Three years of swimming lessons and still no clue. Advice?

(42 Posts)
OhBuggerandArse Sun 18-Aug-13 13:56:34

Oh dear. Have just had miserable trip (meant to be fun family outing) to the swimming pool where my six year old appeared completely unable to swim at all, or even remember the absolute basics about kicking or body position.

Am very frustrated with myself that I couldn't stay patient and helpful, but also unbelievably pissed off that we've been shelling out for lessons (group ones run by the local pool) for so long to so little effect. We do swim regularly as a family as well, but have usually just tried to have fun and get the kids comfortable in the water - perhaps this was the wrong way to go about things?

The new term of lessons starts next week and he is booked in - am I kidding myself that things might improve, or do I need to go looking for some other solution? I've never considered smaller group/individual lessons because of the expense, but there doesn't seem to be any point in keeping on paying for teaching that isn't working for him.

The other issue, of course, is how to get him to try harder and more consistently - school stuff comes pretty easy to him, so he doesn't really have enough experience of having to keep plugging away at things that don't come naturally at first. Clearly today's tactic of losing my temper is not a good one - but I don't think it does him any good to keep pretending that everything can just be fun either.

Would be very grateful for any technical/practical tips about the swimming lessons, as well as psychological ones re. tactics for dealing with a coasting child!

violetbean Sun 18-Aug-13 14:05:33

Hello, you poor thing, how frustrating.

Not sure what to suggest re the swimming, although I did observe a lesson at my local pool recently (as I was lane swimming) where each kid only spent about 20 seconds in the pool in a half hour lesson and the rest of the time was spent sat on the side waiting their turn. Was a bit hmm at that.

In terms of coasting, there's a great book called 'Mindset' by Carol Dweck that has a lot of advice for this situation. Highly recommend a read if you have time.

MrsWeasley Sun 18-Aug-13 14:11:02

Are you able to watch a lesson or ask tutor how DC is doing?

Mine learned more in the first half hour of one to one swimming lessons than in years of group sessions. More expensive but infinitely more cost effective.

NoComet Sun 18-Aug-13 14:31:16

I agree save your money and do individual/HT intensive course in 6-9 months time.

Many DCs find being 6/7 a frustrating time, DD2 threw massive tantrums, DN does too.

I used to do Brownies and the youngest 7y had nothing like the confidence of the slightly older girls.

I think it's one of those ages (like 9-10 and 13-14) when DCs can't quite do what they think they should be able/allowed to do. They are horrible to 'teach' anything.

Also six year olds will get scared in water in a way many gunhoo four year olds don't. Even my totally mad DD2, jump in without arm bands, do any water shoot at 5, was more cautious at 6-7.

OhBuggerandArse Sun 18-Aug-13 14:40:48

Oh, thank you all - that is really helpful. Will definitely seek out the 'Mindset' book, and will try and find out whether there are any good one to one swimming lessons anywhere nearby.

chickensandbees Sun 18-Aug-13 14:48:21

We went for private 2-1 lessons for our dds and in one term the eldest (4) can do half a length without arm bands and i reckon by the end of next term she'll be able to swim. They are expensive but value for money. A lot of people have moved from the local group sessions to the private ones and they all learn really quickly. If you can afford it I think it's worth it.

My only concern now is when we will stop. At first I thought it would be when she can swim unaided but now I want her to learn the proper strikes etc, so as long as she enjoys it and is still learning I will keep going.

ReallyTired Sun 18-Aug-13 14:55:35

You need a very good swimming teacher if group lessons are going to work. Unless there are physical special needs a six year old with normal intelligence should learn to swim fairly quickly. Out of interest can your son ride a bike? What is he like as sport generally. Children need a certain level of physical development to be able to swim. For example no amount of swimming lessons would get a baby able to swim, but I learnt breaststroke, front crawl and back stroke in one week of five individual lessons at the age of seven.

Individual lessons are often better for older children. Small children often need to build up muscle before they can swim.

The mindset book advocates praising chidlren for hard work rather than being clever. Carolle's reserach shows that children who are praised for being clever are nervous of trying things that they find hard.

As for teaching swimming, the first thing that a child needs to learn is how to float. I suggest getting two floats and a swimming nooddle.

You can gradually reduce the amount of air in the swimming noodle and then get your son to swim with just the floats. Get him to do a star fish float on both front and back with the floats to help. Gradually he will learn to be able to a starfish float with no floats. If he kicks and does a starfish float on his back then he will be swimming. A properly qualified teacher can help him with stroke development

tallulah Sun 18-Aug-13 15:12:43

We have a similar problem. Our 6 yo was swimming really well at 3 yo but then went to individual lessons. After 3 years private lessons she can only manage 5 metres. We are so fedup that we aren't rebooking her next term.

Scruffey Sun 18-Aug-13 15:17:48

Change swim teacher. That is shocking.

LIZS Sun 18-Aug-13 15:23:33

Can you fit an intensive course (daily for 4/5 days) in before term starts ? A week between lessons may simply be too long a gap for him to gain the confidence he needs to make that progression.

bigTillyMint Sun 18-Aug-13 15:33:14

I am shock that a child could have had 3 years of swimming lessons and that if they had not learned how to swim, that the teacher wouldnt have talked to the parents.

Are you not able to watch at all? Mine had lessons in 3 different pools over the years and each time I was able to watch. And if not, could you talk to the teacher at all about your concerns and get them ti identify what the problem is?

OhBuggerandArse Sun 18-Aug-13 16:10:50

We do watch. Our childminder takes them some of the time, but she's good at spotting what's going on as well.

We've raised issues with the swimming coordinator a number of times, and he always promises to sort them - to be fair, he has done a number of times.

I think there are two main problems though - the groups are too big, and there isn't enough consistency of staff. A couple of the teachers he's had have been great, but they never stay for more than one term. I think it's council policy to move them around a lot, and they don't have many of them on permanent contracts. Presumably at least part of this is due to trying to keep employment costs down - but we're still paying through the nose.

Am very disheartened, really - we're very close to this pool and I think one should should support the council provision. I don't want to go private, and nowhere else would be as convenient. But it really is disappointing to see so little progress, and I can't see how to sort it without being the terrible pushy mother who all the staff groan about.

bigTillyMint Mon 19-Aug-13 05:09:53

What's he like at other sports? Can he ride a bike confidently? Balance on one leg, etc?

If he is good at physical activities but is failing to learn to swim, then I would try somewhere else.
However, if he struggles a bit with coordination, maybe it will take him longer to get swimming. He is only 6, and may just not have been ready yet?

prissyenglisharriviste Mon 19-Aug-13 05:20:35

None of mine have learned before seven, despite being in lessons from 3.

With my third, I just didn't bother with swimming lessons before that. Waste of time and money.

There are kids who swim from birth, natch. Mine just aren't that fishy.

(If it's any consolation, once they get it, they go from completely incapable to swimming miles - literally - in weeks. Mine are veritable dolphins now, and get a lot of compliments on their speed and technique, but none could do owt but flounder until they were past seven).

prissyenglisharriviste Mon 19-Aug-13 05:21:44

Actually, with dd1 we went down the private route at around five/ six. Even more of a waste of time and money... I'd forgotten that!

OhBuggerandArse Mon 19-Aug-13 08:46:00

Thanks, again. He is medium, I would say, at other sporty stuff - has been very confident on a bike since three and a halfish, loves football and runs around like mad on the pitch but doesn't really 'get' what he's supposed to be doing. Hm, maybe some comparability there.

Actually, come to think of it, he is rather like his father who is totally non-instinctive and has to process everything through his brain, and always needs to read a book about principles rather than find out by experimentation or practice. Maybe we just need to find a way to get him thinking about what to do?

And thanks, prissy, that's very encouraging! And makes me less guilty about not feeling keen to go off and find other and even more expensive lessons...

driftwoodsands Mon 19-Aug-13 09:28:39

I'd also recommend an intensive course of either 1:1 tuition or a small group. Weekly lessons didn't seem to teach my DC either. Also, I wonder if he is slightly 'pretending' not to be able to swim with you, as playing in the water is more fun? DD (9) does this to me. If you saw her in the pool with me, you'd think, 'There's a beginner' but she can swim 400m. Just says she doesn't like swimming seriously with me, as the games we play are fun. HTH.

lljkk Mon 19-Aug-13 09:34:27

This is partly why I think swim lessons for under 5s are a waste of money.

burstingbaboon Mon 19-Aug-13 10:39:34

Hi ! I completely understand your situation!
I have 2 DDs ( 8 and today 10)!!!! I live in NW London and I was sending them to a private lesson (2-1) ! It was £25 per hour! I was sending them for a full year only to discover that after a year they couldn't do anything! I mean anything at all!
They used to tell me that she is just shouting and forcing them to do things thr they are scared but I thought that it's just them being maybe scared or something'
This year, during half term I send them both for a crush course group lesson(£5 p/h) for 4 days, little one can swim and older one can't swim on the back- scared but can do front! I can't be alive that she is still aloud to coach kids and steal money of the parents like that! Karma is b..... and G.d forgive me, but I hope it will get back to her!!!!!!!

ReallyTired Mon 19-Aug-13 19:54:52

"This is partly why I think swim lessons for under 5s are a waste of money."

A lot depends on what you are trying to achieve. I have not been able to take dd swimming for several months due to a broken thumb where the tendons have not healed completely. DD has loved her swimming lesson and it has been great exercise for her.

Very few children under five have concentration to learn to swim through a group lesson. Even if a young child is capable of following instructions they may lack the physiological strength to be able to swim.

My daughter was in a class of 8 children and was the only girl. Us parents described the children as being snow white and the seven dwarfs. Dd followed instructions, but was fearful of the water. The boys had no fear, but they had no concentration. The swimming classes helped my daughter lose her extreme fear of the water.

Recently my daughter has just had a breakthough at four years and three months and can now float on her front and her back. She can swim on her back a couple of metres, but does not yet have the stamina to manage 5 metres. She can't swim on her front as she lacks the strength to get her head out of the water. At the moment she does about 2 metres doggy paddle and then she stands up in the pool to breathe.

ThoughtsPlease Mon 19-Aug-13 22:20:29

I don't think that swimming lessons are a waste of money for under 5s.

For some children they may not work, but this may well be more down to the teacher and how the lessons are structured etc.

DD1 completed Stage 10 at 6, and DD2 is currently in Stage 9 at 6, so they both learnt a great deal I would say right from when they started lessons at 3.

Through my DDs lessons I have seen some very poor teaching so I swapped to different teachers at the same leisure centre.

I found 1 teacher who was great and have gone out of my way to ensure that when my DDs moved up the stages they stayed in his groups, I tried not to worry about how I might be coming across, but actually the teacher privately agreed with me that some of the other groups were not very effective!

I too would not have been happy to continue to pay for lessons that were not worth it.

ReallyTired Mon 19-Aug-13 23:26:28

ThoughtsPlease I think that your children and the OP children may well be at different ends of the swimming ablity continium. Most children are not ready to learn to swim at three year old, just as most children are not ready to learn how to read at three.

It would be interesting to know if the other children in the class are making progress. It is unlikely that all the children in the class are devoid of swimming ablity.

Personally I do not think that pre school lessons are a waste of money, but it is important to be realistic. Our sports centre have two classes for pre schoolers: starfish and seahorse. Children in the starfish class do little more than play and work through their duckings awards 1 to 4. The children in the seahorse class learn to swim properly and work towards duckings level 5.

If you leave it too long to start swimming lessons then older children can be very fearful of the water. It is difficult to balance being developmentally ready to learn to swim with starting early enough so a child feels confident in the water.

lljkk Tue 20-Aug-13 09:51:27

Most Parents can take kids themselves to deal with the risk of developing fear of water. Admittedly swim lessons can be much cheaper than parent taking child age 3+, of course.

ReallyTired Tue 20-Aug-13 18:48:56

"Most Parents can take kids themselves to deal with the risk of developing fear of water."

The logistics of taking a child swimming is hard when you have more than one child. A pre school child ideally needs one to one supervision. Some parents are fearful of the water or have other reasons why they cannot go swimming.

Munashe Wed 21-Aug-13 02:15:43

My 5 year old has been doing group lessons for nearly 2 years. The groups was small with just 6 children and 2 teachers but I feel it was a total waste of my money. During the 30mins lessons the teachers would take turns with the children he would be lucky to swim 10 minutes a sessions.

What really helped my son was we are members of a health club so I was taking him swimming at least three times a week and then the lesson. That's how he has learnt to swim. I don't think the class added anything, infact because he could swim, the teachers concentrated on the other kids more.

This week he is doing intensive one-to-one for the week and I couldn't be happier, he has progressed so much such that I am thinking of keeping him on the one-to-one once a week for next term. It cost money but so worth it. With group lessons it will take years for them to swim, imagine someone swimming 10 minutes a week term time only. That's about 2 hours a term, 6 hours a week. Yep!

Munashe Wed 21-Aug-13 02:17:37

sorry meant 6 hours a year

My DS has been having lessons for a year and wasn't making any progress. He just likes hopping about in the water (where he can put his feet down) and flapping his water wings.

On holiday we had access to a smallish pool. I told him I would take him to Toys R Us if he was able to swim a width without putting his feet down or wearing wings. He did it on the second attempt.

Now he is back at his lessons and he no longer uses the wings at all.

Bribery is, of course, a terrible thing...but sometimes it has it's place.

Munashe Wed 21-Aug-13 02:41:32

By the way I think whichever option you choose if you want him to progress faster then you have to get some extra swimming with him in addition to the weekly lessons. Even is you can manage once that would greatly help. It will be just fun swimming even with little sharks for him to dive and pick up, his water confidence will greatly improve.

I personally prefer to just go all in and get done with the lessons in a shorter time than languishing with lessons for years and years with little progress.

ReallyTired Wed 21-Aug-13 09:05:09

Many children to learn to swim with group lessons.

"I personally prefer to just go all in and get done with the lessons in a shorter time than languishing with lessons for years and years with little progress."

The only way to avoid languishing with lessons for years is to start at six or seven years old. Even then a child needs practice to get good at anything.

My daughter has had three terms of swimming lessons and can float on both her front and back. She can swim on her back, and she can swim with her head in the water on her front. However she does not have the physical stamina to get her head out of the water or swim an entire length. She is four years and three months.

Often a child is not developmentally ready. Even if a three year old has one to one lessons they will not learn because their physical development is just not there.

Some children find swimming harder than others just like some children find maths harder.

LifeofPo Wed 21-Aug-13 09:10:20

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Meglet Wed 21-Aug-13 09:15:42

6yo DS has been having lessons for 3yrs now and he's still in the baby pool. He is very water confident though, there's just too much messing around and not concentrating during lessons.

Last week I stumped up for private lessons for him and almost 5yo DD and the difference was amazing. It is not cheap at all but I'm a LP so can't teach them by myself. I'm going to take the hit on more private lessons (and keep up with their normal lessons) as I think they'll crack it really fast now. Once they can swim I can get them in the big pool with me.

LIZS Wed 21-Aug-13 09:56:03

I think also there is a danger of putting them into a situation where they know they can put their feet down in the shallow end at the first sign of fear. That in turn means they never really get going and resist going further. Taking them a little deeper, such as to where they can stand up on tiptoe, may allow them to feel the natural resistance and buoyancy of the water better and actually give them a little more confidence to have a go and develop techniques to keep afloat. Some swimming schools don't use buoyancy aids and teach under water swimming. dd became much more confident after a holiday where the pool was beyond her depth, using a woggle and floats.

coco27 Sun 01-Sep-13 13:17:47

I think swimming lessons are not really useful until the child can doggy paddle a few metres.Achieving this is more a matter of confidence than technique.You are much better to teach him yourself.The secret is to support them in a good swimming position and very gradually reduce the support.Never ever put them in s ituation where they are frightenedI am not a swimming teacher but taught all my 4 myself before they were 5 by one swimming session a week.

We took ours for lessons at the public pool from age 4 as at the time the ILs had a holiday home on the edge of a lacke.

They are both competent swimmers now aged 7 and8.

I find that they swim really well at their lessons but when I take them, they just splash and play but are very competent and confident in the water. Its just that there's no way I can get them to swim anything resembling a length or proper stroke, when its just US with no teacher.

Also, if the lessons are in a shallow pool, like one of the private (expensive) places near us, then when the kids go to the public pool them can't put their feet on the bottom and act like they can't swim.

Its far cheaper for me to send the kids for lessons than pay for all of us to go to a public swim session, so they keep going for their lessons and I take them on a weekend once a fortnight or so.

Parmarella Sun 01-Sep-13 13:45:27

At that age, and after3 years, I shelled put for 12 private lessons for DS , so he had his normal group lesson + 121 with a teacher.

It hot hom to the next level ( the deep end!)

I figured a costly term was better than another 3 years of never ednding group lessons, and after a year I even let him quitt ( he was just 7)


Parmarella Sun 01-Sep-13 13:46:01

It GOT HIM to the next level, sorry

cory Fri 06-Sep-13 15:15:34

My family are 5 minutes from a very safe and inviting beach. Even so 6 is the average age for learning to swim and has been so for generations. It's what ReallyTired said about physical development.

Needmoresleep Sat 07-Sep-13 07:37:29

A while ago but my son took about three years to learn to swim whereas his younger sister was a fish and effectively overtook him. I finally worked it out. He was a really skinny boy with no buoyancy. He essentially did not float in the same way that the chubbier kids did. He therefore needed to work hard to stay above the water and it was not really till he was about 8 that he had sufficient strength.

By then he was not prepared to be outshone by his younger sister so gave up once he finished the various levels.

Leisure Centre swim lessons can be quite poor. I understand you can qualify as a teacher without being able to swim yourself and so it is not uncommon for football and other coaches to train to help ensure early evening demand can be met. Really worth checking that the teacher is someone who swims and enjoys swimming.

BushCricket Sat 07-Sep-13 07:53:33

I am a keen swimmer and looked up best age for lessons for my kids. ASA seemd to recommend 4 or 5 as the very earliest for formal swimming lessons to actually learn proper strokes. Before that it is for ease and confidence in the water and no need to pay for that if you can take them IMO.
I think it takes a long time with weekly lessons to learn the techniques and body positions needed. I think children who learn to actually swim unaided in a few weeks or months may have poor technique and will then have to spend a long time unlearning what they have been doing.
I think the new methods of learning are better than what we had as children - you only have to go to a pool in the UK to see that a lot people's techniques are not great. However it does take longer as you are putting all the foundations in place first. My two took over a year each to learn to swim unaided and they were water confident and having 2-1 lessons with a fab instructor. They are now faster than me and doing club swimming.

lainiekazan Mon 09-Sep-13 13:10:40

Ds was useless at swimming. I dutifully took him to leisure centre classes for a year and he was still sloping along with one foot on the bottom.

After years of saying he didn't care if he couldn't swim, at age 13 he suddenly said he wanted to be able to swim. I bit the bullet and paid for one-to-one lessons with a very well thought of teacher at a hotel pool. I had to wait a long time for a place to come up - over a year, in fact, but it was so worth it. She had ds swimming in no time and although he will never be Michael Phelps he can enjoy swimming on holiday and actually has a good technique (so I'm told - I can't swim myself blush ).

GangstersLoveToDance Sun 29-Sep-13 18:20:56

Must say that I do think swimming lessons are a waste for under 5's.

My two have recently completed their first 10 week course in swimming (group sessions) - ds1 is 5 and ds2 is 3.

Ds1 was a complete non-swimmer, and after 10 x 30 minute lessons is now able to swim a whole width on his front or back with no floats. It's amazing how quickly he came on.

Ds2 on the other hand spends his time being pulled around on various different floats and blowing bubbles in the water and playing. I can do that when I take them swimming and don't have to pay the equivalent of £9 per hour for the privilege.

IMO, ds2 is not learning anything but unfortunately now i'm stuck - because there's no way i'd stop ds1, but there will be holy hell if I withdrew only ds2.

So i'm stuck paying for swimming lessons for him, probably for a year or two, before he gets any benefit. Had I just started ds1 and told ds2 he could also start when he was 4 or 5 there would never have been an issue!

Anyway, my advice would be not to bother with lessons until at least 4.

Join the discussion

Join the discussion

Registering is free, easy, and means you can join in the discussion, get discounts, win prizes and lots more.

Register now