Time to go to school. This milestone is one everyone who puts their kids through the mainstream education system will experience. Formalised RE, multiculturalism and Assembly time in a closed community. Yay!
I exaggerate but from my perspective, these things were all great things. The girls hadn’t really socialised widely without the buffer of a family member and in the case of YD she has a cousin in her year group. For the sake of everyone’s learning potential (and sanity), we’d consciously requested they be in opposite classes.
I was most nervous about the whole process with regard to the ED, by the time YD joined her we were old hands at it. I had prepped myself a letter, which is now in the form of A Very Brief Introduction to Paganism, and gotten myself up to date on all the law around religion in schools and was all ready to give a full explanation of Paganism but found it unnecessary. Fortunately, and despite the school being relatively new, the teacher assigned to ED’S class was an experienced teacher and she took it all in her stride.
Overall our school doesn’t really seem to have an issue with any of the pronouncements the Girls make, or the weird things that I encourage the kids to do (like send in rune cookies for party days)
We have had a couple of wins, like ED writing about herself to a new teacher
“I like History and Maths but I don’t like RE because we do not cover Paganism.”
History and Religious Education
She’s not wrong; most mainstream school does not cover paganism as a general rule. There are a couple of local authorities which have taken steps to include paganism under the RE heading but it is done as a reflective view of a historical practice. More widely children are covering more and more in their History lessons, learning about pre-Christian cultures including (but not limited to) Greeks / Romans, Vikings and the various prehistoric cultures of Britain.
I’ve found the trick is encouraging them (the girls) to look beyond what is being taught in class and to ask questions of school and me. ED has most recently been doing the Vikings and Anglo-Saxon and readers who know me personally will realise that the Norse Traditions are a minor feature of the household. ED has had a lot of questions and whilst I haven’t gotten into the detail of modern movements with her we have discussed magical subjects such as the Runes, Volva (though we spoke of Wise Women) and the Nine Herb’s charm.
One expressly magical thing I just tied into her school work was to give the ED a first introduction to combining a magical craft with stitch and yarncraft. Her half term holiday project was a cross stitch pillow of a Vikings Boat. No only did she stitch it herself, making it her first proper cross stitch project, we spent some time discussing the possible magical symbolism of the boat, our choice of thread colour and what she should think about as stitching. Okay, so she probably put most of her brain capacity into placing stitches correctly and counting them but the concept has been introduced. We also linked the very Viking symbolism with the Anglo-Saxon 9 Herb Charm by including a tea bags filled with the herbs in the pillows stuffing with the finished product being a protective charm for long journeys.
More generally I haven’t seen any evidence of confusion in the girls regarding the various religions they have encountered through school. They take everything in their stride and as a learning curve. They soak it all up and accept that there are many religious and spiritual “Truths” and just as many paths which you can take to find them. They have occasionally been on the receiving end of hurtful and ignorant words from other children but in truth beyond a little indignation, they have been content to ignore the words and individual in question.
At this age very little escapes their notice and it is almost impossible for them to miss what is going on around the house. Every shrine and altar space are there to be seen, seasonal celebrations are acknowledged in some way, even if it simply a bunch of seasonal vegetation, and from time to time candles and incense are lit whilst they are awake and of course an explanation is demanded and in most cases given.
Now ED has hit the upper ranges of this age bracket I can see that she has spent a long time absorbing information from the things I have said and done. My shopping habits are apparently very telling. There will be more on this next month but for now, I will elaborate on some of the activities we’ve done.
For a very long time, the children have had their own special space which was theirs to decorate and use as they wish. Located on a spare shelf in ED’s bedroom it represents a collection of their special items and old ritual items of mine. Everything from leaves and stones from a nature walk and shells from the beach to special awards and merits has made it onto this space.
As time has gone on the ED has used the space in different ways, including for potion making and honouring her relatives and Hekate. There is no real form or structure to what she does, and I have left her to explore how she can use the space in her own time.
One of those terms has been around developing her own spells and mostly they have revolved around having good dreams, confidence for school events and the like. Most of these consist of her talking to the statues in the space and asking for help but sometimes she gets a little more practical, and her sister likes to help. They have been known to make potions, which involves them gathering plants and flowers from our immediate surroundings (or from my flower displays) and suspending them in tap water whilst muttering incantations. It is all well and good but getting the finished concoction out of the room before it turns into a slushy mess can be challenging.
And this is the biggest problem with this idea; housekeeping. ED is not exactly a neat freak, and she can get very attached to her stuff. Establishing an understanding of the need to maintain these spaces a and not hold on to every leaf, acorn and shoe (yes, shoe) have been a bit of a challenge but we have prevailed. Were I to do this again I would establish firmer ground rules earlier on but this situation has not been insurmountable.
Arts, Crafts and The Great Outdoors
Little legs are longer and their minds are developing all the time, so more of the same is always in order.
With YD just reaching this stage our further foraging into our local has been limited still but as you can see from our trips up Verbeia’s waterfall we are striking deeper into the Moors. They are aren’t quite our playground but we are getting there.
Arts and crafts are always perennial favourites, with the favourite summer activity being ‘stick’ painting/decorating aka wand making.