Summer is over, what now?

Excited kids, laughing, jumping, kicking and flying into the air.

We started off with a hiss and a bang!  The classes were full and the kids were energised to start learning before the heat of summer struck.


“Helene i just want to say thank you or the work you have done with Olivia last term she has come leaps and bounds with her water safety and confidence in the water . Thank you and can’t wait for next term to start and see what other new amazing things she can accomplish with your teaching”


Winter is here and sickness has arrived.


Some people prefer to just do the summer as it gets colder and the kids are not as keen to continue in the cooler weather.


If you are choosing to not put your child in learn to swim during the winter then ensure they are still going to the pools regularly to keep their confidence up in and around the water.


The advantage of learning to swim with Helene at Turtle Swim School is your child will get continuity of instruction.  Helene knows where your child is at with their learning and has a goal for each child.  If that goal is not reached then that child is looked at and assessed as to what can be done to encourage your child to progress.


  • During the winter go to the pools regularly with your children.
  • Encourage them to play and have fun safely in and around the water.
  • Keep a close eye on your children when they are in or around water.

I love my job.


When I was in my early 20’s I went on my OE and worked in a swim school in Scotland.  Ever since then a seed was planted in my mind that one day I too could have my own swim school.

For years I have taught kids to swim and loved it!

My dream was that one day I would have a swim school to call my own.

I started teaching kids to swim at 18 years old in an Auckland swim school.  I loved it, but the pull of going overseas was too much, so off I went on a trip of a life time.

I started working in a summer camp in America working as a life guard and a swim teacher.  One day we had all these new kids come to the camp and we asked them if they could swim.  Some of the girls said no but most said yes.  We were located on a lake; the girls that had clearly said they could swim were to swim from the end of the pontoon out to another pontoon and back.

These girls were jumping in the water and going straight to the bottom of the lake.  Lucky there were about 10 of us lifeguards.  We were jumping in and rescuing the girls left right and centre.

After spending a summer in America I decided to go to the UK to live and experience life over there.

I applied and got a job working for a local swim school over in Edinburgh.  I started as a swim teacher but quickly worked up to managing the pools and the office.  I loved management and my boss at the time said

“Helene you could have your own swim school one day.  You would be amazing at it”

I have always remembered her saying that and from then on the seed was planted.”

Where do you start though?

How do you go about starting your own swim school?

Don’t I need heaps of money?

Maybe a pool would be good.


Once I got home I went to see a man that had taught me to swim all those years ago to see if he could offer me a job.  Of course he offered me a job, I am amazing!  Or so I thought I was.

Once again I started as a swim teacher, which felt like a step backwards after managing and pretty much running the swim school in Scotland.  But I had to start somewhere and I loved teaching kids so much I wasn’t bothered that I was earning half of what I was in Scotland because I was doing the best job in the world.  I was teaching kids to swim!

Once again I quickly moved up in the ranks and was ended up managing and teaching full time for him.  I was paid extremely well and put lots of time and energy into my job.  After about 9 years working for this local Auckland swim school and having two children I felt like it was time for me to go off on my own.  I did a certificate in small business management and I felt like I had direction.

I put a proposal into a local school that had an outdoor pool.  The board of trustees said yes and I was away.  I was to teach the local kids how to swim in the afternoons.  It was great!  I had set up a website and got a logo for my swim school.

I called myself “Turtle Swim School”.  This was special to me because “Turtle” was my husband’s nick name for years.  It felt like a name that resonated with my family.


I was in love with my little swim school!  I could do it in the hours that suited me, around my family.  For three summers Turtle Swim School ran out of Owairaka District School in Auckland.

Until we decided to move our family to Papamoa, Tauranga.  We wanted our kids to grow up near the beach and my husband was over the traffic.  So then the tears started streaming down my face.

I had just started my swim school, the dream I had, had for over 10 years was about to end.

Or was it?

We decided to look for a house that had a pool that I could use to work out of.

We searched and searched.  Nothing was coming up so of course there were more tears.  I must admit that all the tears were also due to the fact that I was also pregnant again with our third child.

I was now pregnant, hormonal and looking for a very specific house.  There was one house which we fell in love with.  It was built in the 70’s, 4 bedrooms only 300 meters from the beach and had a pool.  It was perfect but after getting it checked out by a builder we were advised against buying it.  There were too many major issues with this house!  So of course more tears!

Was I ever going to get my dream again or were we just going to get a house in the beautiful bay of plenty and say good bye to my dream of working out of home and having Turtle Swim School start again.

We stumbled across a house only a few meters from my sister’s house and after it being on trade me for a night and my brother in law having a look through it.  We put an offer in on this house.  No pool though, but potential!

The dream was back!  Or was it………


We moved in May 2015 and I had my daughter in January 2016.  My husband was on my case about putting this pool in.  But I felt like it was in the too hard basket.  We had just brought a house and now I had pressure to put the pool in and get things started and I had also just had a baby!  My husband is away for work so I have three children by myself most of the time.


I got a few quotes and they were all between 80-100K.  There were more tears wondering where this kind of money was going to come from.  I also thought I better go and ask my neighbours because if they were going to be extremely unhappy about it then the dream would also not be happening.  I was so nervous!  If you know me I am not normally a nervous person but I plucked up the courage to go and ask my neighbours because it meant so much to me.  They both said yes and then relief oh my goodness.  Tears of happiness!

In June 2016 after the bank said yes, we said yes to Penguin Pools and by October 2016 we had a 12 meter pool.  That wasn’t after lots of tears as well.  At one stage I thought that my neighbours shed was going to fall into this massive hole they had dug.  There were lots of sleepless nights!

You know when you go to the beach and you dig a hole, the water comes in and the sides keep collapsing.  That is what happened to our hole.  It started off being the right size for the pool and with our water table being extremely high, the hole just kept getting bigger and bigger!

Tears, tears and more tears!


I was pretty much fully booked and ready to go in October for the first lessons with Turtle Swim School in Papamoa!

Lessons went extremely well!  I loved it.  Classes are a maximum of four children and are affordable for the community.

We live near the beach and it is essential to learn to swim.

I am missing not being in the water over the winter but I look forward to getting back in and teaching kids in our local community again this coming summer.

This year there is less stress, less tears and lots of love, excitement, laughter and play!

Turtle Swim School looks forward to seeing lots of new and old faces this coming summer.

If you are keen to have lessons with Helene this summer contact her at


The progression of bubbles.

I got asked to do the progression of bubbles for a conference presenter training but as I got stuck in the snow and all the roads were blocked I was unable to make it up to do my talk on the progression oi bubbles so I thought why not write it on my blog.




“Ok everyone with me take a deep breath, put your face in the water and bubbleeeeeee…..”

Why are bubbles important for learn to swim?

What is a common fault with kids learning to blow bubbles?

Bubbles are essential when learning to breathe because if we do t blow bubbles we can’t breathe.  We are going to move through the water much faster if we let all our air out in the water before we roll out to breathe.

A common fault with children when learning to swim is they don’t take a deep enough breath.  They breathe shallow and are able move towards for a short distance until they need to stop and stand to take a deeper breathe.  So we need to ensure the kids take a deep breathe every time they roll out for a breath.

Swimming Lessons 175
The progression of blowing bubbles.

  1.   Have a race blowing toysacross the pool.
  2.   Teaching breath control without submersion.
  3.   Ring a ring a Rosie’s, bubbles submerged.
  4.   Hold the noodle in a u shape holding onto the side so there is room to put their face in and blow bubbles and learn breath control.
  5.   Big breath in and blow bubbles out for 10 seconds.  Let’s do it three times.
  6.   Feel the air coming into your stomach.
  7.   Streamline across the pool blowing bubbles the whole way across the pool.

    Bubbles is an essential foundation skill when learning to swim.  It is important to ensure the kids are taking nice deep breaths to ensure they can move through the water much faster and with more ease.

Starting my own swim school.

Recently I attended a swimming conference and I loved seeing people’s reactions when I told them I had my own swim school.  It’s a common dream in the learn to swim industry.  So seeing their reaction and asking me questions made me feel so great of the accomplishment that I have made.

There was a seed that was planted in my head when I was working in Scotland managing and running a swim school there.  I thought it would be a unacheivable dream that was so far from my reach.  In 2014 my dream turned into reality when I was able to start running out of a local school pool offering after school lessons.


My husband and I decided to move our family to Tauranga so I thought that was it the dream was over.  There were a few tears thinking that I would have to start from scratch again.

We moved to Papamoa and brought a house with enough space to put a pool in.  After getting a few quotes of 80k-100k there were more tears, I was devastated!  Where were we going to get that sort of money to put a pool in? I wanted to make my dream reality once more.  There were thoughts of running out of a school again but felt that it would be much better to see if we could make it work out of our own home.

We were lucky enough that the bank said yes and then after a few more tears we were all go.

Oh my goodness here we go!  In June 2016 we said yes to Penguin Pools.  We were about to put a 12 meter pool in our back yard.

It wasn’t that easy though!  I would have loved it if it was.


They started digging and wow wow the amount of sand was incredible!  It was exciting seeing it all happen but it was also very stressful.  The deep end was going to be 2.2 meters deep.  Which seemed achievable until the digging started and they hit the water table.  Where we live the water table is very high and they had to dig down to 2 meters.  every time they dug more sand would collapse into the hole.  They had to board it up.

One day I was standing out there watching them work in the deep end trying so hard to get the water out with about three different hoses extracting the water 24 hours a day it seemed impossible.  Then suddenly with the weight of the digger a massive chunk of sand came off the side into the hole.  I could see the stress and the utter shock on the pool guys face.  I looked like he wanted to give up.  He then turned around and saw I was standing there.   I can only imagine how he felt.  But at least no one was hurt.

The neighbours shed was only about a meter away and with the hole getting bigger there were nights were I just was not sleeping with thoughts of my neighbours shed falling into this massive hole we have in our back yard.

So more tears and lots and lots of stress.  To be honest I have never felt so stressed in my life.  The guys from Penguin Pools were amazing they kept on working and never let the pressure get too much.

The stress turned into excitement the day that the pool was craned over the house and into my massive stress pool!

Then I had the stress of ensuring it was all up and running before the start date of lessons.  I had pretty much filled up lessons and I wasn’t sure it was all going to be totally finished.

My husband put the fence in just in time for lessons to start and I was away.


I had an incredible first summer!  After the stress of putting the pool in and all the stress and tears it was worth it.  I love, love, love teaching kids to swim and it was so exciting to have heaps of new kids to teach in my new community.


I am looking forward to my second summer!


If you want to book lessons with me then contact me at

See you in the water soon!


Will my child forget what they have learnt over the winter?

I had a few parents ask me this question as I was finishing lessons last week.

Will my son or daughter lose everything they have learnt over the winter?


I guess you could look at it like riding a bike.  You learn to ride and then sometimes spend quite a while before you jump back on your bike again.  You might be a bit wobbly to start but after a few goes you are back to where you were originally.

Every child is different, some children may digress more than others especially if they have just started to learn to breathe, as it sometimes takes a wee while to master the skill of breathing.  If your child is now swimming down lengths of the pool then it may take them a few lessons to get back to where they were before, but then we will be away and ready to build on what we had learnt previously.


I would suggest taking your children to the pools as much as possible.  Weekly if possible, even if they are not having structured lessons you will be surprised at how much they retain from just playing.

I often have had children come back after the Christmas break of 6 weeks and are better that when I saw them at the end of term 4 and all they had been doing was playing in the pool every day at Grandma’s house or their own house.

Don’t be too concerned that they are not swimming properly and are just playing I assure you they will still be learning.


If you happen to go to Auckland during the winter be sure to pop in and use their facilities as Auckland pools are FREE for under 16 years!  Free for everyone in South Auckland.

So get to the pools during the winter.  The hot pools are always great, they have a great soak and splash time on Thursday mornings for mums with toddlers/preschoolers.  It costs $6.10 for you and your child.

Have fun this winter and I will see you all next Summer!

email Helene at

Me! A Swimming instructor in Papamoa, Tauranga, New Zealand.

So I decided to write a blog all about ME!

I absolutely love teaching kids to swim and am so passionate about it.  It excites me to go to work and get in the water and work with kids.  I go to work with a smile on my face and I come home with a massive smile on my face!

It is so great to have a job I truly love.


I can be having a really bad day.  My kids have really frustrated me and I am really tired, but once I get to work and jump in the water my worries seem to disappear.

I love asking the kids what they have been up to during their week.  Having the littles say some random and funny things.

I actually learnt what my gluteus maximus was from a 7 year old when I had just started swim teaching.  Obviously I was on another planet at school when they were talking about our body parts.

I begun teaching in Auckland at a well known swim school when I was 18.   To fund my trip to America.  I fell in love with teaching swimming and ended up getting a job in a summer camp in America as a swim teacher and life guard.

Swimming Lessons 175

Once I had done that I travelled to Scotland where initially I worked in a restaurant but was having withdrawal from teaching swimming, so I got a job working for a large swim school in Edinburgh.  Where I went from a swim teacher to working in the office managing and managing the different pools that the swim school had as well as still teaching.

After my time was up in Scotland I went to work as a scuba diver in Turkey.  That was great being in the water all day every day.  Not so good not being paid though!  So I packed up and left and came back to New Zealand.

I walked into a job with my old swim school where I had learnt to swim!  A small family run swim school in central Auckland.  Where I worked my way from a swim teacher to managing the swim school.  I was there for 8 years and left after I had my second child.  During my time there I got my;

  • Swim safe (assistant swim teacher award)
  • Pre schoolers certificate
  • Infants certificate
  • School Aged certificate
  • Disabilities certificate
  • Adult Certificate
  • Diploma in Swim Teaching – The highest certificate in New Zealand.
  • Aust Swim certification
  • Swim Ed Certificate
  • National certificate in Sport and recreation.

I had been there so long it was like I had broken up from a long term boyfriend.  I went through a lot of heart ache.  I am not kidding!  It actually hit me really hard when I left because I had worked so hard for them and felt like I was a piece of furniture there.  But it was onwards and upwards.

My dream has always been to have my own swim school!  Well ever since my boss in Scotland put the little seed in my mind when I was over there.  She kept telling me how wonderful I was and how I could start my own business.  At the time I though “yeah right, that’s not going to happen”  Seemed like it was only a dream until an opportunity arose at a local school.

The school had just had a solar system put into their pool and I saw the opportunity to do lessons after school at their pool.  It worked well having my own kids and that is when Turtle Swim School started.


Turtle Swim School started in the summer of 2013.  It didn’t take long till I was full and people had to go on a waiting list to get in.  I had parents comment on how great I was with their kids.  How their kids progressed a lot faster with me that with other instructors they had, had in the past.

Yes I will talk myself up!  I find it hard being a kiwi to say how great I am because it is just not they way we are wired here.  But once your kids have had a few lessons with me then you will see why I feel I can say that.


So why not come and see yourself?  Book in for lessons with me.

Lessons run in Papamoa, Tauranga in the Summer. or






A great instructor stands out from the rest!


What is a great instructor and how do you get one?

I believe that a great instructor really stands out from the rest.

It is often when the parents sit on the side and think

“Wow! how can we get her/him to take our children”

What is it that gives that edge over other instructors?

  1. Confidence – Knowing what drills need to be done to encourage change from a fault in the stroke.
  2. Approachable – If you are approachable then kids will feel at ease with you and try hard when they are swimming.
  3. Timely – Always on time and ensuring that the children get the maximum amount of swimming time.
  4. Feedback – Constructive criticism is given constantly.  A Positive, something that needs to be worked on and another positive.
  5. Continuity – If you can keep an instructor for a few terms then you will be winning.  That instructor will know your child and will be able to pick up where they left off from the previous term.  They will get to know your child and what works or doesn’t work.
  6. FUN and sense of Humour- One of the most important things when you are teaching swimming is to have fun with the kids, so that they want to come back again and again.  Build up a relationship with the child so they have a connection with that instructor.

There are some amazing instructors out there and they are not always the ex swimmers.  I have had some amazing instructors I have worked alongside of in the past.  Some were mums who were amazing with kids.  Some were students who had, had barely any experience teaching swimming.

You will know when you have struck an amazing instructor!  Your kids will talk about them and really want to go back to swimming.  I have had dolls named after me at home because I had made such an impact in their lives.

Get a great instructor and hold on to them!



Butterfly – The last stroke to learn but the one with the fundamental movement for every stroke.

When I learnt to swim, I learnt how to do freestyle and backstroke before I learnt how to do breaststroke and WAY before even thinking about learning how to do butterfly!

The kick in butterfly is used for all 4 strokes.  You may want to go and correct me there and say no actually it isn’t used in Breaststroke but the undulation in dolphin kick is used in breaststroke.

The movement in breaststroke and butterfly is exactly the same.  When you take off and dive into the water for breaststroke you do a dolphin kick right before you do a pull out.  Then as you are moving through the water your hips go up and down with the pull and the kick.

The link below shows the change in rules with the breaststroke pullout.

FINA Announces Another Rules Change to Breaststroke Pullouts


So why is it that we have not taught our kids dolphin kick right from the start?

A lot of swim schools in New Zealand are now are changing the way they teach and have started to bring in the dolphin kick a lot earlier than previously.

I think that dolphin kick is a fundamental kick and a separate stroke in its own right.


I believe it is critical that we ensure all our young swimmers are learning how to dolphin, mermaid or merman kick right from as soon as they are past the gliding stage.

As a parent when your kids go to the pools get them to have competitions to see who can get to the other side being a mermaid. Who can dive down to the bottom and pick up the sinkers like a mermaid.  Who can swim through the hoop like a mermaid?



The kids will love it!  Give it a go get them moving their bottom up and down and keep their legs together!  Have fun.

There has recently been a bit of controversy in New Zealand with the use of Mermaid tails.  The kids see them and think what a cool idea and ask mum and dad for one.  The only thing is that they are quite dangerous.

They do not allow you to stand up and often children can end up in trouble if there is not a parent closely keeping an eye on them.


Once your child has the basics of the dolphin kick they can then move onto learning the arms.

Break it up for them so that it is easy.  Walking along arms in streamline position then down to the hips, out behind them, thumbs down up over and out of the water back to the top.

  1.  Learn how to do dolphin kick – play games, have competitions, have fun!
  2.  Arms by themselves stationary and then walking.
  3.  Arms and legs together no breathing – one arm drills
  4.  Stand on the side and do kick and arms before getting into the pool to ensure the correct timing.
  5. Put it together.  arms breathing with two kicks – one kick to move you through the water and the other to encourage the arms out of the water.

Butterfly is not a hard stroke if the timing is correct.  Make sure your kids are doing dolphin kick from an early age which will make it much easier once they start learning the full stroke.



Teach your Newborn baby to swim from birth.


My favourite level to teach is babies and Infants.  So of course having another baby 7 weeks ago has encouraged me to start another blog which I will continue to add to as she grows.


Indy Mae was born at home on the 14th of January.  It was the most amazing experience.  Everything went to plan and I was immediately in love with her.


A lot of first time mothers rush to give their babies a bath in the first few days.  Babies are born with vernix over them.  It is a waxy white substance that protects the baby while they are in the amniotic fluid for 9 months.


There is no need to rush into giving your baby a bath straight away.


My daughter had her first bath at nearly 1 week old.



I held her head and got a clean cloth and wiped her face first and around her ears then moving onto her head.  In the winter you want to make sure that you have a nice warm room so they don’t get cold.

Dry their head and face and then hold your babies arm on one side with your arm running behind their back, so you can then support their head.


Ensure that the water is not too hot and not too cold when you put your baby into the bath.


Holding then slowly swish your baby up and down the bath.  You can sing songs to your baby like;


“swish swash, swish swash I’m a little cookoo clock, swish swash, swish swash now we are striking 1 oclock,”


Remember your baby has been in amniotic fluid for 9 months.


Ensure that your new born has had lots of sleep and hasn’t been awake for a long period of time.  They will need to have a full belly!


I am not a big fan of anything going in the water for a newborn as they will have enough chemicals in their lives growing up.  I just use water and a few sprays of rose water.  Lavender oil is also nice when they are a bit older and not newborn anymore.


Start with just a flannel squeezing it out over their head.


“Indy ready 1,2,3 (trickle water over their head)”


After 4 weeks I can’t say that Indy loves the water.  She has actually cried every time!  I don’t remember my other 2 crying when they had a bath but that doesn’t mean that she gets out of the bath any earlier.  A couple of weeks down the track and she is loving it.  Either that or she has realised that it is just going to happen.


New born babies don’t need a long bath just a quick clean and then learning the cue to go under the water which only needs to be done a a couple of times every time they have a bath.


Once you have done the flannel for the first few baths you can move onto using a small cup a quarter full with water and once again use the cue


“Indy, Ready, 1,2,3 (pour the cup of water over her head)”




With our first two children we only gave them baths.  But with Indy sometimes it is easier to go in the shower.  Great bonding time for dad and your new baby.  Once again you can cue “Indy, ready, 1,2, 3 and then put them under the shower and then pull them out straight away.”  Maybe this is something that Indy prefers as she doesn’t seem to cry as much with Dad in the shower!


I think it is good to have both baths and showers as it means the water is going over her head.


If you are anxious then your baby will read that from you.  Don’t hold back from putting the water on their head at this young stage as they will develop a fear of the water going on their head.  At the moment it is just natural to have water around them and over their heads because of them swimming in the amniotic fluid for 9 months!



The importance of PLAY.

Before I had children of my own I taught in a very structured manner.  Children would come and they would do what I told them to or up on the wall they would sit.  At the swim school I used to work at lessons would only be 20 minutes long so I would try and cram as much into that time as possible.

Parents want to see progress from week to week.  If you let the child just explore the water often this takes much longer and the parents are not seeing the progress they are paying lots of money for.


It is important to have children explore the water and have structure.  Some children do better with less structure and others do better with lots of structure.  Everyone is different and we all learn at different rates.


Often I tell parents to go to the pools and let their kids just play as they will gain more confidence.  At Turtle Swim School I encourage play before and after their lesson.

Swimming lessons are often only 20-30 minutes long so there does need to be some structure within this time or children will not be getting much out of their lesson.


It is often the children who are beginners who really benefit from play and unstructured holistic learning.  It is scary coming to a big pool for the first time and trying to get a child to put trust in an adult that they have never met before.


Can’t afford to take your children to formal swimming lessons?  That’s ok!


Encourage play at the local pools, friends pool, your pool or the beach.

The kindergarten format is to learn by play.  Exactly the same concept applies with swimming.  Take your babies, toddlers and preschoolers to the local pools during the week for a play.

It is FREE for all under 16’s in Auckland, in South Auckland FREE FOR EVERYONE.  It costs me $5 to get in to west wave as a supervising adult.


I have taught my children to swim quite differently to how I have taught children in my swimming lessons to swim.  We will spend at least an hour at the pools often longer and the whole time is pretty much unstructured play, we have diving and mermaid competitions and often I only get 5-10 minutes of structured swimming.

I teach my children all 4 strokes because they have a small attention span so I find by not concentrating on just freestyle and backstroke they are more engaged.  We also do water safety where I get the kids jumping into the deep water and coming back to the wall to gain deep water confidence.  So even though there is only 5-10 minutes of structured swimming there is always a lot of unstructured learning and play involved.  I may spend only 5 minutes teaching my children how to do breathing to the side but the whole time we are at the pools they are learning.


You can do this too!  Just make sure you make a habit out of it.  It needs to be a weekly activity.  Pick a day and have that day as swimming day every week.  Make sure you are always within arms reach of your preschoolers and toddlers and get in the water with them.


You don’t have to be a swimming teacher or even good at swimming to teach your children to swim.  Most often us kiwi’s have learnt to swim growing up and even though you may not know the exact steps, you can teach your children confidence in the water.  The fundamentals of swimming are confidence and floating which you can teach your own children.


Play is extremely important in whatever your children are doing.  Whether they are learning at home, kindy, day care or swimming.

You will gain more confidence from your children if you are allowing them to play as well as having a lesson.  If your instructor decides to spend time playing with the kids don’t be too concerned.  Most parents will be sitting on the side thinking I am paying all this money for my children to play!  But often if is the best thing for them.  Your child may have plattoed or is struggling with picking up a skill and they need some time out to just relax and play.  Your children will then be more enthused to come back the next week because they will be looking forward to the play.

Always encourage PLAY!


If you need some help please don’t hesitate to ask me for suggestions.  I would love to help out.  Helene at or