Friday, October 26, 2012

Outsourcing Teaching: Swim Lessons for My 7-Year-Old

Outsourcing Teaching: Swim Lessons for My 7-Year-Old
I have always been a very "do it yourself" kind of parent. I really do believe that parents are the best teachers and are the experts on their own children.

 This is especially true during the early years. A parent can often accomplish infinitely more in teaching their child than the most skilled expert can.

Why? Because not only do they know their child better than anyone else, but because their child trusts them and is completely comfortable around them, making the child receptive to instruction and learning.

Additionally, teaching that happens in the home can always revolve around the child - it is not an arbitrary, paid-for class at 3 pm on Tuesdays, but something that can happen whenever the parent senses the child is at his best and is completely interested and ready.

So a big part of Doman parenting is this sense that parents are the very best teachers for their children. All of the Doman books are about how you can teach your child. They instill that parents do not have to be number geniuses to raise children who love math, or be expert runners to raise children who can jog a 5K.

You can even teach your child things that you previously knew nothing about, like a foreign language. It is about learning with your child, and that is a big part about what I love about the Doman philosophy.

 However, there comes a time, particularly when a child is older, when outsourcing your teaching can be an effective and beneficial alternative or supplement. I am still a big do-it-yourselfer in these middle years, hence the homeschooling. But we have come to a point in our swimming lessons where I feel like an instructor can offer Hunter (7) more than I can. Why?

1. I think he will benefit from the "second opinion" of an instructor Hunter has for a while remained at a point where he is comfortable with his own skill level when it comes to swimming. He can perform an effective crawl stroke, back stroke, and a few others, float on his back, maneuver in the water in many ways, and feels that he has learned all that he wants to know about swimming.

I of course can see that he has room for improvement, to move from a decidedly "intermediate" level to a truly "advanced" level. But at this point his only goal is, well, playing in the water. And he can do that just fine, so he doesn't much see the point in my critiquing his areas for improvement.  Having a second voice (swim instructor) telling him to turn his arm just a little more this way or straighten his toes more firmly will hopefully help him to see that I am not crazy, that he does have room for improvement, and, well, that he doesn't know everything about swimming just yet.

2. Observing other swimmers Usually when we go swimming, it is just with a bunch of other people goofing around in the water. He doesn't ever really get to see anyone doing an excellent crawl stroke or a proper dive. He just does what I tell him and watches my example, but doesn't get to observe anyone else. (And to be honest I'm not completely sure I am doing it exactly right all the time, which was fine when he was learning the rudimentary techniques, but as he works for perfection I think he needs to see, well, perfection.) I am hoping that the group lessons will help that, and he will be able to see the techniques he is working on and attempt to copy them and know what he is aiming for.

3. Peer influence Being around a group of friends who are all focusing on the same goal (learning how to swim better) will ideally be a motivator for him and discourage his "I know everything I want to know about swimming" attitude. 4. I have come close to my limit in things I can teach him I would like Hunter to go above and beyond my skill level. In both swimming and in life. So there comes a time in both where I have to either hand him off to someone else, or let him take off on his own, to go further than I did. And right now we are somewhat at that point. I could definitely learn more about swim instruction and techniques, and teach him myself, but due to the above three mentioned points, as well as my own time constraints, I feel that outsourcing is a good idea at this point in his development. The additional benefit of outsourced lessons is that they have more equipment and capabilities than I have access to, such as diving instruction, life saving devices, and so on.  

So there is my big post about my decision to sign my kid up for swimming lessons. It may not even be worth that much thought and effort for most, but for me it is kind of a big deal. This is actually my first time sending my kid to a class for them to actually teach him something. And it feels weird to me. Sure, he has done classes and activities and such. Soccer. Baseball. Basketball. Vacation Bible School. And the like. But he was never really learning all that much in those things, it was mostly all for socialization and fun. But alas, here we are.

This is not just about fun - I am handing my baby over to someone else for them to teach him something and give him something I "can't". So, here's to a new "chapter" of our life, the point at which slowly, gradually, and eventually, I begin handing my teaching over. Just a little bitty piece today, but eventually, more. As he starts learning more and more things on his own, and learning from more and more different people, things that I can't give him.

 Here's to growing up.

 See follow-up post here: Outsourcing Swim Lessons: Our Less Than Stellar Experience (7 Years Old) Our Swim Lesson Experience  

"A wise man will hear, and will increase learning; and a man of understanding shall attain unto wise counsels:" Proverbs 1:5
Hunter is 7 years, 7 months old

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