Our New England weather is no indicator this week, but summer is rapidly approaching. I’m starting to make plans for activities and adventures to fill our long, hot days. Swimming lessons are at the top of the list.
In my pre-child days I taught swimming and lifeguarding, and managed pool facilities. Years of daily experience in the aquatic world have made me quite picky about the swimming lessons I choose for my kids.
I carefully choose my facility and lesson time. Swimming pools are a superior venue for lessons. Natural bodies of water are fun, but they make it difficult to control the class environment. In addition, as students become more advanced it is necessary for instructors to be able to observe their underwater movements. That is much more difficult in a lake or river.
If your facility includes an indoor swimming pool, choose the lesson time that best suits your child’s schedule. If you’re going to be at an outdoor facility choose carefully. While lessons first thing in the morning may work best for you, be aware that cooler water and air may affect your child’s willingness to participate in the class.
Another consideration is the frequency of the class. Most children will do best in lessons that meet at least twice a week, ideally four or five times. When I taught classes that met only once each week most of time time was spent reviewing what we had done at the previous lesson. Unless you are taking them to practice in between, a week is just too long a time for their little bodies and minds to remember what they learned.
I always check to make sure the instructors at a facility are certified Water Safety Instructors (WSI). WSI training is provided by the American Red Cross and is available nationwide. Many facilities allow employees that are simply lifeguards, not WSI’s to teach swimming lessons. WSI training is important because it not only ensures that the instructors perform all strokes and skills properly, but it also teaches them how to teach aquatic skills and how to work with children.
Finally, there are a few key things that I look for before signing my kids up. If a facility enrolls 10+ kids in the lower level classes I won’t go there. The younger the kids, the smaller the class should be.
Instructors should always be in the water, unless they’re teaching a Level 5 or higher. Then, they should constantly be in and out. If I see instructors are sitting on the side of the pool, I know that they aren’t engaged in their teaching.
If your facility always requires students to have a floaty on during lessons then your kids aren’t learning how to swim. They need to experience and learn how to control their own buoyancy.
If you’ve done your homework you can feel confident in leaving your child with his swimming instructor. And that’s what you should do. The very best instructors and facilities will ask you not to be poolside during the lesson. They need your child’s full attention and having you coach from the side doesn’t help. So, enjoy your 30 minutes of freedom. Find a place in the observation area or outside the fence and let the instructor work their magic.
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