For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; … – Ecclesiastes 3:1-22 ESV
I love how God has given us these seasons in life, though it often feels that they are much easier to distinguish in hindsight. The seasonal changes in the world around us help us to feel the passage of time and give us a sense of continuity. There is such comfort to know that spring is just around the corner on the coldest winter day, and the warmest days of summer are tempered with a watchful eye that soon the fall leaves will begin to change.
Like the world around us, we also grow in seasons. The toddler years are a well-known season. To the mother, those years can seem to last forever, though in hindsight they are simply a brief moment. The storms and calm days seem to become less clearly defined as the years stretch by, but the undercurrent is still there. I find it much easier to see these seasons playing out in hindsight, as I look back at my children’s lives. Nine was a difficult season for my oldest and at the time I struggled to look toward brighter sunnier days. Would this season last all the way through his teen years? Thankfully ten was a much brighter and sunnier time. When my next child hit nine, I began to see the clouds once again and readied my raincoat. This time I could laugh at the storm on the horizon, for now I knew what to expect!
I often wished though, that I could have a better sense of what was to come and to be more prepared to help my kids weather their seasons. Someone recently suggested I read the book Yardsticks – Child and Adolescent Development Ages 4-14 by Chip Wood, and I was really glad I did. I found it to be kind of like that “almanac” I had often wished for. Mr. Wood very simply lays out each age and gives a bellwether of what to expect for that season:
“Eight year-olds wake up in the morning with plans for adventure percolating before their feet even hit the floor. To be eight is to be inventive and creative, full of energy, curiosity, and imagination, always in a hurry to try the next thing — or create the next new thing themselves. With a friend, or better yet, a group of friends, eights roll along with plans for a parade or a play, thrilled with their truly wonderful ideas for the “what” and blithely unconcerned with the “how” (85).
This book covers the typical growth patterns for each age – physical, social and emotional, language and literacy, cognitive capacity, reading, writing, math, and across the curriculum. It gives suggestions for working with each particular age and how best to approach them. While it is written with teachers in mind, it features a section for parents, as well, which is very convenient for those of us who pull double duty as mom and teacher. Through the years of homeschooling I often wondered, “Are we where we are supposed to be? Do I ask too much or too little of my children? As they approach their teenage years, what is normal emotionally?” Without a classroom of children his age, it is difficult to see the nuances of development in my child and to understand if my expectations are appropriate for each age. It seems to get easier with subsequent children, but often their personalities and different learning styles make it challenging to gauge, so it is helpful to gain some outside perspective.
I happened to read this book just as two of my children were approaching their next birthdays and it really excited me to look forward to the changes ahead of us and comforted me to see all that we have already weathered together. I have decided that I will read this book around each of my children’s birthdays to help me to consider the needs of each of my children where they are, as well as to be on the lookout for what is to come. Hey, it never hurts to check the forecast!