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Embracing the Teen Years


I was a reluctant resident of Columbus, Ohio, when I made the decision to pull my three kids, then in 4th, 3rd, and 1st grades, out of public school. I say reluctant because I was far away from the place I still call the axis of my soul–Keystone, Colorado. Born and raised in the stunning Rocky Mountains, I was finding urban life difficult and inherently alien. Though unrelated to my uninspiring residency in the Mid West city, removing Tristan, Sebastian, and Tessa from their French Immersion school was not a decision made lightly, but once made, it was one I embraced enthusiastically. My upbringing weighed heavily on my approach to their schooling, as I had both a mother and grandparents who believed deeply in the concept of informal education and the idea that the world is bursting with beauty and magic, inherent in nature and evident in mankind’s desire to recreate and honor the natural world through music, art, poetry and knowledge, in general.


As with many who embark on the path of home education, I fielded countless questions and concerns about my children’s preparedness for the world and the chances for healthy socialization, especially in the crucial teen years.


But, I did not look upon their looming adolescence with fear and trepidation as our society seems to require. Instead, we reached those milestones naturally and as part of the progression of our family’s growth together.

Though Colorado has once again become my home, during those 16 years in Ohio, it remained a yearly destination for the family, in order to connect with relations, nature, and with our own inner dreamers. The kids, from their earliest memories, called the wild forests around our mountain house their second home, and it pleased me to see them hold deeply to the time they spent outdoors and to embrace the lessons that their great-grandparents and grandparents had to share.

As their public school years faded into the past, and as the quiet pace of long summers embraced them, the kids became very in touch with themselves, discovering their own passions and interests, unfettered from dictates by school peer groups. And, as their teen years approached, their ease with their own places in the universe and in our family continued seamlessly.



Now, with Tristan, as 19 year old college sophomore, who works a part time job, and Sebastian, 17, a senior who has been an old soul from day one, and Tessa, 16 and comfortable in her circle of close friends, I continue to love every day spent in their presence. They have taken over the majority of their own schooling, having grown very self-motivated, as is common with home schoolers, and the anxieties that often accompanies the teen years seem non-existent.

It has been my joy to have been a witness to their maturation, and it has been an privilege to have placed in their paths tools and teachers that have helped them discover who they really are. Eclectic passions have emerged, from cello and guitar to ballroom dancing, and from fencing and cooking to rock climbing. Entirely missing from their lives have been the petty hangups, the peer pressures, and the anxiety-ridden world of teens raising teens, which is often the result of overcrowded, industrial-style schools.

Instead, they have been surrounded by, interacted with, and learned from people of all ages, young and old, which is more true-to-life than the insular and age-restricted atmosphere of a traditional school setting.

For instance, for several years we initiated a project called “Tristanio’s,” named for Tristan (with a flourish, obviously) and it was, in a nut shell, a night of fine dining, planned, presented, cooked, and served entirely by the kids, usually with several (it grew each year) of their friends. The most recent guest list, after the word got out, was 25 diners, all adults--mostly parents of the kids participating, and friends--and the “staff,” acting as both chefs and servers, was comprised of 13 children, ages 8-16.


The kids spent a week planning the menu for a four course meal, shopping for ingredients, and Tristan, the sommelier, researched the wines best suited for the food selections. Then, the day of the event consisted of many hours of cooking, setting tables, learning fine dining etiquette, and first class serving. The expanding guest list was a testament to the unique experience that “Tristanio’s” created, and the kids got the added bonus of learning how to see a challenging project to completion, while working with all ages groups, as well as having to function within very intense time and budget constraints.

It was an honor to step into their world for these experiences, and to watch them master the crafts of task delegation, time management, and ultimately the masterful execution of a complicated and detailed undertaking. There were no awkward moments with their peers, when dramas or petty issues interfered, for the kids were simply in the moment, oblivious to the dramatics that are “expected” for their age group.

In my mind, it is an honor to share so closely the potent years of adolescence with my children and their friends. Not only does it bring me closer to my own youth, but the shared experience continues to enrich their lives, guaranteeing them an easier transition into adulthood and its many responsibilities. My intention is to see my children leave their teen years endowed with a love for nature, a passion for learning, and a respect for their fellow inhabitants of this small planet. They will have given me infinitely more than I can give to them.

Life is a continuum, a journey comprised of moments, interactions, ups and downs, and the teen years need not be feared, but rather embraced, for they represent the moments in time when one is most open and vulnerable to the glorious experience that we call life.

About the Author
Karina Wetherbee
Author: Karina WetherbeeWebsite:
Karina Wetherbee is fine art photographer who has also authored two books The Minefield of Memories and Stella and the Golden Crystal. Along with her 16-year-old daughter, Tessa, she writes a book review blog: She also pens a regular book review column for The Summit Daily newspaper. Karina runs The non-profit Dercum Center for the Arts and Humanities, based in Summit county, Colorado, bringing musicians, artists, and lecturers to strengthen, educate and engage the community. She grew up in the Colorado high country, and spent much of her younger years out of doors and enjoying the solitude of nature, which deeply impacted her approach to parenting. She has been homeschooling her three children for 8 years and has seen one successfully into college, with another ready to graduate.

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