Here's the thing that frustrates me about large group lessons (more than 4 kids): kids spend most of their time waiting around to do the strokes or whatever rather than doing them themselves. And while they are waiting around they aren't paying attention, they waiting around bored. Or they are chatting with their friends or splashing each other and otherwise screwing off. Or so it was all winter long at the Y when my girls did their lessons last year. Teacher's fault? Partly, but beyond 3-4 students, how much time can the instructor realistically give each student in a 40 minute lesson?
Last summer and this summer they had 1:1 lessons with a competition swimmer, a seasoned instructor, someone who knows her shite. They did this every single day they spent in Hawaii. After their lessons I practiced with them and each day they grew exponentially better and more confident with their skills. I am now a firm believer that large group lessons do not work if you want your kid to progress quickly as a swimmer, especially as it relates to proper swimming technique. I guess it's like anything.
Now that we are back from Hawaii, we are still spending lots of time in the pool, but since Bunny wants to do swim team this fall, I have been in search of lessons that match my philosophy of swimming, that philosphy being: Stop being a baby and swim, goddammit. Not that I would ever say that out loud. I'm grilling everyone, "Do you like your lessons?" "Why?" "How many kids are in your class?" "Is the pool heated?" "Are your kids making quick progress?"
For the past couple of weeks, we've been spending our time at a new-to-us pool in the next town over. It has two large pools: one for instruction (with some free swim space) and a lap pool also with free swim lanes. It also has a baby pool for toddlers. Toddlers and their pee.
While swimming with my girls, I've had lots of time to watch the instructors at this pool. And today it dawned on me that they actually know what the fuck they are talking about. How refreshing for a community pool. At first I thought, "Hrm, they sure do a lot of yelling." But now I realize that it's part of the instructional technique (plus they need to be heard when kids are underwater). The instructors are hard-asses. I like that in a teacher. Swim lesson time is not for playing. Yes, they do lots of fun things with the kids (flipping them on a mat, playing ball, tossing them in the air), but at the end. As a treat. When the kids are in the pool, their focus is on the instructor and even with the little kids, I saw lots of good technique. And plenty of confidence, and that is what being a safe, strong swimmer is all about.
My problem with the swim instructors last winter was that they were all basically spineless teenagers. So many times I had to be that mother walking to the edge of the pool to tell Zac Efron that I'm not paying for my 3-year-old to wear a float vest and clutch a rubber duckie the entire time, especially when just three short months ago, she was swimming on her own in Hawaii. Rather than build confidence, those lessons diminished it, and Wallie especially seemed to regress. Two weeks in Hawaii this summer fixed that, so I knew than I would be looking carefully at the next round of swim lessons.
I think we found our home at this pool...though we'll see come this winter. This pool is outdoors and their regular pool is indoors which makes it nice (for the waiting mama) when it's cold out. The girls did their swim tests last night with Bunny showing off her freestyle, breast stroke, (impressive!) backstroke, and valiant attempts at the butterfly, a stroke I could never do well no matter how I tried. Wallie kicked across the pool, did her "pizza arms" (breast stroke), and refused to do any freestyle whatsoever even though she can. She just doesn't like being told what to do which is typical for her. We'll just see about that come swim lesson time.
We're giving it a go at the end of the month and we'll see where we are at the end of 10 weeks. Hopefully Wallie will keep her momentum going and Bunny will reach her swim team goal.