This past summer, I was thrilled to have an opportunity for The K Man to try private swimming lessons for the first time. We’ve never looked back. Following the lessons at Big B’s brother’s pool, we signed The K Man up for weekly lessons for the balance of the summer at a neighbourhood pool. Now he’s enrolled at our community pool, but again in private lessons. I personally find that the cost works out to be the same – it’s just the short-term cost that seems higher.
So when Kendal Aquatics approached me about a review, I was pleased to offer a guest review opportunity to someone who lives close to the facility.
Lisa has two young children, and is currently enjoying the latter half of her maternity leave.
I couldn’t have been more excited when Andrea was looking for a guest reviewer for three private swim lessons at a pool near my house in Thornhill. Ever since she reviewed the AquaMobile Swim School, I have seriously considered registering my daughter for private lessons.
My daughter is three-and-a-half years old and I introduced her to the water around six months of age. Swimming was my favourite activity growing up and I wanted to help her be as comfortable and safe as possible in the water. We completed several parent-and-tot classes at the community pool, and this past summer she participated in her first independent class (Preschool 1, which is the equivalent of the Sea Otter level through the Red Cross program) at the community pool.
She’s currently enrolled in Preschool 2/Salamander. The instructor/student ratio at the community pool for these levels is 4:1. During the last session, there were three kids in the class, an instructor and a volunteer, which meant my daughter essentially had semi-private lessons for less than $10 per lesson. The reason I did not register my daughter for private or semi-private lessons at the community pool this time is because I’m frugal and hoped we’d luck out with the same scenario. No such luck. This time, there is one instructor and three students.
I have calculated that during a 30-minute lesson, my daughter gets about three to five minutes, maximum, of individual attention in spurts throughout the class. It breaks down like this: everyone gets in the water at the large, wide stairs and bounces up and down for a minute or two to get warm. Then as a group they practice blowing bubbles; putting their faces in the water, play “what time is it Mr. Wolf`” to help them get comfortable moving on their own across the stairs; picking up weighted objects on the stairs to encourage full-body submersion and sitting on the side to practice kicking. Then the instructor gets everyone’s life jackets on and they practice instructor-assisted front and back floats and jumps. Towards the end of the class, the instructor will assist them in kicking their way to the other side, still with life jackets on.
The way I see it, at this level at the community pool, the instructor is just helping the kids get comfortable in the water, and when working with them 1:1, tests them very quickly for what they need to accomplish to progress to the next level.
I describe this in detail so that you will appreciate the contrast of the private lessons we experienced at Kendal Aquatics.
The staff at Kendal Aquatics seemed to take a genuine interest in helping us have a positive experience at their facility. The private lessons meant they could work around our schedule to fit in the best day and time for us, which is a huge draw for most busy parents. Prior to the first lesson, they took a detailed history of my daughter’s swim history and comfort in the water to ensure she was enrolled in the correct level. They determined she was at a Salamander level.
During a 30-minute lesson, my daughter spent no more than a few minutes at the stairs, and almost all of the time actually swimming across the pool – kicking on her front and back – assisted only by the instructor or a pool noodle (no life jacket), and jumping into deep water. She was also encouraged to put her face in the water as she kicked to combine movements, and
get closer to what’s required to swim solo. I was happy she was learning to swim and also getting some real exercise at the same time.
By the third lesson, my daughter was able to swim unassisted for two metres (!), float on her front and back unassisted for several seconds, glide on her own and open her eyes underwater. I was amazed (and so proud)! I think my daughter surprised herself as well with how much she had learned in such a short time.
A few notes about the facility: there’s plenty of parking (not always so at the community centre), the change rooms are clean and the viewing area is comfortable, stocked with current magazines and free wifi. The pool is salt water versus chlorine, which is also a big deal for some people. Another great feature is the option to make up for ONE missed class or get a credit for 50 per cent of the value of one missed class to put toward an upcoming session. There are also several referral and multi-sibling discounts available.
Despite the success my daughter achieved in three short classes, we did experience a little stress along the way. When I was interviewed about my daughter’s swim history, I was asked what “approach” I would like the instructor to take when teaching her: firm, gentle or mixed. I chose “firm” given my daughter’s personality and because I wanted her to take these lessons seriously. When we arrived for our first lesson, my daughter went with the instructor without hesitation and had a great first 15 minutes. Then I noticed she was crying and having a tantrum in the pool. The staff instructed me not to go in and get her, and to instead move away from the viewing area so that she couldn’t see me. I have to admit I was not comfortable with this; I know my daughter. They said she was upset because she saw me in the window and wanted me. I thought this sounded weird given my daughter’s personality and that she was perfectly fine when she started. I found out later from my daughter that she was upset because she got scared in the water. The instructor was teaching her to float on her own and she wasn’t comfortable. She kept saying “he let go of me.” I explained that this is how she would learn, but she was very upset and said she never wanted to go back. In the days leading up to the second and third lessons, there were lots of tears on her part and lots of bribes on mine. To their credit, Kendal Aquatics’ staff handled this very well, and said it was typical behaviour. At the end of the day, we managed to get her back in the pool and swimming.
I’m sure you’re all wondering about the cost of these lessons. For levels including Sea Otter, Salamander and Sunfish, Kendal recommends private 30-minute lessons, at a cost of $34.99 per class. As long as you go with what they call their “Kendal pick” – their recommendation for class size – but never more than a ratio of 4:1 (even at the highest swimming levels) the cost ranges from $28.99 to $34.99 per class. At the higher levels, the classes run for 45 minutes or one hour. If you don’t choose the Kendal pick, the cost is $47.99 for the introductory levels. Sound confusing? I thought so, too, which is why this is one of the gaffes. The cost for private lessons at the community pool is about $33 per class at the preschool level. So while there’s no price premium at Kendal Aquatics, I don’t find the cost structure easy to understand.
The only Kendal Aquatics location is at Dufferin and the 407 in Thornhill. They service the Thornhill, Woodbridge, Maple and Vaughan areas, but depending on where you live in those areas, it still might be a trek. It took me about 15 minutes to get there from my house verses five minutes to get to the community centre. Triple the time is a bit too long for my liking and distance can be a huge factor for most people.
After this experience, I am going to sign up my daughter for the private lessons at the community pool to compare the experience. The bottom line: whether at a private swim school like Kendal or a private lesson in the community pool, 1:1 is definitely the way to go at this age. When you break down the costs, the private lessons deliver much more bang for your buck, and you’ll probably find you’re spending less money over the long-term because your child will progress through the levels much more quickly. And, of course, this means your child will become a stronger swimmer sooner. And in our house, safety trumps cost every time.