Clocks and Rhythm

“This time, like all times, is a very good one, if we but know what to do with it.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

It might be my Montessori guide habit, but I’ve always, in my mind, segmented our day into 3-hour blocks much like the Three-Hour Work Period in Montessori classrooms so for our home these days that’s 9:00am to 12:00nn, 12:00nn to 1:00pm (lunch), 1:00pm to 4:00pm, 4:00pm to 7:00pm, 7:00pm to 10:00pm.

We’ve been living in our home for 4 years without a single clock and now we have 3; so a quick note about them: 1) The mint green clock I colored in to reflect our “work periods” which you can read more about below; 2) The black clock used to look like this and I took it apart and didn’t put back the frame and glass anymore so now it’s like a chalkboard clock we can edit with our choices for the day/week/what-have-we (my daughter and I worked on this one you see here together); 3) The little white one I wish I could color in, too; but its mechanism inside is a bit more complicated—still cute to carry around.

And here’s our rhythm:

9:00am to 12:00nn — My daughter invented her own song “Everyday we start our day from taking care of our world” and that’s because the first thing we do every morning is go out to feed our pets, water the plants, do some gardening, and work on our compost bins—simple things we do in our home to model and practice service and care of others and of the environment. Plus, starting outdoors with nature is so helpful for me to function more joyfully throughout the day. So does accomplishing early the dusting, sweeping, vacuuming, mopping, and laundry—restoring or maintaining order in our home.

After all that work, we lay out our picnic blanket on the garden for breakfast and books (usually about nature and/or her “good examples” like Wangari Maathai and Jane Goodall) and poetry (Emily Dickinson is her most requested).

Because we’ve spent some time cleaning up and because we’ve slowed down over picnic and poetry, I feel all the more welcoming of any mess and busyness that could accompany a child’s cooking so we prepare lunch and dinner then—our 4-year-old does most of the work while I wash the dishes from breakfast and from food preparation.

12:00nn to 1:00pm – In any case, by lunch we enjoy a different company—composers like Mozart, Beethoven, and Vivaldi and painters like Monet, Matisse, and Van Gogh usually join us for lunch (and dinner) as we do music and art appreciation.

1:00pm to 4:00pm – After lunch is for what we’ve been calling individual work. Twice a week this means gymnastics for our 4-year-old while I read non-parenting literature on the bench. Or free play and exploration for her while I learn to play the ukulele. Some days we learn to draw and watercolor. Or she naps—and I consider this my rest time, too, when I can re-energize by learning. I used to wait until late at night when the house was already asleep to do these things, but I realized that I needed them right at the middle of our day when I need to replenish myself after all the work of the morning and to fill me up for more work for the remainder of the day.

4:00pm to 7:00pm – I use this time to present a new work, re-present if there’s a previously observed need (meaning, for example, if I’ve observed that she’s been missing the middle sounds when building 3-letter phonetic words, I will use this time to work on building words with the moveable alphabet myself while she watches so I can model for her, emphasizing the middle sounds in my own work/re-presentation), and more intentionally model soft skills like handling frustrations for example (I say “more intentionally” here because really, modelling is not limited to this time—our whole life is like one big Montessori presentation which the child takes examples from).

We also do nature walk and nature journal and what we’ve been calling “sidewalk schooling”—sitting under a tree on our sidewalk with our 3 pets (a dog, a cat, and a rabbit) and the many birds—just working and reading some more until the sun sets.

7:00pm to 10:00pm – Dinner looks and sounds the same as lunch—the same food, music, and art. After which we tidy up downstairs then it’s bath, book (these days it’s either Milly Molly Mandy or Winnie the Pooh), and bed. When our girl is asleep (usually around 9:00), I iron my husband’s clothes for the office while I listen to Ted Talks or just think. Then I may squeeze in a little screen and social media. Finally, just before I sleep—just until 10:00 or 11:00, I do a Montessori / parenting-related reading.

I find that when I’m asleep by 10 or 11, I’m naturally awake the next day at 6:00am and so I get to have another 3-hour work cycle in the morning before my daughter wakes up, from 6:00am to 9:00am, to do my personal journal (observations, thoughts, goals, etc). And then do any work that involves screens (a very limited self-imposed screen time) like answering messages and working on this blog and other projects.

That’s how our daily homeschool/life rhythm looks like. It’s not a strict schedule/timetable/routine. It’s just my way to curate our precious, precious time together and to “guard well [even our] spare moments” like what Ralph Waldo Emerson said,

“Guard well your spare moments. They are like uncut diamonds. Discard them and their value will never be known. Improve them and they will become the brightest gems in a useful life.”

Ending this with a quote from Arnold Bennett (another resident of Baker Street), from his book How to Live on Twenty Four Hours a Day (which I’m currently reading; published in 1910 and was on the same list of American bestsellers as Maria Montessori’s The Montessori Method in 1912):

“The chief beauty about time is that you cannot waste it in advance. The next year, the next day, the next hour are lying ready for you, as perfect, as unspoiled, as if you had never wasted or misapplied a single moment in all your life. You can turn over a new leaf every hour if you choose.”