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    Educational Philosophy, Home Education

    The Proper Care and Feeding of Teenagers (Part 1: The First Principle)

    March 21, 2022 by Brandy Vencel

    The title of this series immediately makes us think about food, doesn’t it? And it’s true: serving good food is critical. But that’s Part 2. Today, we’re going to cover what I believe to be the first principle, the primary principle when it comes to raising young humans:

    To grow, humans require nourishment.

    I mentioned in the series introduction that I would be returning again and again to the idea that humans are a unity of body, mind, and soul — that we discuss these things individually because it’s helpful, but that actually we’re indivisible.

    “Nourishment,” therefore, can mean more than just nourishment of body. But, yes, that’s where we start. In order for bodies to grow and be healthy (or, as healthy as they can be this side of heaven), they need good food, sunshine, clean air, exercise, sleep, and hydration. We’ll look at these in more depth in the future, but for now it’s a solid list.

    But we can also nourish the mind. This means feeding the mind ideas through a diet of good books. That’s like good food. Are there other parallels? What if the mind needs good conversation like the body needs sunshine? A challenging curriculum and useful work the way the body needs exercise? Play and recreation the way the body needs sleep? Free time to pursue interests the way the body needs hydration?

    The soul, too, needs its own nourishment. For a soul to truly flourish, an act of God is required. (Much prayer is required for all of this, but perhaps especially here where we are most powerless.) Our hydration is baptism, and our nourishing food is the Lord’s Supper. A loving community of Christians around you is sunshine, laughter is your clean air, learning to rightly relate to life’s challenges (including others’ sin and your own) is your exercise, and prayer is your restful sleep.

    I’m sure there are other things we could list, but you get the idea. There are parallels here that are helpful for us. And the principle always remains: humans require nourishment.

    When our babies are born, we give them the food fit for them: mother’s milk. It’s life’s first and most perfect food. Even though I had more nursing struggles than I would ever care to revisit, mother’s milk has served me as a paradigm for motherhood in general. What do mothers do? We nourish our offspring.

    All babies are weaned eventually, but our job as nourishers never goes away. Even when they move out, what do children do? They come back and eat your food. Or they send their offspring to your house for a similar purpose. (Surely I am not the only person here who sends kids to the grandparents for a snack.)

    Children are growing things and growing things grow and flourish of their own accord as long as they receive proper nourishment. God has given each child his own vitality, a seemingly limitless ability to grow. It’s astounding. And He’s also given us a job to do, a vocation to fulfill.

    In the midst of daily life, in busyness, in exhaustion, it is easy to get mired in the details. So let’s zoom out and remind ourselves that nourishment is motherhood’s first principle and from this all else follows. When things are going wrong, thinking this way points us toward a helpful question: In what way does this child need nourishment right now? This can be a very uncomfortable question. Sometimes, nourishment is easy and natural, like nursing at its best. But many other times it’s long hours in the kitchen. It’s hard work. It’s sacrifice.

    Nourishment comes of love. Just like when our teens were babies and we woke up multiple times in the night to care for them, we are even now called to sacrifice (and even exhaust ourselves) for their sake.

    Motherhood is sacrifice. Your body will literally tear up your bones to provide calcium for your unborn baby if you don’t have enough. (That’s emblematic, isn’t it?) Don’t be afraid to pour yourself out like a drink offering. Now I feel like I’m writing scary stories in the dark. (I told you I had fear and trembling! This is why!)

    Many times, though, what we must do is not try harder, but rather try smarter. Mothers, Charlotte Mason once said, must offer a thinking love to their children. She quotes Pestalozzi:

    The mother is qualified, … and qualified by the Creator Himself, to become the principal agent in the development of her child; … and what is demanded of her is — a thinking love

    Home Education, p. 2

    As the principle agent in your child’s development, you can offer nourishment in a thinking way. We’ll expand on this more as the series goes on.

    The Proper Care and Feeding of Teenagers Series Navigation

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  • Reply tess April 1, 2022 at 7:00 pm

    Brandy, I’m so glad you used the phrase, “Pour yourself out like a drink offering.” It has been my own internal mantra since the beginning, but I don’t share it with many people because so many, even Christians, don’t seem to understand. We are truly sisters in the Lord!

    • Reply Brandy Vencel April 2, 2022 at 8:52 am

      It’s definitely not trendy to talk about sacrifice. Among Christians, that is so sad!

  • Reply Sharron March 30, 2022 at 5:41 am

    This is so needed! I look forward to it with great and trembling because I’m experiencing the teenager, now young adult, who is not “turning out” like we thought. CM educated (although far from perfectly), and all the things a Christian home entails. All I can do is trust that God will bring her back to a realization of the truth she was taught. I have one more young teen at home and it’s hard not to be terrified,!

    • Reply Brandy Vencel April 2, 2022 at 8:51 am

      In situations like these, I always cling to the idea that this isn’t the end of the story. Many Christian people have a spiritual journey that includes dark, scary, rebellious places. In those moments, it really did look like all was lost — like their whole lives were going to be a disaster. But God disciplines them and brings them back, and they are wiser for their repentance.

      I will pray for your daughter.

      • Reply Cheyenne April 5, 2022 at 8:29 pm

        This is a really encouraging thought Brandy. Thank you!

      • Reply Sharron April 13, 2022 at 9:58 am

        Oh Thank you! I’ll probably need to just memorize this! LoL. And thank you for your prayers!!

  • Reply Anne March 23, 2022 at 11:44 am

    Yes please keep the series coming.

  • Reply Aimee March 22, 2022 at 7:21 am

    You are being very countercultural here (imagine that!) Sacrifice ourselves? Pour out? Yikes! As women we need to “nourish ourselves” is where the message usually stops, but as Christian women we need to remember nourishing ourselves is for a purpose- the nurturing and discipling of our children. As I’ve been reading through John during lent, I have noticed the untiring love and care, and energy expended by the Savior on behalf of people and his disciples. Oh, to be more like Christ!

  • Reply Caitlin DeMasi March 21, 2022 at 7:06 pm

    I have witnessed the grown-child-come-home thing. I prepare weeks ahead of time so there is not a sudden shock in the grocery bill😂. I also delight in the fact that there is still room for my efforts at nourishing in his life.
    I mourne for the ways I failed miserably in the days before I knew Christ; before I knew what a CM home was. His siblings are enjoying a wiser, kinder & much more sacrificial mother while I beg the Lord to redeem the places where my sin was destructive. I see Jesus’s mercy already, but there are wounds yet. And I trust He is not finished.

    Please keep this series coming! Scary stories and all. I have 3 more at home and am eager to glean as much as I can so as to prepare the banquet as long as the Lord tarries.

  • Reply Mama Rachael March 21, 2022 at 10:03 am

    Amen, sister!

    I’ve got a friend whose daughter is dealing with some big issues. A little 13 year old who isn’t eating and is wasting away. I think mom and dad are hoping its a physical issue, but many of us who know them think its deeper than that. Its a mental, emotional, spiritual issue. I know this family well enough to know that they are not likely feeding her mind either. They are trying to hard to feed her spiritually, but without these others, I think that is falling flat. I’m praying for them, yes, but also praying about how I can encourage them in these things and help them as they struggle through this. They know nothing of CM, nor of what education really is, and I’m seeing how when we loose sight of these things, we loose the ability to really feed our children in all the ways they need feeding.

    • Reply Brandy Vencel March 21, 2022 at 10:08 am

      Oh this is so sad.

      The way all these things play together and how a part affects the whole is so interesting to me. It is easy to emphasize our favorite part — or the part we’re most comfortable dealing with — and exclude the rest. Then the children pay the price.

    • Reply Caitlin DeMasi March 21, 2022 at 7:07 pm

      I will pray for this girl and her family. You are right when you say that it is far beyond the physical. It is an ugly monster and I pray that the Lord will vanquish it.

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