Wednesday, August 24, 2016

SafeSplash Week Three: It's So Cool Underwater!

Swimming Lesson - back float

Swimming Goggles
Houston, We Have Goggles and it's a whole new world!  As a non-swimmer who can't remember the last time I wore goggles in the pool, I had no idea how much it would change my son's perspective on swimming lessons.  Excited about his new goggles, he couldn't wait to get his face underwater, "Now I can see underwater!" Every time the instructor takes another child down the swimming lane, my son is bobbing up and down, looking around under the water, 

On this third week the "newness" of lessons is worn off and he's relaxed and chatty. When the instructor takes him out to practice kicking and scooping, he's so busy talking to her he forgets to kick. He's participating without really thinking about it and while he's making all the right movements they're very loosely coordinated, kind of all over the place.

Another milestone, he's not fighting or tensing up when she lays him on his back, immediately spreading his arms out with very little hesitation. 

I'm curious why he will try and learn with other people, but not with his parents - is this true for all kids?  I've tried teaching my children various skills only to be met with eye rolling and half-hearted attempts. But ask another adult to introduce or teach the same exercise (and pay them) and suddenly my children look upon them with the respect due to an expert.  Whatever the reason, the lessons from SafeSplash are just long enough to keep his interest.

At the end of this lesson, he hops out of the pool and can't stop talking about how cool it is underwater! Goggles made all the difference.

See underwater with goggles

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

SafeSplash Week Two: Crap, I Forgot the Goggles!

Man, last week we were off to a great start and then yesterday I forgot about swimming lessons, left work late, and arrived with mere moments to spare before the lesson. We rush in and my son says he doesn't want to get in.  

What? Last week you wanted to swim the next day. Today you don't want to swim? He shivers, but climbs in with the other two students. As they get organized, I realize...

Crap, I forgot to buy him goggles. #workingmomfail

This week they start by putting their face in the water, blowing bubbles, then the instructor pulls out the seahorse float pad and begins taking each student out one at at time. The little girl from last week's lesson can't stand still, bobbing up and down in the water, jumping on the in-water platform, until she bobs right off the platform into the water. As I notice, and as the thought begins to process in my mind, the lifeguard's eyes widen and with two quick steps she's in the water and the girl is back on the stand. Very calm, no worries, she's got this. After that, the lifeguard sat right on the edge of the pool facing the kids for the rest of the lesson, never more than an arm reach away.

D- participates in the lesson, kicking with his legs bent like he's pedaling in the water. I remind myself that the main purpose of these four lessons is to become comfortable in the water. The lesson shakes up a bit when the instructor brings out a little squeezy toy and asks the students to throw it down the swim lane so they can "swim" out to retrieve it and return, while she holds them around the waist.  D- puts out one arm, baseball style, and lobs it halfway down the swim aisle twice as far as the other students. The instructor just looks and laughs, before scooping him up and starting down the lane. The second time, she tells him to just toss it lightly so it doesn't go so far.

Another new exercise when she brings out what looks like a barbell floatie to put under their arms. My son does not like this, tucking barbell under his arms, but holding on with both hands and leaning back so it looks like he's "walking" in the water - so funny.

Measures of Success

When he and the other student are waiting his turn, I notice he's squatting down and putting his whole head in the water - last week he was only putting 3/4 of his head in the water. This is the first sign of improvement. 

Next sign of improvement comes when it's time to float on his back and the instructor talks him into letting go of her neck to put his arms out above his head, even though he has an anxious look on his face. 

The curriculum is changed up a little bit, with the instructor asking them this week to lay the side of their face in the water, then look face down (no goggles!) in the water and blow bubbles. She takes them out one last time to "float" face down while she holds them.

Two lessons down, and two big steps forward: putting his face in the water (without goggles) and being on his back without holding on to the instructor or panicking.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

SafeSplash Week One: Don't Forget the Goggles!

Swimming is a Life Skill
Last night was the first lesson in our SafeSplash adventure. Arrive early and realize that the only drawback of attending swim lessons at an LA Fitness gym at 6:30 p.m. is the full parking lot. I've never belonged to a big commercial gym, so didn't consider it would be crowded right after work, d'oh.

I can tell my son is nervous and I'm glad we arrived early so we could look around. We watch a more advanced class finishing up by throwing rings into the swim lane so they can swim out and dive to the pool floor to retrieve them. (This is important later.)

A pleasant surprise: both the life guard and the instructor, a senior on the high school swimming team, turn out to be friends of my oldest daughter. There's only one other little girl about D's same age in the lesson and while she hops into the pool eagerly, D- is a little more hesitant and he shivers in the water. 

The lesson begins with the instructor asking the two kids to hold their breath and put their heads in the water. My son only goes about 3/4 of the way - to his eyebrows - but he does put his face in the water. He isn't quite sure about laying across the seahorse float pad to kick, but he watches the other girl do it and the natural "I can do that too" streak kicks in.

Group Lessons are good for encouraging kids to try something new.

I can tell from his face that he's scared of falling off and sinking. Next the instructor dribbles water over their head with a little toy cup with holes in the bottom. She takes them out one by one to "swim" - that is kick and move their arms while she holds them. My son clearly is flailing, cheeks puffed up, holding his breath and squinting as the water splashes into his face. 

We didn't bring any goggles. 

The first measure of success I'll be watching for as lessons continue will be if he can get in the water and respond to the instructor without making a face or being scared.

Back floating is next and the other student is not cooperating and getting upset, but the instructor doesn't force or push her, she just gently returns her to the waiting bench. D- is tense, but allows the instructor to gently lay his back, his arm curled round her neck in a choke hold. She is patient and kind.  After a monkey crawl across the pool edge, the two kids get out, hold her hands and jump back in. 

When they return to the PVC bench where they stand in the water, she hands them a ring... and my son's face goes into total panic. He's ready to get out, wants nothing to do with the ring, and I can see that he's thinking they are about to dive deep into the water, but she just asks them to hold it, bend their knees, and place the ring on the bench by their feet  - another activity to get their face and head back in the water. Relief floods over his face and he follows her instructions. 

Note to self: he needs goggles.

When the lesson ends, my son climbs out of the pool saying, "That was fun! Can we come back tomorrow!"  

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Swimming Lessons: A Life Skill

Earlier this summer, SafeSplash Swim School invited Of Sound Mind and Spirit to blog about our experience with their swim school in exchange for four weekly lessons.  Perfect timing since my boy is now four (and a half! he emphatically reminds me) and it only just occurred to me this summer that at some point he needs to learn to swim.

I looked them up. SafeSplash believes that “Swimming is a Life Skill” and they worked with Olympic gold medalist Missy Franklin to develop a curriculum consisting of 11 teaching levels designed to progressively build one on top of the other. 

But could they accommodate my schedule? Swimming is what I call a SAHM sport. Working mom hours aren’t usually compatible with anything related to “swim team” or “swim lessons.” For this to work, we need lessons after 6 p.m. or on the weekends.

SafeSplash advertises as the largest leading swim school franchise with over 32 locations in Texas, so I browsed their location finder by zip code. Surprise – there are four locations relatively near our neighborhood, including lessons at our neighborhood pool about a mile away from the house! Each location website shows hours when classes are available – helpful for comparing options to fit my busy working mom schedule.

The Montessori across from the elementary school offers lessons 1:30-3:30 p.m. Another nearby pool has swim lessons only between 9:30-11:30 AM.  But the next location is partnered with an LA Fitness gym, the location website advertising, “Our schedule is designed to meet the needs of busy parents.”  This one offers the most flexibility with lessons on Saturdays 10:15 to 3:15 p.m. AND Tues and Thurs until 7:30 / 7 p.m.  Ah-ha – we might have a winner.

After registering online, someone from SafeSplash called my cell phone and left a voice message within the hour. Later, Megan at the selected location reached out to me to determine my son’s comfort level in the water.  He likes to splash with a floatie ring, but doesn’t like trying to float on his back.  She said it sounded like he was at a Level 1.  We chatted about the calendar options and settled on a weekday lesson at 6:30 p.m.

So next week we’ll start on an adventure as a Level One swimmer building comfort and confidence in the pool while earning his trust, and I'll blog about the lessons.

I’m curious is there anything I need to know before we get started?

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Resources to Prepare for the Geo Bee

(There are product links in this post as a part of the Amazon Affiliate program.  Clicking on them and purchasing something will not cost you anything more, but will provide us with a small amount.)
Books and Resources to Prepare your Child for Geo Bee

My youngest daughter, Birdie, is in love with Geography.  We really didn’t put two and two together that Geography was a serious passion until the Men’s FIFA World Cup in 2014.  She of course loves soccer, but was quick to tell us all about each country and region in the tournament.  And I’m not talking about countries we’ve all heard about or studied in school.  But countries that make you go, Hmmm, I think I remember where that is….  She was all over it.  That was the summer she asked for a globe for her birthday. 

Last year in fourth grade, her teacher announced the school would be holding it’s first ever Geography Bee, affectionately called the Geo Bee.  It's a contest that starts at the school level and moves up to the national level, like a spelling bee, and is sponsored by National Geographic.  The official name of the national bee is of course, the National Geographic Bee, but we’ll just call it the Geo Bee. 

Birdie was thrilled at the idea of the Geo Bee at her school (she was certain she could win it!) but a little terrified to get up in front of the school and answer questions.  Thankfully, the school made the decision to hold the GeoBee immediately after school rather than during school. That alleviated much of her worry and she could focus on the actual bee.  

What’s funny is that she wasn’t nervous at all about the questions just about being up in front of people.  She was extremely confident she could handle the questions.  I had done a little research on the internet about the types of questions and was a bit concerned.  Some are extremely hard – or appear that way to me as a non-geography obsessed person.  What I discovered about the Geo Bee is that it isn’t simply knowing the names and locations of countries, capitals and oceans.  The National Geographic Bee asks questions about physical, political, economic, and cultural geography of the world as well as some on current affairs.  That's a lot of information. 

To further educate myself on the Bee and ensure Birdie wasn’t missing knowledge any specific area I bought her a few books and resources from Amazon to help her prepare.  Now, when I say “prepare”, do not assume in any way that my Birdie crammed for the test.  As I mentioned before, geography is one of her passions.  Merely having these books and resources in the house was enough to entice her to look at them.  We did very, very little Q&A in advance of the bee.  She wanted to simply absorb the information in her own way.

The books specific to the Geo Bee helped me guide her into areas I thought she might need learn a bit more.  For instance, I discovered that it was important to have knowledge of the US National Parks and top areas of interest in other countries.  So I attempted to interest her in the national parks through pictures and discussion on which ones we’ve been to and which ones we would still like to visit. 

Now that we are on the other side of the Geo Bee and looking forward to the next one, I wanted to share our resources that helped her as a competitor and me as the mom. These books and resources from Amazon were instrumental in helping Birdie prepare for the GeoBee.
  1. A Desktop Globe– I cannot overstate the importance of having a good globe or wall map handy.  Many times we jump up and spin the globe to verify a location being discussed.  Or look up countries to see their location in relation to another fixed point, like the equator, Antarctica or another country. It is a must for your house.
  2. National Geographic Student World Atlas  - This atlas is written for middle to high school students, but its 100 plus maps, flags & stats pages, charts and photos kept the focus of my geography obsessed 9-year-old. I found myself looking through it when she wasn’t around trying to learn something she didn’t know.
  3. National Geographic Bee Ultimate Fact Book  – A valuable resource for looking up facts or studying, the National Geographic Bee Ultimate Fact Book was essential for getting the basics down on each country.  When Birdie flipped through it for the first time, she couldn’t believe there were so many tiny countries she didn’t know.  It became her mission to learn about each one.  
  4. How to Ace the National Geographic Bee; Official Study Guide – I read this book to find out the specifics of the Geo Bee and how to help Birdie prepare for the big day.  It gave me a true overview of the large knowledge base from which the questions draw from.  There are sample questions in the book for each round and the book included helpful tips for breaking down the questions to help determine the answer. 
  5. Geography Bee Simplified – While this guide is not an official guide to the Geo Bee, it contains over 1750 questions, study tips, and a mock-bee.  Now that we’ve been through a bee, I can appreciate the true value of this book in asking true geo bee style questions. Next year we will spend more time with the Q&A sections of the book.
  6. The Geography Bee Complete Preparation Handbook – This is a book that has been recommended to us to pick up to help prepare for next year’s school Geo Bee.  It has over 1,000 sample questions, strategy tips and facts to learn.
  7. US Road Atlas –  My large Rand McNally US Road Atlas was a primary source for looking at the United States, but I also picked up another book that encourage her to learn about each state.  The National Geographic Kids Ultimate US Road Trip Atlas includes the following for each state – a map, 5 cool things to do in that state, a summary paragraph, roadside attractions and odd information.  It is a fun, informative book at a great low price right now on Amazon. 
These are only suggestions based on what we used for our prep.  If you don't want to purchase  books, there are a TON of digital resources as well.  But that's another post. I do have a Geography Pinterest board if want to go over and take a look at some of our favorites.

Books and Resources to Prepare your Child for Geo BeeWhen preparing for the Geo Bee, focus on what your child wants to learn. Let them be your guide.  Birdie very much set the tone as to what
she was interested in studying (and most definitely what she did NOT want to learn.)  For instance, Birdie hated doing practice Q&A, so we mostly avoided it.   There were a few times I invited her to ask me the questions, she was thrilled each time she could stump me.  Which was more often than I'd like to admit.

How did Birdie do in her first GeoBee?  She was adorable!  And so very shy about answering questions out loud, stating her answer in this teeny tiny little girl voice.  It was a great experience.  She answered tough questions correctly surprising me and missed at least one I thought was super simple.  That's the way it goes.  We discovered that some of the tips and strategies we learned in the books above were correct and helpful to figuring out the answer when you weren't quite sure.  In teh end, she was absolutely crushed she didn't win the first school wide bee.  But, she was very pleased to come in 2nd place to a fellow classmate.  Watch out, Birdie is determined to win next year!

Does your school have a Geo Bee?  How does your child prepare for it?

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