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Hallows Eve Themed Nature Table

One aspect of the Halloween season that we are changing up is our focus on family history and our ancestors. All Hallows Day – November 1 – was a day that early Christians used to honor their dead family and friends. All Hallows Eve was considered to be a day that the spirits of those who passed on could return to earth as they journeyed to Heaven. While this is dramatically different from my own religion’s teachings on what happens after death and where we go, I love the focus that it brings to family history (which is a huge focus in our religion!). We also have a heavy emphasis on Waldorf style homeschooling in our home, and nature tables are an important aspect of the Waldorf education. As I’ve said before, my children have some Mexican/Spanish ancestry from my husband’s side – which is probably unexpected since most of us are pasty white redheads! – and I realized that I have a responsibility to teach them some aspects of their Hispanic heritage. While I don’t feel comfortable setting up a proper Ofrenda in our home (for a couple of reasons, but most importantly because I don’t want to appropriate this cultural practice) I realized that I do nature tables quite frequently, and I could easily incorporate a family history theme to our nature table through October! I feel like this strikes a good balance for us. What is a Nature Table? In Waldorf education a Nature Table is a practice used to create a sense of reverence and respect for the natural world and its seasons. Because it is meant to help inspire a feeling of reverence, the nature table isn’t actually a play scene. Children are involved in setting it up and creating it, but they don’t pull the pieces down to play with during the day. Adding to the nature table every week becomes part of the family rhythm, and something that the children look forward to helping with. Nature tables can also be a simple display of a scene related to the current season – for example during the Advent/Christmas season it’s not uncommon to have scenes building up to Joseph and Mary’s travels to Bethlehem. Setting up a nature table also tends to follow a specific order as well.

The order of filling a nature table by week: · Week 1: Minerals. Week one is focused on the Mineral kingdom – think rocks, gems, etc. Families or teachers will lay out some bits of rock or polished stones during this week. · Week 2: Plants. Week two is focused on plants, so this is a perfect time to add things like seasonal leaves, flowers, small potted plants, or pinecones. I'm planning on putting some pretty winter squash in ours! · Week 3; Animals. In week three we start adding living creatures, so figurines of animals, feathers, bits of fur, small bones, or even small art projects of animals. This can be a good way to remember pets that have died, and place a picture or a small toy that belonged to the pet. · Week4: Humans/Mankind. Week four is focused on humans, so this is the perfect time to start placing photos of family members and friends in your scene. You can choose people who are still living, or you can choose people from your families who have passed on. You can write down a favorite quote or saying from the person as well. · Other things to consider adding: quotes or poems, a watercolor painted backdrop, a candle (don’t leave this burning without adult supervision of course!), bits of wood that can be used to balance and elevate small pieces, a small garland, or even wooden peg people! Tips for creating a successful Nature Table: Plan ahead! I started planning this nature table in September. By developing a plan beforehand, you have time to gather any pieces that you might want to locate especially for the nature table. Life will be so much easier if you have a visualization of what you want each month, and what to look for as you’re out in nature. It can also be a fun game for the children, giving them a new treasure to look for each week to add to the nature table! What if we gather too much, and I can’t add it all to the nature table? This is a great time to build up a little supply of nature materials for play. Rocks, sticks, pinecones, acorns, extra feathers, all of it can be placed into a basket below your nature table for your kids to use and explore as they wish. Use some playdough and roll each piece through it to make nature tracks, or use rocks and playdough to create animals, trolls, gnomes, and other whimsical creatures. Which brings me to my last piece of advice:

Have fun with it! A nature table is supposed to bring a sense of respect, but also a sense of love for nature, so make it an enjoyable experience for the whole family! If you can’t keep little hands out of the nature table set up, don’t stress about it too much. We live in a world full of sticks and stones. Small children need the opportunity to learn that certain things they can’t touch, and how to recognize a “yes” space meant for them to play and explore. Last Things to Know Nature tables are a rewarding and enriching practice to add to your homeschool routine. Whether you guard it closely, or let your children have free access to it, a nature table allows your family to build an appreciation of the natural world. If you would like help planning your family’s nature table, check out our Nature Table Planner! This is a 12 month planner that takes your family through all four seasons, and has ideas for various festivals to celebrate!

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