This is a sponsored review
I discovered last week that all swim schools aren’t the same, their method of teaching is completely different. I’ll admit, I honestly thought if I ever reviewed two different swim schools I’d be telling you the same thing… this couldn’t be further from the truth!
We went to visit Shapland Swim Schools to do a review and find out what makes them different.
Given I’m not an expert in swimming it’s not my place to tell you which method is best for your children, but I can tell you that I was so excited to find out that us Parents have options, REAL options, not just ‘same, same’… different logo.
I’ve had to think this through for a week to enable to me to explain what’s really different, at the heart.
On paper you’d assume it’s simply a smaller class sizes, but there was more to it than that and I have been struggling to articulate the differences.
We went along for a lesson, it felt as though swimming was the most natural thing in the world, their teaching style mirrored that.
Let me attempt to explain.
We teach kids to read using a structured and formal approach. I’m not saying it has to be in a classroom, but they learn the big and little letters, then the sounds, then start to string them together.
To learn this one skill, there are many different ways to teach it, in a classroom, wrapped up in a blanket at home, phonics or site words… or a combination of the above.
In a more formal setting, teachers will go into class with an ‘exact down to the second’ plan of what is going to happen, how the class will run and what tasks will be performed and practiced. E.g. “Today we are learning about the letter A, we will fill in this worksheet and read this book”.
What if a child says “My name is Lucas, my name starts with L, I love L”?To me, Shapland Swim School is teaching your child the letter L, not A.
Does that even make sense?
It certainly isn’t “child led” and a free for all, there was definite intent over what the kids were going to learn in this lesson, I could see it immediately. However, when my kids were playing in a way that opened a door for learning, the teacher rolled with it and went down the path with them, if that involved Lightning McQueen, or participating in a game that one particular dominant twin made up, then so be it (the teacher did refuse to fetch the stick… he already knew how to swim, he had the kids do it instead :)).
I guess you can do these things when there are only 3 kids in a class.
I know, no matter what swim school you go to – the kids are going to learn to swim. The difference is the journey, and their love of swimming along the way. Shapland. Why did they use that name? That’s the last name of Chris Shapland, the owner. The swim school started 64 years ago, established by his great Great-Grandfather and I was lucky enough… no… privileged enough to have him take me through the whole philosophy and run the class with my children.
Seriously, he’s an amazing man and I’m currently begging him (I’ll bribe him if needed) to help disseminate the information that he gave me on that day, to the Kids To Do audience. I’m in awe of his knowledge, care, hands on approach and philosophy on teaching kids to swim.
I’m about to give you all the facts about the swim school, but first, please take the time to watch our short video as this really is the best way for you to understand what I’ve tried to explain… you’ll see why they are “teaching the letter L, not the letter A!”
Shapland take children of all ages, starting with babies from 6 months. Their classes are amaximum of 3 children, and they have their own “Swim in Five” program.
Their swimming pools are VERY different to what I’ve ever seen before, they are intentionally much smaller, more homely, and they’ve been created that way for a reason.
Their sound proof, heated swimming pools have a shallow end, a drop point, and a deep end. There are no partitions and there are a maximum of 2 classes being run at one time, i.e. a maximum of 6 children in the pool at one time.
In the photo – you can see the viewing area right at the back, the shallow end (which is much bigger than it looks in the photo, the step down to the deep end, and the deep end is behind us)
The photo below shows the pool from the Parent viewing area.
So… the pools are smaller, but the kids actually have more room per person, because they take less classes at one time. The reason they do this? Less distractions.
The pools have developed and changed over the last 64 years, they’ve changed based on their own experience of what works and what doesn’t. As an example, their classes used to be 30 minutes in length (which is quite standard in my experience), they found that after 20 minutes children were starting to lose focus, so they rolled with it and reduced the classes to 20 minutes.
The first thing I asked him after the class is “My kids have been in private lessons for a long time, no matter which parent you ask and which swim school they attend, we all think that our children suddenly stop progressing, and it feels very repetitive”. He smiled, like he was expecting the question. I know every swim school I’ve ever been inside have signs up on the topic, which is why I asked. Rather than repeating his words of wisdom, take the time to read his short article on the topic “Why does my child not appear to be improving”.
It makes sense. If you read this article, and you’ve watched our short video, you can see their approach coming together. I didn’t ask what level our children were at, against their program, I didn’t really care and I didn’t need to. I could see they were learning and they were loving it, and that was fine with me.
But, I can see by what he taught them and looking up their website that we’re at the “learning to float on the water and learning that water will hold them up” stage. If you haven’t watched our video, watch it, you’ll see the HUGE difference in confidence from the beginning to the end of the lesson – my children have never been in an open pool like that without Mummy, they can’t swim… and more importantly, THEY KNOW this!
But after one lesson, my kids said with confidence “the water will always hold you up”. (I expect they’d need this cemented over several lessons to make sure it sticks).
I actually think that Chris Shapland had my children trusting him so quickly because everything he did with the kids in that lesson came back to this point, I didn’t have time to show it in the video, but he would have demonstrated “that the water will always hold you up” at least 20 times. He stated this fact, he made them learn it for themselves, he asked them why they couldn’t sit on the bottom of the pool. He PROVED it to them. In their minds, “Why shouldn’t I try the new things he’s suggesting… the water will hold me up”! With confidence comes an attitude where my kids are willing to try things.If they are prepared to try things, they will be able to practice it.Once they practice they will master it. That’s just my opinion, it makes complete sense to me!