May 31, 2010

Lessons In Swimming

"The water is your friend.  You don't have to fight with water, just share the same spirit as the water, and it will help you move. " 
~Aleksandr Popov

Idle threats and boredom do not inspire my kids.   Funny Girl, who was so excited about learning how to swim, now has to be convinced to go each morning.   This change in attitude started on Friday.  I'm not entirely sure what happened on Thursday, but I think it was the boredom that set in first.  

In a classroom setting, kids have to share the teacher.  It's no different in our family, but the class size is much smaller.  I was happy to see only two other little girls in FG's class on that first day though.  I thought it would be easier than some of the classes I had Robotson in when he was younger.  He was usually one of at least five or six.   

At first, the novelty of having a new teacher and learning new things was enough.  She wasn't real thrilled that time she jumped in and went all the way under, but it was pretty clear she wasn't going to let that happen again.  After that class, she told me she didn't like getting water in her nose, and I told her that going under the water was her choice.   She took from that the courage to state before a jump how far she is willing to be immersed.  

They learned how to kick properly (ballerina toes), how to move the arms in freestyle (windmill arms), and what I think is the breaststroke (duck, plane, crash).  These were introduced slowly along with getting comfortable jumping into the pool, and blowing bubbles.  Alternating the girls so they each got a little practice left two of them usually bored, and sometimes cold, on the side of the pool.  By Friday morning, FG was reluctant to go back.  During the lesson I could tell she frustrated, bored, and not having any fun.  

I hoped the weekend off would renew her excitement, but it was even harder to get her motivated.  On the one hand, I don't want to let her quit.  The class isn't that long and I think it's a good thing for her to be exposed to different learning styles.  On the other hand, I don't want to force her to do something that could kill her enthusiasm for the water.   So this morning when she didn't want to go, we talked to her about it, but ultimately left the decision up to her.  I had an errand to run, and she could either go with  me and her lesson, or stay home.  She chose to go.  

The lesson started off poorly.  I was sitting close enough to hear, and one of the first things out of the teacher's mouth was "Do you want to go to  time out?"  Is this not a ridiculous question?  Do kids normally say yes to this?  We don't use time outs, so I'm not even sure she understands what that means.   Either way, I'm pretty sure the intention is not to remove her from the class because it was threatened multiple times, yet never acted upon.  I'm not always sure that people have to follow through when they say they will do something, but I can see an argument for not even bothering to say it if you don't mean it.    I should stop right here to say that I don't think this young girl teaching the class is a bad person or instructor.  I think she's not used to working with kids that question authority, question the reasons behind what they've been told to do, and when they are not comfortable - refuse to do it.   I can't really say that I blame the teacher at all because I know firsthand how difficult it can be to get these kids to trust you.  I think that's what it boils down to, honestly.  Does FG trust this woman to teach her how navigate water?  I think the answer is no. 

Halfway through the lesson today, the woman who oversees the lessons got into the water to help out.  There was only one other girl in class today, so each girl could get one-on-one help.  Now FG really flourished.   I was beginning to wonder if she had shut herself off completely from learning anything, but I saw her do each move very well.   What a difference it made!  The water is where she wants to be.  I also think the other woman has more experience; perhaps even a more confident hold in the water.  Something was different.  

I don't know how the next four lessons will go, but this experience has reinforced my views on traditional education and discipline.   I was the sort of kid that wanted to get lost in a classroom; just forget I existed so I could do my work and nothing more.  My kids are interested and passionate about learning.   If given the opportunity to work on something fully, and with a trusted mentor, they will go above and beyond.  I love that. 


  1. Swimming is a long journey. It's something we started young since we live on a boat (as in 6 months old) but I brought him to the pool EVERY week, twice a week without fail until he was about 3.5 or 4 years old and I was sure he wouldn't forget it all if we didn't go over the winter. Some weeks he sat on the side and watched me. Some weeks he jumped in with glee. But like you, I never wanted it to be a battle where the water is the enemy. Let me ask you, can you swim? Why not just put the $ into a pool pass and spend time with her in the pool each week?
    I'll tell you what my son told me when I suggested sailing lessons this summer, "But mom, YOU know how to sail. Why don't YOU teach me."

  2. I can swim, although I need some practice. The main reason we tried swimming lessons was because she wanted to go to 'real' school and have a 'real' teacher. I have no plans to send her to school, but I can sign her up for lessons in things she is interested in. I don't know if we'll ever do another class in the future, it's up to her. We have the Y membership so we'll be hitting the pool a lot this summer, plus swimming at the lake.

  3. The first year I signed EJ up for swimming, he was 3 it was summer in southern CA (ie hot) but it rained halfway through the first week and the pool cooled down. We continued going faithfully for the next week but he rarely got into the pool because to him it was cold. It was SO frustrating to me!!! It's come down to having to do lessons in indoor pools only, otherwise he just won't participate even now at 7.

    I've never heard any of his swimming teachers threaten their students. Even the young high school age kids--usually they don't much care if a child won't participate but they really try to engage them. I think FG got someone who really shouldn't be teaching swimming!