Monday, May 21, 2012

It's wrong to group kids by date of manufacture

Guest post by Teresa McCloskey

While at the park today with the kids, I saw a classmate of Mason's, coincidentally also named Mason and also in as much trouble with authorities as my own Mason.

Mason & Mason F. started kindergarten at the same time.  Their date of manufacture is obviously comparable.  They are both currently in 7th grade.  But Mason F. now stands nearly 2 feet taller than my Mason.  He's filling out.  Mason F. has very obviously hit puberty in his 12th - 13th year of life.  Mason F. was stealing backpacks from two girls then later blew them off to hang with a young lady dressed scantily in short shorts and a spaghetti tank top.  He escorted her out of the park looking every inch of a 16 or 17 year old if I hadn't known his real age.  Meanwhile, my Mason was happily climbing a tree and riding his bike up & down a hill as fast as he could.

Bradley was also along with us today.  He's now a couple inches taller than Mason, and his voice has started squeaking and cracking.  Bradley just turned 12 in February, so he's on the younger side, but still, puberty is making itself known as his jaw strengthens and he struggles between acting child-like and wanting to do more 'mature' things.

All 3 boys would fall in the realm of 'normal development' in terms of their physical growth.  Yes, my Mason's has probably been stalled and delayed a bit due to numerous issues, not the least of which is his stimulant medication for behaviors.  But what I found myself marveling about was the fact that any adult person would honestly and truly tell these 3 boys that they are ALL. NORMAL.  That their bodies will grow, change, develop, and mature at very differing rates, and that is NORMAL.  That puberty can strike anywhere from age 8-15 and nobody will bat an eye over it.  We will bend over backward trying to reassure a young person that it will happen for them, too; especially for those poor souls who do not physically develop until much later than their peers.  They endure such wonderful treatment from their friends by being called things like, "Smurf," and "Shorty," and probably a lot of names much crueler than that.  Each name surely hurts, though, and serves to remind that child that they are different, perhaps "less than" the others around them.

But if we adults work so hard to assure children that what their bodies are going through is 100% natural - as God intended - the way things are - beyond their control, why oh why do we not believe the same about the overall learning process? Why do we not trust that each individual's brain functions in a unique and individual manner which makes learning various skills and abilities come when nature intends?  Reading, math, writing - these are huge areas where kids are forced, pressured, and frequently demeaned, diminished, and coerced when they are not doing it at the same level as their peers.

Why do we do this to kids?  If we can trust their bodies to grow as nature intended, what on earth makes us think we know best when their minds should develop and exactly which skills their brains should be able to accomplish based on arbitrary timetables?  Why do we try to standardize their learning to be identical to every other child who was born around the same time rather than respecting that each child will fulfill their mind's destiny when offered a wide range of interesting information the way we offer a wide range of healthy foods?

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Teresa McCloskey is a mom of 4 boys, 'host' mom to countless exchange students from around the world, wife to one amazing husband, daughter of the King, student, life learner who no longer believes in time outs, naughty spots, spankings, shaming, or the compulsory government indoctrination institution system. John Holt, Alfie Kohn, Naomi Aldort, and Adele Faber are some of my heroes.
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