RHYTHMS AND CYCLES are the foundation of nature and of human life. We all depend on the rising and setting of the sun, the ebb and flow of the tides, the movement of winter into spring and spring into summer, and so forth. To join with the beauty and wonder of this constant transition, in both the classroom and the homeschool. we work in harmony with our human rhythms, as well as daily, monthly, and seasonal rhythms.
Our program is founded on the belief that all aspects of education must work with the natural rhythms of learning. Just as our physical breathing requires an inhale-exhale-rest cycle, so too children need to experience a rhythmic pattern in their learning. In the classroom, this includes rhythmic alternation of a time for large group learning, time for individual pursuits and one-on-one instruction, and time for peer directed projects and discoveries. Although in the homeschool the elements are different, still the rhythmic alternation of activities and routines is critical. This flow, which covers the entire day at home, includes times of self-directed exploration, times of structured learning, and times of family routines.
Just how the weaving together of different types of learning occurs is different at different ages, and in different situations. Whether in a homeschool or classroom program, the very youngest children will have very little instruction, but a lot of emphasis on establishing a healthy, rhythmic flow to their day. The grade school children will need more direct instruction and coaching as they develop the academic skills and the self-management skills to do more independent learning. Junior high school students will have much of the base needed to steer their own education more fully. In the classroom, they will be guided primarily in peer based, theme-project learning. In the homeschool, junior high school students will take up most of the researching and project development on their own, and will be responsible to do more independent skills work as well. High school students, in both classroom and homeschool, will focus on individual pursuits through apprenticeships as the core of their studies. At all ages, all three types of learning are vital in the Enki approach and are woven together in a rhythmic manner, within the day, the week, and the year.
The rhythmic flow of these different learning formats echoes the child’s energy. In the elementary and middle schools, the two-hour Morning Lesson, which takes place when the children’s energy and attention are most fresh, lays foundations in the core academic subjects – language arts, social studies, math, and science. During this time the learning is done as a whole group, led by the teacher. After snack and a morning recess the children return to the classroom for the ninety-minute Mid-Day Lesson. On the ground of their full-group morning studies, they are ready for more individual pursuits, one-on-one instruction, skills practice, and remedial work, which happen at this time. This is followed by recess, lunch, and reading time. The day ends with a ninety-minute Afternoon Lesson. During this last lesson period, the children are ready for more social and active undertakings. Working with movement (including games and sports), crafts, and group projects, the content learning begun in the morning is brought into a broader context.
In the homeschool, far less structured time is needed but it remains important to have a dependable rhythm to the day and the week. There will be times when a more focused learning is in harmony with the child’s energy and the overall flow of the day, times when self-directed exploration best mirrors the child, and times when personal quiet or family rituals are needed. Exactly how this unfolds will be different in different families, but the need to embrace the different rhythms of learning is the same for us all.
Along with honoring the natural learning rhythms in the kinds of work we do, we also feel it is imperative to work in harmony with the learning process itself. Just as the seasons flow from a time of seeding into a time of fullness, and finally into rest, so must children be given ample time to absorb and digest new material and experiences, before they are asked to understand or act on the new learning. Whether in a classroom or Homeschool program, in the Enki curriculum each subject is taught in three to four week blocks, allowing time for in-depth study and a full range of related artistic experiences. The children are then given time to let the material rest, making their own connections in their own time. As subject blocks cycle back around three or four times each year, students have the opportunity to build on their studies in many ways, from many angles. In addition, once a particular skill or concept has been introduced, digested, and worked with, it is then brought to mastery through ongoing practice and application on a regular basis. This supports long-term retention and in-depth learning.