Candace Tomlinson-Bell and Harper Leigh

What do you and your kids like to do together? What have you always wanted to try? These five Atlanta-area families are learning new skills and hobbies together – and discovering the deeper teachings of shared learning.

Stay Calm and Do Yoga … Together!

Candace Tomlinson-Bell and her 3-year-old daughter

Tomlinson-Bell practiced yoga a bit in college, but didn’t practice it again until her daughter, Harper Leigh had the opportunity to try it at school. They are now exploring the value of yoga together – and having a great time.

“After seeing her teach at my daughter’s school, we took some family yoga classes with Kelly McCool with McCool Kids Yoga. Now, my daughter and I have matching pink yoga mats, and we pull them out during the day and do the activities from class. The activities are for a pair. We have to look at each other, breathe and work together.”

“My daughter recently said, ‘peace begins with me,’ and did an exercise with her fingers that she learned in yoga. That has stuck with her. I want her to be able to calm herself, to connect with herself. Unlike other sports, you can do yoga for the rest of your life. I think that is wonderful – that she can carry on with yoga and share it with others.”

There are so many benefits of practicing yoga – and so many ways to learn! From online resources like Cosmic Kids Yoga to in-person classes, stretch and be healthy together.

Being Each Other’s Guitar Hero

Margaret Evans and her 9-year-old son

Although she grew up singing and taking voice lessons, Evans, the children’s ministry director at Shallowford Presbyterian Church, had never picked up a guitar until a year ago.

“I was getting a kick out of watching my older son, Candler learn to play guitar, channeling my dream through him! His instructor, David with Kids Guitar Atlanta, was just so patient and engaging. When I asked David if he could teach me too, he said of course! Now my younger son, Bryson and I both take lessons, practice together and support each other.”

“It’s fun to have a common interest to talk about. My dad was a music junkie. He took me to concerts like Lollapalooza, where I can remember sitting on the lawn listening to Pearl Jam. I hope to give my sons that kind of connection to music. And the flip side is that the kids I work with at church love that I know their music. I’m learning it by hearing my son play the songs that are relevant to them today.”

Do you and your kid want to play together? Buy an inexpensive or used guitar and consider lessons with Kids Guitar Atlanta or start out with YouTube videos!

Determined to Have a Green Thumb

Desiree Lawrence and her 2-year-old son and 5-year-old daughter

Lawrence is a self-professed city girl who grew up in the Bronx in New York City. Now she and her children, Kieran and Erin Stephens are enjoying the bounty of their backyard as they learn to garden.

Working with her grandmother’s gardening tools, Lawrence found that, “There is something ancient about hands in the dirt, making something grow.”

“It was trial and error. We have five garden beds, and we grew from seeds. We watched YouTube videos to learn about the germination process, and a friend who knows a lot about gardening gave us advice. The second year, we moved our garden from the front yard to the back to do even more. We planted quick growing veggies like peas to keep the kids excited. We were learning during a difficult time in our family’s life. Growing things was healing – and we are flourishing along with the garden.”

Lawrence recommends connecting with friends who are interested in gardening and relying on online resources like Pinterest for inspiration.

Picking Up Speed

Mike Koerber and his 10-year-old son

Koerber, who works for an education nonprofit, ran some in high school and college, but with the goal of staying in shape for soccer. The idea of running for the fun and fitness of it kicked into high gear when his oldest son, Caleb got interested. Now they are improving their skills together.

“I got back into running about four years ago through becoming an Atlanta Track Club member. It’s pretty rewarding to win your age group in a race.” Sharing that sense of achievement is part of what motivates him to get stronger and faster while teaching his son better running techniques. His kids are all involved in Kilometer Kids, Atlanta Track Club’s youth program.

“Running is a great way for kids to learn to push their limits and achieve more than they thought possible since it is very doable to improve your times if you put in the dedication to it.” For his oldest son, lessons learned on the track have translated into perseverance and mental toughness in other aspects of life. “We recently did a race together where we both didn’t really run as well as we had hoped for a variety of reasons. Despite our disappointment, it was encouraging to see we were both committed to improving and doing better next time.”

 Joining the Atlanta Track Club has given Koerber and his son shared opportunities and access to a support team. 

Rocks, Risks and Rewards

Jeff Gillespie and his 12 and 7-year-old sons

Gillespie and his boys, Theo and Quinn discovered bouldering – rock climbing without harnesses and ropes – four years ago on a trip to Colorado; they watched climbers scale walls of rock and had to get into the action themselves. They have since traveled to different parts of Georgia and beyond to grow their skills.

Gillespie said a humid summer day in Alabama turned them into committed climbers. “We climbed for an hour before a rainstorm hit. We had to hike about 1.5 miles to the car in water that was almost ankle-high at times. We were all soaked, laughing, splashing in the puddles and just having a phenomenal time.”

Bouldering is physically and emotionally rewarding; Gillespie is reaching personal fitness goals, and watching his boys learn lessons of perseverance and problem-solving is the real gain of their time climbing together.

“You will fail on a boulder problem 80 percent of the time, unless you are doing something easy. So, you must accept that you cannot always initially succeed, and you must get up and go at it again. The children are learning to trust their bodies, to understand that limitations of their minds, and how to push through those self-imposed limitations.”

Gillespie and his sons learned safe bouldering techniques at climbing gyms, and they practice at local spots like Panola Mountain State Park in Stockbridge. 

– Sherry Crawley

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