Saturday, 2 March 2013

Swimming the Sprout Way

Often the differences between my childhood and my kids' childhood strike me when I see their journey to a thing to which I also journeyed.

My journey to being able to swim was formulaic. When I was, I think, 5, I was enrolled in swimming lessons.  We started with widths, using floats, going back and forth week after week, eventually moving to using one arm without a float, then both arms. I remember how hard it felt to get across the 5m of that width, then the 10m of the two widths a couple of months later. I moved to a school that did lessons as part of their curriculum, and gradually moved up the rungs of the swimming ladder, gaining a badge as I swam further. There were rules (no goggles so our eyes could get used to the chlorine water), and stages (no swimming to the bottom until you could swim quite a distance).

Now Sprout. When he was 6 months old, before we'd come across any unschooling principles, we took him to a baby swimming class, the sort based on the fact that babies hold their breath underwater. He was tired and grumpy and not up for it at all. When he was a few years older, he wanted to go with his friend to what were billed as relaxed classes, but what actually turned out to be us paying someone to tell him to jump in one side, swim with armbands across to the other side, get out, and walk back to the start. He was understandably nonplussed, and said he'd prefer to just go swimming with us when he fancied it, so we did but it wasn't something he was often bothered about, so we went a handful of times to play in the local pool. Last year at Center Parcs, he wanted to swim every day, and spent hours with one or other of us floating him round the little circuit of moving water. In the intervening year he's not wanted to go swimming again, even at a similar place (not in a negative way, just in the way that it wasn't what he's fancied doing). This last week, back at Center Parcs, he asked us for some goggles and a nose clip, telling us he wanted to swim underwater. I had a very brief in-my-head-moment of, "Oh but he can't swim yet," but went with him and chose some goggles and a nose clip, and took him to the pool. No armbands thank you, he told us. And lo and behold, he can swim! Not only can he swim, he can dive down, pick things off the bottom of the pool, and do underwater freestyle flip turns (my jaw kinda hit the water at that one!).



A combination of him being old enough, strong enough, ready, actually wanting to do it, and having been given no fear of it, and there he was, swimming all week like he'd been born in the water! No restrictions on what or how he 'had to' do anything, just support to do it how he wanted when he was ready.

It was so exciting watching him swim so freely and love it so much, and a lovely reminder that given the opportunity and support children can learn anything they want to in a way perfectly suited to them.


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