MISSION (The What)
The mission of this blog is to encourage more adults to better understand and be more involved in the lives of early-adolescent children (10-14 year olds), so that these children may actually enjoy their chrysalis-like transformation into adulthood. The purpose of this blog is to create an online community of people who deeply desire to help early adolescents grow up well, “more than fine, more than bent on getting by… more than just ok.” (Switchfoot)
TARGET (The Who)
The readers of this blog are parents, grandparents, youth group leaders, middle school teachers, scouting leaders, coaches, and any other mentors of those in early adolescence (ages 10-14). Generally, it is a wide variety of people who are interested in living, and raising kids to live, according to Christian principles, although this blog is for a wider audience than just Christians.
STRATEGY (The How)
I will take a common sense approach to discuss the things I am seeing and hearing in the halls of my middle school, my home, my church, and the media. Hopefully, others will join me in the discussions, and by pooling our common sense, we will all benefit.
CONVICTIONS (The Why)
• The best way to help a child is to help his parents, his teachers, his coaches, and every other adult in his life to love him more effectively.
• A major part of growing up well is learning to love and serve God and the people He has placed in our lives. Helping others honors God.
My son drew this for me.
My name is Andy Kerckhoff. I married my best friend in 1993, a cute girl I met back in 1984 at summer camp when we were 13. She is now a full-time mom, part-time tutor, and a much better parent and teacher than I am; she inspires much of my thinking. We have a 14-year-old son and a 13-year-old daughter. Our daughter has severe physical and mental disabilities; she can’t walk or talk, among other serious issues (epilepsy, restricted diet, etc.), but she lives a full life, loving others well. Our family life is demanding and frustrating, but it is rich in love and laughter.
I’ve been a full-time educator since 1993, working in Texas and Montana in my early years. I now teach 7th grade English, Social Studies, and Cross Country at Westminster Christian Academy in St. Louis. In the past I have been a camp counselor, an English teacher at an alternative high school, the principal of an elementary school, and a basketball coach.
My approach to writing this blog is neither as an academic researcher nor as any kind of self-proclaimed expert. I aim to take a common sense approach to discuss the things — good and bad — that I am seeing and hearing in the halls of my middle school, my home, my church, and in the media. I welcome comments and responses.
What is Early Adolescence?
This stage in life, known as early adolescence, is a time of transformation for children in grades 4-8, who range in age from 10-14. They are searching for meaning and value in their lives, often very successfully. However, they often struggle with conflicting identity issues, weak self-esteem, and significant peer pressure, in addition to struggling with their academic, athletic, and other performance-based activities. Early adolescents are trying desperately to understand themselves, their world, and where they can fit in successfully and happily. It is a time of great turmoil for some, while for others it is a time of great excitement and wonder. For most, it is both an exciting adventure entering a larger world and a terribly anxious time of uncertainty.
NOTE: Some thoughts about language:
I am a big believer in treating young people with respect, and that includes the labels we give them. Because the age range (10-14) of early adolescence is such a transformational time, the terms can be tricky. For instance, an immature ten-year-old is much more of a “small child” than a highly-mature 14-year-old, who is clearly a “young adult.” So, I struggle with labels. “Teenager” refers to 13+ year olds – a term which for many has come to mean little more than a self-centered, non-productive brat. “Preteen” refers to 12 and under. “Youth” is way too vague and awkward. “Early adolescent” is the most accurate term for this website, but it is an awkward, rarely-used term. “Middle school student” is also awkward at times, and it more commonly refers to grades 6-8 (age 12-14). Marketers have labeled preteen girls who spend money without care as “tweens,” which I find belittling. So, I will have to work without a simple labeling system. “Children” and “kids” are the more common terms which I will use most, even though I wish for better terms.