I love my job.

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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.

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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.

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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………

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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!

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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 turtleswimschool@gmail.com

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A great instructor stands out from the rest!

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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!

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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.

 

http://www.ohbaby.co.nz/baby/health-and-wellbeing/baby-skincare-and-conditions/

 

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.

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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!

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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)”

 

Showers!

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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.

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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 turtleswimschool@gmail.com or www.turtleswimschool.co.nz

 

 

How do you keep your kids safe around the water this summer?

This year I have read lots of articles on kids drowning. Children pushing BBQ’s up to the fence and climbing up and over to get into the pool. Children almost drowning in pools where adults are not supervising properly.  Getting out of reach of your children when you are in the sea.

 

As a mother and swimming instructor it is my worst nightmare having children get out of their reach and go under the water.

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DROWNING IS SILENT

 

Most people think it is like the movies where people are screaming for help and splashing around but in real life it is silent. Children will slip under the water and sink to the bottom. If there are lots of children around then it could be hard to watch properly.

 

KEEP WITHIN ARMS REACH OF YOUR CHILD AT ALL TIMES.

 

Both my children have been taught to be safe in deep water. They roll over and float on their back or lift their heads to breathe to get themselves to the side of the pool. But even though I feel confident that they are safe in deep water I still ensure that myself or my husband is in the water with them.

 

AN ADULT OVER THE AGE OF 16 YEARS NEEDS TO SUPERVISE.

 

If you are at the beach then it is also important to stay within arms reach of your children as there can be strong currents and rips at some of the more dangerous beaches.  Even the beaches that seem safe can have strong currents and can take your children away from you at a moment.

I stand down in the water while my children splash around in the shallows. Often if I have my nephew with me and I ask that he helps out, because if they both got swept away I am left with the question of which child would I be rescuing.

Ensure that with preschoolers and children who are not strong swimmers it is one adult to one child at the more dangerous beaches.

 

TWO CHILDREN UNDER THE AGE OF 4 YEARS OLD WITH ONE CAREGIVER AT PUBLIC POOLS.

 

Recently on a trip to the public pools there was a massive line to get into the pools because it was the holidays and they only allow a certain number of people in so that they can supervise accordingly.  There were people in the line wondering why the line wasn’t moving and why we couldn’t get in. I turned around and said

“I would prefer that my children were safe than have so many people in the pools and have a child drown.”

Often people don’t understand why there are rules at the pools but they are there for your safety.

 

Please keep your children safe around the water this summer. Remember that DROWNING IS SILENT and to always keep both eyes fixed on your children at all times.

But also have fun and enjoy the water just know your children’s limits when it comes to the water if you are at the pools, beach, lakes or rivers.

Have fun this summer and stay safe.

How do I teach my baby to swim?

I think this is the most frequent question I get asked.

I have had old swimming instructors that I have worked with in the past have had babies and friends from school email me and ask me how do they go about teaching their baby to swim.

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Infants is a specialized group and I feel more often than not instructors with little training in this area get thrown in to teach Infants without knowing why an activity is done. They just go through all the songs and activities but do not explain to the parents why they are doing it.

Both my children learnt to swim as soon as they came into this world. They started with a bit of water over their heads and built up to going under the water.

Babies are in amniotic fluid for 9 months so it is only natural for them to feel relaxed in the water. If babies do not have water familiarization early then they learn to become anxious around water. This can also come from parents who are anxious in and around water. Babies can feel if you are relaxed or anxious.

How do you get your baby confident though?

Start of small with a flannel over the head squeezing out drips of water. Right from the beginning cue (baby’s name, ready, go) before the water goes over their eyes.

Once you have done this for a while move onto a cup that is ¼ full of water and do the same thing cue (baby’s name, ready, go).

Continue to build the amount of water in the cup and eventually you will see your baby start to get ready and close their eyes because they know the water is coming. This also encourages breath hold.

Once you have worked up to a full cup of water then count 1,2,3,4,5 as you tip the water over your babies head, you see they are ready and can now move onto submersion.

Go to the swimming pools hold your baby an arms length away from you under their armpits facing you. Once again you bring in the cue (baby’s name, ready, go).

In a horizontal position put them under the water for about 2 or 3 seconds moving them towards you. Once they get to you bring them up out of the water smiling and praising them. Ensure you start with horizontal work until your baby is confident to move on. If you submerge your child vertically before they are ready there is more chance of them getting water up their nose.

Once you feel as though they are confident coming to you. They could swim to the wall and hold onto the bar or swim from one adult to the other.

After mastering horizontal movement through the water you can move onto vertical submersion.

One parent drops baby into the pool slowly facing the other parent in the water so the baby has their back to the wall. Slowly the parent in the water manipulates the baby to turn and hold onto the bar or wall. This can also be done sitting on the wall. Often at swimming lessons in New Zealand we do this with a song,

“Humpty Dumpty sat on the wall, Humpty dumpty had a great fall”

Babies and preschoolers sit on the side of the pool with mum or dad holding them on the wall if they are little.  At the end of the song the babies come into mum/dad and then turn to hold the bar. This teaches the infants that if they ever fell into a pool that they can turn around and hold onto the side of the pool or what ever they have fallen off.

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Once the baby is confident doing this they can then be put out a wee bit further and encouraged to turn and move towards the wall to hold on. As the child gets older they will be able to jump into deep water and turn to find the wall.

Ensuring that your baby can get themselves to the side of the pool or has spent time in deep water practicing is extremely important, especially in New Zealand with our summers spent, the majority of time near water.

Floating is also another important step. Once your baby is confident submerging and even while learning to submerge get your baby on their backs as much as possible. Have their head on your shoulder so they feel your support and sing to them or have a toy for them to look at. Once they are happy on their back on your shoulder move them in front of you and extend your arms out. The more you do it the more confident they will become on their backs.

Next when your baby in confident in the water try to encourage them to roll from their front to their backs without much manipulation.

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Steps to take.

  • Flannel over the baby’s head with drips of water
  • Cue your baby’s name, ready, go.
  • 1/4 cup of water and build up to a full cup, count 1,2,3,4,5 for breath hold.
  • Horizontal movement through the water towards the parent.
  • Vertical submersion after confidence is built with horizontal movement.
  • Teach safety from the side of the pool coming in and turning to hold back on to the wall.
  • Floating
  • Rolling from a front position to a back float
  • Take it slowly and at the pace of your child.
  • Never push your baby under the water before they are ready.

I love teaching infants and believe that a lot can be done at home. As long as you ensure that you follow the steps. It can be terrible if your baby gets water up their nose and they end up taking a few steps backwards, but it does happen. Just start back at the beginning with a small amount of water and cueing their name until you see they are ready to put their head under again. If they do have a fright don’t put them back under the water straight away as it can be more detrimental. If you don’t feel your baby is ready to move on then don’t just take it at their pace, you know how far to go with your own child.

Take it slowly, make it fun and your babies will love the water as much as my children do.

If you would like swimming lessons with Turtle swim school please contact me on turtleswimschool@gmail.com or 0211024184