Monday, October 24, 2011

Taking Off the Training Wheels!

Over the weekend, we picked up where we left off a couple of weeks back in our efforts to teach my 7-year-old daughter, Katie, to ride her bicycle without training wheels. This has evolved into a longer-than-summer-long process for us. In fact, we have had several periods of on-and-off training sessions with Katie over the past three years or so.

For Katie, this has not been an easy process. But she has not given up -- she has fallen, we've wiped away the tears, and she has gotten back on the bike. She is very close now, but still there's progress to be made before she'll be free to ride independently!

There was a unique kind of bicycle race happening on Saturday, and David wanted to attend -- It was the CCNS Donut Derby at Devil's Hopyard State Park in East Haddam, CT. (DO-NUT Just Have One! The CCNS DONUT DERBY is like no other cycling race you've done this year. You get rewarded for eating Donuts. The more you eat the faster you will be! For every Donut you eat, 1 minute and 30 seconds is taken off your total time. The person with the fastest total time wins!) And since this event was held at a park, there was plenty of open space around, so we figured it would be an inspirational environment where we could work with Katie on her riding skills!

It proved to be an excellent spot for her to gain new skills! Not only was this a fun cycling event where David had the opportunity to chat it up with his racing buddies, but we were approached by two different people there for the event who are experienced teachers.  They were both super-nice to offer a bit of coaching for Katie.

David and I worked with Katie together for a stretch of time. Then I worked with her alone while David met up with some friends who had just finished racing. Our drills were for Katie to practice balance. She was on a gradual downhill and not pedaling -- working on rolling and staying upright only.

Then we were approached by a racer named Lars. He had just completed the race and was heading back to his car when he spotted us. He introduced himself and explained that he teaches children and even some adults how to ride a bicycle. His first bit of practical advice: Remove her knee pads and take off her pedals!

Lars went to locate the proper wrench to take off Katie's pedals. Upon his return, he demonstrated to Katie how to effectively "row" with her feet. He lowered her bicycle seat, and looking like a crab in the sand, he "paddled" with his feet to push off on the bicycle.

This worked better because now those pesky pedals were not in the way. It wasn't too long before Katie's confidence level was up, and she wanted her pedals put back on. But as it turned out, with pedaling in the mix, the whole combination of new skills was too much.

A mom with her young son were nearby. She was on roller blades, and her child who was just 4-years-old, was riding a small bicycle without training wheels! Katie seeing this little boy going so fast on his bike gave her reason to believe it was possible for her to do it too!

The young mom was great with Katie. She asked Katie if she would like if she acted as a guide from behind and she would roll along with her while Katie attempted to pedal. This went on for a while and Katie made more improvement, but she fell twice. On the second fall, she cried. I gave her a hug, wiped the tears, and we gave her a break. That was a lot of concentration and effort, and she was clearly tired.

On our way back home, we passed a bicycle shop, so we decided to stop. The lady on the roller blades suggested to us that Katie's bicycle might be just a little too small for her. Since we had purchased her bike at a yard sale last year for just a few dollars, we thought that browsing new bikes might also help to give Katie a sense of added excitement for this learning process. After all, Christmas is coming up soon!

The following morning, Katie and I went out to the driveway together. She asked for the pedals to be removed again. Dave removed them and we worked on perfecting balance once again. We told Katie if she can ride on her own by Christmastime, a brand new bicycle could be hers!

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