While I was researching I came across some really negative reviews. People speaking of how terrible it was to torture children by making them cry through lessons, throwing them in the water, simulated drowning, all sorts of crazy things. Having now completed Bug's lessons, I want to set the record straight on some of these negative comments, and share my experiences. Please understand, I am only sharing my observations and am not speaking for ISR in any way.
As with any situation where you are trusting another adult to work with your child, it is so important to find someone who fits with your parenting style and personality. If you've been reading this blog at all, you know we're all about peaceful parenting. I used ISR's website to find an instructor in our area and sign Bug up. She was fantastic. If anyone in the Dallas area would like a recommendation, please let me know and I'll get you her information.
ISR lessons are not your typical swimming lessons. The focus is on teaching kids water survival skills. Bug went to lessons every day Monday through Friday for ten minutes each day. It took him 7 weeks to complete the course. It was huge time commitment, and they were on the expensive side, but completely worth every minute and penny.
He did cry. The first week he cried the entire 10 minutes of each lesson. It was hard for me to watch at first, but I knew he was safe. I am confident that crying through the lessons was not traumatizing for him. He excitedly got dressed in his swim gear every morning. He ran out the door to the car when I said "let's go swim!" He was all smiles headed into his instructor's back yard, and watching the other students while waiting his turn. Sometime during the second week he stopped crying when he first got into the pool. He had mastered the skills he'd been working on and was confident. From that point forward he only cried when he started learning the next skill, which is completely understandable. Learning new things is hard work, and he has no other way to express himself. Besides that, his lessons were early in the morning, and who wants to work first thing after they get up?!
He was NEVER thrown in the water. His instructor started by teaching him to hold his breath, and then to open his eyes under water. Once he had those skills mastered, she taught him to hold himself up on the steps of the pool. Then to swim a short distance to reach the steps. Lessons progressed in the manner. He was shown his goal, then worked backwards from there so he always knew what he was working toward. Only during the last week when he was testing out did his instructor simulate different situations he may encounter in an accident. These were all done in a gentle manner, after he had all the skills he would need to confidently "save himself".
Watch the gentle way in which his instructor simulates different situations here.
Simulated drowning. These negative reviews just make me shake my head. First of all, I believe it is ISR policy that no child is ever under the water for longer than 7 seconds. When Bug was learning to float on his back, he was never just let to sink under the water for any amount of time. His instructor worked with him until he was able to float with her supporting his head only, then on his own for a moment, then longer amounts of time. If he would lose his float, he would go under briefly, and he was given the time to try to correct it himself. If he couldn't, his instructor was right there to help him fix it. The point of these lessons is for children to have the skills to save themselves in an accident. They need to know what to do if water gets in their mouth, or on their face, or in their eyes. Much better to learn safely under the supervision of an instructor than alone and in real danger.
The last week of Bug's lessons he "tested out". Having mastered the necessary skills in his swim diapers, he would now do everything fully clothed. What is the likelihood of a water related accident occurring while a kid is in their swimsuit? ISR instructors don't want the first time a child experiences water in clothes and shoes to be while they are alone. One day Bug wore summer clothes- shorts, t-shirt, sandals. The next day he wore fall clothes- long sleeves, pants, socks, shoes. The next day he wore winter clothes- pants, shoes, long sleeves, coat, and hat. I cannot stress the importance of these simulations. Bug was really thrown off at first by the weight of his clothes and shoes. I am so thankful his instructor could help him tweak his skills for each situation. The day of the winter clothes, Bug was really thrown off by his hat and figured out how to pull it off so it wasn't hindering his float. Each day his instructor simulated different events, falling in face first, backward, upside down. Even getting caught in a pool hose, floating near the wall, and waves in the water. No, he didn't enjoy it, but it was 10 minutes out of his day and taught him skills that could save his life.
You can watch Bug's entire summer clothes test here.
Happy Bug with his graduation fishie!