Sunday, July 26, 2009


Summertime with kids means one very important thing: swimming lessons! I've always been a horrible swimmer despite the years of lessons I had as a kid. I just don't have the swimming gene. Don't get me wrong - I love being in the water. Just don't ask me to do anything more than doggie paddle or swim underwater. I can do a mean dead man's float, too.

So I'm determined that my kids will learn how to swim better than I did. Both of them have fallen into a pool unnoticed only to be "rescued" by their cousins, and I have a horrible fear of that happening again with not so good results. I want to know that if they fall into water, they will be able to swim well enough to get out on their own.

Last year Sasha took lessons at Memorial Park . . . and learned nada. I don't know what the "teachers" there do, but they certainly don't teach the kids how to swim. Several of my friends took their kids to the Country Club and gave those teachers rave reviews, so that's where we went this year. The ironic thing is that this is where I took lessons all those years ago and failed miserably, yet I'm expecting my kids to have a completely different experience.

I signed both Sasha and Clara up for the Level 1 class since Sasha learned so little last year. Mark Shoap is in charge of the lessons, and he is amazing. He coaches the swim team at the high school and several of those swimmers teach at the Country Club with him. Each day Mr. Shoap met with the kids in the grass for a pep talk before getting in the pool. He stressed how important it is to try, even when challenged to do something difficult. I was so incredibly happy to hear him talk about trying each day because Sasha tends to get upset and quit if she doesn't do something right the first time. She really needed to hear this lesson from someone other than Cory and me.

Here are some of the kids with Mr. Shoap on the first day of lessons. In Level 1, the goal is to put your head in the water, blow bubbles, float on your back, glide and do "puppy paws" (freestyle). The kids need to be comfortable in the water and do some things independent of the teachers. Sasha and Clara were both willing to put their faces in the water and blow bubbles, but the rest of the lesson was more of a challenge. They tried to do everything they were asked to do, but they clearly needed a LOT of practice. Mr. Shoap and Olivia, another teacher, were very patient and explained how to do things in very clever ways that made sense to the kids. Here is Sasha trying to do the puppy paddle.
And this is Clara's attempt. I know she isn't in proper form, but I just love the little pointed toes popping out of the water!
The kickboard was a favorite of mine as a kid, so I couldn't help but smile when I saw it. The idea is to lay your body flat on the water and kick with your face down. God love her, Clara is trying!
Even though we had gorgeous weather, the water wasn't very warm. Each day the girls got out of the pool with purple lips!
Yet they were always happy to get back in for the next lesson. The kids were instructed to stay on the wall while waiting for their turn to practice, and I often saw the girls smiling and practicing their moves along the wall. Sasha especially liked to go under water while waiting.

Check out Clara's form here! Mr. Shoap told them to spread peanut butter on top of one hand and jelly on the other and then put them together to make a sticky sandwich. Then they could glide through the water. Clara understands sticky sandwiches!
At the end of the week I was hopeful that at least Sasha would pass to Level 2. I really didn't expect Clara would pass because she is young and not as comfortable in the water as Sasha. As we dried off on Friday I awaited some kind of report from the teachers, but none came. I saw some other kids get cards stating they had passed their levels, but none of the teachers approached Sasha. Oh, well. I would have really liked to hear what the girls need to work on but I guess they don't give reports at the Country Club.
I will say that I saw a drastic difference between what the girls could do on Monday and what they could do on Friday. They learned so much in just a week! So I asked them if they wanted to take lessons again and they both said yes. I signed them up for the following week!
Clara definitely continued to improve during the second week, but it was Sasha who made the biggest improvements. Just being in the water each day made her feel more confident, and she barely stayed along the wall at all during the second week. All she wanted to do was swim.
Check out those puppy paws!

To show you just how much Sasha learned in just over a week, check out these videos. The first one was shot during her first week of lessons. Mr. Shoap is teaching her how to do puppy paws.
The next one was shot on Wednesday of week two. Amazing!
Once she learns how to keep her legs straight behind her, she'll be flying through the water! I'm so impressed by how fast Sasha picked up this skill.
Level 1 was taught by two different gals the second week, and they did something fun with the kids: After they swam across the pool, the teachers let them sit on a noodle and bounce back to the other side. The kids loved it!

The hardest skill for Sasha is definitely floating on her back. She feels like she's going to sink, so she bends at the waist and flails around. I kept telling her to just relax, but she really struggled to do that. But by the end of week two she was doing much better. Her teachers even taught them how to "zip, T, pull"! (At the end of this clip you'll hear a nasty sound. That's just Clara choking on some water. No worries, she was fine!)

The second week of lessons flew by and before we knew it lessons were over. Sasha and Clara learned so much, and I will definitely be bringing them back to the Country Club next year.

And guess what? Sasha even passed Level 1! Cory and I are so very proud of her! She was quite proud of herself, too.


  1. How adorable! What a difference in the videos of her from one week to the next. Once she makes her mind up to do something, she does it! Go Sasha! Go Clara!

  2. Looks like fun! I remember how FREEZING the water used to be. There was no better feeling than mom wrapping us up in a warm towel after swimming lessons. I remember the kickboards too! I hated it when I got one that was all slimy or chewed up. We always fought over the new ones!