Monday, August 27, 2012

Naomi Rides

As the summer draws to a close, I have redoubled my commitment to teach Naomi and Hannah how to ride a bike this year. Our one-time session to the church parking lot in May for riding lessons had been such an effort that we had never repeated it, especially with the soaring temps this July. With temperatures cooling down and only a month or two left of suitable conditions I decided to try teaching the girls in our own yard a little each evening.

Last Thursday I took all four big kids outside after I put Elijah to bed. Hannah and Naomi took turns attempting to pedal through the grass while I steadied them by holding the seat. Again and again I ran behind them around the yard, but they failed to ever take control of the balancing, falling each time I tried letting go. Naomi grew only more and more tense, over correcting herself and balancing less. A couple different friends had suggested we teach her how to coast down a gentle slope first, but we don't own a coaster bike and the pedals kept tripping her up when she attempted to coast on her bike. She ended the night in tears. I was tired and we each had a few bruises.

Discouraged, and desperate for ideas, I came in and, while Matt was tucking the girls in bed, googled "how to teach a child to ride a bike." Almost immediately I came across the idea, which should have been obvious to me, of simply taking the pedals off of the bike so the child can learn to coast first. I ran downstairs and easily removed both pedals, then I ran upstairs to tell Naomi that our next trip out would certainly be better. We went to bed hopeful.

The weekend was busy, but tonight I finally had time to take Naomi out again. This time I left the other kids inside with Matt and just focused on Naomi. She was awkward and clumsy as she tried to push herself along the grass outside, not able to get up enough speed to balance. We tried coasting down the grassy slope to the mailboxes, but the slope is littered with walnuts, rocks, and divots. Then I saw the gently sloping drive that curves around the far side of the mobile home court. Perfect!

The drive was smooth and rarely used. We walked to the top and let Naomi coast down. The first few times down she barely dared to take her feet off the ground. But eventually she lifted her feet more and let the bike roll faster. By about the tenth trip she was coasting most of the 100 yard stretch with her feet up and an enormous smile on her face!

Best of all, I didn't have to run behind her and
coach her at all. I only had to stand by and tell her how proud I was. Even as it grew dark out I ran to get Matt and the other kids. Naomi beamed as she coasted down the hill in front of them, and we all clapped and cheered.

Hopefully she'll be riding and pedaling in a few more sessions, because I already have three more little ones signed up for my learn-to-bike program.

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