The thing I love the most about our life without kindergarden is the flexibility it gives us. We can travel whenever we want and change our plans according to our bodies rhythms, to the seasons, the weather outside or our interests. Our homeschooling rhythm reflects that. With a young child the rythmes changes all the time (two naps become only one, the need for outdoor activities increases at a given time, interests evolve, « sensitive periods » succeed one another…). Nevertheless, I have noticed that there is a pattern in our weekly rhythm.
This was our weekly rhythm in AUTUMN and WINTER when my daughter was 20 to 24 months old.
Tuesday: music (attending our Music Together class)
Wednesday: cooking/ baking
Thursday: meeting friends in an international playgroup
Friday: art again
Saturday and Sunday: family time
Our daily rhythm started with self-care in the morning, followed by breakfast and free play. After this, most of our morning time was spent outdoors: nature walks, parks, botanical garden, playgrounds, organic market every Wednesday, walks in our neighborhood to buy flowers at the flower shop around the corner or just to watch the leaves falling and to gather chestnuts
Then we had lunch together and my daughter would nap or she would have her nap and then have lunch
On afternoons we focused on only one activity for each day (see above) from art to baking. On Tuesdays we attended a Music Together class and on Tuesdays we met up with an international playgroup
In the afternoons I have also tried to squize in some time for our home maintenance (cleaning, laundry, cooking diner..) which were wonderful opportunities for my daughter to participate and do some “practical life” activities, how they are called in Montessori
Before diner we took time to read a big pile of books and had a cup of warm tea and after diner my daughter went to bed. We had a little ritual before going to bed including selfl-care and reading stories.
And this is our weekly rhythm now, in SPRING when she is 2 years old:
Monday: gardening/ garden exploration
Wednesday: cooking/ baking
Thursday: forest playgroup
Saturday: outdoors free play (with her dad in the mornings) & family time (all together in the afternoons)
Sunday: swimming pool (with her dad in the morning) & family time (all together in the afternoons)
Our daily rhythm follows a similar pattern as in autumn, with self-care+ breakfast followed by time outdoors in the mornings and an activity for each day of the week in the afternoon (see above): art, cooking, gardening, etc..
We are reading books in the morning and before going to bed and she plays independently outdoors or indoors (free-play) in the afternoons, before diner. We have a “tea time” in the mornings or afternoons
Our Rhythm is evolving
I follow the« sensitive periods » of her development and I adapt our schedule and environment in order to meet her needs and interests of the moment and encourage her through that stage. According to Maria Montessori, the children’s brain is predisposed to a specific learning during a sensitive period (language, movement, order…).
In Spring there is more outdoors time although I have to say that even in Winter we went out almost every day. Even when the temperatures were bellow 0. It’s just that in Spring and Summer we spend more hours outside.
Self- care time
This is a very important moment of our days. It’s a 100% Montessori time if I can say so. My little one learns to get dress by herself and choose her clothes. She learns how to put her socks and shoes on, brush her teeth, wash hands, etc.. , by taking the time to do it. Every day. We have a "self-care time" in the morning and in the evening and it requires a lot of patience and focus for both of us.
Recently my daughter started to join me during my yoga practice and it looks like this is something we enjoy doing together.
It’s where most of the learning takes place. And we have plenty of time for it during our days. By « free play » I mean self-directed, unstructured play. She chooses what she wants to play with and I do not participate (I am usually in the other room).
Free play happens outdoors (in the garden, on the playgrounds..) or indoors (in the playroom or any other space in the house)
Every day we go outside, usually in the mornings. We love going to the Botanical Garden, to one of the amazing playgrounds we have close to our place or in the forests around, in the parks or have a walk in our neighborhood. Once a week we take a trip to the flower shop close to our home, to the backer, to a little paper shop to buy art supplies, etc.. On Wednesdays we go to our local organic market. Each of these little trips are amazing learning experiences. My daughter gets to interact with the shop-keepers, she orders what we need to buy and I let her pay the goods. For a 2 years old this is extremely empowering and there is so much learning going on: social skills, early contact with maths (paying goods), vocabulary, language skills (that’s usually a time when we speak German)… These trips usually take the whole morning as we stop very often to explore the surroundings (the building sites, the wild berries in the bushes by the sidewalks, the shop windows…, endless opportunities for new discoveries)
On Thursdays we go now to a Forest Playgroup. It’s a wonderful time: two hours of free play in the forest with an amazing group. Plus, it’s in German which is a great learning opportunity too.
We usually stop to a coffee shop or a tea house during our outdoors activities.
Each day we make time for reading books. I have noticed that there are periods of time when I am asked to read up to 15 books every day for days in a row and sometimes we read one book over and over again. A couple of months ago we read in the end of the afternoon with a cup of hot tea, now we are reading first thing in the morning, as soon as we finish breakfast. Whenever I sit down a minute, my daughter shows up with a book and says « on va lire! » (we are going to read). Here are some of our favorite books.
Music and arts
Once a week we go to a Music Together class in English. We started attending these classes in Beijing when my daughter was 3 months and I’m very happy to have found a group in Germany too. To be honest we could do also without it but besides the musical experience these classes are also a great opportunity for us to meet international people when we relocate to a new country.
We have a little music corner in our home (withmusic instruments and CDS) and we listen to the music every day. On Thursday mornings we usually sit down and listen mindfully without any other activity going on.
The art space is available anytime but once or twice a week we sit together and she works on her drawings, paintings and play-dough « mini-sculptures ». Once in a while I set up for her a sensory box for her.
I sometimes set-up Montessori-inspired activities to deepen the learning she is initiating. For example, a couple of weeks ago, I have noticed that she was looking for all the opportunities to pick up very small objects and put them into little holes. On the street, she found berries in the bushes close to the sidewalk, she collected them and then pulled them into an air vent)
I see this as a way of offering her some more opportunities to use this new skill she wants to learn. The material doesn't have to be something sophisticated or expensive. I improvise a lot. Here I just used some matchsticks and a pot that I turned upside down (it had some little holes on the bottom):
Montessori is part of our daily life now, very often improvised, always included in the little things like preparing a snack by herself, pouring herself a drink, cutting her egg for breakfast
Practical life and house maintenance
Is a time when we take care of our home and learn simple, practical things like vacuuming, cleaning, ... This is not a pretend-game. We use real equipment (vacuum cleaner for instance) and my daughter has some child-sized tools.
Gardening, cooking, baking
This spring we have started a little vegetable garden, therefore we do a little bit of gardening every week. We are also very lucky to have a little garden and some work to do through the year: rake the grass, remove the weeds, cut the plants, pick up the dead leaves, etc..
Once a week we bake or cook something together. She also helps with diner or lunch preparation but that Wednesday afternoons are usually dedicated to her pleasure of learning to cook independently. Then I choose recipes that she can do most of the things alone and I prepare the ingredients on a tray for her to mix them up. More about our Montessori approach here. You will find some of our favorite recipes here.
Every Sunday she goes with her dad at the swimming pool and this seems to be one of the favorite activities of the week.
Field trips to museums and more
When the weather is rainy, we love jumping in the puddles but also going to one of the beautiful museums in our region or sitting with a cup of tea in a Café.
Do not think that all our days are beautifully designed like this. Don’t assume that our weeks are perfect. We have bad days and difficult weeks just like anybody else. When we come back from holidays, the first day is chaos. When we feel tired we do nothing. When my daughter has a long nap we just cancel our Music together class and we catch it another time.
« But it turns all right you see » says one of my daughter’s books from Dr. Seuss. And it does.
Schedules are there to show us the way but the intention behind the schedule is more important And so are rhythms and rituals, I believe.
The rhythm of our days (that ultimately helps us go through a bad day or difficult week) is made of little details:
Wake up in the morning with a little song (we sing « Hello, everybody » from our Music Together class since she was a tiny baby)
Listen to music during or after breakfast
Include my little one in the preparation of the food (for lunch or diner or both)
Cuddle throughout the day
Light a candle before we start eating our dinner
So that's how a our week looks like with no kindergarden or daycare in our lives.