I learned about Waldorf education when I was in college and studying teaching methods and history. It fascinated me immediately and, for a brief moment in time, I toyed with the idea of becoming a certified Waldorf teacher. That didn’t work out for a variety of reasons, and in retrospect I’m happy for that. Although my experience with Waldorf education remains limited, I found that I didn’t fully agree with some of what I read or saw. Be that as it may, I find integrating creativity and whimsy into educating children a valuable pursuit, challenging as it can be at times. I also agree with the emphasis placed on nature – something that comes out in nature tables or play altars. They are excellent ways for children to engage in the changing seasons and their budding spirituality while also having fun on their terms.
I am working on ways to integrate this into raising Bee in a Druidic home. One thing many nature tables have in common is the inclusion of gnomes. What are these little creatures and why are they part of Waldorf culture? (You can read about that here and here.) Some critics worry as Waldorf educators apparently blame the gnomes for problems which could potentially derail a child’s ability to take responsibility for him or herself. Others feel that they introduces too much pseudoscience – something that, to me, is not bothersome at all since I have been able to believe in Nature Spirits while also understanding, respecting, and learning “hard science.” Taking responsibility is also emphasized in Druidism through our Nine Virtues. Integrity is part of one’s honor after all! If nobody knows why something happened, though, I often say things have been “fairied away.” There’s a time and a place for that… In my opinion, it’s completely possible to balance each perspective. I can see the gnomes as a way to introduce Bee to the unseen aspects of Nature Awareness – that ineffable feeling you get when you are being watched in the woods, for example, could be explained on the forest spirit which, to a child, may be conceived of as a fairy or gnome. As a child grows, these can be fleshed out into a more “mature” understanding of animism – even if the child decides he or she does not embrace that worldview*.
I started to make some gnomes for my little one and she already enjoys them immensely! The first was a little red gnome to commemorate the Winter Solstice. I refer to it as a nisser to give respect to my husband’s Norwegian heritage. I put the nisser in Bee’s Winter Solstice treasure basket and she repeatedly wanted him more than anything else. This gave me the idea to make more which, like many Waldorf gnomes, correspond to the seasons and various High Days. So our second gnome was born for Imbolc! She is holding a green candle to celebrate Brighid’s light and warmth.
Rest assured, I will share future gnomes as they appear in my home!
* Remember, I am writing about raising my own child and not others. Even though I am a spiritual, Earth-centered person, I understand the concerns of the critics who have enrolled their children in Waldrof schools thinking they are very secular only to realize that they do teach spiritual concepts (which may vary depending on the individual schools). Also, I hesitated to say I have a more “mature” understanding of animism. I don’t mean to say that there is a right and wrong way to believe, but I know for a fact that I wasn’t able to think about animism abstractly or philosophically like I am as an adult. I am in no way trying to say that certain cultures have a less mature animism than modern Druidism, for example.