Monday, November 25, 2013

New Found Independence

Disclosure: Nest provided enrollment in these classes - but I already wrote the post I promised.  I just had more good things to say.

Last week was the last gymnastics class in the session Leo was enrolled in at Nest - and I CAN NOT BELIEVE the growth I've seen in him over the last 12 weeks.  This class challenged him physically, socially and emotionally and he has come out of the experience a more secure and happy kid.

Does that sound like an exaggeration?  I assure you it's not.  I specifically chose this class for Leo because it was a class that did not include parent participation.  Since Leo doesn't attend preschool, we are rarely apart and he had been showing signs of separation anxiety when I would go out for even a couple hours.  I knew we needed to work on fostering independence and I thought this would be a simple fun way to do that.

Watching big brother 

I prepared him ahead of time.  Before the first class I explained that he would go into the class on his own, but that Zoe and I would be just on the other side of the windows watching him.  When we arrived at Nest, he took his shoes off (as we have for every other class he's attended) and met the teacher, Mr. Brett.  Mr. Brett is awesome and took things at just the right pace with Leo (that first day, and throughout the semester).  He challenged Leo, offered encouragement, and also gave him space before things got too overwhelming.

That first class, Leo sat out nearly half the class - too afraid to leave my arms.  Finally, I stood with Zoe just inside the doorway.  I didn't participate, but I was in the room for about ten minutes.  Then Zoe started to fuss (right on cue, little sister), which gave me a reason to excuse myself to go sit in the hallway.  All in all, he probably was in the room on his own for 20 minutes the first day.

The next week, it only took about 10 minutes total of cajoling to get him through the door for class.  The third week, jb came to observe.  His existing panic of being separated from jb caused a bit of a regression, but he did eventually make it in to class to show off some new moves.

In the following weeks he would say things like, "I really like gymnastics, but my leg is really sore.  I think we should skip it this week to let my leg rest."  Or, "Mr. Brett is really nice, but I think maybe I should stay home and play with Zoe, because I think it's really boring for her to watch my class." I struggled with how hard to push him - but in the end, I thought this was something he needed, not to mention wanting to teach him to honor commitments.

Well, it paid off.  Soon, the excuses melted away.  A few weeks before the end of the semester Leo ran up the stairs ahead of me, took his own shoes off, put them in the cubby himself and threw a casual "bye!" and wave over his shoulder as he followed Mr. Brett into class.  Oh man was that a bittersweet moment.

Since then there have been more, "We didn't miss gymnastics, did we?" or "Is today a gymnastics class day?" questions than any other question.  We've been pleased with all the classes we've taken at Nest, but this has by far been the best.  Obviously the improvement in independence is a major reason we loved it - but they also did really cool and fun things in class.  And I can't say enough about what a great instructor Mr. Brett is.

The other hidden bonus is that even though naps have virtually disappeared from Leo's schedule, this class took so much out of him both physically and mentally he would often fall asleep on the way home.  Sleeping kid perk!

I'm so so so glad he took this class.  He got so much out of it.  Here are some live action snippets:

Obstacle course with Mr. Brett

Coolest trick ever.  When Leo tries to explain this to people they don't quite believe it's as cool as he says - but it totally is!  See for yourself:

Full range of emotion.  This is a good example of how the class gently pushed Leo's comfort level, but also provided security and comfort when he was nervous - which always led to him shining:

Thanks Nest and thank you Mr. Brett - it's been a really great experience!

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