Pagan Degrees for Children, by Shanddaramon
I really wasn’t sure what to think of this book based on the title. But reading it, it’s actually a really well designed curriculum for teaching kids the basics of “Paganism” (more accurately, Wicca) without being the sort of typical Wicca 101 book.
It’s set up like most scouting programs, with some required activity for each “degree” and some optional activities that one can choose a number of. Unlike most scouting programs, the required items are very much based in religious study, as are many of the optional activities. And while it was developed as a group activity for the children who were a part of the author’s ritual group, it’s set up for one on one mentoring, so even a single child can do this with a family member.
This is a great book for children who are a little older – the expectations for the Neophyte level (kids 5-8) is largely “do 10 things from the list, earn a new level” and it seems like that would get boring after a while, especially since there are 9 levels to earn. And while there are quite a range of suggested activities, along with an option to make your own, between ages 5 and 8 children change a lot – I know at 5, my son isn’t really ready for many of these, but some seem like they might be too easy for a 8 year old. I do like the idea that options for younger children should be less involved than for older children, though, so the fact that the Neophyte level is set up this way is a pleasant surprise.
The real teaching doesn’t begin until kids reach age 9 and can start the Apprentice level. The Mage level is for those 12 and up. For both Apprentice and Mage levels, there is a focus on how beliefs are reflected in one’s life, and on being active in service to the community.
As part of the Mage level, children are encouraged to begin attending adult classes and rituals, and to have a coming of age ritual. This combo is a nice way to bridge the gap between being a child and learning about faith that way and being a part of an adult community where most people have come up through a traditional degree program.
There are a few oddities – for the Mage level, for example, one activity is “Pagan in the Community,” and it asks children to tell how they would report an emergency. Keeping in mind this level is for older tweens and young teens, that seems a bit off – I know that my son will be expected to learn to call 911 in kindergarten next year.
Shanddaramon offers black and white drawings of the awards and certificates for the program at the end of the book, but there is a companion book with color images for your use as well. Lots of suggested resources are included, as are sample rituals.
It does seem that this program is fairly focused on journalling – which is fine if your child reads and writes well, but if not, you’ll need to do some thinking about what modifications you’ll make to help your child complete the activities.
All in all, though, it’s a fairly comprehensive set up that covers most of the basics and would give children a good solid religious foundation. For many families it would make a great guide for learning many fundamentals of Wicca.
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