Favorite type and place for swim lessons?

My kids have taken swim lessons many ways over the years and from varied instructors.

When they were little I did private lessons with a certified swim instructor that lived in our neighborhood. She did a great job “tricking” them into swimming while they thought they were playing. She was a mom so she was good with the kids and always showed up. Although she was more expensive than what the YMCA was charging for a group lesson I felt like each child was getting very individual attention and the instructor was spending those 30 minutes completely concentrating on my child.

As they got older I tried some group lessons at the Y. The first round was more successful than the second round.

At that point Rose was a very good swimmer and the group lessons were good for her. For a while she was the only girl in the class and was very small compared to the boys but she was kicking their butts swimming laps. And she really liked that. So I think at that point the group setting was good to motivate her. It gave her some competition. (Sort of like swim team practices.)

Walsh’s first class was with the sweetest 17-year-old girl instructor.  She was great with the kids and just loved Walsh. She had a handle on the group, which wasn’t too large, and he was willing to do things for her because he liked her so much.

The second session, Walsh was still learning and was put in a class that was under his ability. He was between the two levels. The instructor was a teenager who was not as good working with the kids and they gave her too big of a group. They spent half the time sitting on the wall and very little time actually swimming. I noticed the class after ours had half the kids and asked to switch. They let us and the rest of the session went much better.

Lilina took a baby class and didn’t accomplish much. It was more about getting them used to being in the pool but she was ready to do more.

This week we are starting classes at the Y but I am doing it differently yet again. The Y is offering semi-private lessons for 2 kids, four classes for $55.  What a deal!! So I am doing Rose and Walsh together. What I am looking for at this point is for the instructor to correct their strokes and work on his rotary breathing so they’ll have that fresh in their minds and they can practice correctly the rest of the summer.

Lilina is going to take four private lessons, which are more expensive. She can swim but she needs to build confidence taking breaths while swimming and is ready to start doing a more formal stroke. She is instinctively pulling her arms out of the water and seems to be ready to learn freestyle. I’m not sure how to transition her into that type of swimming so I feel like I need a trained instructor.

I think group lessons are better for kids who have a basic grasp on how to swim because they can practice. The instructor can let them all go in the water so you’re not wasting time with kids holding on to the wall and taking turns.

I also think the size of the group and the instructor makes a huge difference in how successful the lessons are.

Do you like group lessons, private, semi-private? Do you only use adult teachers or are you fine with teenagers? Do you swim team in the summer as swim lessons and practice? Is it too much or good to get them going? Do you like a certain organization to teach the lessons?

– Theresa Walsh Giarrusso, ajc.com Momania. Follow me on Twitter (ajcMomania) and read what I am reading each day. Great stories on family health, family fun, parenting,  fashion, stars, and more. )

20 comments Add your comment

mom of 3

June 20th, 2011
6:15 am

My 3 had both public and private – Loved the private and have my grandson already to go next summer with a great swim coach one on one.


June 20th, 2011
8:19 am

Our son took lessons at Swim Atlanta in Lilburn and daughter took here in the subdivision pool with a girl who was a YMCA instructor. Both had 4-6 kids in at the lessons. I remember riding the bus
( hint not the school bus) to lessons alone at the YMCA in Chicago…I was probably 6 or 7? I also remember being afraid to go on the bus but do not remember much about the lessons. I did learn how to swim.

We saw a neighbor with her 2-3 year old daughter and a swim instructor in the pool in our subdivision. We do not know them. I commented to my daughter that I was not sure how effective having the Mom 6 inches away in the pool would be. Eventually the instructor must have asked her to move out of the pool to the chair. Do parents stay in the pool? I did not.

We had a wonderful Father’s Day that wore us out! First we went to church, then a quick hamburger, then watched the Braves beat the Texas Rangers in the 90 plus degree heat…WOW that was hot. Event though I had purchased seats close to the field, I had to move to the shade and left the kids down there with their Dad. He wore his new Braves shirt! Then, our son took his Dad to dinner and a movie while we girls caught up on Food Network. They rolled in at 10:30 and were pooped! Hope the rest of you had a great day. Swimming at the pool sounds like fun today !

Lady Strange

June 20th, 2011
8:34 am

I can’t add to this conversation but I will be watching with interest as I’d like to sign my son up for swimming lessons.

Mom of 2

June 20th, 2011
8:55 am

I’ve done lots of different ways as well. My first did the “water introduction/mommy&me” classes at the Y, follow a year or so later by a full year at Dynamo for group lessons. There was not much swimming learned. The last two years we have done a small group of private lessons each summer. This year is our most successful for two reasons: 1) my daughter (6) is really ready to learn and 2) the instructor is good and firm. My son (4) is taking the lessons with my daughter. He is probably not 100% ready for strokes or real technique but the instructor is really getting him a good foundation. He is still scared of the “deep.” My 2 recommendations would be to expose your child to water and swimming as much as you can to get them comfortable and second to get them swim lessons with an experienced instructor at the point they are ready, willing and motivated to learn.


June 20th, 2011
9:17 am

We tried swim lessons through parks and rec when Little E was 3 and she hated every second. Then when she was 4, she was frustrated that her friend was swimming (friend’s mom taught swim lessons). I asked E if she wanted friend’s mom to give her some lessons and E said no. I said, “Well, if you want to play with friend, you are going to have to learn to swim.” Within 2 hours E was swimming completely on her own. A little peer pressure never hurts.

I also agree with Mom of 2…..the earlier and the more often you expose them to the water, the less afraid they are and the more willing they are to swim. E never wanted lessons, but she loves the water because we took her to the pool a lot and was very motivated to learn to swim on her own.


June 20th, 2011
9:51 am

I have my 5 yr old son at Swim Atlanta currently. He is completely unfamiliar with the water, so we are starting from the VERY beginning, so… they aren’t really doing much. So, I’m not sure if I’m happy with it and if it’s working for him…. we also don’t have a pool. Time will tell when we go on vacation and to Gramma’s pool. Anyone else familiar with Swim Atlanta? Looks like they are good for swim team training, definitely. Not sure about the training my little guy is getting, though???


June 20th, 2011
9:53 am

My son’s first instructor was a woman who worked out of a private fitness club and specialized in children. She was good, but not fantastic. The second time he had an instructor at Dynamo — again, good, but not fantastic. His best instruction came from his neighborhood swim team swim coach when he was 6, in a private clinic. The coach was about 19, but they had a gift for captivating the kids and getting them to do what they needed to do.

He later went on to swim varsity at his high school and go to the state championships, so somewhere along the way, he figured it out :-) He never did year-round swimming, because he was into soccer and simply did not have the time. To be honest, I’m not sure how my daughter learned to swim — I think I remember a class at Dynamo for her, and then swim team when she was 5. She was on the neighborhood swim team and dive team for several years and had a good coach there. She swam for a couple of years in high school, but it really wasn’t her thing.


June 20th, 2011
10:23 am

We used Swim Atlanta but that was over 20 years ago. So I cannot say one way or the other.

The reason I shared what we did yesterday, was because a few men ( here) mentioned that Father’s Day was not near the big deal as Mother’s Day was expected to be, at their house. Both days are typically a big deal here.


June 20th, 2011
12:19 pm

However or whereever, just make sure your kids learn to swim. Great blog. Hope parents will read it, find good ideas, and do the right thing for their kids. Not teaching your kids how to swim (or getting them taught) is tantamount to child endangerment.


June 20th, 2011
1:21 pm

Got lucky. Had the greatest swim instructor ever. Group lessons of about 4-5 kids. I did experience several other group lessons that I would not recommend. County run pools and YMCA’s tend to train teens and young adults to read from a script. They don’t necessarily know anything about the way a child thinks or feels in the water. I also wasted money on a mommy and me swim class when my child was 9 months old. Wish I could get back every dime I wasted on any activity my kids did before age 5. My instructor was a teacher, a home school mom (raised 8 very successful kids) and a swimmer. She KNEW kids and she was tough. No moms allowed if the parent being close hindered the lesson. No crying in her pool. Tons of positive reinforcement. Some people just have “it” and she did. My advise… Talk to parents until you find someone who raves about their instructor and then pay whatever you have to. Well worth the money. Another thing…she was big on muscle memmory, working their legs and arms manually until they worked in the correct way.
One of my pet peeves is watching swim team kids who can swim 4 laps quickly but are swimming completely wrong. Teach correct form, then speed.


June 20th, 2011
1:27 pm

I am reading with great interest today because all three of my kids need swimming lessons. Wouldn’t be a bad thing to take a refresher course myself!

not a rocket surgeon

June 20th, 2011
3:58 pm

My parents got in the pool with me and my sisters and played, it’s that easy. I did the same for my kids. We’re all great swimmers, no not varsity whatevers, and no, cant brag to the girls at the tennis court that I secured THE most, like, exclusive swim instructor in, like, the planet. Remove the broomstick, get your hair wet and have fun with your kids, they’ll swim. Trust me.


June 20th, 2011
5:02 pm

Both girls took group lessons w/ parks and rec. My youngest took a bit longer to get comfortable. There was a point that parks and rec was full for my youngest and we too used the swim team (college student) approach. He was able to work with her one on one. By the time he finished with her, she was ready to join group classes again and never looked back. Now both swim for a neighborhood swim team. I do not suggest utilizing swim team as a substitute for lessons. Our coaches even state that in our parents manual. Swim team swimmers really should be able to do a lap unassisted even if it’s just doggie paddle; they’ll get stroke development during the season. The benefit of the parks & rec lessons included water safety and really worked with kids on getting comfortable in the water. That has to come first. It takes a while and even though it goes slower for some kids, it’s worth them getting over the fear on their own terms.


June 20th, 2011
5:05 pm

No official lessons here. We started putting them in the lakes, oceans, pools, etc as infants and both were fish before they were three years old. They may not have “perfect form” but they are more comfortable in the water than any other kid I’ve met.


June 20th, 2011
6:21 pm

I taught my kids to read, write, ride a bike and tie their shoes but I could not teach them to swim. No amount of encouragement would get my kids to put their faces in the water. I would swim with them constantly and my son, at five, would not even get his face wet in the bathtub. I was tired of seeing him watch the other boys play and not be able to join them. Sometimes you just need an expert. We were at a pool several times a week and at lake house every weekend. I was such a water baby but my kids have had to “learn” to like the water. All kids are different, I guess. I still don’t agree about the “swimming incorrectly just to get across the pool” idea. To me, it’s like teaching a kid to spell any way they can just to get something on paper (which is common practice). Common sense just tells me that bad habits are hard to break. Learn it right the first time.


June 20th, 2011
7:53 pm

Theresa, my comment from a few hours ago didn’t show.


June 20th, 2011
11:44 pm

@Momsrule -hear, hear! My kids have learned to swim and snorkel (youngest at 2 isn’t snorkeling yet) by all of us spending tons of time in the water! My 5 year old is a complete fish! He says he wants to race people swimming, but he doesn’t want to take lessons yet. When he’s a litttle older, if he’s still into that, we’ll get proper lessons.

I do wholeheartedly agree that wgether you or someone else does it -teach your YOUNG kids to swim! It’s VERY important and could one day save their lives.


June 21st, 2011
11:11 am

JATl – snorkeling – yes! we love snorkeling. “Flip” and “Flop” — that’s what my youngest named his first pair of fins. LOL

Once the youngest turned 10 — both boys (and Dad) received their open water dive certifications. :) awesome bonding time!!


June 22nd, 2011
1:29 pm

I have found that group lessons worked best for my daughter. She takes lessons at http://www.theswimcenter.com in Rex/Stockbridge and every instructor she has had has been great!

Pioneer Pools

June 23rd, 2011
11:15 pm

I love public pools to spend lessons but to those times only that the people are not that many so that i can swim huge areas. I had the chance to make a private pool at my backyard for my daughter and my step sister Pioneer pools are great they have done a good job on doing it.