As you know, Amy has been swimming with Puddle Ducks for two years now but the time has come for a change. Now that she’s 4, she’s eligible to start Swim Academy lessons. Swim Academy is the next level, ‘all grown up and swimming by yourself’ big sister of Puddle Ducks.
I won’t deny being super nervous about the change. We’ve been on something of a journey with Amy’s swimming lessons over the last two years and had reached a point where she was really confident and loving her lessons, though still not all that keen on going under the water. This is all well and good but the big change that comes with moving up to Swim Academy is that your child gets into the pool on their own. This felt like a pretty big deal and I really wasn’t sure how Amy would take it. Getting into the pool without me to cling to as her safety net? Surely this was going to knock her back and make her nervous again?
Along with the big changes that come with moving to Swim Academy there’s also the more minor details like a change of pool (though Amy was pretty thrilled as the pool at Aqua Nurture is like a bath in comparison to the one at DW Fitness so she’s able to just wear a normal swimming costume instead of her wetsuit) or a change of lesson time – we’ve moved from Monday mornings to Thursday afternoons and so it’s getting on for the end of the week, she’s tired and it’s tea time – all things which are not going to help if she decides to feel wobbly about her new lessons.
What has remained the same though is that after a half term with another teacher, we’re now back with Claire and that alone was enough to get Amy really excited about the new half term.
I spent a lot of time talking to Amy about her new lessons in the run up to the start of this block – about how exciting it was that she’d see Claire again, how much she liked swimming in “Gary’s pool” and how grown up it was that she was going to be getting in the pool without mummy just like Ben and Chloe do. But whilst I was bigging everything up to her, I was hiding my own nerves and anxieties – worrying that she’d refuse to get in the pool without me and that we’d be setting her back months.
When we got to Aqua Nurture on the evening of her first lesson Amy was positively giddy (and if I’m honest so was Claire!) there was lots of hugs and excitement – they were both so pleased to see each other again and Amy just couldn’t wait to get started.
Throughout Amy’s time with Puddle Ducks, she has learned to swim without armbands – using woggles and parents for support. I was certainly a little nervous as to how this would work once I wasn’t in the pool – obviously she wasn’t going to start wearing arm bands now but how would they keep her safe? (This was more of a question than a fear as I completely trust Claire and the Puddle Ducks team but I was just curious as to how things would be organised).
Swim Academy lessons run on a maximum ratio of 1:4 so for Amy’s first lesson Claire was supported by Suzanne (who owns Aqua Nurture and Puddle Ducks Greater Manchester with her husband Gary). Although Claire is the lead teacher, when it comes to the children swimming, the class is split in half so that each teacher has up to four children to work with meaning that nobody is ever too far from an adult should they get into difficulty and also that there isn’t loads of waiting around for your turn to swim (which was a pet hate of mine when Ben and Chloe were starting out at our local council lessons).
At the start of the lesson Claire gave Amy one woggle (to sit under her chest) and asked her to swim the width of the pool, less confident children were using one under each arm and Claire was clearly monitoring this closely and judging who might need a little more support or who could be pushed further. I could hardly believe my eyes when Amy, the little girl who used to panic if I moved too far away from the edge of her woggle just in case she wobbled, just swam across the pool – albeit slowly due to some rubbish kicking on her part! She couldn’t have cared less that I wasn’t in the pool with her and just kept looking at me for approval. I may have shed a tear.
We’re now several lessons into the half term and I’ve been wary of writing about how Amy’s Swim Academy lessons were going for fear of jinxing them, worrying that the success of the first lesson couldn’t or wouldn’t be replicated. Thankfully this hasn’t been the case and bar a slight wobble getting into the pool before her lesson last week (which she soon got over with the help of Claire), she has been a little star. She has surprised us all with her confidence and how keen she is to give things a go – several times Claire and I have exchanged surprised glances when Amy has stuck her face in the water or pushed off from the wall without being held. Perhaps the most surprising of all was the time she was waiting to jump into the pool towards the end of her lesson and a bit of jostling with some of the older boys behind her caused her to fall in the pool – she was quickly supported by Suzanne as she reached for the side the way she has been taught and just climbed out to carry on with her lesson – she didn’t cry or panic, she just got on with it. And that in itself is testimony to the life saving skills which underpin every single Puddle Ducks lesson. Yes learning to swim is about fun and great exercise, but most importantly it’s a life skill – one which could ultimately save your life.
The move up to Swim Academy has been daunting but exciting and thus far Amy has shown I was worrying about absolutely nothing. I know that under Claire’s guidance she’s going to absolutely flourish in her new “big girl” swimming lessons!
Amy swims with Puddle Ducks Greater Manchester free of charge for the purposes of review however all thoughts and opinions remain our own*