The 2019 Summer session of S3 Aquatics came to a close for my girls on Tuesday. My “mermaids in training” were a part of the S3 Montessori Learn to Swim Program. This program made such a powerful impact on my family that I need to share it with the universe. Learning to swim is such an important skill and the S3 program’s focus on not only swimming, but safety and social bonding in the water is a perfect combination of important life skills. The program motto is Courage > Fear. The kids feel safe and they are encouraged to be just a little braver then they were the week before. Here is a list of the things that drew me to the program and kept me coming back for a second summer.
#1 Kids are grouped by age not skill level.
My oldest daughter has pretty intense anxiety and this made learning to swim tough. She was perfectly content to live in her life jacket until the age of 10. Every year, her daddy would try to coax her out of the life jacket and do some simple floating exercises. His goal was to give her some confidence with someone she trusts before throwing her in a class. Her fear was greater than her trust. At the age of 10, after a summer away at Girl Scout Camp, she was finally ready to learn to swim. Her desire to be in the deep end with her buddies was stronger than her fear. As a mom, I did not know what to do. How do you put a 10 year old in a beginning swim class with a bunch of 4-6 year olds? The answer is – you don’t! Then I found S3 Aquatics. I was able to put her in a class with kids her own age. It was exactly what I needed.
#2 1:4 Teacher to Student Ratio.
The teacher to student ratio is 1:4. Keeping things small allows the instructors to meet the individual child’s needs. Absolute genius if you ask me! I watched my daughter move from 24/7 in a life jacket to in and out of 12 foot water without flotation in one summer. I did not think that kind of growth was possible, but here it was developing right before my very eyes.
#3 The Instructors encourage, not push.
The S3 Aquatics program encourages the kids to be brave and try new things, but they never push them into something for which they are not ready or uncomfortable. I believe it is the trust formed between the teachers and students that help them grow so quickly. The kids are allowed to use equipment that helps them feel more comfortable, there are no all or nothing rules. For example, my oldest daughter could not stand water on her face the first summer. She needed a mask that covered her eyes and nose in order to be comfortable. No problem! Her second summer she started with the full mask and by the end of the summer was only using goggles. Progress! For my younger daughter, this was her first summer in the program. She is 7 and quite anxious about being in water over her head and also likes her eyes and nose covered. No problem, she used a full mask and various flotation devices throughout the summer.
I want to talk about these amazing Instructors for a moment. My 7 year old was terrified to jump into deep water without a life jacket. We had multiple discussions before deep water day about how she just wasn’t sure she was going to be able to do it, she was scared and wanted reassurance that she did not have to do it. I reminded her that her teachers never make her do things that she feels she is not ready to do and just see how things go. On deep water day, we brought her life jacket. She was ready to be brave and jump in as long as she had her life jacket. So I watched from the stands. She jumped in a couple times with her life jacket. I watched her get in line for the diving board and then get out, deciding it was not something she wanted to try. I just kept watching. I saw an instructor start talking to her, pointing to the instructors in the pool, lifeguard flotation devices in hand. To my amazement, my sweet girl took her life jacket off. I watched as the instructor encouraged her to sit on the side and sort of slide in the first time, then the second time she jumped in, and a third time she jumped in. Each time she came to the top, doggy paddling her way to the wall and to the ladder. My heart was full of pride, joy, and amazement as I watched this transformation. After class she told me she was scared, but was glad she decided to be brave. I cannot thank S3 Aquatics enough for giving her exactly what she needed to be brave and learn something new.
#4 Multiple skills and enough time to learn them.
The goal of each lesson is to teach safety, swimming, and social skills in the water. The lessons are one hour long, with an optional stay and play portion that is 30 minutes long. The hours long lesson is divided into different stations where the kids learn different skills related to the 3 S’s. During the stay and play portion, they have the opportunity to practice their new skills while playing water games with their friends. When I first started looking around for swimming lessons, I found a lot of 30 minute lessons. Thirty minutes seems short to me, especially if classes are large. I was worried about my kids spending more time waiting then swimming; so the hour long lesson was appealing. The first summer we did not do the stay and play and I found by the second lesson my daughter really wanted to stay and have the extra time with her new found friends. We added it this year and I think spending 90 minutes in the water really helped them develop and improve their skills; plus they really enjoyed it making it something they looked forward to every week.
If you are in Oakland, Macomb, or Wayne County I encourage you to check out S3 Aquatics for yourself. It is the place to be if you want your children to feel safe, loved and encouraged as they learn to be brave and try new things. Safety in and around the water is so important and we need our kiddos to be ready for anything that comes their way. Click the link, check it out! I hope to see you next summer as my kids learn to harness their courage, conquer their fears, and learn to swim, be safe, and have fun in the water.