Breathe in, breathe out. Look inwards, look outwards. Nourish the inner life, nourish the outer life. This is the rhythm of a Waldorf education.

Beginning in our early childhood programs and extending through the high school years, rhythm plays an integral role in our students’ lives. A predictable cycle of outbreaths and inbreaths allows our students to meet life’s challenges with confidence and to engage their senses fully in the tasks at hand. Rhythm inspires healthy habits, positive inward reflection, and enthusiastic exploration of the outside world.

So, how does DWS establish rhythm from an early age? We go about our days and weeks with a predictable routine that balances outbreaths with inbreaths, time to engage socially in the world, and time to reflect in the inner world.

For our younger students in the early childhood program, an outbreath can be expressed through a period of free play outside. With our teachers reflecting a loving presence, the children are free to play – to demonstrate their capabilities without direct guidance, to make sense and to make joy of the world in their own unique ways.

After this outbreath of play, the students return inside for an inbreath. The children may gather for circle time, for a story to be read, to hold onto their inner imaginations, to come together peacefully.

The outbreath returns for a walk outside – to feel the sun’s warmth, to watch the geese fly above Harvard Gulch Park, to just get those little legs and hearts pumping. During the colder winter months, the walk may be shorter but the rhythm remains. Circle time, followed by the walk.

When the students return inside after their walk, they enjoy warm tea together – quite literally feeling inner warmth return. The teacher may light a candle, narrowing their focus from all that is going on outside to that single point of warmth inside.

And so the day continues in our kindergartens – bread is baked, play is embraced, stories are told, songs are sung. A natural flow carries us from activity to activity.

There is also rhythm within our week. The children often know the days of the week by the dedicated snack or activity of the day – is it “soup day” or is it “oatmeal day?” There is predictability and consistency, which helps foster a sense of comfort and security within the children.

And this rhythm, this predictable balance, continues throughout the elementary, middle, and high school years. While the expressions of inward and outbreaths change with the students’ maturity, the importance of establishing a rhythm continues.

In fact, the ebbs and flows of a daily rhythm are crucial for the well-being of teachers and parents as well. Finding a comfortable rhythm helps us to remain centered and grounded when life becomes unpredictable. A daily rhythm can help us reset our focus and build our resolve.

Knowing how to breathe in deeply and exhale fully are life skills that stay with our students for all their years to come.

If you’d like to learn more about the importance of rhythm in early childhood, you can listen to our podcast with Clair Boswell, who leads our “Sweat Peas” parent-tot program.