why I might take my daughter out of swim lessons

So, back to my regularly scheduled programming. Parenting in a gentle-discipline style, and loving the unschooling philosophy, means trusting that a child will learn the necessary knowledge and skills at their own pace and in their own time. It also means not using punishment and shaming or other methods of control to get children to “do what you want them to” unless it’s for their safety or the safety others.

So, swimming. She’s in the 3-5 year old class, and there are six kids. This is part of the problem, because each kid only gets to go out in the water with the teacher 3 times. Basically, three minutes of actual swimming in a 30 minute time period. In between turns, they are expected to sit there, on their bottoms, on a bench in the water, not touching one another, or splash one another. Basically, sit there like statues (or old people). If they get too many warnings, they have to get out of the water and sit at the edge until they are told to get back in, and they miss the turn they’ve been waiting so long for.


Maybe if there were two or three kids in the class there wouldn’t be such long waits in between turns, but even so. It’s ridiculous to expect this age group to just sit there like that. And how much swimming can they possibly be “learning” in this manner??? It’s not like I want her to be a swim team member at age 4: I just want her to have some fun and be able to swim enough not to drown if she falls out of a boat. Also, I wish I didn’t have to get into the water with her. Like, how about a class where it’s one-to-one or one-to-two so instructors can actually swim with the kids??

This is the only swim class option in our whole area (unlike the city where I work, which has a Goldfish school). But I think we will just go back to open swim once a week. At least she’ll have some fun.

Author: Mother of All Things

Mother by fostering, adoption, and marriage... wife to my best friend... Bay area critical care nurse... travel in my blood, reading in my bones, clean food on my mind!

6 thoughts on “why I might take my daughter out of swim lessons”

  1. We are very lucky to have lots of swim class options in our city (and the pool is a stones throw from our house). Carter has reached a point where he really doesn’t need me to be in there with him so it was recommended he start the preschool classes which I think are a 1-9 ratio (but closer to 5 kids who actually show up each week). We also have the option of 1-on-1 15min lessons for roughly the same price. If the 1-on-1 was available at the time there was free swim I would totally go for it but it seems like a lot of work to let him go in the pool and have to jump out after a short time.
    I sat and thought on it for a while and I decided it’s just not worth it right now. I love going swimming with him and I need to make a bigger commitment to just going to free swim. I want swimming to be fun. It sounds like M has comparable confidence to Carter and I really feel like it’s just our job to help them keep that confidence. They can learn technique and other skills either through play or when they are older in lessons.
    No one wants to spend that much time waiting around!

  2. I’m so grateful Evelyn’s school offers the swimming lessons during the week so I don’t have to take her, and worse – get in the water! I think the way this class is run is ridiculous. You definitely shouldn’t have to pay good money for 3-4 minutes of instruction time and the rest sitting time. Geez. Free swim sounds like it would be a better option at this point.

  3. That’s ridiculous, that expectation for that age group. I’m sure there are kids who are capable of that kind of patience, or used to that expectation, and that’s great, but my kids weren’t any good at it either, and it was annoying to have them be treated (and to be treated as their parent) as though there was something wrong with them for their totally age appropriate behavior.

    I understood (as you do) that we were the ones choosing the uncommon options, so, similarly, we ended up skipping a lot of standard classes (or seeking out better options / delaying until better options were available) bc so many of the traditional preschool classes are designed to follow / based on the idea of a child needing to learn to sit still and quietly in order for them to get the most out if school. It’s perfectly reasonable for kids planning on going to school to learn that – they need it! But if unschooling or homeschooling is the plan, it can really work against your goals for your kids.

    There are times when I wish she could sit still, lol, but I love that she respects herself and her wants / needs above the expectations of what others think she *should* be doing, (in regard to things like clothes, play time options, general personal preference… she is of course expected to be kind and respectful to everyone) to and that she trusts me to back her up in situations where that becomes an issue.

  4. my daughter just turned 7. i let her quit soccer because of this very reason. practice ended up being a lot of standing around waiting in line…in soccer. one of the most “runningest” sports there is. i got disapproving comments from some people. support from others.
    she had never played before. the set up just didn’t work for us so we moved on. there should be no shame in that.
    there is no way that a swimming lesson for that age group, or any age group for that matter, should have that little amount of actual swimming. seems weird to me.

  5. I think private lessons might be a better fit for you, most YMCA’s do offer them even if it’s not advertised you just have to ask at the front desk. What you’re describing sounds like a normal kids group swim class to me. As a former life guard, it’s just dangerous to have small kids splashing each other and generally horsing around in the water when you can’t focus on them. When it’s many kids to one teacher as the teacher you NEED to focus on the little one you’re working with in the moment so the others really do have to sit and behave themselves. One of my biggest pet peeves is parents that don’t pay attention or let their kids horse around in the water. They’ve obviously never seen a little one go under and not come back up. It’s a terrifying experience and I hope to never, ever see it happen again.

    1. I absolutely agree with you that safety comes first. I don’t let my daughter horse around when the teacher is out with another student and at age three she absolutely needs someone with her in a pool. I just don’t think that group lessons with the expectation of sitting patiently for ten or more minutes is reasonable for the age group. This may mean private or semi private are more appropriate or it may mean that I just don’t think lessons can be done in a way that respects the development of young children and keeps them safe at the same time.

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