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Friday, June 17, 2011

Christian's swimming lessons

Christian had swim lessons this week. He just turned 21 months old. We spent 15 minutes a day with an instructor and then did practice each day on our own for another 15 minutes or so. These video's were taken by the instructor on our 5th day. Alot of people expressed interest as to how it all worked, so I'll try and give some detail on it... (This is in no way a "how to" that I am suggesting anyone to use to try out for themselves without a professional instructor.
To start with, a parent who can't handle their kid crying is out of the question. Most likely the kid is going to cry, cry, cry. Christian was even calling out for Elle (his 4 year old sister) to help him during his lesson. So much of what happens has to do with the backbone of the parent teaching the kid. You HAVE to win, NO matter what. The child HAS to know that they HAVE to do what you are telling them to and that it is of no concern to you what-so-ever if they don't want to. She is adiment that there is no "lovies" given, no talking AT ALL to the child during the lesson. You can say "Mama loves that" when they come up from the water and that is IT. No holding, no comforting, no "good job" nothing. You are basically acting as a wall- you assist them in no way to climb up and out of the water. (That is what the shirt is for- for them to grab on to and climb up.)

Here is a swim from the steps to me. The 1-2-3 teaches them to hold their breath because at "3" they are going under whether they want to or not and it is far more plesent for them if their breath is held.

This one Elle and Christian are racing. Elle had never swam without her arms before. Leaigh (the instructor) is really big on kids learning to swim with their face in the water. "The last thing a kid does before they drown is take a breath. They need to learn to be strong swimmers without air, get to the side and make their way to the stairs." Learning to come up for breath comes with learning the free style stroke, which is in level 3 (we just completed level 1)
I have seen the impact of this method with the girls Elle plays with and who reccomended this instructor. The youngest (2 years old) swims and plays in the pool with the big girls (ages 5 and 7) so well, you don't even realize that she isn't coming up for air! She can swim the whole length of the pool (about 15 feet)holding her breath, she can dive down and get things from the bottom (5-6 feet deep) and jump off and dive, you have to really pay attention to realize that the only times she is breathing is when she makes her way to the side of the pool. She is so happy and SUCH a strong swimmer. If they learn to come up for a breath too soon, they'll use it as a crutch and not be forced to learn to get to the side for air. I am seeing this with Elle and now in order for her to play in the pool, she is going to have to swim accross with her head in the water and "bunny ears" 15X so she can be a strong swimmer. The other thing the gal said was for me to never let Elle hold on to me in the water. If she needs a break- she needs to make her way to a wall and then take a break.

Everything is very detailed and specific and intentional. The way we even enter the pool area, sit in certain chairs, the stances, the grips, the verbage, EVERYTHING. It sets a routine that the kid can expect and so as soon as they get over the "fighting it" and "testing it" stage they are comfortable because they know what's coming and they know no matter what they are NOT in charge, I AM.
Of course every time we learned a new skill, or trying something new, there was a bit more fussing and uncertainty.. but the theme is to really stick with it, no matter what.

Here I am acting as the wall, I can't move, I can't help him- he'll make it. I can see his eyes wide open, he knows I am there and is figureing out how to get to me. I will say that Christian is an extremely strong swimmer. He was kicking like a champ from day one. There was another little girl there that went before us (who rarely cried at all!) that on those first couple days she seemed to just float there. She didn't kick or anything. She held her breath forever and occationally her grandpa would have to (at the instruction of the teacher, and after a LONG time) take a step to her. But it was specific and slow and in a way that wouldn't allow her to know he had moved. He was absolutely not allowed to grab her and pick her up. Once that happens it's all over- she would expect that from him always and not learn to get to him and up him. The last 2 days she was an incredible swimmer, kicking hard, so happy, proud of herself.

The child has to always be invited into the pool. There was a very specific way of getting the child into the pool. The goal was for the child to learn that they don't just go in the pool when they want, but when envited. We did a series of movements from the step, to facing the wall and learning to turn from the wall, to sitting on the wall and coming in from a sitting position- all with a LOT of repetitions- and then always "monkeying" their way out. (Hands shuffeling along the wall to get themselves to the steps). Once out, everyone can clap and cheer as the child goes and sits in their specific chair and the mom (or whoever) is to leave immediately to the shed to get dry and changed. The instructor gives a lollypop and the idea is for the kid to quit fussing and learn that mama's not going to coddle you, this is serious business.

For most kids they fuss and cry the first 3 days and then are over it and happy the last two. The one little girl hardely cried at all, even on day one. Christian cried all 4 days with her, but was happy on our practice on our own on the 3rd day. And even regardless of how much he fussed during the lessons, he was SO proud of himself when he was done. Especially day 3, he was cheering for himself and had this smile of real pride on his face. Today (the 5th day) part way through he finally "gave over" and he was SO happy! Especially when Elle was in next to him. He really loves his big sister.

This is definately not for the faint hearted parent. You have to be stone and emotionless (which is how we try to discipline as well). This instructor does not take just anyone as a client. She asked me a number of questions first. She doesn't want to be in a situation, or put a child in a situation where the parent is questioning her ("aren't I too far away") or not listening and grabbing up the kid and ruining all that is being taught and putting their child in danger of counting on someone to be there- who won't be if they fall into the pool when no one is watching. Down here the danger is so real with all of the back yard pools, swim parks and community pools.  HUNDREDS of babies and toddlers drown each year- just in this small area. Tragic.
So much of what we learned is really for a pool format, but I did ask a lot about open water- as back in Washington our time in water is more often a lake or the sound and I got some great transfer tips on that as well. Level 2 addresses a lot of those senario's as well. (like going out in the water and making your way around to the shore down the way). We are going to do level 2 in a couple weeks.

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