Young Pagan Mother

     A pagan mother isolated in Seattle with an active 3 year old.  Excited about the promise of homeschooling and feeling perhaps betrayed by the lack of support from her local pagan community.  A forum was set up and in a year only 1 post was made.  How sad.
How do you root a 3 yr old in your faith?  How to prepare your bright boy for an intellectually stimulating and exciting learning path without burning him out or distancing him from his burgeoning maleness?
     Songs, stories, and books, movies, art…all should be reinforcing a pagan viewpoint.  As isolated parents, these and our own talk replace the oral tradition and community support that should by rights be there.  If you have access to other pagan families, what joy!  It's nice for kids to see that there are, in fact, other pagans; but you don't need this to be able to raise your own litte ones as pagans at home.  Your family is the only social group your little ones really need.  However,  it is my fervent hope that with more pagans choosing to remain pagan even after having children, and then choosing to homeschool, this will not always be the lonely road it has been for us "early adopters". 
     Remember, too, that this is the age (up to 7 or 8) of imitation and mimicry and memorization.  Little ones are capable of memorizing a great lot, pretty effortlessly.  Anything you can put in a song or jingle or rhyme or little story will stay in their memories, period.  This is the time to load up on lots of little facts, that not only make them feel bigger and older, but will come as huge helps later on.  This does not weigh them down-it's not a chore.  Who finds learning the A,B,C song onerous?  Learning this way is fun and enjoyable for both your litte ones and you. 
     Something to keep in mind is that at this age their physical body and mind are inextricably hooked up.  For a 3 yr old to want to move while listening or watching something is purely healthy and natural.  And in general, boys are more likely to want to keep up this movement for longer than girls.  Right now my two year old girl will already sit still for periods of time while watching something, but my four year old boy will usually be moving. 
     This movement is so natural and healthy that it's actually a good idea to encourage it with the little ones.  If they are watching something longer, then give them a movement break.  They need their physical bodies to help them process what it is they've been taking in.  When you try to stop that movement, you're stopping, essentially, their intellect too.  Let them "fidget".  
     Please remember, some kids, and especially boys, will retain this need to move for much longer, well into elementary grades.  This can make it hard for them in a conventional classroom where everyone is supposed to sit still in their place.  Many of these kids get labeled with learning dysfunctions when all they are is a slightly different personality that doesn't fit into the prevailing educational paradigm very comfortably.  Let them move!
     And speaking of movement--mostly they should be playing.  Lucky you if you live where your little ones can play outside relatively unmolested-and I don't mean by conventional "bad guys", I mean by nosy neighbors and do-gooders.  Preferably they should have lots and lots of outdoor time;  but I know all too well that this can be a very hard thing to come by nowadays, depending on your situation.  Get them out when you can, keep it unstructured for crying out loud, and think about ways to bring the outdoors in to some extent.  What crazy times we live in. 
     Learning should be mostly fun, mostly games and interesting stuff.  Frankly, this is all you really have to do until just about third grade (8 years old or so).   People who tell you otherwise are probably trying to sell you something  one way or another.  Things your little ones do need to learn are: obeying you without your needing to yell or repeat yourself, following directions, remembering and following basic rules, manners, love for their family and the Gods.   
     Remember, schedules are your friends.  Little ones love and need schedules.  They love knowing when to expect things and what to expect;  it makes them feel very old and sophisticated.  Think rituals.  Rituals for getting up and ready, breakfast, chore time (yes, chore time), school time, lunch, nap, play, clean up, dinner, play with daddy, go to bed.  All through the day those little rituals will be your very good friends.  And as they get older the larger rituals of the weeks and then the seasons will also be a great support.  (When I was a young mother I thought schedules were designed to make me feel overloaded and guilty-something somebody else was doing to me.  Oh, how wrong I was!) 
     Probably the best way to start out organizing your learning for little ones is through what are commonly called unit studies.  This version of it is also called the real books approach.  Basically you choose a theme you think your little one would like and find some books that fit into it-or choose some books he likes and find a unifying theme.  Then plan some activities around it.  What little ones up to seven need to learn, everybody knows.  I mean, we're talking real basic stuff here.  It should certainly not be anything to make anyone feel nervous.  Numbers, colors, shapes, basic reading, basic math, basic everything.  At about eight years, you'll probably want to evaluate what you've been doing and decide where you want to go from there.  Some people just keep on with the unit study idea and use it clear through high school studies-it does work.  Or there are other paths-several.  But at this level it's all terribly easy and fun. 
     And a final happy note before I give some examples.   Using this method is extremely friendly to multiple ages.  It is entirely possible to have several children of different ages, temperments and abilities working on roughly the same topic, just all in their own way. I have had toddlers to teenagers all working on the same topic at their own levels.  It works.  Why would you want to do this?  It is so much easier for the mother!  I think it also gives a sense of solidarity to the family "school" and brings more depth to the younger children's studies in particular.
     Please see our unit studies page for ideas.

©2007 Oak Hedge