One of the best things I have done for our homeschool is to work to develop a daily and weekly rhythm. What is rhythm you may ask? Rhythm is having a pattern or an ebb and flow to your routine. It is the opposite of chaos. Rhythm can work for all types of people from unschoolers, to families with infants, to executives. We all live with some kind of rhythm in our lives, but the trick is using it to make our lives better and easier. Rhythm can be daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly. Most of us follow a very similar yearly pattern that corresponds to the calendar or the seasons. We celebrate holidays, do Spring cleaning, etc. Everyday, you may wake up, exercise, shower, eat breakfast, etc.
Our current daily rhythm looks like this:
Tidy up (boys make beds, get dressed, brush teeth)
Free time, errands, or activities
I began with the rhythm written down and posted so I can refer to it often, but we are going on our 7th week and I don't really need to look at it much. I really like making lists and checking them off, so having it all written out works great for me. If you are not type A or this just seems too daunting for you, just choose 3 things and do them everyday in the same order and once you have them down, choose the next 3 things, until you have your rhythm down. The rhythm helps everyone know what is coming next and really helps my children be calm about the day and do things (like school work or tooth brushing) without giving attitude or defiance. The only downside I can say is that whenever we have to abandon our rhythm for any reason (special events, guests, holidays, etc.) we get more of the old undesirable behavior (craziness, bouncing off walls, tantrums, meltdowns). Since these behaviors happen so much less now it is much easier to respond gently and with understanding. When we fall off track for whatever reason, getting back into our rhythm feels so good. It's like going on vacation: coming back to our rhythm feels like home. It is good to be home.
How I brought a clear rhythm into our lives: Start small! Most people wake and eat around the same time most days, use this as a starting point. This was something I have always had, but had to be a little more strict with myself since having kids (no skipping breakfast or snacking through lunch). Most parents have probably heard the benefits of a good bedtime routine. We have had a regular bedtime routine since our oldest was about 2.5 years old (I recommend starting earlier!). This was the first component to our family rhythm and has been adjusted many times as we added two more children. The next thing we added in was family walks with a brief tidying up of the house before hand. We added one in the morning to get ourselves going for the day and to expend some of the kids energy before having them sit for circle and school. Simultaneously we added one in at night after dinner to get the last of the wiggles out before the bedtime routine. We practiced the walks and tidying up for two weeks before we even started school. Finally, we added in our circle time followed by school work.
Sometimes we don't get out the door for our morning walk until just before lunch! Other times we just go so late that we miss our night time walk. I try to focus on the parts that are the most important (eating and school) and just take things one step at a time. This routine is what we always come back to and it works for us!
A final note on developing rhythm: There is a component to Steiner's work that talks about 'breathing in' and 'breathing out' activities. I am not very well versed on it, but the basics of this is focus should alternate between being inward (sitting type activities) and outward (movement or outside activities). I try to take that into consideration for our rhythm and during our circle time I try to alternate between the two as well.