It’s Thursday at 1:15, story time in our little community of young children and facilitators. I am trying to read aloud Skippy John Jones. A well loved book, but one some people wanted to hear and others did not. In fact, not everyone had been ready for joining story time at all today, but with a look at the clock I had called the group anyway wanting to offer order, consistency and ease by keeping to our usual routine. Now there are children scooching from place to place, arguing over a play silk or nudging somebody who is in their way of seeing the book. I wonder if I should have chosen Kokopelli as the book today instead. I lay the book down and refrain from sighing. I tell the kids what I notice happening. I offer the reason for my valuing of group story time- though I do love stories as I know most of the kids do, it’s important to our day because of the ritual of coming together as a group. The kids offer their own thoughts about story time and what feels good (being able to hear the story, having space to sit and see, etc).
I have been thinking about the opportunity of Thursday’s story time. It’s a reminder of what it is I value and a moment to reflect on what makes rhythm different from routine for me.
Rhythm to me feels natural. If I feel in tune with the day and the community of kids, I often feel the moment for transition. If I do, then it is as seamless as the change in direction in a flock of birds. How do they all know when to shift slightly east? If I can be really in the moment with the children, I can often feel the shift with them.
Everyone is playing at the edge of the wood in a water exploration. A few kids and an adult end up at the parking lot labyrinth just down the trail from the water exploration. I hear someone say somewhere behind me, “I’m hungry.” I catch the breeze of transition, “Everyone, let’s get our lunches and go down to the labyrinth to eat! “
Rhythm to me isn’t added on top of life. It doesn’t add order to our living. It tunes into the order that is already in our natural world, in our bodies and in communities of people. Routine sometimes ends up for the sake of routine, while rhythm is always tied to what is happening in our world and lives.
Usually our group has a community circle time after everyone has eaten lunch. This mostly winds up being between 11:30 and noon. As school was starting this year the progression was that kids wanted to come inside for some shelter from the sun at about this time, so we got into the flow of having our circle as we all came in from outdoors play. On Friday this week, though, the weather was so beautiful and mild. After lunch the kids jumped right back into outdoors play, and I also was caught up in a an outdoors project and didn’t think at all about circle until I notice it is 12:30. I look around and realize that if a transition moment had appeared after lunch, I had missed it. I think about ringing the chime for circle. It would be okay with me for us to miss one day of circle, but I also know that sometimes the rest of the day is thrown off if we miss a beat. I see that most kids are deep into various play activities that I would be interrupting. I name in my mind that what I really want in circle time is a moment for everyone together in a shared activity. I decide to be on the lookout for a natural move towards this in the midst of what is already happening. About three seconds later a few kids ask if I will join them on the hill in the woods. Walla! The wish fulfillment is what is already in motion with the children and here was the request for me to see it! I call out an invitation to everyone else. “Who would like to join us in the woods?” The magic transition moment is there and feet pound in our direction. “Right!” I announce, “And this will be our circle today. Going to the hill together!”
Of course, I don’t always catch or follow up on the little shifts. And when I don’t, there is always a lesson for growth, a little nudge to remember to let go of the clock, let go of worry about schedules, to trust my intuition and the children’s instincts. And just laugh at a particularly squirrely story times and nod at the reminder.
And so, one of my roles as a facilitator with young children is to BE with them in the moment, to notice the engagements and shifts, and sometimes to cast invitations to the group based on the guidance I receive from the children themselves. I’m not introducing rhythm into their lives. The rhythm is already there.