After The Fifteen/Sixteen Change

Many of you know that Waldorf Education and also in the way that I parent, I look not only at seven year cycles but the main developmental transformations of certain ages – six/seven, age nine, age twelve, age fifteen/sixteen.

Fifteen/sixteen is the one with the least amount of information out there if you Google, and yet I think it is the most dramatic developmental change of all..  You can see some of the characteristics of this change in this back post about the development of the tenth grader.  Many Waldorf teachers talk about how the fifteen/sixteen change is closer to the 9 year change (just bigger issues and challenges, I think!)

What is interesting to me is the feelings that are evoked in the parent when this transformation is done or fading away, much like when the nine year old change is fading away.  After the nine year change, the child hits ten, which is often seen as the hallmark “golden year” of childhood in Waldorf education.  I don’t think that happens after the fifteen/sixteen change for most teens.  When I talk to mothers of other sixteen and half year olds or seventeen year olds (and I have a daughter, so I am talking to other mothers with girls),  all of them say the same things:

They are guarded.  We don’t really talk that much.  We can have a long car ride and exchange only a few words.    I can feel them pulling away.  It is hard to know how to parent – how much to really input and how much to let go (by the way, I also hear this statement from mothers of boys who are about 18 – 19  if they are struggling with life changes).  

What seems to emerge after the trials of the fifteen/sixteen change is a calmer, more self-assured young person.  They don’t need to talk about everything anymore.  They are trying to handle things themselves in a more self-contained way than ever before.  They are preparing for their own life where they must stand on their own two feet.  Parents often are not sure how much to intervene or offer help at this stage.

So, with that in mind, I think it is really important for parents to:

  1.  Keep the time and space open for conversation and  connection.  Insisting on a walk together, or working together shoulder to shoulder, or that the car is a phone-free zone and we will must have conversation, or just find other places to have that time and space is important.
  2. Do insist on talking about the big things, even if you don’t get a great response.  This is a great time for coaching about risk (physical and emotional) and relationships.  Remember that this is the time when teens are at their riskiest due to the proliferation of reward receptors in the brain, so they do need to hear the messages.
  3. Do help them make great friends through emotional coaching.  At this time, you can’t make friends for them, but you can help them sort through personality types, boundaries, and patterns.  Tenth grade is often a time when one circle of friends is discarded and another circle becomes in place.  However, teens NEED good friends at this age. Good friends will help each other not take risks that are beyond stupid.  I talk to homeschoolers who often have a tight circle of good friends, which is great for this age.  However, if they only have one friend who sometimes is a good friend and sometimes is not a good friend, that can be harder and I actually would find it worrisome. While social skills are still maturing even at the ages of 17 and 18, which is something we don’t always remember,  I feel the depth of intimate relationships with family and friends can be a good indicator for how romantic relationships may go in the future, at least for girls.  Some teens need help in really being a good friend or in emotional IQ or in boundaries for relationships.  Share your experiences below; I would love to hear!
  4. Stop micromanaging. Whether or not they get their homework done in the time frame you would do it is not your problem.  Homework, getting to practice, those things are just going to have to be the test case for how to manage life.  And they won’t do it the  way you would do it.  Quit arguing and be supportive!  Being a teen is hard, hard, hard for many.  Some teens do just sail right through the later teen years, but for many THIS is the bumpiest time of life.
  5. Agree on the big rules.  Sleep, meals with the family,  media limits, getting work done comes to mind.  I find media limits to still be a thing many parents are struggling with.  Set the rules for the big issues and enforce them.  Little by little by the end of the first semester of senior year, your teen needs to start to take over even the bigger things.
  6. However, do keep track of the big things.  Some things that seem a little overwhelming to many young people I talk to include getting a driver’s permit or license (divided between the teens I talk to; some are thrilled and some are scared), job applications, college applications.
  7. Do insist on family meals, family vacations, family activities.  They may grumble and complain, but may secretly be glad!
  8. Do get some support from other parents who have children past the fifteen/sixteen change; even parents of fourteen and early fifteen year olds may not really understand where you are.  Even if it is just the smallest conversation in passing as we can longer the share the stories that are no longer ours to share, it helps to hear from parents with teens facing the same sorts of things – relationship changes, expectations for the future, etc.

Share your experiences below!



Dynamic Development

Childhood development is never static and is ever unfolding. Sometimes the big joke in parenting is sort of, “Wow!  I just figured out this stage and now my child is on to something new!”

In my approach to development, I combine my ideas from when I worked as a pediatric physical therapist,  studies from The Gesell Institute, and Waldorf education’s view of the child.  Periods of equilibrium and disequilibrium routinely occur throughout development, typically with disquilibrium around the half-year marks, and pronounced differences  in development typically most dramatically noted around 3 – 3 1/2, 6/7, 9 (talked about an awful lot in Waldorf literature) ,  12 (although I don’t hear much about this one in parenting circles), and 15/16.  I think 15/16 is by far the most difficult transtition.

Parents often ask what they need to be successful throughout all these changes as their child unfolds.  In my personal opinion of working with families over the years, I  think there are four things, mainly, that help this process of helping a child grow:  having your own “stuff”  under control (ever tried living with an alcoholic parent, narcissitic parent, etc?    And not all of us have these things, but most all of us have wounds from living; just some of us own those wounds and try to make this woundedness better for ourselves and the people who love us); affectionate  love and connection to our children (and to your partner if you have one); loving boundaries;   rhythm (which is a defining hallmark of whatever your own family culture is!).  I don’t think it is is about perfection; I don’t think it is about doing everything just right.    A child growing up is also a family growing up and adults developing and changing too.

It is never too late to do these four  things.  All of us can become more self-aware and work on what our wounds and triggers are; nearly all of us can work to become more peaceful and compassionate.  It is never too late to  connect to and love your children.  Children have love languages just like adults do, but most children I know certainly perceive love in time and attention.  I read a few psychology sources that state even just 15-20 mintues of concentrated time a day is important; other sources like this Washington Post article from 2015 talk about how quality is more important than quantity, how family practices like dinners together do matter, and how teens need to spend time with their parents.   We can learn how to hold boundaries; I think I started seriously writing about boundaries back in 2008 and have written many posts on boundaries since then.  This one and  this big list of boundaries are among my favorites.   Finally, it is never too late to discover your  values as a family and prioritize those with your time (this is the beginnings of rhythm and habit!).

In this month often associated with love due to St. Valentine’s Day, let us love our children enough to help them grow in the healthiest ways possible!

Blessings and love,


Unbusy In All The Right Ways

There is a lot of movement toward becoming “unbusy” – however when I look at many of these Facebook groups and websites, it almost becomes more about de-cluttering than it really is about picking the priorities of being unbusy or about…well, the life that happens along the way of homeschooling and parenting for many years.   To me, the material de-cluttering is actually the easy, if not time-consuming part.  The bigger question becomes, ” How does one become “unbusy” from too much life?”

This is  important  to think about because the reality is, for most people and for most homeschooling families, life does get busier the older children become (unless you have an roadschooling/wildschooling lifestyle or your children are just very introverted and don’t care about doing much).  Most older teenagers, especially, are eager to be busy.  When I talk to mothers of older teenager, they are busy. I have grown to think that in this season of life, it isn’t bad.   It just is.

The other thing to couple into this is that if you homeschool (and parent!) long-term over decades, LIFE just happens.  There may be illnesses in the family, death in the family, separation and divorce happens.  Life happens.  Sometimes there is more life than homeschooling.  It is one thing to sustain a very calm homelife for many years, but surely in fifteen to  twenty years or more of homeschooling a family  probably will hit some bumps along the way!

My very best advice for those of you with younger children is to figure out how to enjoy your days at home and of   being outside in nature with a simple rhythm but no real agenda.  Practice the art of just being in the moment.   I know the days and nights at home can sometimes feel endless, and parents sometimes rush to fill it all up.  And some of that comes from worry or fear.  Maybe you worry (just a little bit) about fitting in with mainstream society..  Maybe you worry ( just a little bit) about all the other children are starting gymnastics at 5 and cello at 4 and how will your child ever compete later on.  Maybe you worry about your child not having any friends.  Many of these things can wait. You only have the time for your children to have this protected innocence of being little  once.  The life of activities and more formal learning will come.  An d, by learning to be present in these early years, you can learn to survive the coming years of ups and downs.

For those of you on the cusp of becoming busier, my plea to you is not to have your eight to fourteen- year old carry a schedule or behaviors  like a sixteen year old.  There will be time enough to ramp things up.  We used to start things later, like sports in middle school.  We were just starting to get our feet wet in middle school, and our playing peaked in high school.  So, I know it doesn’t feel like it right now, when everyone is learning and doing things much earlier and for more sustained periods than we ever did in my years of growing up in the 1970s and 1980s, but I guarantee talent and drive can still lead to  great success  in the  high school years, even if your child didn’t start something super early.

If your child is under that fifteen/sixteen change, boundaries are still really important.  Don’t let them carry the behaviors or the straining separation from the family that the 15-17 year olds carry. Those in the 8-14 range are not there yet; if they are pushing to go there try creating a community for this age instead of a bunch of friends you don’t really know.  Family is life.  The separation will happen eventually, but I still think the goal is to have the family unit be the most important unit of togetherness.  If your child’s friends can be integrated into your family fun, and your child into family life of families that you are super close to, all the better for enriching everyone’s lives.  It becomes a community, not just an outside friend.  Our older daughter’s closest friends are like this, and we so appreciate it still.

Make time for family nights, dinner together, family vacations, limits on technology, long drives and long talks.  Help siblings learn to be together.  Help children learn to be content without being constantly stimulated, entertained, or with friends. These are skills that will determine health.

Think about your priorities as your children expand outside the home.  Sometimes this  expansion happens in your neighborhood, or school, or through an activity.  Our older girls ride horses and we are pretty wrapped up with horse care.  For the most part, I enjoy this.  It is a close knit community of support and love for all of our children.  Yesterday I was outside all day during a horse show while our son played all day outside (hay bales can be a full-on day of entertainment!).   Win-win.  It is good to think about these things when your children are 8-14.  It isn’t just about what your child wants to do but also  can it be a supportive community for the whole family?

For those of you with older  high schoolers past that 15/16 change….they have their WHOLE lives ahead of them.  It doesn’t all have to happen in four years of high school.  Life is way beyond the high school years, and the late teens and early twenties I think are a hard time period where young people still need our support.   My cousin and I were talking about this just last weekend – how hard the early twenties actually were hard times and how family support, even in the form of letters back in the day, were very helpful. Sometimes it only takes one person to make a different in the life of an 18-22 year old.

In homeschooling high school, I see many homeschooling parents, including myself sometimes, feel antsy about these years.  Are we doing enough in our teaching? (We are!)  I always think that the children who are brillant in school probably would have been brillant at home too, and the children that aren’t so brillant at school probably will do better at home than they would at school.  Find the balance between the need for chill and the need for  accountablity, perhaps with you or with someone else.  Some high schoolers really need the “someone else” to rise up. That is okay.   Most of the parents I talk to talk about the long days their teenagers keep, especially those teenagers  in pursuit of colleges, and how they  boh teenagers and parents are exhausted.  You can read more about why the average American teen is exhausted and burned out here.  If this is what we are coming to as a society, I think we as parents need to rebel for the health of this future generation.  Balance is needed for our future leaders. Help your teenagers find your family priorities, and learn that give and take.

Choose to be unbusy in all the right ways.

Blessings and love,



Seventh and Eighth Grade Chemistry

I will be preparing to do seventh grade chemistry this month for the second time, so whilst I have some ideas about seventh and eighth grade chemistry, I may have things to add after going through it two more times (this February and  then again in the future for our youngest).

First of all, the two resources I recommend whole-heartedly include:

A Demonstration Manual for use in the Seventh Grade Chemistry Main Lesson

A Demonstration Manual for Use in the Eighth Grade Chemistry Main Lesson

For Eighth Grade only: What Einstein Told HIs Cook: Kitchen Science Explained


Seventh Grade Block:

First of all, do see my friend Tanya’s guest post from when she did seventh grade chemistry here.  She was kind enough to share great detail.

Here is a list of what ended up in our  seventh grade main lesson book for Chemistry.  This includes some of the artistic work we did.

We did the same things that Tanya did, and started with combustion in week one. We did speech work with poems as well these first two weeks.   The first day we talked about safety rules, and I did a presentation regarding combustion. We found materials we could burn,  and figured out which ones burned well and which ones didn’t.  We worked with igniting a fire with flint and steel, and  using a magnesium fire starter and talked about the invention of matches and fire starting.  We compared and constrasted the way solids, liquids, and gases burned and made a table regarding this.  We then ended by burning powdered metals we had ordered from Homeschool Science Tools (iron, zinc, copper, magnesium fillings).  We explored why a fire needs air to burn, and used a blow torch in conjunction with a colored flames and flame kit I already had tucked away.

In the second week, we experimented with a candle flame.  We observed the greatest area of heat in a candle flame and drew pictures. We also did an experiment with Cool Light from a science kit that I thought fit in nicely.  We then moved into the Water Cycle,  and how water is a universal solvent.  We also explored water as a catalyst. Part of our speech work for this week was Patrick Henry’s speech, which was a catalyst for the American Revolution.  We made a list of crystals from table salt as part of one of our experiments, and did an experiment of crystallization of epsom salts.  I also did a demonstration of  a colorful silicate garden.  Here is a blog entry about combustion and candles that has a little more detail.  We ended with the limestone cycle.

During the third week of chemistry, we made borax crystals, and then we moved into exploring acids and bases.   We worked with tasting acids and bases and made a list of their properties.  We used indicators, including cabbage juice as an indicator, and we neutralized vinegar with milk of magnesia.

Eighth Grade Block:  Organic Chemistry ( I consider physiology and covering the digestive system and the idea of what food does in the body and in a culture a prerequisiste before doing this block).

Ideas for Carbohydrates

What are our taste buds?  What kinds of things can we taste?

Are all carbohydrates sweet?  What is the role of a carbohydrate for living creatures?  What is cellulose? What is glucose?  What are the classes of carbohydrates?

Copy table page 9 Bojarksky’s book/ Look at “A Tight Squeeze” in “What Einstein Told His Cook” and do Demonstration #1 “A Comparison of the Solubility of Salt and Sugar”

Day 2- Write up demonstration from yesterday, look at “Two Kinds of Browning” in “What Einstein Told His Cook” and do Demonstration #2 “Melting and Burning Sugar”; make fudge and discuss the role of sugar crystalization and the role of sugar in fudge-making.

Read all of Chapter 1 in “What Einstein Told His Cook”

Day 3 – Student does Demonstration 6 – why does the potato bubble?  Do Demonstration 8.  Look at video of production of sugar from sugar cane mill.  There are 11 operating sugar mills in Louisiana.  Do Demonstrations 9 and 10.  Make Fehling’s Solution and Test for Simple Sugars

Day 4- Prepare Potato Starch by Hand; do Iodine Test for Starch; Demonstration 20 Breakdown of Starch with Hydrochloric Acid and Breakdown of Starch with Saliva Method.  Homework to write up breakdown of starch with saliva and hydrochloric acid.  Munch on celery sticks – how do we digest celery?

Day 5- The Physics of Popcorn; Make Tapioca Pudding

Day 6 – Proteins -The Role of Proteins in the body, the role of enzymes as catalysts;  read pages 124-129 in “What Einstein Told His Cook”; burn proteins outside (they smell bad!); Egg White Experiment

Day 7 – Write up summary of proteins; Heat Milk and look at Coagulation of Casein, A MIlk Protein, with vinegar

Day 8 -Make Bone Broth; read pages 143-156 in “What Einstein Told His Cook”; look at brining meat

Day 9 – Fats and Oils; fatty acids as part of larger family chemists call carboxylic acids.   Difference between  monounsaturated, polyunsaturated and saturated fats. Render fat, do the brown paper test for fats; read pages 68-70 in “What Einstein Told His Cook”

Day 10- Extract Lemon Oil from Lemon Peel; Experiment with Common Oil; Oil and Water; read pages 70-76 in “What Einstein Told His Cook”

Day 11 – Burning Oil meets water experiment; extinguish burning oil; read pages 78-82 of “What Einstein Told His Cook”

Day 12 – Make Mayonnaise; look at flax seeds and make in banana bread – why does it work as a substitute for eggs?  Read pages 84-88 in “What Einstein Told HIs Cook”

Day 13- Make Ice Cream; Saturated vs. unsaturated fats

I decided not to go into cosmetics but that is another place some Waldorf School teachers spend a good deal of time.  I chose more of the cooking route.  Donna Simmons has good information about this approach, which I built on above,  in her Christopherus Rough Guide to Eighth Grade.

Please see The Parenting Passageway Facebook Page for pictures of our seventh and eighth grade chemistry main lesson book pages.



Nurturing Parenting: The 12-14 Year Old

One interesting thing that Waldorf Schools typically do in sixth grade (at least in the United States) is to have the students make dolls.  These are  not put together the way a professional dollmaker would put a doll together,  but more from an organic process that almost follows the development of the embryo itself and forshadows the physical development of the human being as it comes to life.  From loving nothingness to a small tightly wrapped ball (the head), expanding into the universe as a defined trunk  then with limbs taking shape (arms with a thumb and legs with feet)  and finally  a little being with twinkling eyes,  beautiful hair and clothes.

This fulllness of the human being is then echoed in seventh grade physiology, in eighth grade studies of reproduction, and in tenth grade in the studies of embryology.  This beautiful expanse of the human being is coming at a time of intense fragility of the 12-14 year old.

It is easy to think that once one is through the nine/ten-year-change, that the floodgates open wide. I have discussed some of these issues before in a series on portals.  And yet, there is still a twelve-year-old change to follow, and a fifteen/sixteen year change, which to me may be the most dramatic of them all.

Much like the toddler stage of life, young people of this age need protection at this time.  This is the time of the middle school grades in the United States, and often noted to be a very difficult time due to differences in physiological development, peer cliques, and I believe that the use of social media has compounded these issues. Being rather stuck between wanting to be more adult-like but also have the freedoms of childhood is difficult for the child, but also for the parent!

There is a certain fragility and uncertainty in these years that are like no other. Balancing the freedoms often provided to these group and the structure is a navigational process. I believe this age group needs protection from their limitless energy and wanting to do too much.  The limits of this age group in doing activities has essentially been eliminated. In the past, one might start playing sports in middle school (and you didn’t get much play until 8th grade) or doing more than one activity in high school. Now children in middle school have been playing sports for years and doing many activities.  They need help setting guidelines for sleeping, healthy eating, and more, and helping in meeting those guidelines even when they would rather stay up extraordinarily late or eat only sugary snack food.

So, in parenting this age group, please consider limits.  Children of 12-14 should not be treated like an older teenager with all the fun and none of the responsibilities.  While there is a campaign to“Wait Until 8th” for a smartphone , many twelve to fourteen year olds are navigating social media sites and media usage.  Media should not be limit-free for this age group!  Sending nude pictures, sexting, and using social media and texts in order to bully  a peer is sadly not uncommon in this age group because again, many of the children this age have no limits in terms of hours on their devices, and parents are not checking phones and computers.  One way to think about setting limits on media is to use a device like a Disney Circle; you can see a review from 2015 here; I believe now certain sites can be more easily blocked than what this review has stated.  Some parents have no idea what their child is doing on line or that they have multiple used profiles on Instagram or are on Snapchat or other sites. Devices such as these can trail usage across multiple devices.

Children of this age may need help being active in a free and easy way.  Many children this age like to “hang out” but the days of 12  and 13 year olds zooming bikes around a neighborhood or playing pick up games may not happen as much in the past.  How can this child be active without or in addition to an organized sport?  This typically requires free time that has no agenda. Having time to just be protects children and gives them space in this fragile state where they are emerging and trying to hear their own voice and may even give them time to connect with you, the parent.  You are still more important than peers at this age. In fact, I think the ages leading up to the fifteen/sixteen year changes may be one of the times you have the greatest influence.  So don’t give up! 

Lastly, help your child not to be a terrible human being with peers.  No, we can’t police everything, and yes, perhaps we were not policed in our peer relationships at this age in the past, and yes, friendships come and go in the middle school years as middle schoolers try to find their own voice and where they belong.  However, I think because so much of the free group play of the early years and early grades has been lost and replaced by adult-led, structured activities, children this age are coming into the more socially difficult middle school years with even less social abilities than in previous generations.  Help your child to learn what a loyal friendship looks like; is that friend really a friend or not; what bullying and toxic behavior looks like, talk to them about peer pressure in the areas of drugs and alcohol and sexuality.

Provide areas where children MUST show responsbility, whether that is nurturing the home, helping to care for a younger sibling, help with elders in the family, run a tiny business from the home.  Too many of the children this age have many toys and a run of what they want to do with no limits, but yet have no responsibility outside of themselves in terms of contributing to the family.

Most of all, just love them.  These years bring many changes in development in all areas being human.  Remember that this age is not 17 or 18 though, and as opposed to guiding an older teenagers with check-ins, they may need more parenting and limits than an older age group.  Being involved in this fragile, almost back to toddlerhood stage of needing protection is how it should be. It is a fine line between hovering and meddlesome and being helpful; boundaries are key to navigating this.  If you need help, I highly suggest you make friends with parents who have older children that you admire.  It can be helpful to hear what worked really well at this age, especially in those older teenagers that might have a similar personality to your younger child.




Rhythm Renewal!

I am very excited that this may be the week that some things straighten out and we will have less emergency driving for medical issues amongst our family members. Being closer to home is ALWAYS helpful in re-establishing rhythm.  I have heard from many of you that this autumn has been difficult for varying reasons, and that we all need a rhythm reboot!

The benefits of rhythm are so astounding in forming a peaceful family life.  Having a clear flow to the day ( a flow, not a rigid minute-by-minute schedule) helps everyone approach the day with understanding and cooperation.  The only person who can determine the rhythm that is right for your family is YOU and your family members.  No two families are alike, and no two families have the same daily and weekly rhythm.

I can’t totally guess what our rhythm will look like once we have our four-legged family member home and the amount of care that will entail, but I do know basically for now our rhythm looks somewhat like this:

Mondays, Tuesdays, Fridays:

  • Morning Rhythms
  • High School Main Lesson
  • Second Grade Main Lesson (includes physical activity outside)
  • Seventh Grade Main Lesson
  • Lunch and Rest
  • Writing or Health
  • All together projects
  • Barn Life for the older two children on Tuesday, possibly other days as needed. Fridays I usually stay home and clean and get ready for a peaceful weekend.

And on Wednesdays it looks like

  • Morning Rhythms
  • High School Main Lesson
  • Seventh Grade Main Lesson
  • High Schooler Outside Class/ Lunch
  • Barn Life

And on Thursdays, our crazy day

  • Morning Rhythms
  • High Schooler at outside class
  • Second Grade Main Lesson
  • Seventh Grade Main Lesson
  • Lunch
  • Music classes/Music Lessons

I wrote a seven-part series about rhythm in 2012 that might be of help to you if you are trying a rhythm reboot!

Part One

Part Two

Part Three

Part Four

Part Five

Part Six

Part Seven

Why Did We Think Parenting Would Be Easy?

Parenting is hard.  Some ages are harder than others.

It is messy.

It brings up triggers and baggage.

It brings up woundedness.

It can bring out our best side, but also our worst side.

It brings up differences with our significant other and magnifies them.

It is hard.

I think parenting is all of those things.  Why did we think parenting was going to be easy?

I think the more that we can acknowledge that things are different from when we grew up, but that development in and of itself is not different, is where we can start to heal and find the beautiful in the messy.  Finding that each child is an individual, but that development also takes a fairly predictable course can be comforting and exhilirating and helpful.  All at the same time.

I have posts about EVERY age from birth all the way through age 16 on this blog under the “Development” header.  You can find a lot of support there in those back posts. While I do not write as much regarding each specific age anymore, those posts are there for you.

Hang in there, parents.

Find the beautiful in the messy.

Find the beautiful in being a human being and in raising one.

Find the common ground with your significant other.

Find the lovely in the hard and the smooth inside all of those rough edges.

It is messy. Some children and personalities are honestly harder than others.  It is okay.   It is parenting.

Blessings, and love,