Practical Life for the Adolescent

In the third plane of development (ages 12-18), the role of Practical Life is integrally tied to preparation for adult life. Our practical life work is integrated through the disciplines and guides the adolescent to accepting more responsibility and developing social and economic independence.

Managerial positions provide opportunities for the adolescent to step into a leadership role. With regard to social independence, the adolescent has plenty of authentic opportunity to practice social conventions like grace and courtesy, and develop real problem-solving skills. 

Grace and courtesy is focused on the interaction between individuals, and the adolescent experiences the impact of his actions on the community and of other community member’s actions on himself. They also quickly learn to solve problems that arise amongst themselves because, in living and working together, they realize that it is not worth the time or energy to hold grudges or have enemies. Practicing grace a courtesy allows the adolescent to see that grace and courtesy are a part of the society they are preparing to enter.

When entering the Adolescent Community, each adolescent is paired with a guide who acts as an adviser during the three year period. The adviser's role varies from helping students get acclimated to the community, to discussing conflicts and resolution, to working on time management. During this time, the adolescent is also working towards economic independence. Through this work, the adolescent practices financial literacy, marketing, data analysis, and adult interactions.

Through the AC Market, the adolescents practice requesting reimbursements, writing checks, budgeting, and pricing products based on the cost to produce them. The bank and market managers have to work closely with one another, and with other managers like the chicken, bee, and soap managers, to ensure that the market runs smoothly, that they have products to sell, and that they are not losing money. They analyze what products sell well, what products make money, and see that those two don’t always match up. They look for trends and have to decide if a product is worth producing. The market creates a sense of solidarity, while also providing the adolescent community with the opportunity to earn its own money. Additionally, it provides the adolescents with the opportunity to gain additional practical life experiences.

Practical life activities also help the adolescent feel welcome in their environment through having a role in maintaining it, and by having a voice in designing it. These activities aid the development of the will, self-discipline, and the development of the mind by encouraging decision-making and demonstrating that activities have a logical sequence.

The adolescent takes on new responsibility in regards to caring for self and the environment. The students are more responsible for their health, and inform the guides and parents when they are ill. Students move from individualistically caring for their basic hygiene and dressing themselves to considering their place in society. During this time they may experiment with different looks and styles as they try to determine who they want to present themselves as to society. By integrating dramatis personae and creative expression into our curriculum we give the students a safe place to try on these new hats. For examples, student managers lead the creation of costumes, sets, props, and produce our musical.
The students also consider the nutrition when planning and preparing snacks and meals. Through our weekly meals, they practice budgeting, meal planning, grocery shopping, and meal preparation - and most especially time management - while taking into account the needs of the community. In addition to all the skills that go into preparing a meal, the adolescents have to practice executive functioning when working to have the meal ready on time, and even when considering the logical sequence of setting up the buffet line. Students go beyond meal preparation by considering the meal’s place in our learning, by cooking seasonally, and through considering the role our work on the farm and in the garden plays in healthy eating.
The farm at Japhet Creek offers a variety of real work through which the adolescent is able to learn about the world around him. Here the adolescent is able to practice the skills learned in the first two planes of development while learning to see the land as another opportunity to prepare for adult life. The adolescent has an opportunity to learn science through the land, the animals, construction, and sustainability. They learn to use power tools and apply their other academic studies when constructing benches and building chicken coops and bridges. The adolescents also learn to use technology as a tool for their learning.
Adolescents gain experience working and researching with computers, and also use Google Drive for cloud-based storage. They go beyond learning how to use word processing and Excel by learning to see these as tools for communication and data analysis. After investigating the cost-benefit analysis of the fees associated with using a square card reader, students are now accepting credit cards at market.
The capstone of the Adolescent Community is an internship in the 9th grade year. Throughout all three years, adolescents practice speaking over the phone to make reservations or order supplies, and writing letters and emails to officials. In the 9th year, they apply these skills to writing resumes and cover letters, and reach out to professionals in the community. Here the student is able to apply their prior learning and truly practice stepping into adult life.

As the adolescents move into high school, the students bring all these experiences with them. The high school students continue working with mentors, but are seen as collaborators. They learn driving skills to aid in independence, which allows them to continuing immersing themselves in the society they are so close to entering. Here, practical life is truly fully integrated in their work. 

Through practical life work, the individual realizes that no matter their skill is, they can be useful; furthermore, they are able to experience responsibility in a real way. Valorization comes when an individual makes a meaningful contribution to his community, and through valorization, the individual feels capable of succeeding through his own efforts and becomes aware that all work is noble.