Monday, January 30, 2012

What Creates "Teenagers?"

"Little Women" book illustration by Jessie W. Smith

 Did you know that before the early 1900's, no one EVER used the term "teenager?" And not only did the term not exist, but there was also no expected "teenage" behavior and no rampant, cultural adolescent angst.

This morning I read a fascinating, encouraging article from the "Scientific American Mind" magazine that I knew I just had to share on my blog today.

This article addresses the myth that adolescents have a "different" type of brain than adults. The author, Dr. Robert Epstein, wrote the article way back in 2007.

You can read the entire article at this link, and I've also included some great excerpts from the article, as well.

Today, with teens trapped in the frivolous world of peer culture, they learn virtually everything they know from one another rather than from the people they are about to become. Isolated from adults and wrongly treated like children, it is no wonder that some teens behave, by adult standards, recklessly or irresponsibly. Almost without exception, the reckless and irresponsible behavior we see is the teen’s way of declaring his or her adulthood or, through pregnancy or the commission of serious crime, of instantly becoming an adult under the law. Fortunately, we also know from extensive research both in the U.S. and elsewhere that when we treat teens like adults, they almost immediately rise to the challenge.
In 1991 anthropologist Alice Schlegel of the University of Arizona and psychologist Herbert Barry III of the University of Pittsburgh reviewed research on teens in 186 preindustrial societies. Among the important conclusions they drew about these societies: about 60 percent had no word for “adolescence,” teens spent almost
all their time with adults, teens showed almost no signs of psychopathology, and antisocial behavior in young males was completely absent in more than half these cultures and extremely mild in cultures in which it did occur.
Even more significant, a series of long-term studies set in motion in the 1980s by anthropologists Beatrice Whiting and John Whiting of Harvard University suggests that teen trouble begins to appear in other cultures soon after the introduction of certain Western influences, especially Western-style schooling, television programs andmovies. Delinquency was not an issue among the Inuit people of Victoria Island, Canada, for example, until TV arrived in 1980. By 1988 the Inuit had created their first permanent police station to try to cope with the new problem.
Consistent with these modern observations, many historians note that through most of recorded human history the teen years were a relatively peaceful time of transition to adulthood.
Teens were not trying to break away from adults; rather they were learning to become adults. Some historians, such as Hugh Cunningham of the University of Kent in England and Marc Kleijwegt of the University of Wisconsin–Madison, author of Ancient Youth: The Ambiguity of Youth and the Absence of Adolescence in Greco-Roman Society (J. C. Gieben, 1991), suggest that the tumultuous period we call adolescence is a very recent phenomenon—not much more than a century old.
FAST FACTS from the Article:
Troubled Teens
1) Various imaging studies of brain activity and anatomy find that teens and adults use their brains somewhat differently when performing certain tasks. These studies are
said to support the idea that an immature “teen brain” accounts for teen mood and behavior problems.
2) But, the author argues, snapshots of brain activity do not necessarily identify the causes of such problems. Culture, nutrition and even the teen’s own behavior all affect
brain development. A variety of research in several fields suggest that teen turmoil is caused by cultural factors, not by a faulty brain.
3) Anthropological research reveals that teens in many cultures experience no turmoil whatsoever and that teen problems begin to appear only after Western schooling, movies and television are introduced.
4) Teens have the potential to perform in exemplary ways, the author says, but we hold them back by infantilizing them and trapping them in the frivolous world of teen culture. 

WHY are we parents doing our best to turn our own youth, our precious sons and daughters, into annoying teenagers?! Why are we holding them back in their progression, and cutting their potential short?

If we could get past all the myths we've been taught, and in turn allow our youth to be the adults God designed them to be, can you imagine how society would change?

My mind is reeling from the thought of it.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

As Sands through the Hour Glass...

(You know you finished the sentence in your head!) *hee!*

So, as usual, I am late to this blog game, but better late than never, right?

(If you are curious as to how I schedule our days, while still allowing myself to be the "free-spirit-who-despises-schedules", see this post I wrote for the Latter-Day Homeschooling blog.)

I read Cocoa's post about her typical day late Tuesday evening, and so I'm recording what happened in our house yesterday...

Good Morning!

I began the day by squinting one eye open at the sound of a little 4 year old voice whispering, "Can I have a banana?"

I mumbled a heavy "Yes," and rolled over to try to catch more shut eye. Ha! (It should not surprise anyone when I relate that all attempts at getting more rest were fruitless.)

A new day had begun!

Sleepy Morganne being awakened by happy Eryn
I found my big kids in the living room, waiting for their biking buddy, Mark, to join them in a ride to seminary at the local high school. (We only have one vehicle, and the school's not too far away, so they get a little exercise each day.)

Working on one of his compositions
Morganne (age 18) likes to go back to sleep on the couch after getting ready, and Brennan (age 16) plays on the piano while waiting. Our Lliam (age 15) was getting ready a bit later than the other two.

Prepared to brave the "cold"-- which is luckily not very cold here.

The youngest kids (ages 8, 6, 4, 3, and 19 months) are usually busy playing hard and making messes just before 6am. Even if we went to bed with a clean house, it will be destroyed before the big ones leave at 7am.

Rumpled Grayse and Ava
Lately Russell has been getting up earlier to get more hours in at work. His New Year's resolutions are to avoid going out to eat and to eat healthier, so he's usually making himself breakfast and packing his lunch of leftovers before the big kids head out into the dark morning.

Since most of us are out of bed, we gather for family prayer. We always sing the Primary song "Family Prayer" before Russell calls on someone to pray, so often still-sleeping kids will get up and rush in at the sound of the song. That's not its purpose, but it does make me smile! :-)

Ronan is up!
The big ones ride off to seminary as Bonny, Dierdre and I get our buddies changed and ready for the day. Russell heads in to work, and I decide it's time to get showered and dressed.

Mornings are for Organization

Bonny busily baking
While I'm getting ready, our Miss Bonny (age 13) starts making breakfast (her daily stewardship).  She wants to try a new recipe, and asks me what she should do about the brown sugar filling. I look at the recipe, and could see that it would not work with honey or maple syrup, so I tell her to go ahead and make it as is. I'll find something to eat on my own. (Yup, I'm still sugar-free.)

Unfortunately, because it's a new recipe, and because I didn't take note of how long it needed to bake, breakfast was destined to be VERY late....

To do...
While Bonny is busy cooking, I begin the daily nagging of "Get your jobs done!!!" and load and start the washing machine. I gather the things I'm hoping to accomplish this morning: two baskets of clean laundry waiting to be folded, and a box of my mom's photos I need to scan in to create a promised Christmas present for my baby sister; a photobook. (Hi, Abby Sue!)

Photos of the amazing Abby with her nieces and nephews
I start scanning, and mess with Shutterfly for far too long-- so the clean laundry was temporarily forgotten. The big kids are home from seminary just after 9:30am on Wednesdays, as opposed to 8:30am on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Fridays. There are no classes on Thursdays. (Yes, we have a very dorky school district we have to work around. :-p)

Bonny calls everyone to come eat her breakfast masterpiece, and I get off my rear to reheat some leftovers for my own breakfast. (It's now 10:30am. Yikes!)

She doesn't make it easy to resist, does she?
After breakfast, I take it upon myself to begin the chore-nagging once again. "You guys only have just over an hour to finish your jobs! Get busy!!!" This is when the kitchen gets the attention it needs. I finish eating, and decide to quit scanning and scrapbooking for the day.

Middays are for Education

Bothering Petting our Katie-Kitty
The kids and I get our chores done, and "school" begins. The little kids go outside to play, explore, and get filthy in the gorgeous Arizona sunshine, and the big kids get on the computers and/or hit their books. I require that my older ones from 11 years old on up do 1 hour of math before they do anything else online. (And if they start hanging out on Facebook before their other studies are done, they get to face a Mad Mother. *grr.*)

Brennan helping Gavin (age 11) with a math question
We have three computers in the Family Room, and my husband has a work laptop he brings home to use. But we have five kids who use the computers for their study, so we just have to take turns. Those with their jobs done first get to use the computers first. (Usually. Most of the time, they ALL have their jobs done by noon, and it's just a matter of who grabs which computer first.) 

We also have a quiet "study" room for those kids who are reading, studying, or writing-- things they don't need the computer for. (It's also where my husband works from home once or twice a week.) They also often read and study in their rooms.

While she waits for a computer to work on, Bonny teaches Dierdre some of the ballet techniques she's learned in her ballet class.
Somewhere in the midst of everything going on, Miss Eryn (19 months) goes down for a nap.

While the older kids do school work, I finally get to folding the clean laundry. I like to listen to something while I fold, so I put on a couple talks from the last LDS General Conference.

Later in the afternoon, I help our Dierdre (age 10) get going making a late lunch, due to our late breakfast. (Can I say "late" one more time? There.) She does a great job making oven-melted cheese sandwiches, and brings out the cottage cheese and applesauce to supplement. (Lunches are her stewardship during the week.) The baby gets up in time to eat and join in the rest of the afternoon playing.

The rest of the afternoon rolls slowly along, and before I know it, it's time for the younger boys (ages 11 and 8) to get ready for Cub Scouts, which begins at 6pm. I feel a flood of guilt wash over me as I realize the Pinewood Derby is this Saturday, and we haven't gotten started yet. Luckily, that's Russell's department, and I know he'll get to it soon.

Evenings are for Inspiration

Our lovely Miss Morganne has already begun dinner, so I know that's taken care of. (Dinner is her stewardship 5 nights a week.) I look around and realize the kids still haven't put their clean clothes away yet. More nagging! Oh, and it's hard not to laugh at the toddler who crashed in the midst of the laundry piles.

A collapsed toddler and the still-waiting folded laundry
Our Cub Scouts head out, and the big kids try to finish up their e-mailing and Facebooking before they head off to mutual. Five minutes before 7pm, our Morganne finishes making Hamburger Stew, and sadly has to leave before she eats any of it! So the big four go out the door (living across the street from our church building is AWESOME!), the boys come home from Cub Scouts, and those of us at home eat Morganne's yummy soup.

Morganne's Hamburger Stew, ready to eat.
You might be wondering where my husband is in all of our Wednesday evening craziness. Usually, he's hanging out with the Teachers' Quorum on mutual night, but tonight he has a programming meeting after work that's going to last until at least 9:30pm.

Notice the clean laundry buckets were emptied at last?
On Wednesday evenings, I usually let the younger kids watch a movie while the big kids are gone to mutual. Last night, they picked "The Secret Garden". I love this version of one of my favorite books, and they haven't watched it in quite a while. It was a good choice!

While the kids are watching the movie, I take advantage of our quiet living room and settle in to read. It's a good one, too!

The big kids arrive home at 8:30ish, eat their dinner, and finish watching the movie with the littles. (MacKenna, 6, and Grayse, 4, fall asleep before the movie finishes.) At around 9:15pm, the movie is over and I call the kids in for Family Scriptures and prayer. (Usually Dad's job, but since he's gone...) We're in 1 Nephi chapter 15, and had a good reading and discussion session.

Unfortunately, Miss Grayse wakes up angry about missing the movie's end and her turn reading. Once she calms down, I allow her to jump in and repeat her two verses. We sing our song, have our prayer, and Russell calls to let me know he's on his way home (9:40pm).

The kids disperse to brush their teeth and change into their pajamas. Russell arrives home, and everyone shares hugs and kisses. Some of the big kids stay up to discuss politics and some of the things Russell and I have been reading. He's been reading "Beyond Socialism and Capitalism", which goes pretty hand-in-hand with what I'm reading. (NOTE: the link to the book is NOT an affiliate one.)

I didn't get around to the final rounds of chore-nagging, so we all go to bed without finishing the kitchen jobs. But sometimes the late night discussions are more important, especially when Dad has been gone all evening.

It's been a good day. And now it's time to say "Good Night!"

Thursday, January 19, 2012

We Interrupt this Blog...

Me at age 2
 ... to join a blog party I'm way late for.

But I'm posting about it anyway.

The question Cocoa put to her readers was this:

What fictional character do you identify the most with?

Because I am generally indecisive and because I like waay too many characters and read waaaaaaaay too many books, I cannot answer this question with a single character. So here are my top seven. 

Yes, seven. Ten is too many, but five is too little.

(See? Indecisive.)

Some of these characters are warnings for me to not give into my bad tendencies and habits. (I think I'll start with the bad ones.) 

7) Mrs. Jellyby (from Bleak House by Charles Dickens) 
 I include Mrs. Jellyby here as number seven because she is the one I dislike the most, and yet find I have to constantly work at not being more like her. She is my "id," you might say. She spends so much time working hard on her pet "cause" that she no longer sees or concerns herself with the needs in her own home. Yeah. Not a happy thought. But she reminds me that I need to truly see what is of most importance in my life.
 "We passed several more children on the way up, whom it was difficult to avoid treading on in the dark; and as we came into Mrs. Jellyby's presence, one of the poor little things fell down-stairs-- down a whole flight (as it sounded to me), with a great noise."
"Mrs. Jellyby, whose face showed none of the uneasiness which we could not help showing in our own faces, as the dear child's head recorded its passage with a bump on every stair... received us with perfect equanimity. She was a pretty, very diminutive, plump woman, of from forty to fifty, with handsome eyes, though they had a curious habit of seeming to look a long way off. As if... they could see nothing nearer than Africa!"

6) Mrs. Bennett (from Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen)
 Poor Mrs. Bennett. No one seems to understand her! Unfortunately, I do far too often. Luckily, I am married to a husband who loves me even when I channel her silliness and laziness from time to time. (He's actually a lot like Mr. Darcy, but I'm no Elizabeth.) Oh, and I also can go from depressed and crestfallen to giddy and silly in an instant.
"Ah! you do not know what I suffer."
 5) Molly Weasley (from the Harry Potter series)
 I share many attributes with Molly Weasley. I have a large family that I like to fuss over. We don't have a lot of money in our family, but we do have a lot of love. I like to cook for and feed an army of teenage boys, I worry about my children and my husband, and I do tend to yell more often than I should. All that's missing is the red hair and her immense knitting talents. Oh, and the magic thing.

"You'd best hope I don't put bars on your window, Ronald Weasley."
"Where Have You Been?!"
4) Sophie Hatter (from Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones)
 I have to re-read this book at least once a year, but it's usually more like every six months. I don't know that I can accurately explain why I love this book so much. I think a big part of it is that I've always wanted to be beautiful, but never really ever have been. I mean, I'm fine with how I look, but somedays I feel like young Sophie burdened with a magical spell that makes her look and feel like an old woman. (Why would the handsome Howl ever think of her?)

She's also the oldest of her sisters and has always carried the burden and responsibility of being the strong one who needs to make everything good and happy for everyone-- even if that means sacrificing herself. I adore Sophie because she finally breaks out and stands up for herself once no one knows who she really is. And because she doesn't ever realize how very talented with magic she is in her own right.
 ""It's just a tantrum,' Sophie said. Martha and Lettie were good at having tantrums too. She knew how to deal with those. On the other hand, it is quite a risk to spank a wizard for getting hysterical about his hair. Anyway, Sophie's experience told her that tantrums are seldom about the thing they appear to be about."
"She stumped into the bathroom and stared at her withered old face in the mirrors. She picked up one of the packets labeled SKIN and then tossed it down again. Even young and fresh, she did not think her face compared particularly well with Miss Angorian's."
3) Anne Shirley (from the Anne of Green Gables series)
 I know, I know. So many young girls identify with Anne, but so do I. (I especially love Anne's adventures as a parent and adult in the later books.) When I was a child, my vivid imagination got me in to lots of trouble. And I am flighty and easily distracted by lovely thoughts and wild stories in my mind. I am stubborn and determined, digging in my heels even when what I am rebelling against is not the best thing for me. Oh, and I am a pretty big drama queen!
 "The downfall of some dear hope or plan plunged Anne into 'deeps of affliction.' The fulfillment thereof exalted her to dizzy realms of delight."
"There is a book of Revelation in every one's life, as there is in the Bible.Anne read hers that bitter night, as she kept her agonized vigil through the hours of storm and darkness. She loved Gilbert-- had always loved him! She knew that now. She knew that she could no more cast him out of her life without agony than she could have cut off her right hand and cast it from her. And the knowledge had come too late-- too late even for the bitter solace of being with him at the last."
2) Clare Peggotty (from David Copperfield by Charles Dickens)
 I love Peggotty! She is kind, but strict, and loyal to a fault. I have often caused myself trouble and headache because of my dedication and loyalty to those I love, though I've never had to endure some of the things dear Peggotty had to go through. I hope to be a solid, and strong, and as dependable as she was!
"'My own!' said Peggotty, with infinite compassion. 'What I want to say is. That you must never forget me. For I'll never forget you. And I'll take as much care of your mama, Davy. As ever I took of you. And I won't leave her. The day may come when she'll be glad to lay her poor head. On her stupid, cross old Peggotty's arm again. And I'll write to you, my dear. though I ain't no scholar. And I'll-- I'll--' Peggotty fell to kissing the keyhole, as she couldn't kiss me."
1) Pollyanna (from Pollyanna by Eleanor H. Porter)
 I have always been a wide-eyed Pollyanna. I love to talk, and I love people, and I want to believe the best of everyone. And I like to be hyper and cheerful, though I often annoy the daylights out of many. I don't think before I act, and I make all kinds of mistakes and silly assumptions. I want to be happy, and I want to make as many people happy as I can. (Which also can get me into trouble, too. I have a hard time realizing that I can never please everyone!) But I am glad to be "a Pollyanna."
"...I love folks so I just can't help it! I saw you from my window, Aunt Polly, and I got to thinking how you weren't a Ladies' Aider, and you were my really truly aunt. And you looked so good I just had to come down and hug you!"
"A little later Pollyanna and the minister descended the hill, hand in hand. Pollyanna's face was radiant. Pollyanna loved to talk, and she had been talking now for some time."
Thanks for letting me indulge in a bit of introspection. So fun!

What literary characters do YOU identify with the most???

Friday, January 13, 2012

Unplugged: Part One

In the midst of the droning hum of computers, appliances, and continuous music, my husband and I decided to do something different to welcome in the New Year.

But, let me back up for a moment.

A few months back I resolved to quit Facebook. And I'm happy to say that I'm still on that path. (Though I do answer messages and direct comments on my FB Wall-- which doesn't happen too often, thank goodness.)


I thought that quitting Facebook would be the cure for my Internet addiction, and while it helped, I still hadn't stopped wasting too much time online. (In fact, I began to substitute Pinterest for Facebook. Whoops.)


I prayed for help in kicking my addiction, and one day, in a rare quiet moment, the Spirit gave me the idea to have a media fast-- a week of disconnecting from the Internet, e-mail, movies, (we haven't watched television in years) and even eliminating listening to music from any machine. No i-Pods, i-Tunes on the computer, CD players, radios, nothing. (I did still allow my children to MAKE music on the various instruments in our house.)

I discussed the idea with my husband, and we both had a freeing happiness come over us. Ah, yes! This experiment was just the thing!

Now, we did have to create some exceptions for my husband. He is a web programmer, after all. But he decided to leave his work laptop at the office, and committed to joining us in the fast whenever he was home.

As we headed off to bed Sunday evening on January first, my husband shut down and even unplugged all three computers, our printer, the speakers, the wireless network and cable modem.

The silence was deafening.

The Switch

Monday dawned nice and early for us, Russell heading in to work before the sun rose.

I started thinking through a plan that Russell and I had discussed involving the switching of rooms with our seven girls so they would have more mirrors, more closet space, and more room for their baby sister. We felt that the media fast would be a great time to get this major moving project-- complete with "New Year Deep Cleaning"-- done. One major change that would HAVE to happen before switching was that the smaller room needed painting. For some strange reason, Russell just didn't like the idea of sleeping in a room with light lavender walls. (Go figure.) We decided to go to the home improvement store later that night to get some paint and supplies.

The kids and I had a hard time getting moving, but we eventually got the girls room packed up and  lots of my cluttered sewing supplies into boxes and put in the outbuilding in our backyard. (Hooray for strong teenage sons!)

When Russell got home he took the girls' bunk beds apart (and enormous job!), moved them into our front room, and the girls staked out spots on the couches to sleep on.

Day one ended with satisfaction, minimal whining, and that good, tired feeling that comes from working hard.

One day down, the new year was shaping up to look pretty good!