Somehow before the summer, in my ongoing aggravation about slow swim learning, I decided to sign the boys up for Splish Splash camp, a weeklong Y daycamp that would emphasize swimming every day. Learning by immersion, sink or swim, one lesson every day -- maybe that would give them the jump-start (or "sink in") they'd need to kick off actual swimming. I've been discouraged again with the slow progress at DACA, which Gabriel has now quit and the other two only have one month left of, and hoped that the Y camp would kick-start things.
No dice. The boys reported today that they were split into very broad groups, by kids saying if they could swim or not, and then had what they described as a lame 45-minute lesson. I ignored complaints about cold -- they're used to absurdly warm water in training pools -- but they both said they could do way more than the class offered. Both said their DACA classes were way better. Damned with faint praise, again.
The rest of the day camp was a regular old fun day camp, but the swim lesson part of it seems sounds like a bust. Again. Like I should be surprised? It's so freakin' difficult to find good swim lessons! Or even bad ones -- just lessons in which they're actually taught to swim!
After picking the the boys up from camp, we zoomed home to get ready to go to, of all things, a swim lesson at DACA. This time just Katrina and Julian.
Julian had a great time in his "red ribbon" class, but once again I found myself quelling irritation that he's in a group of other kids who I see as holding him back. The teacher had to give extra attention to teaching very basic skills like diving. I thought at his level we were sort of beyond this broad differences in skill.
Now, in fairness, Julian had no idea how to dive either his first day, but after just a few lessons, he can dive far more confidently than today's classmates. He leapt to volunteer to go first, anxious to show off his "flip" (meaning, he can't dive straight and ends up flipping underwater):
This tells me the classes just aren't structured right, if skills that can be learned quickly (diving) are mixed in with more fundamental ones that tend to group kids together (errr...swimming?? oh no never mind, that's not until 3 levels later.)
Once again, I found myself watching his class with a mixture of irritation and pride. I remember my one and only experience Momma-bearing, when Julian was in a lower-level class, low enough that you could still get cryers in it. One day, Julian's poor teacher was completely consumed dealing with a new cryer, and I counted the number of turns he had, four, all being pulled around on a barbell. That was too much...or rather, too little. I asked (complained), and he got moved to a class with peers more in keeping with his level.
Again today I found myself wanting to goad the teacher, "can we dispense with the preliminaries and move on to SWIMMING?!"
And this was in the good class today!
He had a new teacher today, who overall was pretty good. Julian's still learning how to dive for sink rings.
One new classmate was not only 10 minutes late (that's really late for a half-hour class), but she had no goggles, looked like she was about to cry at first, and then was constantly chided and helped by her mother, including being helped with climbing out of the pool. Julian is substantially shorter than both girls, and has longer clingier swim trunks to handicap him, so struggled mightily to get out to the side. But I stayed out of it, and he did it.
I wasn't even trying to catch this, but she also gives the girl instructions during class to kick. Later, off-camera, she admonishes her daughter not to let go of the side. I did nothing to support her cause, motioning to Julian to let go if he caught my eye, not that he needed any extra encouragement. He likes letting go and practicing treading water while waiting his turn (a long time while the teacher had to persuade the girl he was working with to let go of the rope and dive for a ring -- which Julian can't do either but he certainly tries hard and eagerly).
I've had it. I'm really tired of being frustrated about swim lessons. I never felt that way at Water Babies, but I feel that way all the time now with all the other classes.
I'm no expert on teaching kids to swim, but I am now an expert on sitting on the sidelines and seeing nothing happening that easily could. I'm really quite certain Julian could easily be taught freestyle -- he's strong and confident and willing and eager. TEACH HIM, already!! I'd do it myself if he'd listen to me!
Fortunately I have some friends who share the same frustratins and have invested far more time and effort into their kids' swimming than I have, and have finally found good lessons, mostly private and semi-private ones taught by entrepreneurs in their backyards. Next summer I'm going straight to them.
My boys' swim lessons do show to some extent, but they should really be far, far more capable than they are given the time and effort they've put in already. I'm no expert on teaching kids to swim, but for the life of me I just can't summon enough creativity to explain why not to teach a capable willing 6-year-old to use his arms in the water. Try as a I might, I just can't craft a reason against it. At no time in my swimming education do I recall being deprived of this resource.
I do love Y camps; nostagically I learned to swim at a Y sleep-away camp, but now even beloved Y campsfall into my general umbrella of disgust at kids' swim lessons. I'm not an instant-gratification kinda gal; I know it takes a lot of time and build-up to learn to swim, but lost opportunities irk me, and this is one. Indeed, I blame the boring classes on Gabriel's lost interest -- he's actually a decent swimmer, and swimming fits well with his physical abilities, but he doesn't like swim classes. I can't blame him. Neither do I.
After this month, that's it for conventional swim lessons. Next summer, it's time to bring in the big guns!
After class, back at home, Katrina had a great time running around the front yard, chasing Gabriel's remote-control truck, teasing Dad about the mushrooms growing in the lawn, and just generally being silly. We use our front yard like this, in small short little snippets, all the time now. Before landscaping, months would go by and I just wouldn't make it near this area. Now it's fun to see what's bloomed, what's growing, what needs to be cut back, how things look. It's not perfect and now that it's there, there are things I'd do differently, but still -- WHAT a difference! It's FUN to be out there, instead of cringe-inducing!