TRUTH TIME: I have been 50% excited and 50% dreading this swim lesson debate post.
It’s summer in South Florida and water safety is certainly an important topic, but I didn’t realize until #dailybabyavery and I started researching and trying out different local swim schools and teaching methods, how polarizing and scary this subject can really be among parents. The swim lesson debate is real!
You’ve been living under a social media rock if you haven’t seen the latest news about Turtle Power for James Edwards. Several of my featured businesses have either held or attended local fundraisers for James, who experienced a near-drowning in a pool and is currently recovering. Sadly, his story is probably more common than we realize.
So, I am willing to push forward and share my recent “swim lesson experiences” with you, Modern Boca Moms, in an effort to help you make more informed decisions about how you choose to teach your kids about water safety. Just as long as you choose SOMEONE (preferably a professional) to teach your kids about water safety.
However, I’m adding a disclaimer to this great swim lesson debate post: The following is my personal experience only. I am not a swim instruction expert and furthermore, not professionally endorsing any single method of swim lessons or water survival as they can all add value. It depends on your child.
MBMom was given two complimentary lessons at each South Florida swim school featured below in exchange for editorial consideration in this swim lesson debate feature. This is with the exception of Itty Bitty Swimmers, where I personally observed 3 lessons because of the method utilized (ISR).
What You Need to Know:
- No pressure swimming lessons focused on fun
- Ages 6 months & up
- Adapted Aquatics certification for special needs
- American Red Cross CPR & First Aid classes available
- American Red Cross Authorized Provider
- Private & group lessons available at your pool or ours
- Serving Boca Raton & surrounding area
Located in West Boca, #dailybabyavery took two private swim lessons with Annette’s Swim School owner Annette Fuller. A mommy herself, she was very patient with us (it was our first lesson EVER) and held Avery’s attention with a combination of songs and interesting toys while teaching us various swim techniques.
The pool where she instructs is outside, but beautiful and very quiet with a changing room/bathroom for Mom or Dad available approximately 25 feet from the pool. I appreciated that since I was in the water with #dailybabyavery and had to ditch my wet suit before even attempting to get in my car post-lesson.
One of the most important things I learned from Annette was to count to three before starting each swim technique. It signals to the child to get prepared or hold his or her breath. It’s also important to repeat each technique three times for consistency’s sake. I knew her swim lessons had some impact when I found myself singing the Annette “songs” at home when practicing in our own pool!
Since it was Avery’s first set of lessons (and she cried most of the time as you can see below; which luckily I found to be pretty common among kids her age, phew! I’m not a bad mom!), I stuck around to watch some of Annette’s other students. She calls them her “little fishes” and that’s a pretty accurate description!
The MBMom assessment?
If you want private lessons at her pool OR yours, Annette’s your girl. She has a devoted base of parents and kids and there’s a reason. I really enjoyed working with her.
She also provides all new parents/students with an informational packet, beach ball and “Water Watcher” whistle from the USA Swimming Foundation because Annette’s Swim School stands behind water safety and fully believes drowning is preventable. Amen.
Annette’s Swim School
What You Need to Know:
- Swim Lessons for all ages- Private & Group
- Lifeguard and CPR Certified Teachers
- 3 South Florida locations
Mission is to teach water safety and instill in all students a love for the water
For the purpose of this post, #dailybabyavery and I attended two classes at Quality Swimming’s West Boca location (even though they have three), at a great pool attached a local preschool. During this round of testing, we attended one group class and one private lesson.
The instructor, Michelle, was so friendly and welcoming. I really liked working with her in both the group and private settings.
But, I’ll be totally honest (and this has nothing to do with the swim school): Avery’s crying was basically cut in half when we attended the group class. It must be because she sees the other kids succeeding (or not), but I think group classes are the route we personally need to take going forward.
Back to Quality Swimming…
Who knew an “obstacle course” could help with swim instruction? As you can see in the photos, there is a tunnel and specially built platforms so students can stand unassisted in the middle of the pool. It totally resonated with #dailybabyavery. #modernbocadad is even considering building one for our home pool!
Again, this class used song and repetition to reinforce swim techniques, but it relied more on props to help teach…which was a good thing, especially for kids needing distraction, like Avery.
The MBMom assessment? If Quality Swimming has been in business since 1986, then they’re doing something right. And, if you’ve noticed your child does better in a group setting vs. private, this is a good place to start. Plus, the lessons are a lot of fun! The only negative I could find is that there wasn’t easy access to a changing room for Mom or Dad. I noticed most of the other moms just throwing on a towel and shorts and heading out after class. It wasn’t a deal-breaker for me, but it’s worth mentioning.
What You Need to Know:
Infant Swimming Resource’s (ISR) Self-Rescue™ swimming program is a 4-6 week course, scheduled 5 days per week, Monday through Friday, for 10 minutes each day
With a focus on safe, customized, one-on-one lessons by certified Instructors, ISR’s survival swimming lessons emphasize health, ongoing program evaluations and parent education to deliver the most effective and safest results in the industry
The ISR program is for children 6 months to 6 years of age
- Lessons taught by Liz Goldring at the Peter Blum YMCA in Boca Raton
I’ve noticed that parents either embrace or are appalled by this method of swim instruction. After sending Liz Goldring, owner of Itty Bitty Swimmers, an introductory email telling her about what I was trying to accomplish with this post, she set me straight about ISR. And that’s a good thing!
I was intrigued and went to observe three classes for myself. However, I won’t lie when I say her email intimidated me…just a bit…
ISR was developed 47 years ago. We do not only teach children how to swim, we also teach them how to Self-Rescue (TM) should they find themselves in an aquatic emergency. ISR is much different than any traditional swim instruction for many reasons, but the biggest is safety. Becoming an ISR instructor is a very rigorous process. We are trained in many areas including precise behavioral observation, sensory-motor learning, anatomy, physiology, behavioral theory, proprioception, behavioral chaining, and many many more acute theories and practices. Of course all instructors are CPR and first-aid certified.
The lessons are 100% tailored to each child and their pace of learning. Each day, the instructor will work with the child to progress through the program at their own pace.
The lessons are held 5 days per week, Monday through Friday for a maximum of 10 minutes per day. Yes, 10 minutes!
Why 10 minutes? Well, surprisingly, children will fatigue at or before 10 minutes of sensory-motor learning. One of our safety protocols is a vasoconstriction check throughout the lesson to measure fatigue (pressing on the surface of the skin). Once the vasoconstriction check shows we are at our max for the day we get out of the water. This is the safest for the child. Not only is it dangerous to teach a fatigued child, it is non-productive as well.
The program generally takes 30 consecutive lessons for children to master the skills of either Rollback to Float (children 6 months to 12 months and not yet walking) or Swim-Float-Swim (12 months and walking up to 6+ years old). A child is not considered skilled in either the FLOAT or the SWIM-FLOAT-SWIM until they are able to independently perform these skills both in swim attire and full clothing.
Now you can see why I was a tad intimidated, right?
However, reading all of that in an email versus seeing ISR in action (in person) was a totally different experience. It was pretty amazing and the kids were actively learning…in their first week even!
I give the parents credit. I am kind of a sucker when it comes to my baby crying (although I hear that dissipates after the first week or so), but the parents I witnessed were full on cheerleaders despite their child’s resistance (hesitation?) to the lessons. And clearly, Liz’s sense of calm and capability were the reasons they were so confident.
By the way? This kid was my hero. He was laughing and enjoying his entire lesson. I hope his mom is reading this swim lesson debate post.
The MBMom assessment?
This is the most scientific of swim lessons if I’ve ever seen one. ISR is not for everyone…and I’m not referring to the crying, but the time commitment. You need to be able to get your child to his or her lesson 5 days per week for a month or more. That’s too much for many parents. But, the data is there. And HERE are some of the success stories.
It’s important to note that this was the only set of lessons I attended at an indoor facility. Rain or shine, 365, it’s swimming time!
P.S. #dailybabyavery was happy to have a little break during this round of swim instruction. I’ve been working her hard for this swim lesson debate post! 🙂
Itty Bitty Swimmers
I really hope that this swim lesson debate post has educated you a bit more about the various swim instruction options that are out there for you and your family. I wish this had been out there for me when I started doing my research!
But that’s the key: RESEARCH. Make sure you do some digging if you want to be a part of the swim lesson debate and ask other moms about their experiences! We’re all in this together and we all want our kids to be safe in and around pools in South Florida.