I’ve been teaching swimming lessons in Los Angeles for close to thirty years. I started at the Y, which was a great introduction to the art of learning how to teach swimming. Classes were groups only, no privates back then. The children wore a floatation device the instructors called ‘the bubble.’ It was an egg shaped float that strapped around the child’s mid-section that you could inflate and deflate as they improved their skills. I’m sure those are obsolete now.
We were working with a large pool, no shallow end, groups of 4-6 children. This meant you had to get creative about how to give a lesson in 30 minutes under these conditions. It was kamikaze style, taking one from the side of the pool at a time, kick, bubble, float, glide, back to the side, climb out, repeat. The classes went by so quickly – it often felt like they had just sat down and then it was over.
It taught me efficiency. Children need repetition to develop a skill. We structured our program to facilitate this learning. Our style is more relaxed and luxurious in terms of time and relationship as the lessons are all one on one. I believe private lessons are truly a better way to teach kids to swim, especially between the ages of 2-5 years.
Of course another important factor for private lessons, especially in Los Angeles, is the safety factor. One instructor and one child means that an adult’s set of eyes are always on that child. There is no divided attention. This has always been the way I believe swim lessons should be conducted when possible; no distractions, no multiple lessons. Teaching private swim lessons allows the child to be totally focused and relaxed during the lesson.
I’m not opposed to group classes for older children who are proficient with strokes and are relatively safe in the pool independently. But for very young children, private swim lessons are the way to go.