Forums about Waldorf-inspired education. I haven't read any original Waldorf materials, yet, and I would not, sight unseen, recommend Waldorf materials. From what I've seen, there is a lot in Waldorf that needs to be "sifted out" if a Catholic family wants to use it. I have also seen a lot that I think is a great fit for our family. Again, I'm taking all of this secondhand, so I'm not sure to what extent I'm even adopting a Waldorf idea.
Waldorf makes much of "rhythm." At first I thought that this might just be a crunchy way to say "schedule" but, even so, I was really attracted to the language of "rhythm." I think I like thinking of rhythm with a "parts to whole" mentality. Our family is already familiar with the rhythm of the seasons and the liturgical year. We start with Advent and move through Christmas, Lent, Easter, the feasts of Ordinary Time and back to Advent again. The seasons of nature come full-circle each year: full bloom, death, hibernation, and new life again in the Spring. I really want to take this big-picture idea of rhythm and apply it to my week and my day. I'm still working out the details but something like: rise, pray, eat, read together, do an activity/get out of the house, process creatively, eat, rest and repeat it all in condensed form after naptime.
I do believe that the essentials in my day do need a bit of a schedule and a routine. I need to go to bed and rise at basically the same time every day in order to get enough sleep. Dinner and lunch need to be served at the same time every day so the kids can get enough sleep. Chores need to be assigned to particular times and done in a certain way simply so that they get done and the habit of getting them done is cultivated. My prayer needs to be given priority each day and we make an effort to schedule Daily Mass. Beyond these essentials, I have been unable to create and follow a workable schedule for myself or the kids. I really, really love books like A Mother's Rule of Life, but I am just not programmed that way.
I think I've finally realized that I thrive on order but not on a schedule. I need my day to make sense to me and make sense to my family. I need the day to allow for the flourishing of everyone in our family. But I don't need every hour scripted. I like that the idea of rhythm allows me to say: we need an activity this morning but it's raining so let's just build with legos; we need a quite, decompressing activity but we're all going stir-crazy so let's go for a quiet walk and look for squirrels; we should do something creative but we drew with crayons all day yesterday so we'll turn on some music now.
Even though I'm not really homeschooling, yet, I already see that my tendencies are running in a very "unschooling" way. I love the flexibility, the freedom, and the room for creativity. But I also see that this approach gives in to one of my bigger parenting weaknesses: underparenting. I'm a pretty passive parent. This can be a good thing. Too many kids are overparented. But I do want to be involved and I want to parent. Children need boundaries and a guide. I hope that thinking about our planning as cultivating a rhythm will give us the right balance between order and flexibility.