Still Waters Run Deep: The Fourteen Year Old

Yesterday  was my daughter’s fourteenth birthday party.  She had a fun day celebrating on the beach with her friends and their families.  So, in honor of the  now fourteen-year-old in our house, today’s post is all about the  fourteen year old.

The Gesell Institute describes the fourteen-year-old as “a time of verve, vigor, energy and excitement…Boundless energy combines with optimistic enthusiasm and goodwill to encourage boy or girl to attempt almost anything.”

The plans may outnumber the number of hours in a day, but a fourteen-year-old wants life on the full side.  At least, this is how the Gesell Institute describes it. However, I often find this stage can be different than the Gesell Institute describes– many mothers have described this period to me often as a waiting, a patience and a trusting in seeing their child almost in a cocoon where the surface looks more still than what the Gesell Institute describes –> this post describes this in boys, but I have seen this in girls as well.  So I think there can be a lot of energy for the things the fourteen-year-old is interested in, it can be a time of blossoming, but I think it can also be a time where the waters look so still and mirroring but underneath the surface things are running deeply.   Deeply felt.

Where this most deeply comes out is in relationship to the family.  Fourteen-year-olds can be quite critical of their parents, their family.  It is very personal, and not just against “the rules” (although it can be that too!) but against the personality traits or appearance of family members.  The character flaws of the adults in the house are pointed out, as if the parent and the fourteen-year-old are still so tied together that anything a parent does that is deemed “embarrassing” counts against the teenager.  It is common for parents to feel as if they are doing everything for a demanding teen, and receiving no gratitude at all.  The Gesell Institute mentions that a teenager of this age is at his or her best with friends.   And, most fourteen-year-olds really want to “fit in” with their peers.  They also tend to be friendly and outgoing with adults outside of the family, but busy and in a rush to get to the next thing.  Fourteen-year-olds, in general, have more humor, more give and take and are more open than thirteen-year-olds. 

Fourteen thrives best on a varied program and most especially enjoys extracurricular activities and clubs – athletic, scientific, dramatic, musical.”  I think this is especially important for homeschooling families to consider – many homeschoolers talk about activities for small children or “preteens” but honestly, it is the teenagers who really need connections and activity more than ever to keep homeschooling successful. 

Most girls are done growing by the end of this year height-wise and maturity features now approximate more of young adulthood.   Very few girls have not menstruated by their fourteenth year.  They may be interested in the more complex areas involving reproduction – contraception, and what happens when things don’t work out in carrying a pregnancy to full-term. and even more complex topics.    Many boys have an extremely rapid increase in height at fourteen.  Boys’ bodies become more heavily muscled, deepening of the voice is more noticeable. Fourteen is an age when many girls are good at taking care of their own personal hygiene, but boys often do not do a good job and need to be reminded to wash with soap and use shampoo.  Most fourteen-year-olds have an increased sense of responsibility toward taking care of their clothes and rooms.

Fourteen is not as “edgy” as thirteen.  Thirteen may be full of withdrawal and touchiness, but fourteen is full of life and fun.  That being said, there is still moodiness, irritability, tiny issues that become huge, and they can go completely out of bounds in trying to overschedule themselves and their social lives.  There can be violent anger or very distressed emotions, but these outbursts are generally far apart.  They cannot view these outbursts from an adult point of view so they may know they are critical or sarcastic or other things, but really can’t do much about it or see it much past that.   Happy moods outnumber the sad moods, but annoyance or moodiness is there. Outbursts against siblings can be rather explosive. There really is no hiding of emotions for most fourteen-year-olds and this most often seems to run to irritability, anger, annoyance.   Fourteen year olds are not as vulnerable as a thirteen year old;  they can “strike back” over something they perceive as unfair or be nonchalant, or take things as a joke and laugh them off.  Fourteen-year-olds can take this new maturity and enjoy competition.  They like to compete at this age. 

Ames, Ilg and Baker write in their book, “Your Ten-To Fourteen-Year-Old” that, “By now, the most intensely inwardizing work of Thirteen has pretty much been accomplished.  The reflective process, the living with oneself, the thinking about oneself which characterizes Thirteen are all a bit like an active hibernation process.  Then comes the time when the inner biological clock is turning, and the time for emergence into the sun arrives.  And that time in many is fourteen.”  They are ready to do something outside of themselves and be absorbed in that.  They start to learn how to adapt to the limits of the outside world, and how to make choices.  Fourteen is an age where many adolescents feel good about themselves. 

Many blessings,
Carrie

Talking About Alcohol and Drug Addiction

Those of you who have followed this blog for some time and have read my back posts on healthy sexuality, know that I am one for just layering in conversations about things over time.  For example, I feel fortunate that over the years I have been involved in breastfeeding counseling and have always worked with families and new babies.  Because of this, we have had many conversations around this very practical life experience, seen up close and personal and discussed what new babies and new parents need.  Now that our oldest daughter is a teenager, it has been easy to layer in candid conversations about healthy sexuality as we go. And, I think in order to talk about healthy sexuality, we need to talk about ourselves, how we perceive ourselves, and about addiction and the use of alcohol and drugs. 

The conversations doesn’t mean nothing will ever happen.  There are  absolutely no guarantees in raising children into adulthood; all you can do is be open and warm and provide information and share experiences.  People often act as if homeschooling is protective; I don’t view homeschooling that way.  Homeschoolers are open to the same sorts of things that go on everywhere. Homeschoolers live life just like everyone else. 

If you have experienced alcohol or drug addiction, or grew up with that, of course you will want to think ahead regarding how much you want to share and at what age you want your children to be to share it…But it is great to start thinking about that when your children are small (and on the flip side, it is never too late to have the conversation).  You may save your child’s life and your child’s family.  Addictions break families.

Addiction issues run in my family and I have been very upfront in layering in conversations over the years about the results of addiction to alcohol and drugs.   You can read a little about the role of genetics in addiction  here.   I want my older children to know the real risks of alcohol and drug addiction  just as they should know about the other medical  and mental health issues that people in our family have experienced.  I view alcohol and drug addiction as a medical problem, not something to be hid and not talked about. 

Something that  has also really prompted my conversation with my older children  as well is the information to be found in the book, “A Neuroscientist’s Survival Guide to Raising Adolescents and Young Adults” by Jensen, MD.    One thing the author points out is that “teenagers get addicted to every substance faster than adults, and once addicted have much greater difficulty ridding themselves of the habit – and not just in their teen years but throughout the rest of their lives.” (page 117).  In other words, because teenaged brains are neuroanatomically primed for learning and are more “plastic”, they are also more prone to addictions than a mature adult.

I am sure I have mentioned this book  before on my blog because I love it, so please do look it up.   Here are a few interesting comments from that book regarding tobacco and alcohol:

Tobacco

  • Sleep deprivation in teens can lead to increased cigarette use. 
  • Cigarette smoking can “cause a variety of cognitive and behavioral problems, including attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and memory loss, and it has been associated with lower IQ in smoking teenagers.” (page 115). 
  • A single cigarette has more than four thousand chemicals and substances in it. 
  • Ninety percent of smokers begin before the age of eighteen. 
  • The more teens smoke, the more the pre-frontal cortex of the brain is affected, and poor decision-making occurs.  Some studies show that after just a few cigarettes, the adolescent brain begins to create new nicotine receptors – essentially remodeling itself so it is harder to stop smoking.

Alcohol

  • When teens drink alcohol, they tend to drink four or five drinks in one session.  The definition of binge drinking  is considered when one consumes more than four or five drinks in a two hour period.  Studies show that binge drinking typically begins around the age of thirteen and then peaks between ages eighteen to twenty-two. 
  • The teenaged brain has less GABA receptors than the adult brain and handles some of the sedative aspects of drinking better than adults – which unfortunately means greater physiological tolerance of drinking which can result in an incentive to drink more.  Because drinking is social, and because studies have shown that teens frequently underestimate the amount of alcohol those around them are drinking, the combination can be deadly.
  • There are also terrible long-term consequences to alcohol in the teenaged brain, including attention deficit,  depression, memory problems, and reduction in goal-oriented behavior.  The damage is actually worse for girls’ brains than boys’.  Alcohol abuse shrinks the size of the hippocampus and also blocks the glutamate receptors the brain needs to build new synapses.     The hippocampus is where short-term memories are turned into long-term memories.  Many teens and young adults experience blackouts when they drink; young women may be at greater risk for memory impairment from alcohol.  Researchers are not totally sure why this may be yet.  
  • Children and adolescents who begin drinking before the age of 15 are four times more likely to  develop alcohol dependence later in life than those who begin drinking at the legal drinking age of twenty –one (United States).

I don’t really have the room here to go into the neuroanatomic changes caused by marijuana, Ecstasy, cocaine and other drugs on the adolescent brain, but I just leave this post with a reminder of the  general signs of drug abuse:  withdrawal, dramatic changes in appetite or sleeping habits, excess irritability, lack of personal hygiene, speech that is too rapid or too slow, bloodshot eyes, consistent cough, irregularities in the eye pupils or eye movements, change in group of friends. 

Keep watchful, and please talk to your children. Conversations about these topics should be natural, normal,warm, open,  and layered in over time with your children.  Always keep in mind that the biology of the brain of a teenager makes addiction much more difficult than even in adults.   These conversations – sexuality, addiction, dealing with stress, challenges such as depression and anxiety or other difficult behaviors that many times actually begin in adolescence –  deserve loving, kind parental conversations, action, boundaries, connections in the community, assistance.  These topics are really just part of being human and adolescents deserve our time and attention to be there for these challenges.  There are many things we can shy away from as parents, or  areas where we don’t feel we excel, but these topics deserve our attempt.

Blessings,
Carrie

Connecting With Young Children: Educating the Will–Week Eight

Chapter Three of Stephen Spitalny’s “Connecting With Young Children:  Educating the Will” is all about the senses as gateways to relating; how sensory impressions are a link between ourselves and the world around us.  The sense impressions or information that we receive lead to a response in our thinking, feeling or willing.  Young children have willing forces and imitative forces, but they do not think or feel about something in relation to a sense experience in the way that an adult does. 

The author asserts that young children are in the process of forming their physical bodies and that the things young children experience leads to a “soul response pattern”.  The young child before the age of seven is solely a sense organ, and the moods, thoughts and feelings of the adults around them and their experiences lead to formative qualities in the child himself or herself.  Therefore, part of Waldorf Education is to have the adult understand the role we play in shaping the health of the young child. 

There are at least twelve senses worked with in Waldorf Education; I have written many back posts on these senses.  These senses are the Sense of Touch, the Sense of Life (general feeling of well-being), the Sense of Self Movement, the Sense of Balance as the Lower (and Foundational Senses).  The Sense of Smell, the Sense of Taste, the Sense of Sight and the Sense of Warmth are the middle senses where the human being brings some of the world into his or herself and becomes aware of a relationship to the world.  The Sense of Hearing, the Sense of the Word (Speech), the Idea or Concept of the Other, the Sense of the Ego of the Other are the upper senses.  Empathy is seen as based on sensing the other. 

The author writes on page 57, “ Attention to the development of the senses in young human beings is at the core of an education attempting to renew culture and create a fertile ground for human connecting. These twelve senses are the doorways to relating the self to the body, the self to the world around and the self to other human beings.”

Hope you are still reading along,

Carrie

Weeks One and Two of Fifth and Eighth Grade

Hard to believe we are finishing up the second week of school.  After eight years of homeschooling the grades, and I guess more  years if you count in the last kindergarten year, I have come to a few conclusions regarding scheduling that could be helpful to other parents:

1.  Schedule your school year and have your blocks cover LESS time than the weeks of school you have available.  For instance, if you have 35 weeks for school, plan blocks for 32  weeks.  This way, you can take advantage of being a homeschooler and go visit places around you, go to neighborhood farms, or whatever it is in your area that you would like to visit and do during the school year and  not feel guilty about “losing days”.  This is not as big an issue in grades 1-5, as these experiences work into the curriculum and there is less “bookwork”,   but I think it does become more of an issue in the upper grades.

2.  Schedule your starting date carefully.  For quite a while when my oldest was little, we always started after Labor Day.  Then I adjusted and started when the children in our neighborhood were starting .  This year, our start date was around then.  One child in the grades was enthusiastic to go back and the other child was decidedly not.  So, you may not make everyone happy, but I feel like this year we could have started a few weeks after we actually did.

Six Year Old Kindergarten – It is so much fun having a little kindergartner in the house!  We have worked with the stories of St. Herman of Alaska, St. Mary and this coming week St. Aidan as part of our family religious life.  We have had a very long circle with foot plays, fingerplays,, and songs based upon the them of the garden, especially sunflowers and insects.  I have taken the story of “Hans and the Beautiful Flower” and modified it for our season and geographic area and told it with silk marionettes, with wooden figures, and without props.   We have baked, painted, made seasonal crafts, and modeled with beeswax.  Kindergarteners,, at least mine, are such willing helpers around the house too, so all the cleaning and sweeping is part of our daily lives and tasks.  Our little guy is just naturally counting forwards and backwards as part of life, and picking out letters and sounds by himself.  So, I think when we get to first grade next fall it will be a fun year.  I already have an idea for a theme for first grade circulating in my head!  Other than that,  he is busy playing and being active.

Fifth Grade –  We started this year with a good, solid rhythm.  We have two opening verses, several tongue twisters and then math games with either bean bags, a ball or copper rods, along with a botany verse and sometimes a tie-in with grammar.  Then we normally review math, cursive writing and/or some spelling, and have a brief break for a read-aloud .  These past few weeks we have read Holling C. Holling’s “Tree in the Trail” and “Paddle to the Sea” and got acquainted  with maps of the United States… Then we have a little verse for  beginning our main lesson and we have been diving into botany.  Our first week of botany felt a little unsettled and rather lukewarm, but this second week focusing on fungi and moving into algae has been very good.  We had a mushroom hunt and  have been doing drawing, wet on wet painting, and clay modeling of mushrooms.  We have practiced quite a bit of shaded drawing.  Next week we have a field trip planned to a local garden, and I hope to keep things active the rest of this block.  I have more to say on this block since it is our second time through the material, and I hope to write a post on this topic. 

Eighth Grade – Our eighth grader was not ready to go back to school, so rather an unenthusiastic first week…although the work itself has been fine.  Our eighth grader really enjoys geometry and geometric constructions, but I am still really thinking about this Platonic Solids block.  One of the main pieces of this block that I learned in a workshop from our local Waldorf School is the transformation in clay from one Platonic Solid to another.  Both my daughter and I found this rather daunting and difficult.  Constructing these solids  through the construction of paper nets and making models was more successful, and I think working with dowels and  beeswax would be another way to approach this, although neither of these approaches has the fluidity of transforming one solid to another.  We tied each element into one of the elemental forces (air, wind, water, fire and finally the cosmic force) and into where it generally appears in nature, but it all still felt rather flat to me.  The resources we used  including “Making Math Meaningful”; “Mathematics in Nature, Space and Time” and the little book “Platonic Solids” by Sutton, plus my notes and experiences from the workshop I attended. We moved into Loci toward the end of this week – constructing curves from straight lines, such as the Parabola, etc.  “Making Math Meaningful” was helpful in this endeavor, although sometimes I find their instructions less than clear for non-mathematician me.

We have also been reviewing math, doing vocabulary, and reading “Across Five Aprils” and digging into literary analysis of this book.  We have also spent some extra time discussing some life skills – great conversation skills and personal finance.  I had grand plans to do World Geography for two afternoons a week to tie all the geography we have been doing since fifth grade together, but that hasn’t come together.  I will see if we can get that started next week.

We have been doing some handwork in the afternoons, and busy in general with horses, 4H, and swimming.

Hope you all have had a good start to your school year!

Blessings,

Carrie

Triumphant Families

I was reading an article  today about how some children recover from autism.  The article detailed the struggle in the journeys that the families go through in order to try to help their children reach their full capacities.  On the surface, it seems as if some families are “successful” because autism in their child is cured, and other families are not successful because their child’s autism persists (and the article also gives the standpoint that some autism advocates do not consider autism a condition needing to be cured – read the article and see what you think), even though often the same exact therapies were used.  Why do the therapies seem to work for some children but not the other children? That is a major question experts are asking. 

But what brought a tear to my eye in this article was reading these stories and thinking oh, these triumphant families!   These families who worked so hard on this journey of parenting their children with differing abilities,  and who were doing everything they could possible to help their child develop functional capacities.

And I thought about all the parents who struggle every day – whether it is with a sick child or a child with a chronic condition and how they balance all of that with all of that other family  members need; parents who are ill or who have a disability themselves and still give parenting everything they have; parents who might be struggling with normal developmental milestones; parents who are struggling with educational choices and options – the list goes on.

And what I see are beautiful parents who triumph in life and in parenting.  Life will always throw curve balls.  Life has things no one imagined in store for them when they started out in a relationship, in marriage or in parenting.  Yet, we learn to love ourselves, lean on others, and make it through.  I call that triumph.

Here in the Northern Hemisphere, it is the start of school or close to the start of school for many of us.  Here is wishing all families a beautiful year of goodness, beauty and truth.  Here is to having a triumphant year!

Many blessings,
Carrie

Nimble Feet in Waldorf Education

The tasks of the first three years (to be upright and walk; speech and then thought) are intricately tied into Waldorf Education.  We see that the legs are connected with gravity and the surface of the earth, and as the feet move it is often with an inward swing in relation to the joints of the knee and the hip even when we walk in a straight line.  The right foot is seen as moving counterclockwise and the left foot moves clockwise as archetypal patterns.  You can read more about this in the book “Foundations of the Extra Lesson” by Joep Eikenboom.  As our hands become “free”,  and no longer needed for locomotion as we stand and walk upright, they become useful as tools, for expression, for work, for caring for another in lifting gestures as we react to sensory impressions.  Feet  remain in contact with the ground, for the most part, in a stretching movement for walking. Stretching and lifting provide a counterpoint for each other within the development of the body.  One is as important as the other; one is the balance for the other.

There are many books containing hand gesture games, fingerplays and other verses and songs involving the hands.  Yet, the development of the nimbleness of the feet is an important component of the stretching of the body and the development of the will.

There are many ways to incorporate feet into verses, songs and rhymes.  Almost any rhyme typically used for the hands can be used for the feet in some capacity with a little creativity and incorporated into circle time.  Stomping, being on tip toes, patting the soles of the feet are all wonderful.  Autumn brings to mind horses having horseshoes put on, cobblers mending and tending to shoes, giants stomping, gnomes stomping and walking up and down stairways to the inner earth, all manner of forest and farm animals trodding softly or loudly.   Traditional rhymes such as “Shoe a little horse, shoe a little mare” and “Cobbler, cobbler, mend my shoe” work well for foot plays and combinations of toe and foot wiggling, bearing weight on different sections of the foot, and using the feet across midline.

Older children can work with some of the exercises suggested in the book “The Extra Lesson”.  Some of the foot exercises tie into remedial work for children who are restless or children who have trouble sleeping or who suffer from nightmares and challenges with writing.  Foot dominance is tied to the dominance needed for writing and for a sense of spatial awareness in general.  The nimble foot, the nimble mind!

Blessings,
Carrie

Pondering Homeschooling High School

So, we are at that summer between seventh and eighth grade with our oldest child and we need to start looking ahead and figuring out options regarding homeschooling high school (or maybe we don’t need options and that is an option!)…It has always been our plan to homeschool through high school, but sometimes it is hard to figure out how that will look, and I find there are not a lot of people to even talk with about the options as so many homeschooling parents in my area or whom I know personally plan to use a public or private high school.

Our family lives in a big metropolitan area that is in a relatively friendly-to-homeschooling state, so these are some of the options I have found so far:

  • Some people do hybrid homeschool programs, where the student goes to class two or three days a week and the off-days the student works at home.  At the end, the student “graduates” high school  from the hybrid program.  However, we don’t feel as pulled to the hybrids, because unfortunately for us, almost all of them use very conservative Christian curriculums, including science. So for our family that is out.
  • Some just use selected classes that they find locally, on-line, or distance,  to round out classes.
  • Some find accelerated private programs that are labeled “homeschool” programs but run three days a week or so 8-noon and contain an entire high school program (usually geared toward athletes or musicians who need to do their thing and still finish high school). 
  • Some homeschool at home with no outside classes or support.
  • Some homeschool with help of outside classes or not until the child is age 16 and  then does dual enrollment, which is where a student enrolls at a local college and earns both high school and college credit.
  • Some homeschool high school with an emphasis on real-life experiences, internships, etc and translate that into a transcript as needed – unschoolers do this all the time of course, but I find some families are drawn to this in the high school years – especially if their child has a certain passion!

So, for this eighth grade year we are homeschooling at home and using Oak Meadow distance learning for high school credit for Spanish I.  That is about as far as we have gotten, and I guess the rest will unfold over time.

I would love to hear your homeschooling high school experiences, thoughts and plans.

Many blessings,
Carrie