We are not a big swimming family. My husband likes water; I don't. I took enough swimming lessons as a child to be able to keep myself from drowning if I fall in, but I would not mind if I never had to go to the beach or pool again. (My husband and I are well matched in many ways, but this is not one of them--he adores the beach.)
Anyway, due to my lack of interest and my husband's sensitivity to chlorine, we don't go to the pool much, and since we don't live by the seashore, it has always taken some effort to turn our children into swimmers. We believe everyone should know how to swim, though, so we have made sure they had lessons to attain some measure of competence. Neither of our older children is an extremely good swimmer, but they manage. Three years ago, when he was five, we enrolled our youngest in swimming class. The first day started out relatively well, but from that point everything went down hill. He liked the teacher that he had that first day, but on the second day the teaching assignments were shuffled, and he got a different teacher. He adjusted, but his sense of safety and security with the undertaking was gone. Then, on the third day there was a further different teacher (sigh). This one had a crew cut, multiple facial piercings, and tattoos (she was female but Evan kept calling her "him"). The child whom I have since come to understand as highly sensitive did not respond well, refusing to even get in the water. We tried for a few more days but ultimately gave up. It wasn't worth the grief.
Since then we have continued going to the pool or beach when the opportunity arises, but as of a few weeks ago Evan had still not learned to swim. We decided this year it was time to try again. Here he is last week after only three lessons (I found out yesterday that at the first lesson he told his teacher he hated it and never wanted to swim again,):
video-2012-09-28-15-36-07 from Cheryl on Vimeo.
Here he is yesterday, after only the fourth lesson:
video-2012-10-05-15-35-30 from Cheryl on Vimeo.
The video doesn't show it, but yesterday he was also swimming (not just floating) on his back, after only the first try.
So much of learning, whether it's swimming, music, math, or reading, has to do with readiness. People are different. They aren't all ready to do or learn the same things at the same time. It is one of the things I love about homeschooling--it allows my child the freedom to develop at his own pace without pressure from those in "authority" to meet the determined objectives on a preset schedule. Evan was reading when he was five. He was not ready to learn to swim until he was almost nine. There are other ways that he is right now both "ahead" of and "behind" what would be considered typical or average for his age. We could have spent the last three years going to swimming lessons every week and still be where we are right now. Maybe he was ready last year and we just didn't seize the opportunity. But he was not ready three years ago. We would have wasted several years worth of time and money if we had pressed the issue. I see the same thing in music lessons. Some children are ready when they are five, some not until they're eight or nine. If we wait until that magical moment when they are truly ready, they will make such swift progress that very often they will catch up and surpass their peers who started learning the same thing three years before.
I am not saying that parents should give up at the slightest hint of difficulty or challenge. But parents know their children best. They are best equipped to judge whether a child is truly struggling or just being resistant. Even for parents it can sometimes be hard to tell. So as parents we weigh all the variables--the traits of the child we know and the particulars of the situation at hand--and we make our best call. Sometimes we get it right, and sometimes we don't. And sometimes we don't know whether we got it right or not, and you know what? That's okay, too.
*The quote is from Hamlet, Act 5, scene ii: “If it be now, 'tis not to come; if it be not to come, it will be now; if it be not now, yet it will come: the readiness is all.” Of course, this post is about swimming lessons, not dying, although at one time Evan didn't see much difference. :-)