Whether you live by water or not, learning to swim is a life skill we all need to know. Whether it be in a pool, the ocean, the sea, a river or any other form of water, knowing how to survive in the face of danger is essential.
Here in the Netherlands, we are surrounded by water at every turn. Not to mention that we live below sea level with the majority of the country having been reclaimed from the sea. Literally the name Netherlands means “Low Country”. Only 50% of it’s land is more than 1 meter above sea level. There are canals at every turn and all cars come equipped with hammers for breaking windows – which leads me to assume there are enough water related accidents to warrant this need.
And so it is essential here that kids learn to swim at an early age. In fact, it is pretty much mandatory. It’s not technically law from what I understand, but it’s expected and if you don’t have your swim certificates you are unable to participate in certain school functions, you need to use swimmies in public pools (even if you technically know how to swim) and quite honestly, it just makes sense to have.
Neither of our kids were thrilled with the idea of having to take swim lessons since they already know how to swim. But knowing how to swim for fun and learning how to swim to survive are two different things. And of course, at 7 and 10 they don’t get that. It was a top priority for me to get them enrolled in swim class once we landed in the Netherlands.
The swim certificates are A, B and C. They may go beyond that but I’m really just concerned with these three. The A level is usually achieved by age 5. So Aidan is a little behind as far as they are concerned. We had both kids assessed to see what levels they should test at and Aidan was very disappointed to see that he still needed to go for his A instead of jumping to a B or C level.
We put Aidan in private swim lessons figuring that he would prefer not to be in a class with 5 year olds. They implied that he would need about 10-12 half hour lessons before he was ready to take his A. It wasn’t that he couldn’t swim properly, he just needed to learn the Dutch way plus what was expected of him in his exam. As you can imagine, he was less than thrilled about this. But I told him to work hard and maybe, just maybe he could do it faster. I think he was the most surprised of all of us to find that he actually enjoyed the swim classes 🙂
We enrolled Liam in a 4 hour intensive class for 14 weeks. Yes, FOUR HOURS every Sunday. On the plus side, it’s now my productive work time to catch up on personal things like my blog, photo albums, etc since I’m essentially stuck here for 4 hours. He started the first week in October and I had to pull him out of the pool after the four hours – he wanted to stay longer!! I was amazed at what these kids were doing within the first week – jumping off the diving board, swimming on their backs and so much more. They assume that by age 5 (as all the kids in class are pretty much age 5 except Liam – only the Dutch kids are so tall, I think he assumes they are all around his age anyways) that they have a certain skill set in the pool and are expanding upon that. After the 14 weeks they are guaranteed the A level certificate. And if they don’t pass, they are able to take classes until they pass at no extra cost. Worth it to us. It’s a big commitment for every Sunday but really it’s only until end of January (with a few weeks off for Christmas) and with Josh pretty much out of commission, we aren’t doing much on the weekends anyways right now, so the timing is good.
As I write this, Liam is in his third week of 14 and he still seems enthused about going. Aidan had his 5th lesson this week and was incredibly thrilled and surprised when they told him last week (week 4) to bring clothes to practice swimming in and if he does well then he can take his A exam the following week, after just 7 classes or about half the time they originally predicted it would take him. He claims after A he’s done. Josh and I are planning to make him do the B and C which are just extensions of the A (which is really starting from square 1). He’s not happy about that but with his safety involved, it’s something we think is incredibly important. So you’ll be hearing from me again soon when Aidan takes his A to let you know how it all goes!!