Saturday, 27 September 2014

Teaching Religion to Our Children

I know. Again it's been ages since I've blogged on here. In fact, I think that I've racked up a couple of years. Apologies for that...but at least I've got a bit of inspiration going at the moment, so I thought that I would get it down. I was thinking of submitting it for an article, but because it's one of my rambles, I wasn't so sure that it was really up to that standard.


This week, my six year old daughter didn't go to her RE lesson. While the rest of the school, from Reception through Year 2, went off site for the morning to the Harvest Celebration at the local evangelical church, my daughter went to read to the little ones in the nursery. In my eyes, this was a really good arrangement. While the other children had to sit still and listen to a one-sided version of religion (when they attend a non-denominational school), my daughter was doing something she well as learning how to help out and how to volunteer her spare time.

As a Pagan parent, I am regularly asked by other parents why my daughter doesn't go to RE. She does go to RE, just not all of the time. She only attends the session if it a religion being taught the general educational points about it...the morals, ethics, history, etc. If it is a session that will be revolving around the worship of a specific religion, that is when my daughter is removed. When they have people in to do a workshop on Diwali or the Chinese New Year, my daughter is right in front for those lessons. When they have the assembly for the week being led by the local preacher, it's time for her to hang out in the nursery again. One of the things that I have discovered is that a lot of parents, Pagan and not, do not realise that it is only a requirement for schools to have some sort of RE provision in their curriculum. It is not a requirement for your child to attend that provision. If I was completely shut off from the view of my child learning about any religions other than our own, I could take the option to pull her out of RE completely. But I'm not like that, because I personally feel that it's an important aspect for my daughter to learn how other people celebrate their faith and spirituality. It is ok for us to have our faith, and it is ok for other people to have theirs.

Going off of that point, I am regularly confused by a few other Pagan parents who refuse to discuss religion with their children at home for fear of indoctrination. I do admit that it can be a very fine line and a sensitive topic because so many of us are converts from other mainstream religions that rely on indoctrination. We want our children to be able to think for themselves, decide for themselves. But if we don't lead by example, what are they going to have to base an informed decision on? Are they going to learn about Paganism alongside Christianity, Islam, Judaism, and Hinduism at school? I doubt it. My daughter is in her final year at an infant school, so we are now researching junior and primary schools for her to move up to. One of the questions that we've been asking the headteachers is what is included in their RE curriculum. In Lincolnshire, it is in the SACRE (what the schools of the county have to base their RE off of) that Paganism is an option to teach. That is only one of many options given to them out of several other minority religions that they don't have to teach but can offer. After mentioning it to one Headmistress, she went rushing for her thick file for all three key stages. Nothing. No mention of Paganism. Luckily, in our discussion with her, they make the best attempts possible to skirt RE as much as possible. They focus more on teaching morals and ethics, the history and brief points of religions but have no worship element because they have so much to teach of academic subjects that they don't really have the time for it. She was actually in agreement with me that religion is better taught within the family and community.

So, again, the question I would like the answer for is why are Pagan parents afraid to teach their children about their path? It doesn't require daily or weekly pushing and indoctrination. For my daughter, we teach by example and answering her questions as to why we do what we do, but keep it in terms that are age appropriate. She went to her first ritual at four days old...a Wassail ceremony followed by an afternoon in a pub with local Morris musicians playing. We sat right next to them, with her asleep in a ring sling. Even now at six, she will stop what she's doing to listen to folk music. She's been to workshops on tarot, drumming, needle name it. It's up to her whether she wants to be involved or not. During the tarot workshop, she sat with her headphones, MP3 player, and Leapster. She brought her own little drum to the drumming workshop, and had a few guided pokes with the needle in the felting workshop. She loves going to rituals. For the last one, she ran around the farm that we were at with the other children chasing the gaggle of ducks and feeding the sheep during the ritual. She occasionally opts to join in with the adults in the circle, following along, and she's 'helped' an adult perform the Eastern quarter. Let me clarify that one...we've had the discussion with her when she has asked if she can do it by herself, and she has been told that she cannot hold a quarter on her own until she has come of age.

Coming of Age. That's where we have drawn our line of “rules” on how and what we teach her of our path. She has asked if she can wear a pentagram since she was four. We've taught her what we see as the meaning of it, but she is not allowed to wear one until she comes of age, at about 12 or 13. The reason being is that with the way that our society currently is, wearing a pentagram can induce a strong reaction, and I'm sure that many of you have had to defend your path against people who think that it's an invitation to proselytize at you or accuse you of devil or demon worship. At this age, she's too young to defend her beliefs from that. At 12 or 13, she's more likely to be knowledgeable of why she believes what she does and will be in the beginning of the teenage attitude that can argue the fuzz off a peach. If she wants to wear something at this age, she has a little triquetra necklace that nobody questions. At 12 or 13, we will sit down as a family and discuss what path she wants to take and why she has chosen it. If she wants to be a Pagan, we will sit down together and write a special ritual to share the big step with our friends that will be there to support her on that path. If it's another religion that she chooses, that's fine...we'll support her in any way that we can.

For us, it's all about the informed choice. If we were to choose to hide what we believe from our children, where are they going to learn from? Do you really want them to learn about faith and spirituality from the man that stands in the middle of the town centre screaming and proselytizing at the top of his lungs that puts down every walk of life because humans are inherently evil, or from the gang that hangs out in the alley and wants everyone to join in with attacking and fighting those that don't think the way that they do? Because without the base guidance from the family, children will take their questions elsewhere.

Now at the age of six, my daughter is asking lots of questions and is learning how to go look information up in books (note that I didn't say the internet. We're teaching the importance that books hold first, and she doesn't have to sift through the information). The big thing at the moment for her is learning about the seasons and celebrations, and why we celebrate them. Samhain will be at the end of next month. In our house, we take that time to remember those that have passed on over the year, and remember our ancestors. Her favourite part of it is making everybody in the house dress up in a costume while she answers the door to other children and gives them sweets. We've also found great entertainment when people think that the black cat in the window is a decoration...until she moves. The girly has discovered just how awesome the winter and spring holidays are. In December, we celebrate Yule with our Pagan friends, and that's when we exchange gifts as a family. There's also lots of food shared (granted, that's pretty much every ritual celebration that we have, and her favourite part). On Christmas morning, she receives gifts from Santa Claus, who, for us, represents the spirit of generosity, caring, celebration, and love of everybody. We then spend the day watching holiday films in our pyjamas and have a lovely meal. Pretty much like a lot of other families in the country. In the spring, we celebrate Ostara (spring equinox), and alongside ritual we celebrate the arrival of new life to the world and the beginning of things growing. That's when she gets the start of those commercialized chocolate eggs. She loves the idea that she gets to eat them about three weeks before her friends get to even look at theirs. She received about six or seven of them this year, and insisted on sharing with everybody...I think that the last one was finished in August.

There are many age appropriate approaches to guiding children in religion without indoctrination. Coming from the States and having “separation of church and State” I had no RE in school. I would appreciate it more if it wasn't in school here, but because it's part of the national curriculum we suck it up and just make sure that she's only there for the educational elements of it. At home, we're going to continue to lead by example, in a way that is organic. If she wants to join in, she can. If she wants to go chase the ducks...fair play to her. Other parents at her school think that she must surely be ostracised by her peers because she doesn't join in for everything. The awesome thing about young children is that they don't care. They have never known anything else but that the girly goes elsewhere when they have to go to assembly, and she either reads or catches up with work from earlier in the day.

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Recipe: Bacon, Onion, and Cheese Scones (Gluten Free)

I've been bragging about these on Facebook, so I thought I would share.

To make 18 scones:

Two to Three rashers of smoky bacon, diced
one small onion, finely diced
Grated Cheese (I use Mature or Extra Mature Cheddar, but any other strong flavour would be interesting)
Four cups of Self Raising Flour (I use Dove's Farm Gluten and Wheat Free)
a pinch or two of salt
two round tablespoons of margarine
enough milk to draw it into a dough (I used whole goats milk)

In a skillet or frying pan, fry up the bacon, and when it's almost done, add in the onions. Cook until the onions start to go soft and the bacon crispy. Turn the heat off and set to the side.

Preheat the oven and baking sheet to Gas Mark 7/230C/425F.

In a large mixing bowl, add the flour and salt, give it a bit of a mix with your fingers. Add in the margarine, and rub in to the flour until it's mixed. Add in the grated cheese, give a bit of a toss, then add in the bacon and onion and toss with your fingers until evenly mixed. Gradually add milk until it draws in to a dough, but don't over do it.

Tip out on to a flour-dusted surface, and lightly knead it (but keep a light touch and don't over work it). Use your hands to press out the dough to about a 2cm thickness. Cut out in rounds with a cookie cutter or pint glass.

Pull the baking sheet out of the oven, and layer with nine of the rounds. Brush the tops with melted margarine and top with grated cheese. Bake for about 10 to 15 minutes.

This is a recipe that I have modified from the Jamie Oliver forum

Sunday, 5 February 2012

Abnormal Psychology

As part of my college Access course, I am required to take Psychology. The unit that we started a fortnight ago is "Abnormal Psychology", and I'm finding it to be just as interesting as I found "Early Social Development".  One of the tasks that the instructor wanted us to do was to go out in public and do something out of character, and what would be seen as weird in our society. I had a few giggles, because some of the things that she suggested, I've already done.

  • Walk down the road singing songs from "The Wizard of Oz". Been there, done that. I did a 5 mile charity walk around downtown Indianapolis with a couple of friends. For the last half mile, we linked arms and skipped to the finish line singing "We're Off To See the Wizard" at the top of our lungs.
  • Walk around town barefoot. Again, that same charity walk. It was bucketing down with rain, and I don't like squidgy shoes. I took my shoes off after the first half mile, and walked 4 1/2 miles around downtown Indianapolis, barefoot, happy as a lark. I have a barefoot preference, anyway. I've also gone to collect by boys from the village school barefoot. My neighbours were mortified. My shoes were dry and intact, and my feet dried quicker than a pair of shoes would have.
  • Sing out loud. I regularly catch myself doing this, along with dancing, because I forget myself when I'm listening to my headphone, and find myself singing whilst walking through the college refectory, or dancing in the queue waiting for the bus.
Add in that I made the choice to take an alternative path of faith to the majority of the population, I don't understand the point of some modern fashions, I wore Sophie in a sling rather than putting her in a pushchair, and many other things, and I'm probably classified as being a few bricks short. I wonder what labels would be ticked for me in the psychiatric manuals? But, there's actually nothing wrong with me. I'm not harming anybody and I'm not harming myself. I find it to be a pointless task to try to be like everybody else in society, and boring. What's the point of it? People need to open their minds up and find that it's so much more fun to be weird. 

I embrace my individuality, and I enjoy being weird and abnormal. Sometimes, the things that I do or say actually gets other people to stop, question themselves, and why they do the things they do, and the point to it all. Maybe that's what my intended role in our society be one of the ones that comes across as safe and innocuous, but once in a while I shake up the people that need to be dragged out of their rut, kicking and screaming.  For me, it breaks the monotony of routine, and gives me a much needed laugh at myself, and can bring a bit of levity to the monotony of other peoples' lives.

I admit that I'm weird, and I'm proud of it. Are you?

Sunday, 8 January 2012

The Mask and the Mirror

One of the things that I regularly think about is about the masks that people regularly wear. I don't mean a physical and visible mask, although I love the Venetian ones. I mean the ones that we use to hide our true feelings and thoughts from other people. I admit to having multiple masks because they're my protection from the outside world. Strength, when I actually feel weak. Confidence, when I actually feel like I have absolutely no chance. Shyness, to hide the lack of confidence.

To those closest to me, they know me behind those masks. They know that I can be ultra-sensitive, I have a rather dry sense of humour, and I tend to lack some tact, meaning that I don't always mince my words. The running joke when anybody visits my house is that your tact button gets checked in at the door. To keep myself grounded, I regularly pull out the mirror. I think that it is very important to reveal to yourself what and who you really are. I can get quite caught up with things in life...going to college, being a mum, and having to live and abide in general society. I may not have much, but I will bend over backwards to the best of my ability to help people. In today's society, not everybody understands that somebody can be quite happy to lend a helping hand. One of the problems that I have is stepping back and remembering myself, which ends up to the detriment of my physical and mental health. I regularly forget that there are people that will help if I ask...basically, I forget to ask.

Unfortunately, there are people in this world that forget to drop their masks and forget to look at who they really are in the mirror. They don't see the ugliness in which they show people. It's not the beautiful Venetian masks that they show, it's the mask of a gargoyle. They forget to temper the mask with the mirror, and lose themselves to the outside. They hurt those around them with jealousy, greed, arrogance, and superiority complexes that have no justification. They're hiding their true selves by beating those around them down with nastiness, misplaced judgement, and ignorance.

Sometimes, though it is a difficult thing, you just have to step away from people like that and let them get on with it. When the time comes, their mask will fall off, and the damage that they have done will be glaring back in the mirror, revealing that they have lost people that actually cared for them. For me, there are people that have irrevocably burned their bridges with me. I won't retaliate...karma will catch up with them. But there are a couple that I still care dearly for, but I have decided that it's just time to let them get on with it. They can dish out advice, but can't take it themselves and turn it into claiming that I'm being nasty when I'm not capable of it.

It's taken a fair bit of soul searching for me, but I'm currently in a place where my life just keeps getting better every day. That makes a change, as I have hit some pretty low places, but I'm going to run with the positivity and just ignore the negative. If those people need me, I will still be here, but I will no longer be offering what I have to give unless it's specifically asked for.

Monday, 2 January 2012

Facebook Page

I've finally decided to build a Facebook page to try to get more interaction and ideas.  Feel free to join me over there!

Sunday, 1 January 2012

Happy 2012!

As per when I hit my college restart, it's been a while since I've last posted. It's just been so busy for us for the holidays, which turned out to be some of the best that I've had, barring the fact that I'm still trying to dig my house and kitchen out. I'd much rather spend time with my family and friends, as we all would. I have tomorrow to do it before starting the new term at college. I thought today, being a new start, I should use this space to recap the year, and to put down some pseudo-resolutions.

Recap of 2011

This has probably been the year that I have seen the most positivity that I can ever think of having. I've experienced the strengthening of friendships, renewal of old friendships, and the gaining of new friendships. This is the year that I've finally gotten brave enough to truly put myself out there, and starting this blog has made the biggest difference to me. For those that are interested in going back to my start, just follow this link.

After the downer of having to drop my college Access course in March, I restarted it again in September. It was a bit of a struggle to fit in with the new group to start with, but now I can say that I've got friends amongst them that I plan on keeping for a lifetime. I'm extremely pleased and surprised with my progress on the course. They started with a new awarding body, which makes things a little more complicated, but I feel that I'm doing a lot better than I was last year, and it feels more like I'm getting somewhere than I was last year.

I've seen a lot of changes with the Imp. We were struggling with our relationship at the beginning of the year, but she then started at an excellent nursery in May, and us having our separate time has made the hugest difference to the both of us. I have my own identity back, and my life is no longer revolving around her every move, and her personality and skills have taken dramatic leaps and grow with each day. She started there with being six months behind in her speech, and after a fortnight there, the switch finally flicked and she was speaking in complete and clear sentences. She skipped a few steps. She now makes her opinion clear, and, most of the time, when her emotions aren't getting in the way, let's me know what she wants and needs. She's become very independent, and it makes it a lot easier for us to be equals within our little family unit.

Seeing my mom, stepdad, and one of my three brothers back in May was a truly special time. I hadn't seen them since 2003, and being able to spend a fortnight with them and my now-10 year old niece that I met for the first time was amazing.

There has been the sadness, as well, with the loss of a yearmate in the beginning of the year, and the loss of friends' pets that meant a lot to me. I have had my down moments, but they've been a lot quicker to get out of than they have been in the past.

Pseudo Resolutions for 2012

I'm not in to making resolutions, because they're too easy to break. But there are a few goals that I truly want to put in place.  From the way that I'm looking at it, 2012 looks to be truly spectacular for me. It may not seem like much to some people, but that is the word that has been shouting at me, because I am truly looking forward with a lot of positivity.

  • Spend more time with my friends, aka My English Family
    • I've spent more time than ever with my friends this year, which has made a huge difference to me, but I think we need to do even more. My closest friends I have dubbed as my honorary siblings, so, if you look at it that way, as well as having three blood-related brothers, I also have four sisters, three brothers, the Imp's Grumpy, and the keeper of my heart. Hmm, because I'm likely to be blogging more about them, I should probably come up with alternative names for them all. You've already seen me regularly post about one, Witchy Kitty. She's changing to a new blog, but I think she can keep her same name with me :P I'll come up with names for everybody else as I go along.
  • Get out of Lincoln more often. 
    • I rarely leave the city. I think I can maybe think of three to five trips out for the day in the last year. I'm already planning a trip to Cardiff to visit Illustratedmum (Welshy sister), which I really should do more often.  More day trips are in the pipelines, as well as some potential weekends away.
  • Finish my Access course and start University
    • That's all dependent on me getting accepted to uni.  My UCAS will definitely be going out tomorrow, and I need to keep up on my course work. 
  • Keep up on my blogging.
    • This blog has made a huge difference to me, so I need to focus back down and post more often again. Maybe make a goal for at least once a week or fortnight, minimum, to get me back on track.
  • Read more books
    • I'm normally an avid reader, but I've just not had the mental focus to concentrate and read, so my stack is building up. I must try harder. 
  • Do more crafting.
    • I've put my cross stitch aside for the time being, because I really need to find a floor stand for my frame. I've opted for some smaller crochet projects that I can get the sense of accomplishment of actually finishing something. For holiday gifts, I managed to whip through and complete three scarves. That's a huge accomplishment for me, the way that things have been so busy. One of them was even finished in a day...that was only due to me reinjuring myself and having to force myself to actually sit down and stop. The other two took me a fair bit longer, but I still managed to finish one for Yule and one for Christmas, and I was quite pleased with myself.  One of my posts to look back on regarding projects would be this one. Another project that looks easy is from Kirsty Alsopp's program on Channel 4. She did a heart garland for across her mantle for Christmas, but it's inspired me to attempt to do something similar for each Sabbat to go across my shelf in the living room. I just need to find fabric that I fancy, and the time.
  • Concentrate more on my rituals and celebrations.
    • I don't mean doing anything fancy, but, as seemingly seems to be a repeating theme, I need to take more time to stop and celebrate. It's not that I don't celebrate with a thought or few every day, but I need to stop more. Nothing organised...we all know that I don't play all that well with others that try to be organised, but I feel the need to do some energy and spiritual work with others (just as long as it's not organised. Got to make that clear :P )
  • Project 365
    • I'm a rather snap-happy person with my mobile, so I've finally brought up the courage to start a Project365. Feel free to follow me, if you're interested, on
Again, those are just a few goals, but nothing is set in stone. I really can't call them resolutions for the year, because they're ongoing things in my life that I'm looking forward.

I hope that all of you will be having as spectacular of a 2012 as I anticipate mine to be. Feel free to share yours in the comments, because I love seeing what everybody is looking forward to.


Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Thanksgiving Connections

I'm going to be upfront. I haven't celebrated Thanksgiving since I last visited my family in 2003. Living in England, it's just another day. I do try my hardest to remember to call my mom, but this year it's fingers crossed that she's around between the time that I wander in after collecting the Imp from nursery and when I go to bed.

One of the things that I've been contemplating today, after speaking with one of my course mates and an instructor about Thanksgiving, is how much world history we Americans aren't taught when we were growing up.  Since moving to England, and especially since moving to Lincolnshire in 2005, I have learned so much more about the 'back stories' to historical events in the United States, and it all finally makes sense in my head. I still couldn't remember most dates if my life depended on it, but I now feel like my knowledge of history has been greatly enhanced, and I'm now understanding the reasons behind some of the major historical events that I grew up with.

Take Thanksgiving for example. What do you remember? I remember being taught that the Pilgrims sailed on the Mayflower, landed on Plymouth Rock, and after a hard time the Indians shared their bounty. Yep. That's it...that's all I remember from school. I never thought to question where and why the Pilgrims actually left England. I was under the assumption that the were all from the same town...Plymouth, in Devonshire, on the southern coast of England. Moving up to Lincolnshire was quite an enlightenment. I have since found out that the Pilgrims were of a branch of Quakers called Separatists, who didn't get along well with the majority of the public, who were Church of England. Laws were being established demanding that everybody attend the national church. The original Separatist church was in Scrooby, Nottinghamshire, which just outside of Doncaster. After several years of problems, the Pilgrim Fathers (as they're referred to over here) decided that it was time to leave. They couldn't get the paperwork that would allow them to leave the country, so they tried to sneak out by hiring a boat out of Boston, Lincolnshire (east coast). They were caught and arrested as they tried to board the boat. A year later, another attempt was made and successful, when they hired a Dutch merchant to take them from Immingham (just outside of Grimsby, North East Lincolnshire) to Leiden, Holland, which was successful, and they stayed there for twelve years. They then decided that they wanted to create their own colony in the Americas, bought a small ship called the Speedwell, and travelled to England to meet up with the Mayflower in Southampton. Leaving in August 1620, the Speedwell wasn't up to the journey, so they returned to Plymouth, piled all 102 people onto the Mayflower, and left again in September. After the rough journey, losing two people and gaining a baby, the Pilgrims finally dropped anchor in November. An advance party went ashore, but the majority of the colonists remained on the ship until December 23rd, when they departed the Mayflower to build Plymouth colony.

Here comes the reason for Thanksgiving. Because they had landed in December, the winter was difficult because they had not stored away crops. Forty people were lost. On 16 March 1621, an Indian leader approached them, greeting them in English that had been taught to him by English fishermen that wintered in the area. After signing a treaty with Samoset and another leader, Squanto, the Indians taught the Pilgrims how to farm the land. That autumn, the Indians were invited for a feast from the bounty of the harvests.

It really makes you think about the reasons behind some holidays. Yes, I still see Thanksgiving as a time to be thankful for what we have, and to spend time with family. But now I also see it as a time to celebrate religious freedom, through observing the trials and tribulations that the Pilgrims went through to arrive to America. Many of us of different faiths have continued to fight for what we believe, to find the place that is right for us. For the Pilgrim Fathers, that was the east coast America. Have you found your place?

Happy Thanksgiving tomorrow to all of my family and friends in the United States.