Living in Central Texas, getting out to water is a necessity for surviving 4 or 5 months of heat. Fortunately, we have a variety of amazing swimming holes here in the Austin area. That also means there is a lot of pressure to learn to swim early. There are baby swim classes for kids as young as 2 months old. By the time your kid is a toddler, it seems like everyone lists a swim class or two on their tot resumes. There is nothing wrong with taking swimming lessons. Some kids love swimming lessons and take to them like fish in the water. Great! Some parents feel more comfortable knowing that their kids have some basic swimming ability at a young age. No problem! Knowing how to swim is an important safety skill as kids move into older childhood and then adulthood. But as unschoolers, we are naturally skeptical about the necessity of formal instruction to pick up skills that usually develop naturally, given some freedom and opportunity to explore the world.
This summer we are spending most our days practically living in the water. My 5 year old loves diving for rings. My 3 year old happily splashes around in her floaties. We’ve come a long way in a year.
At the beginning of summer a year ago, I had a 4 year old who wasn’t swimming yet and a 2 year old who not only refused to set foot in a pool, but also wouldn’t keep a swimsuit on once it was wet. But why let that stop us? Armed with life jackets and understanding friends who don’t bat an eye at a skinny dipping toddler, we spent our days at swimming holes and pools.
One hot summer day we were hiking down to what I thought was a little creek. Trying to travel light and thinking there wasn’t much water, I didn’t bring the life jackets. After seeing the gorgeous water, my 4 year old was angry at first.
Moooooooooom, why didn’t you bring the life jackets??
But then she waded in. She splashed in the waist-deep water with a friend while I watched nearby. About a half an hour later, she announced that she could swim. And she did! She swam a foot or two and then stopped. Over the next few days, she gradually started swimming longer and longer stretches. She was bursting with excitement and pride.
She started swimming on her own, just like she learned to walk on her own.
Just like she learned the letters of the alphabet on her own.
Just like she learned to ride a bike on her own.
Just like she learned to write her name on her own.
She was ready.