Originally posted June 26, 2009
I live in the middle of what I like to refer to as the ‘great, white soulless suburbs’, outside of Richmond, VA. People around here take classes seriously – gymnastic, dance, sports teams, music lessons, karate lessons, cotillion (fancy dance lessons for preteens), and so on. And don’t forget the private tutors hired to help the preschoolers prepare for entrance exams to the most prestigious grade schools!
So when I spend my lazy summers at the pool, swim lessons always come up. My older kids learned to swim when we lived out in the country, but my youngest one has been coming to this ‘swim club’ since he was 3, and the pressure was always there. The moms discussing which swim coach was best for teaching swimming, or whether to go with the swim school in town often referred to as the ‘swim nazi’. I even had parents tell me outright, he’ll never learn to swim if you (xyz).
But I decided to honor my child as he is. And for him at three, he was afraid of water. In the kiddy pool, he was afraid to pick things up off the bottom of the pool, for fear of getting his head wet. And the only way I even got him in the big pool at the end of that year was to get him a swim vest with attached tube.
However, once I gave him that tube . .. suddenly, he didn’t want me to hold him any more. The child who had been clinging to me for dear life and crying to get out, suddenly paddled around chasing his siblings in the shallow end of the big pool. The sudden confidence was astonishing!
So I decided to just keep doing what we were doing.
At the beginning of the following year, he was afraid again, and only wanted the kiddy pool. But after a few weeks, he was willing to paddle around in his swim vest again. Eventually, I pushed him to try without the tube. Well, he loved it! I couldn’t get the tube back on him! He was now tall enough to be able to stand at the very shallowest spot, and cling to the side (yes, we are short). Soon his older brother convinced him to try goggles, and he started putting his head underwater. On his own! With no pushing or scare-tactic teachers! Then, ear infection set in with tubes, and there was no more pool that year.
This year? Wow! He’s jumping in off the side, trying to swim, and venturing in to deeper water for a challenge. This is my stubborn one, so I cant tell him much, but I tried throwing toys on the bottom for him to get, and in frustration of not being able to get down, I showed him a sitting dive and he did it!
This is just so exciting for me to watch and realize, home schooling will work, esp for this child. This child who is fearful and self-conscious and really needs to set his own pace, but is highly motivated. Trust this child. Teach this child. Enjoy this long summer!