Spring sunshine, challenge and training wheels!

One of the best things about home educating - especially here in Britain, where the weather is so changeable - is the freedom to get up and go out when the sun shines. This week, we took two short breaks and the sun shone down on us, which added to our enjoyment of the great outdoors. In my experience, small boys are like dogs in that they should be exercised out of doors daily! I don't always manage that, but I do aspire to it. All our boys love being outside, and our youngest (now 13 months) is proving no exception. I also think boys need high levels of challenge and risk taking, things I do not believe the education system provides.

Our first short break involved getting on our bikes on a cycle trail through the beautiful Peak District. Since I had our youngest in a child seat on the back of my bike, and our 7 year old was still on stabilisers, our eldest set his own challenge and cycled solo to his destination, meeting us at a set point for lunch later. He and our next eldest enjoyed the freedom of this, and the next day set out together to cycle around a reservoir, completing the 8 mile circuit in just over an hour. This demonstrates a real growth in confidence in our second son, which is great to see.

For some months (years?) we have been encouraging our third son to ride without his stabilisers, but to no avail. A couple of times, we have removed them and tried to get him going without them, but he hasn't quite been ready. Maybe it is linked to his being left-handed, but he hasn't been able to find his balance. I have often pondered the fact that whilst some children can ride a two-wheeler at age 3, he has still not been ready. Well, after cycling the trail - with considerable extra effort as a result of the stabilisers - he was thrilled at his achievement, and began to say that he had cycled most of it without his stabilisers touching the ground. We suggested he might be ready now - after such a great ride - to have a go at riding without them. He was a little unsure, but also excited. So the next day, at the reservoir, we removed the training wheels. He was really determined that he was going to master this new skill. And, without any bother and no falls, just a few wobbles, off he went! He was abolutely delighted with his achievement - no matter that he is 7 years old. He did it! And he has not looked back, but has been riding daily on two wheels ever since.

This really got me thinking about other skills, and how for each child there is a readiness for acquisition. Whilst one child might read at 3, another might not be ready until much older. Why should this not be true for writing too? Mathematical concepts? If we push something before that readiness appears, the child may learn, but it might require much more effort and anxiety than it would take later on. (I remember my eldest son learning to ride a bicycle with great angst and many tears.) Is there any harm in waiting? If the child is not compared unfavourably with others, there is no reason why he or she should think of him/herself as not being any good at the said skill. And when it is acquired - in good time - there is no reason for the child not to be thrilled at their own achievement.