The world feels quite wobbly at the moment. It’s incredibly hard to predict what might happen in our world from one day to the next at the best of times, but in life’s current season, there’s no getting around that things are turbulent. If this affects us negatively as adults, there’s no doubt this can transfer onto our kiddos. Beyond open discussion and lots of cuddles to offer comfort and stability, there’s nothing we can do to change what’s happening in the world. However, there’s one definite tool we’re using as a family to offer an alternative form of stability in a world that feels wonky: focusing on seasonal rhythms and festivals.
The concept of family rhythm isn’t new at all, and most home educators will be familiar with it. If you’re not; a rhythm acts somewhat like a daily to 'routine', but without the restriction of set times, or anxiety inducing failure to adhere. A rhythm allows flow from one activity or experience to the next with a sense of predictability as opposed to restrictive structure (just a note that this works for many families but not all, particularly if neurodiversities or blended families come in to play). Rhythm helps many children and adults alike feel more secure - and I can certainly vouch for that with a rather small human in tow! Rhythm is usually used to refer to what activities look like on a daily basis, extending perhaps to weekly. This might mean a day goes like: wake, breakfast, morning time, nap, play, lunch, nap.. etc; and a week goes like: Monday - at home, Tuesday - at home, Wednesday - at Grandma’s, Thursday - Forest school, etc etc. Having reflected a great deal on using rhythms in our family life, it occurred to me that I’d like to extrapolate it even further. For us, a seasonal rhythm where the family year is anchored in festivals and changing nature offers stability and predictability in the longer term.
What does this look like exactly? It all started with an almanac. You can purchase all sorts of almanacs, or even create your own if you’re creatively minded; but we chose this one (aff link) for 2021. Almanacs ideally cover, on a monthly basis, what religious festivals fall on each month, what nature might be doing differently each month, what we might see in the sky each month, and often some lovely poetry/short stories that fit the month. I’m going to cover a little bit about why anchoring ourselves in these tangible and mostly unchangeable things really helps support our mental wellbeing.
I think this one can really depend on where you sit faith wise, however, there’s a huge amount of permanence to be found in festivals regardless of your background. From a faith perspective, for us this a big one. We are Christians, so observing Christian holidays such as Pentecost, Ash Wednesday, Palm Sunday, Lent, Christmas and Easter offer a sense of permanence and predictability that remind us of the constant nature of God. It reminds us that ‘Jesus is the same today, yesterday, and forever’ (Hebrews 13:8) and that 'the grass withers, the flowers fall, but the word of our God ensures forever' (Isaiah 40:8). A good almanac will represent all major faiths: ours represents different Christian denominations, Islam, Judaism and Hinduism. We plan to actively celebrate Christian faith holidays and learn about the holidays of other faiths!
External to faith festivals we can’t wait to look at non religious festivals such as Bonfire Night, Chinese New Year etc. There’s so much than can be done here to celebrate diversity and tradition, and it gives something lovely to look forward to. While for us Christian holidays actively support our wellbeing, the awareness of other festivals and faiths reminds us of variety in our world when variety seems like something we’re all lacking right now.
You may be familiar with fabulous curriculums like Exploring Nature With Children, and pedagogies like the Charlotte Mason philosophy, which focus on anchoring children in the natural world. For us knowing that the moon and sun will change at certain times, certain flowers will bloom at particular times of year and particular animals migrate in different seasons reminds us of the relative permanence of natural cycles. We might not know what rules will be around next week, but hunchback whales will be migrating in January regardless! Constellations and moon formation all help with this too. No matter what is happening on Earth, the constellations will be doing their own sweet thing. I can’t wait to nature journal with all of this accordingly.
Seasonal rhyme, song and story
When it’s hard to recall all the wonderful things we might do with family and friends at particular times of year, we can remind ourselves by immersing ourselves in relevant seasonal stories. They widen a world that feels narrow.
There’s a few ways we like to document these changes. Discussion, the incorporation of seasonal artwork in our mini gallery (see my Instagram post for more on that), journaling, and updating our celebration ring to represent yearly rhythms all help remind us of the things that are more stable. When the world is wobbly, we look to things that are higher; whether they’re aged oak trees, constellations, or the One who we believe made them all.