Monday, April 9, 2012

The Curve of Learning

Learning to swim requires a complex set of motor skills. For example, there is back floating for babies or freestyle swimming with a rolling breath for the older ones. These skills are difficult and may take time to master. Please do not expect your child to make equal and constant progress during every swimming lesson.

As we learn, we pass through three different stages of learning. In the first stage of learning, the child is wrapping his or her head around the concept and goal of the skill. You can see the child thinking about the individual steps of each skill. This is when the stroke or skill looks tense, awkward and choppy. In this stage, there is much progress and many gains in performance.
In the second stage of learning, the child is starting to sense errors and become more efficient at the stroke or skill. The overall skill will be smoother and more easily completed. The skill has not yet been perfected, but the overall gains in performance will be significantly less than in the beginning stage.

In the final stage, the skill is on its way to perfection. The swimmer will be able to effortlessly complete the skill. They are so good at this stage that they could do the skill in their sleep. Progress in this stage is very little because the corrections are minor.
With swimming, progress is not equal in each stage of learning because it’s not the way our brains and bodies work together. It takes time and much practice to learn something effectively. The swimmer's motivation, prior movements (aka exercise), and athletic abilities also contribute to how fast and well children learn to swim.

Ways to know your child is learning are by:

1. Seeing how well he or she knows the concept of the stroke or skill (i.e. what kind of kicks do we use?....STRAIGHT!)
2. Having the child be able to detect errors in the length that the child just swam (what did you forget?...put my face in before I leave the wall.)
3. Observing more control and coordination in body movements. The movement may not be correct yet, but they know how to move their body to complete the skill or stroke.
4. Watching the child's movement become more efficient once they start to learn the skill. They will also be able to complete more repetitions of each skill or stroke.

Please be patient, our lesson plans are developmentaly based and take early childhood learning patterns into account. Parents should try not to convey anxiety over skill delays. All of our students learn to swim. Some make rapid progress; some take longer!

Your enthusiasm for your child's efforts and willingness is vital in helping your child attain lifelong swimming skills!

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