10 years ago, you had never heard of survival style swimming lessons. You either attended group lessons at your local Rec center or your parents taught you how to swim. In the last decade the industry has evolved; now you have options when it comes to your child's swimming lessons. So how do you choose? I face the challenge of educating potential clients on a daily basis, So here are 5 things you should consider when shopping for swim lessons!
1. What is your end goal? This might seem like a silly question, but its a big one. The obvious answer is, "I want my child to know how to swim." Great, how soon do you want to accomplish this? Do you just want them to be comfortable in the water? Do you want them to have more fun or something structured? Do you want them to be safe in case of an emergency? Each answer changes how your instructor should approach your child's lesson. So my question to you is: Can your swim lessons be customized? If a program will not or can not personalize your child's lessons to help accomplish your goals, they aren't worth your time and money.
2. Group lessons or Private lessons? I've taught both style of lessons and from a teacher and a mom stand point I will always vote for private lessons! When I taught group lessons for the Rec center, I had the constant challenge of working with one student while letting the others play. I didn't like having to split a 30 minute class between 6 kids. Not only were they different personalities, but they weren't on the same level (even though the Rec center classified them as a level 2) I had one class that had a very strong swimmer, a child who was afraid to put their face in, a child that screamed and cried for mom the entire time, a runner... I literally couldn't get out of the pool and leave my class to go get him, so that was awkward, and then a kid who thought it was funny to push kids off the step when I was working with his fellow classmates. I've heard of parents even having to jump in and save their child during their group lessons because the teachers back was turned (this never happened with me) Consider how much you're paying for a group lesson and how much time your child is actually spending with their teacher learning the skills. And one more side note from my clients that took group lessons, you usually have to repeat levels multiple times, year after year before you see progress if any at all. In a private lesson, your child gets to go at their own pace, they don't sit on the stairs waiting for a turn and they progress SO much faster!
3. Scheduling Something that hasn't seem to catch on yet in this field is how often your child should be taking their swimming lessons. Most of your programs assign you to one or maybe two classes a week. Thats it! That kills me, because 1-2 lessons a week is what I recommend for my clients who are completely safe, comfortable and confidently swimming pretty much completely independent! So how on earth is less than an hour a week of practicing multiple skills in the water going to accomplish your goals? From a mom stand point, I have a crazy schedule, between school and naps, and play dates and work, I can't always promise to be at one place every week at 10 o'clock. So we don't make you- I think allowing busy parents to make their own schedules is a game changer. You get to choose when you want to come, and how often. You have complete control over your schedule, so if you want to go out of town or need to switch from mornings to evenings, you can with ease. You also are in constant communication with your instructor so they can tell you when to bump up your lessons for the week or when its time to start cutting back to prepare for a maintenance program. Big picture, you're getting the results you want because you come as often as your child needs.
4. Personality Personalities are a huge part of your child's swimming lessons because knowing their personality helps us, as instructors, know how to tweak their lessons to help them learn! For example, my stubborn son had to be taught differently than my timid son. Every single child is unique, so when it comes to learning, the approach of teaching needs to be adjusted. If you haven't read The Child Whisperer by Carol Tuttle, I highly recommend it! Its the closest thing I have found to a manual on parenthood that actually works! There are 4 main personalities: Fun-Loving, Sensitive, Determined, and the more Serious child. Why does this really matter? In order for your child to learn to swim, two things need to happen: there has to be a bond between your child and their teacher, without that, you will not see progress! Second, you can't just go through the motions of a lesson plan! If the material isn't being taught in a way your child can understand and execute it, then again, you will not see results! So personality profiling (as we call it) helps us bond almost instantly with a child when we understand what their individual needs are. Then we teach them in the most personalized setting possible.
5. What skills are being taught in the program you are considering? When I taught at the Rec center, we were given a booklet that listed about 30 skills that each level needed to accomplish before they could be recommended to the next level. This is a typical set up in our industry, most programs use the level system. It's not bad, I just think its an outdated way to learn, and here's why. If your child has 30 different skills that need to be accomplished in lets say 8 weeks of 30 minute lessons, attending one class a week. That puts them in the water for 4 hours in that session, then you have to take away all the time that the teacher was working with another student.. So less than 4 hours of practice time for 30 different skills... I just don't see how that can be achieved, especially for children under the age of 6. Which is why about 90% of students repeat levels in this structure of swimming lessons. In a real life situation, your child will never need to know those 30 skills from level 3 of swimming lessons. I highly recommend a program that teaches real life swimming skills. In real life, your child should know how to swim on their stomachs and on their backs, with out life jackets, with out holding onto their teacher or a floating object. They should know how to get from their backs to their stomachs independently and vice versa, and they should be learning what their limits are in the water. If a teacher always holds them or helps them, they won't know what to do if they can't touch or accidentally fall in! Many people don't know that survival style lessons are NOT taught in every program. Most of the industry teaches them to be comfortable and play in the water but not what to do in an emergency situation. Our program focuses and specializes in the survival swimming techniques, so that in a real life situation your child will know what to do.
We attended a swimming birthday party a few weeks ago and one mother told me her daughter had been taking lessons for 4 years, so I thought, "oh she must be a really strong swimmer." As I watched her get into the water I very soon realized that she actually could not swim at all! Her mom had to hold her and assist her in swimming very short distances, and even that was accomplished with doggy paddling. I could not help but wonder, how is it that you've taken so many swimming lessons and you can not swim?
One more little piece of advice, with social media being so huge in our lives, take a look at your prospect's Instagram and Facebook pages. Find videos of actual lessons, because if you like what you see in the videos then you'll probably like what you're about to invest in.
We love hearing your feedback and questions, please don't hesitate to reach out!