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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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

 

 

What is more important, learning to swim or learning water safety?

Recently whilst being at the pools I was wondering what is more important.  Teaching my kids to learn to breathe or teaching them to be safe in and around the water?

Being a swimming teacher myself I have high expectations for my own children.

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I would like to see my 4 year old son swimming the length of the pool breathing by himself before the end of the year and I would like for my daughter, 3 years to be following closely behind knowing how to roll out and breathe and trying to swim by herself.

Am I being to hard on them?  Am I pushing them too much?

in the past I have had a 4 year old swimming 30 lengths of the pool breathing.

My expectations for my children are to be among the group of kids that I have taught that were at the top of their age group.

But maybe it is too much to expect my 4 year old son to be swimming 30 lengths of the pool before he hits 5 years old.

Being a swimming instructor I feel as though teaching two preschoolers how to be safe in and around the water is crucial!

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I have taught water safety from the beginning and will continue to teach it every time my kids are in, around and near the water.  My kids are confident in the water with and without goggles.  They are confident in deep water and are continually taught to float on their backs if they are in trouble.  I am always talking to them about water safety so that it is always something that they are thinking about when around the water.

I teach my daughter to kick across the pool and then roll on her back to breathe and then turn over to kick again to get to the other side.

Even though I feel as though my kids are water confident it doesn’t mean that I am not always within arms reach of them.

But that brings me back to my initial question.

As a parent I think water safety is much more important than teaching your child to swim lengths of the pool.  The 4 year old child that was swimming 30 lengths of the pool.  Did that child know how to be safe in deep water?  Could they float on their back if they got in trouble or could they just swim lengths of the pool.

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Some things that you could do to ensure your kids are water safe;

  • Take your kids to the public pools and get them jumping into the deep pool and swimming back to the side.
  • Teach lots and lots of back floating
  • Teach your kids to roll from front to back
  • Ensure that your kids know how to swim without their goggles on

So I think I have answered my own question!  Learning water safety is crucial.  Floating is the base of a good swimmer so if your child is water safe it will reflect in their learn to swim lessons.  I think I need to ease up on the pressure I feel that I put on my kids and know that they are both fantastic for their age, confident and happy in the water.

Does my child need one to one lessons?

I think there is a time every parent thinks

“Should I spend some money and get my child a one to one lesson?”

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One to one lessons can be fantastic for progression.  It gives the instructor time to concentrate on your child without having the distraction of others.

If your child is disrupting other children by screaming or not wanting to get in.  They have been to many lessons and you are not seeing any progression or you can see their frustration when they are not understanding what the skill being taught is.  You may like to think seriously about getting a 1:1 but you may also be able to save some money and help your kids yourself.

I have had many kids come to me for a one to one over the years and it proved to be great value for money.  I had one child who was struggling with his breaststroke kick.  All he needed was a little bit of time just me and him and he took everything I said on board and put it into his swimming and by the end of the session his breaststroke was beautiful.

I have had other children who are beginners and just need a bit of time spent convincing them that the water can be an enjoyable experience.  It is sometimes hard to get children who are screaming and unwilling to enter the pool in the water when you have other children waiting for a lesson.

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If your child is a beginner and has not been to the facility before on the first lesson they may be hessitant.  My sugestion is to come to the pool early to watch other lessons and get familar with their suroundings.  If you come to the middle of the term and your child is still hesitant to enter and upset coming then I would say that having a 1:1 might be a good idea.

If your child is stuck on a particular skill sometimes having a 1:1 can get them over the hurdle.  I would also recommend always going to the public pools and keeping that confidence up.

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As much as we don’t want it to happen often something happens and your child goes backwards.  Maybe they were in the bath and they went under the water?  Or they went to the pools and got a big mouth of water?  Maybe there has been a change in the family a new baby, parents have separated, child has moved houses.  Sometimes we as parents don’t know what the cause is but the instructors have to take a step backwards to go forwards.

It is often frustrating for the parents and instructors when we  know their child was doing a particular skill or was at a certain level and now they can no longer complete it as well as they previously had.

Sometimes like I have said above your child just needs a bit of play time in the water at the public pools to gain that confidence back.  If it is something like a near drowning this is more delicate and I would recommend having a professional instructor do a 1:1 with you.

1:1’s can be excellent and get great progress out of your child.  But you can also take your child to the public pools to regain that confidence or build it up.  You may only need one or two 1:1 lessons.  I don’t feel as though you would ever regret getting a 1:1 and spending that money.  If you feel your child needs it then go for it and also ensure that you are taking them to the pools.

 

If you would like to book in with Turtle Swim School please contact Helene on turtleswimschool@gmail.com or 0211024184

How do I teach my own child to swim?

Recently I was at the pools and I got talking to another parent.  She started saying she had taken her child out of swimming lessons during the winter because he continually got sick and wondered if she was getting value for money.

If she just knew how to teach him herself or they told her what to do at home it would make a huge difference. She suggested lessons for parents. To teach them how to teach.

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As we all know swimming lessons are expensive.  At Turtle Swim School we try to keep our prices affordable.  I can understand that it would get frustrating when your child is always sick and missing swimming lessons.

There is a lot you can do at home or at the pools yourself.  I have mentioned it before but always worth saying again.

Do you need to know the steps to get your kids progressing?  Here they are!

The first step for your children is Water Confidence.

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Go to the pools and just play with your kids, never force them under the water they will do it when they are ready.  Once they have water confidence and are happy going under the water the next step is Floating.

Try to have fun with floating, get your kids floating like mushrooms or balls.  Maybe they could float in the letter of their name.

Get your kids Gliding from one parent to the wall or from one parent to the other.  They need to be looking down to be able to float on their fronts so maybe put some sinkers at the bottom that they can see.  Use boards or the big floating mats that are free to use at public pools.  They will find it easier to float with aids.  Then try and get them floating with you holding them and then decrease the amount of help.

Remember to try and make it fun and don’t be too concerned if you don’t get what you want out of your kids.  Make is relaxed and fun they will get there.

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I have been teaching my own two kids for a couple of years now and it is a challenge but worth it when you see the improvement.  We go to the pools and spend on average between 1-2 hours at the pool most of the time playing, but they still learn.  I also use a bit of bribery telling them they will get a special treat if they show me their best swimming.

After your kids can glide, Kicking comes next.  The legs need to be stretched out and long.  The kick comes from the hip and the toes are pointed.

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Then they need to do big arm strokes with kicking.  Arms need to be reaching up high, legs out long with pointy toes and floppy feet.

Breathing is the next progression.  This one may be a bit tricky and may be worth looking at starting swimming lessons.  But by all means have a go.  The main thing with breathing that does get looked over is if the children are blowing bubbles.  I often start teaching breathing but having the kids stationary and getting them bobbing up and down just blowing bubbles and then breathing.

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I do believe that you can teach your kids to swim up to a certain point.  Breathing does get a bit tricky and would suggest that when they reach this stage you do start to look at putting them into swimming lessons.  Getting them up to the stage of breathing yourself would have saved you a lot of money.

Start with water confidence, then move onto floating on their fronts and backs.  Gliding, kicking and then arm strokes.  Make it fun and don’t worry too much about structure as they will learn as they play.

Ensure that you go to the pools at least once a week or more to keep up the confidence and water play.

If you need any advice please ask.  I am more than happy to help out.  Helene Aitchison at turtleswimschool@gmail.com or on https://www.facebook.com/TurtleswimschoolNZ

How do I keep my confident toddler/preschooler safe around the water.

The other day I posted on facebook that I was throwing my 2 year old daughter into the pool and encouraging her to swim back to the wall.

I can’t imagine that there would be many mothers of 2 year olds throwing their children into the water but I do it for her safety.

 

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Both my children have learnt to swim before they have walked and are both extremely confident in the water. That does not mean that I am any more relaxed when they are around the water. If anything I think I am more worried about them being so confident because they do not have the fear that other children have when they are around the water.

I am always encouraging both children to float on their backs as much as possible so that if they were in a situation they could float on their backs to get their breath back. But most of the time they choose to swim with their faces in the water and kicking on their front. So I decided that I would take a different approach to ensure their safety.

Initially I would drop my daughter into the water vertically In a deep pool facing away from the wall. Once she was in the water I would encourage her to rotate and turn towards the wall and hold on. This was done both with goggles and without.
Children who slip into the pool often do not have goggles on and if they fall in don’t realise that the wall is only behind them and they just need to turn around and hold onto it.

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Every time we went to the pools I would do this with her a few times. Once she was turning around and holding on herself I then dropped her in further out and got her to turn and kick back to the wall.

Once you feel confident with your child doing it themselves. Get them to do it without an adult in the water and extend them out further. Make sure that you are right there if they get into trouble and you need to get back in.

If your child is not confident enough to kick back to the wall yet then just practice dropping them in right next to the wall and encouraging them to turn around and hold onto the wall. Talk to them and tell them what you are going to do. Explain that they need to turn around to hold onto the wall and when they are dropped in have another adult in the water to begin to ensure safety and to gently rotate them around.

Once you have talked to you child to let them know what you are going to do use the cue that you would have used when they were younger to put them under the water. “Paige ready go”. Or “Paige 1,2,3, go”

I hope that this has helped and that you are still always an arms length away from your children when they are around the water at all times. But we all know that sometimes things just happen and you can be right there the whole time and they can still fall into the water.