Having spent seven years reading about how the human brain works, I am very passionate about restricting our boys’  out of school formal activities.  Our ten year-old is only in his second year of playing field hockey and his second year of learning to play the piano. He also chose to learn the Double Bass this year, although I suspect that won’t top his list of things-to-do next year. We haven’t rushed our boys into learning to read (although storytelling and listening to stories are fundamental parts of our day) and we love that they go to a school where homework is limited.

But there is one out of school activity I insist our children participate in for 10 years or more: swimming lessons.

New Zealand is made up of three main islands with complicated names: North Island, South Island, and The Little Island At The Bottom – just joking; it’s Stewart Island. The farthest you can get from the ocean at any one time is 119.44 km (74 miles). There are at least 775 lakes and hundreds of rivers, which I didn’t count after my head hurt from counting lakes. There is a lot of farmland, which means dams and water-troughs are prevalent. The countryside and bush are full of streams, and there are a fair few swimming pools around too.

As a rule, Kiwis live beside, in, and on the water. If you want to live here, fully participate in the life-style and can’t swim, there is a likelihood you will drown or at least make a fair impersonation of drowning. Neither of which are pleasant options.

So my boys will, and do, learn to swim from the age of three until they are more than competent. Over-learning such an essential skill means that their responses will be automatic if they do get into trouble while surfing or diving in the future.  We also don’t tend to rescue them too quickly when they get into trouble while they’re swimming for fun. That way, they get to experience the sensations of being out of their depth, or in the current, and therefore learn to be cautious and, somewhat, curb their testosterone-filled enthusiasm. I figure this works more efficiently than us conscientiously ‘teaching’ them about safety. The first swimming teacher they had, also had a pool that is too deep for the small ones to touch the bottom. This has been the most effective way of getting kids to pay attention in swimming class that I have ever seen!

There are plenty of things children could be doing with their time, but, as far as I am concerned though, swimming is the  essential out-of-school class.

Do you have a formal class which you insist your children attend for a set period of time?

This is an original post written for World Moms Blog. Karyn Van Der Zwet also writes for her own blog http://kloppenmum.wordpress.com and you can follow her on twitter @kloppenmum, and facebook – Karyn at Kloppenmum. Her first book, Why People Drive You Crazy – Part One, A Fresh Look at Temperament, will be available via amazon.com mid-June.

Photo credit to the author.

Karyn Wills

Karyn is a teacher, writer and solo mother to three sons. She lives in the sunny wine region of Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand in the city of Napier.

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