Monday, June 15, 2009

Low blocks and high kicks

I was less than thrilled the first time my son said he wanted to try tae kwon do. I pictured a little 5-year-old ninja running loose in my house kicking and hitting everything. Within a week of his first class, my impression had completely changed and I became a huge fan of our local program.

Teachers started telling me that my son “lacked focus” sometime around his second birthday. I was completely unaware that any two year old had focus so, for the most part, I ignored them. But seeing my little ninja out there with the other kids, I began to understand their concerns. 

My son wiggled and wandered and interrupted with the most off-the-wall comments. He fell on the floor. A lot. 

The instructors encouraged him to stand still and taught him to gain better control over his body. As he earned new belts, a transformation began to take place. He fell less, his coordination improved and he stopped being so fidgety in martial arts class. His confidence grew and he felt very successful and strong. 

Unfortunately, we moved when he was 6 years old and our search for a new martial arts home began. I soon found out that not all martial arts programs are created equally. We tried two in Wisconsin, both were less understanding of my son’s personality and learning issues and he was miserable. Basically, they both lacked that critical "fun" factor. We found a better program when we moved to California but for a variety of reasons, we didn’t stick with it. 

Earlier this year, I signed both my kids up for tae kwon do in Texas. My 8-year-old daughter lacks confidence to try new things and tae kwon do was the first sport she was willing to try. My son wasn’t interested at all because he’s 12 and 12 year olds don’t want to do anything their parents want them to do. 

Six months later, I couldn’t be more proud of both kids. Our new martial arts home is a perfect fit with kids of all different abilities working side by side. Some are wigglers, like my boy. Some are timid, like my girl. Some learn differently and some are very bright and successful with everything they do. 

I know several parents who have kids with learning differences that tell similar stories about their kids in martial arts. Martial arts programs that accept kids of all abilities and encourage them to reach their personal best in a positive way can give kids that don't always fit in a place to shine. 



Tuesday, June 2, 2009

School's Out!

Yesterday began the first full week of summer vacation for my son. His friends are out of town and he’s already bored. In that past, I’ve filled his summers with speech therapy, occupational therapy and tutoring. I’ve bought the Summer Bridge series workbooks for so many years only to pass them down, almost completely blank, from him to his sister. 

This year, I’m giving him a break. I have no educational camps, therapy of any kind or tutoring planned for the summer. Instead, his schedule will be filled with chores around the house (life skills!) and fun camps for tae kwon do, chess and video game design. 

Yesterday, we joined a neighborhood rec center and I spent the afternoon getting beat in ping pong and air hockey. He can ride his bike to the center and to a local pool. There is also a pond in the neighborhood for fishing although I’m not sure what he would do if he actually caught a fish! 

For the first time in many, many years, my son is going to enjoy his time off this summer without the constant reminder that he learns differently. I’m excited for him and nervous about “wasting” a great opportunity like the summer to increase his academic skills. 

I expect that he might grow a couple of inches taller this summer and I hope that he’ll gain some maturity as well. Maybe by fall he’ll be ready to tackle those books again.