Role reversal

Columbia parents and children teach each other with co-educational opportunities
Thursday, November 13, 2003 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 12:32 p.m. CDT, Sunday, July 20, 2008

In the Adams family, everyone is learning tae kwon do at Hockman’s ATA Black Belt Academy on Buttonwood Drive.

The children — Jordan, 13, Jackson, 12, Taylor, 11, and Becca, 8 — started classes about three years ago. Their father, John, has taken lessons for a little more than a year; their mother, Krista, for 2 1/2 years.

“Since we were there every day anyway, we decided to start,” Krista Adams said. At least one member of the family is at the academy four days week.

When parents and children learn something new together, children sometimes find they have something to teach — and adults find they aren’t too old to learn.

Three Columbia families share what learning together means to them.

Kicking it together

Adams said she enrolled her children in tae kwon do classes to learn self-defense. Tae kwon do is a Korean self-defense system much like karate.

“They’re all really small,” she said. “We didn’t want people picking on them.”

That’s unlikely now because all of them have first-degree black belts — meaning they have achieved a high level of skill — and are ranked in the top five in Missouri for their age groups based on ATA tournament performance.

Jackson is especially accomplished in forms, sparring and weapons. Jordan also excels in forms and weapons. Forms is a sequence of consecutive moves that must be done in the right order. In Jackson’s and Jordan’s cases, there are 81 moves. Weapons involves the same types of movements, but the participant uses a weapon as well. The Adamses said they like learning tae kwon do at the same time. It gives them an activity that they can all participate in together. Krista Adams takes her classes during the day while her children are in school and John Adams usually goes in the evening after work.

The children take their classes together. “It’s nice,” Jackson said.

Taylor’s favorite part about taking tae kwon do is being able to participate in the competitions. He especially likes freestyle, a routine that he makes up.

Occasionally, the family disagrees on technique.

“Sometimes we argue because we get four different opinions on the same thing, like with hand positions,” Krista Adams said.

And in this family, sometimes the children know best. After all, they’ve been studying tae kwon do longer than Mom and Dad have.

Tickling the ivories

Anne Fitzsimmons has also found a way to bond with her children: using 88 keys.

Her children, Daniel O’Connor, 13, and Ellen O’Connor, 11, have taken piano lessons — they now have moved on to French horn and percussion. Seven-year-old Mary Jane O’Connor is in her third year of lessons.

“It’s another way to share,” Fitzsimmons said. “It gives us a commonality and things to talk about.”

Sometimes her children feel obliged to teach their mother, coming in while she is practicing to say, “Mom, you’re not doing that right.”

This is Fitzsimmons’ first year taking piano lessons, and Mary Jane, who is in her third year of lessons, likes that her mom is learning piano with her. But she enjoys having her own class time.

“I didn’t want her to play at the same time,” Mary Jane said.

Judy LaRose, their piano teacher, has experience teaching parents and children. She said she thinks it’s better to have the parent and child take lessons separately because it may be uncomfortable for them to go at the same time.

“They are usually learning different things at different levels,” she said.

LaRose also said adults and children have different goals in taking lessons. “Children learn what I think is important,” she said, “but adults tell me what they want to learn. ... Their time tends to be more precious to them because they have other responsibilities.”

Fitzsimmons said taking piano lessons is something she’s always wanted to do. When the family moved into the house a decade ago, the previous owners had left a piano there. That made it easier for the children to take up playing and now for Fitzsimmons to do so.

Something she enjoys — but her children don’t — is practicing. Fitzsimmons has found, though, that a funny thing happens when she practices.

“I do it in the evenings, and this encourages some other people (her kids) to do it as well,” she said.

Mary Jane said that she likes to practice right after her lesson so she doesn’t forget what she has just learned. But sometimes when she hears her mom practicing, it reminds her to practice, too.

“Oh yeah,” she thinks. “Piano.”

Learning to dance

Phoebe Gray and her 3-year-old daughter, Rebecca, are taking dance lessons.

Gray, who said she isn’t new to dance, began a basic jazz class at Dance Arts after she noticed a sign when she took Rebecca there for her first creative movement class this year.

“I’ve been wanting to go back and do it again,” she said. “After her first class, I was looking at the schedule on the board and thought that I should do that.”

Rebecca’s favorite part about learning to dance is spinning. (She also likes the fruit rollup her teacher hands out for good work in class.)

Gray said she wants to show her daughter that adults do fun things, too. “It’s important for her to see me doing stuff that I like to do,” she said.

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