Monday, May 05, 2008


Anna has a big project due this week at school. Each child is making a poster about an animal (she picked jaguar). They have to research at least 5 facts and find at least one picture. Friday night I talked with her about some ideas of how we could execute this project.

Saturday morning while I was snoozing she did her project. She wrote out in pencil all her facts on scrap paper, cut them out jaggedly, and attached them to the poster with tape. While I admired her independence and enthusiasm, it looked awful.

As gently as possible I told her that I was proud of her for doing it on her own, but that the edges of the paper were curling up, and she hadn't used her best handwriting, and remember how we talked about making borders for all the facts with her colored cardstock? Now matter how constructive, criticism always stings, and Anna was crushed. I assured her we'd work on it together later.

The next day we peeled all of her taped-on facts off the board. Sitting at the computer, she typed them in herself, and I showed her how to choose an appropriate large font. I showed her how to use our photo cutter, and she cut them all out with nice straight edges. I penciled a straight edge across the top so she could neatly write the title across the top in her best handwriting. She selected different contrasting card stock to border all the facts and photos, which she arranged and glued herself in a pleasing way all over the poster board.

It took a long time, but she could definitely see the results. She thanked me several times for helping her. We really did have fun! We turned it into the teacher today (4 days early)!

Later, we worked on her bicycle riding skills - without training wheels. Folks, this is a hard skill to acquire. I remember my dad running beside me for hours when I learned. I put on my new running shoes and ran beside Anna. She knows how to pedal and how to brake, but has NO CLUE how to balance. I was running beside her but completely supporting her. She was veering towards the pavement at all times. I thought I would get exhausted from running, but I was exhausted from trying not to completely lose my patience and not to yell at her to try to correct herself. I recently read that once you have knowledge, it is very difficult to remember not having it, thus making it hard to teach this knowledge to a novice. I tried to keep that in mind and thought, there's got to be a better way.

So I googled, "how to teach your kid to ride a bike," and got lots of unhelpful sites that said, "Run beside them supporting the seat. Be patient and encouraging." BUT! I found one site that said take the training wheels off and put the bike seat low, so low that the child can put both feet flat on the ground. Then take them to a grassy area with a gentle incline. Have the child coast down the hill with their feet on the ground. They can learn to balance the bike without having to also learn how to pedal and steer simultaneously.

Anna did so much better with this method. We did also have to take the pedals off because they kept hitting her ankles. By the end of the second session she was coasting down the hill with her feet mostly off angled out to the side. She said going fast was fun, except when she fell! Once she gets this balance thing down, I know she'll be able to add in the pedaling.


Anonymous said...

Brilliant. That sounds like a good way to do the learning process of balancing. The downhill deal without having to pedal will help.

I remember teaching you balance too. It really wasn't hard because you are a fast learner and you payed close attention to my 'structions. Thank God I was only 36 years old and still agile.

I also remember learning how to ride and balance myself. It was on my uncle's bike and the distance in our little backyard was maybe 15 ft. So, no sooner would I push off and stand on the pedal to balance myself I would have to put my foot on the ground to stop from colliding with the wall. After a few days I got to be able to do that with ease and moved to the street.

Joey said...

About 1 month ago when I came home from work, John said he had been working hard with Faith all afternoon. It took about 4 hours to teach her that day, but she mastered riding her bike w/o training wheels. I have no idea how he did it, but she was ready to demo her skills for me when I got home around 7pm that night. I do know that money was involved, however, because my neighbor came over and gave her $4 for "learning to ride in 1 day". Apparently there was some reward offered earlier in the afternoon. Cole wanted some of the money and was pretty sly about it. He bargained w/ the neighbor..."How about $2 for riding my scooter?" Pretty clever.

mr man said...

Working on the bike with Junebug, too. Trying to describe "balancing" is no easy task; even trying to stick to the mechanics of what's involved soon gets a glazed look.

I actually started her with the balancing downhill (which was how I learned), but the hill was so slight, I had to give her a push; this will be a longish process for her. Sugarbear might be a quicker student: she's much more physically oriented than the 'bug.

I remember lots of falls, when I learned, but I wasn't born with such beautiful knees. Good luck, Anna.

Sinda said...

That's similar to the advice I was given by a friend a neighbor: use a tiny bike. Use one that's too small in the normal scheme of things, so the child can easily touch the ground, the center of gravity is low, and the fear of falling is slight. Also, the bike is lighter.

It's much easier to pick it up on a small bike, and then you can transfer your skills to a more size-appropriate bike. Hazel moved from small to big within a week.

I HATE the running beside method - I could NOT keep my patience!

Can't wait to see pics!

G in Berlin said...

Here in Germany we have a laufrad, a walk bike, which is great. We brought a child's bike w/training wheels but we put it away and bought the laufrad. It's very small, and has no pedals. She learns balance and within 1 hour was starting to glide. We expect to put the 2 year old on it within a few days and move the 4 year old to the tiny german bike with pedals that we got from freecycle.I don't know why the laufrads are so darned expensive in the States, but my niece learned to ride a bike when she was 2 using one and I can see why.Much easier than running beside, bent over!

info said...

I'm so impressed (as I'm sure her teacher was) that Anna turned in her assignment 4 days early! :-)

The new method sounds cool. Remember Anna was hesitant to walk, too, probably because of balance. She'll get it with determination.

I really enjoyed my phone conversation with Anna on Sunday. It's amazing to me how grown up she is and how I can have a REAL conversation with her!

Emily said...

Oops...I'm a moron. That last comment was me, Auntie Emily. I forgot I was logged in on a work account.

EdamameMommy said...

THank goodness for GOogle. I think I use it at least twice daily. I was thinking about it in the shower just yesterday, actually, how it has totally changed the flow of information and education -- for the better! That and wikipedia. Here's to progress. Oh, and I was kinda disappointed at the end of reading all that because I wanted to see the project. :(

mainlyclearskies said...

You are such a good mom! What a great idea about teaching/learning to ride a bike. I will have to remember that for my nephews who will be learning soon.

Library Lady said...

I want to try that low to the ground method with my older girl. At 13 she still can't ride a bike. And ironically, her little sister learned at age 4 at preschool!

It's hard with school projects. You want to help them, but you want them to do it by themselves. The Man is bad at that :)