From March to May, all children save the youngest have been attending swimming sessions twice a week. The neighbourhood pools have always been there for us to use without any extra fees (apart from mandatory association dues) and the kids have always been fond of water. So, I was quite glad when I chanced upon a free lance swim coach apparently contracted by one of our neighbours at the village clubhouse.
It’s easy enough for the coach to improve the kids’ strokes as they’ve been swimming before. The difficulty lay in him being able to train them in a way that considers the wide age gap that exists among the children. During the first few sessions, I thought 9-year old would not be able to keep up with her older siblings (11, 15 and 17). I was quite surprised she kept on. What’s more, my 15- year old, who grew dizzy trying to swim laps in the past due to her allergies (George Muller and a 13-year old), could now swim the way she was able to prior to the relatively recent onset of her asthma symptoms.
And thus, the sessions went on and before I knew it, the kids were swimming 60+ laps (about 1.5 kms in a 25 meter pool)! I wasn’t sure whether the coach had really meant to build them up to this degree of endurance or whether this was brought about by another student (who is a triathlete) joining my kids for training. Whatever the case, I soon got complaints and excuses about continuing on with the sessions, especially since a couple of the kids were ill at some point and lost the momentum.
That’s when I shared this with some friends and realised that perhaps I should request the coach to slow down a bit. I was told kids don’t usually want to train long and hard if they are not looking forward to a competition. And that is quite true. Somehow the kids needed a goal and joining a meet would be the most tangible objective for training.
I thought about this for awhile and asked myself what my goals were anyway when I contracted the coach last March. I realised that I just wanted the kids to have some form of regular exercise (only the 17 year old would run regularly and everyone has dropped tennis for some time) and swimming was one of the most convenient for us (we can walk the main clubhouse pool from our house in a few minutes). But first, I wanted to be assured that the kids were doing their swim strokes properly.
I mention the idea of competing to my kids and I don’t get a response. We tried that once before with the younger set and the one-time experience was enough (posted about that here: Measuring Up). My high schoolers also had lots on their plate and I certainly didn’t want to add to the pressure.
Besides, wasn’t it more a feat to have the children want to train and discipline themselves just so they can be good stewards of their bodies and health? This goal may not be as tangible or measurable as joining a swim competition or even winning some medals but it’s a good enough goal for us. In much the same way, our homeschool philosophy has always been motivated more by the desire to learn and use our God-given gifts and abilities. Tangible things such as good grades or awards were merely secondary results of hard work brought about by inspiration that was less visible.
So, I thought, as soon as I don’t see anymore ways the swim coach can improve their strokes, we can surely make do without him and take it upon ourselves to train. Although, honestly, I had my doubts about whether they could keep this up.
Well, I’m happy to report that this is exactly what 3 of the children have done this past 4 weeks (oldest continued to train at least twice a week…telling me she does more laps when coach was watching). They cut down to 40 laps a day but we tried to swim about 5 or 4 times a week. Yes, WE. Since majority of the time, the kids and I had the pool to ourselves and there’s nothing better to do in this heat, I have joined the kids in this endeavour. And along with them, we’re experiencing the blessing of knowing we can train with our own personal goals in mind.
The value of training is something that, hopefully, the kids can take with them in the long run…something that the presence of short term goals (e.g. joining or winning a competition) might not teach (unless one of them becomes a professional swimmer, or course).
In this context, we see more clearly what the apostle Paul meant when he addressed his disciple Timothy thus:
“…Rather train yourself for godliness. For while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.” 1 Timothy 4:7-8