Its the holiday season and I knew I had to incorporate some of the Yuletide things we love into our homeschool. A Tomte Homeschool Lesson was definitely on my to do list this year. The story I told my son about the Tomte is a mash up of some of the stories I’d read/heard about these house spirits (husvaettir) that I adore. It was a fun lesson that Pumpkin and I both enjoyed.
My Tomte Story
The Tomte are spirits that live in houses. They help keep the house clean, bring in good luck, and help to keep animals and humans fed and happy. They are temperamental but humble creatures that only ask two things of the people that it serves – that we respect them and give them a meager offering of the abundance we enjoy.
The Tomte don’t have bodies like you or me so we don’t often see them or their work. Sometimes we will spot movement in the corner of our eyes or notice things moved when no one else touched them. They can, however, transform their shape and often appear as little old men or women much like fairy folk or gnomes.
At Yule, when all the family is celebrating the Winter Solstice, it is polite of us to invite the Tomte. We do this by leaving out a bowl of porridge topped with a pat of butter, which they like very much.
One year, a very naughty girl decided she would play a trick on the Tomte. When her mother told her to set out the porridge for the house spirit, she hid the Tomte’s favorite pat of butter UNDER the porridge in the bowl.
That night, when the Tomte slipped out from its hiding, for it is a very shy creature, it approached the porridge bowl. Seeing that there was no butter on top, the Tomte flew into a rage! How dare the family not appreciate him and the hard work he does? How dare they begrudge him this one small offering!?
Angry and hurt, the Tomte went out to the family’s barn where they kept their cows, and made all their milk dry up. “If I cannot have butter, neither will they!” he said with mean glee. He also left the doors and windows open to the cold wind and predators.
Once that was done, and the Tomte had calmed down a little from his tantrum, he went back inside to eat his porridge. As he finished off the bowl he found the pat of butter hidden underneath. Shaking his head he knew he had been tricked by the naughty girl in the family. Still, he felt a little bad about his tantrum so he went back out to the barn.
He didn’t fix the cows so they would give milk, but he could protect them from freezing or getting hurt by predators. Closing up the barn, he looked around to make sure he hadn’t forgotten a window to shut. That’s when he heard something in the hay.
Something that skittered and scurried.
It was rats! In the hay, disturbing the cows and eating whatever they could find!
The Tomte knew what to do to keep his home safe! He transformed himself in to a big black snake and grabbed up the rats! Quickly he gobbled them up, saving the farm from their invasion.
That done, he slipped back into his most comfortable hiding place and enjoyed a long, wintry nap.
After telling my son this story, we focused on 2 things.
1st, I had him work on his fine motor skills. We cut out and pasted a Tomte, a porridge bowl, and a snake from construction paper.
Putting together the porridge bowl, I asked if he wanted to put the butter under the porridge like the girl in the story or if he wanted to put it on top.
He said “On top! I love butter too!”
2nd, I asked him to tell me the story he just heard. This is something I picked up from Charlotte Mason style homeschooling. It shows what the child has gleaned from the story telling, what resonated with them. The key is not to interrupt but let them tell their version.
I wrote his version down in his notebook we keep for homeschooling.
A 3rd focus – this wasn’t something I was overt about but something I love about the Tomte story and about Santa traditions. When a child leaves out porridge for the Tomte or milk and cookies for Santa Clause, they learn the importance of giving an offering and that relationships with these spirits is reciprocal. This is a great, gentle way to bring your beliefs and customs to children (something that I truly believe Pagans, Heathens, and Polytheists should be doing).
Pumpkin’s Version of a Tomte Story
Tomte likes poridge.
Tomte sure likes butter!
The girl hide the butter.
Tomte hide the butter milk from the cows.
Tomte found the hide butter!
Tomte likes butter.
Tomte went into a snake.
Snake caught the rats and wrapped them up.
Tomte went into his back home.
More Tomte Homeschool Resources
I hope you enjoyed a peek into our homeschool. To learn more about the Tomte, I recommend the following resources:
What We Do All Day has a great list of Tomte Children’s Books
Here’s some Christmas in Sweden classroom ideas for those of you with a larger group of kids.
A recipe for the Tomte’s porridge (we just do oatmeal though).