This week I will not be interviewing another parent because I wanted to share about my experience of swimming lessons with my two kids. With both of them, we started with Parent & Me classes for one or two years before switching to private lessons. It took longer than I expected for them to be able to swim independently but I have to say I am quite jealous of their swimming technique.
Lena started Parent & Me swim classes at Waterworks Aquatics in San Jose when she was 14 months old. I was very lucky to have 4 friends who had babies around the same time as me and we decided to do this activity together. Some of my friends had older kids who were taking swim classes at Waterworks so they already knew the pool and the instructors.
Teaching my children to learn how to swim has always been important to me. Growing up I had the privilege of having a pool and my parents and grandparents were all good swimmers. My grandmother was a retired PE teacher and she taught me how to swim. We don’t have a pool where we live now and I didn’t feel like teaching my children myself how to swim so I knew we would have to find swim lessons. Having the opportunity to start with Parent & Me classes was a great way to familiarize them with the water, I loved this special time being in the water with my baby, and being with friends was also really nice for me and for my daughter.
In the Parent & Me classes we took, there were 6 children with one of their guardians per class. I was pleasantly surprised because even if the majority of adults were moms there were also several dads and sometimes grandmas taking the classes with their little ones. The classes last 20 minutes and always follow the same pattern of exercises so it quickly becomes familiar for the children and the adults. The children learn to go under the water, stay in a back float position, jump into the pool, and roll over to breathe. My daughter was not always a fan of going under the water but she learned to be comfortable. The pandemic started when she was 2 years old and we returned on and off to the pool 8 or 9 months later, depending on the pool closures due to the public health situation. When we first went back she started being afraid of going in the pool but fortunately, after a few classes, she became comfortable again.
When she was about 3 years old she started to take private lessons. Waterworks has a very structured learning method with 12 levels so all the swim instructors will do the same exercises for the level your child is in. For example, to reach level 2 the student will need to stay 5 seconds underwater and do a back float for 10 seconds. For level 3 the students will have to swim freestyle for 2 unassisted roll-over breaths. In the beginning, I felt that she was learning very slowly and that she was only doing back float for the entire session, week after week. It was a bit frustrating to me but it didn’t seem to bother her. Once she finally reached level 2 she was able to progress quickly and she was always very happy to go to her swim lessons.
After a few months, we switched her to a semi-private class to be with one of her friends. When you are in a semi-private class there are 2 students with one instructor for 20 minutes. When the kids are not really able to swim by themselves they do the exercises each at a time with the other kid holding to the instructor in their back so they only really swim for 10 minutes in each class. But once they reach higher levels, they are both able to swim the whole time by sharing the lane. If you can afford it, I think taking a private class until your child can swim independently is the best way to go.
My daughter has now reached level 10 out of 12, she is able to master the 4 strokes pretty well and is now learning to turn to do consecutive laps and to dive off the block. We plan to have her continue taking lessons for this school year and stop after that. Doing competitive swimming was not something we really thought about but one instructor timed her during one of her classes and told her she should think about joining the swim team. Lena is very competitive so she immediately liked the idea. We’ll see if she still talks about it next summer. Swim competitions are on the weekends and we would like to hold on to our commitment-free weekends as long as possible.
My experience with my son is very similar to the one with my daughter. The main difference is that, because he was not interrupted by the pandemic like she was, he was never afraid of the water. Maybe this is just a difference in their personality but I really feel that going regularly to the pool and starting when they are young is a very good way to make them comfortable in the water quickly and easily.
Swimming lessons are definitely not cheap (you’ll find the details below), especially if you choose private lessons, so this really is an investment but we don’t regret making it. The other thing that I found challenging in my experience is the long drive to the pool. There are not many indoor heated pools specialized in swimming lessons in the Bay area so there was no better alternative closer to us. Another thing worth mentioning is that the pool is super busy and loud on weekday evenings, I often dread going inside, so if you or your child are sensitive to loud environments, that might not be the best place for you. During the weekdays when I went to Parent & Me classes in the morning it was really quieter but if you are working or your child is school-aged I know this is not always possible.
We are glad we had the opportunity to start with them early and that they are well on their way to becoming good swimmers. Even more importantly to us, now that they can swim well, they are having a blast in the water. At the end of each class, the children can swim for 10 minutes in a play area and they have so much fun going underwater to pick up toys, doing somersaults, and racing each other that it is often hard to make them leave the pool.