A lot of people will see the price tag attached to private swim lessons and compare it to lessons through their city or local YMCA and make their decision off of that initial price tag. But what are you actually paying for? And how long are you going to pay for it? A lot of swim classes have some form of skill level system where you have to repeat the same level over and over until you can pass a test.
During my time working for a city aquatics department, I saw kids repeat levels 3, sometimes even 4, times. Meaning that parents paid for four complete sets of lessons for their child to pick up a single set of skills, and only those skills. In the long run, going with private lessons would’ve been so much cheaper for those family.
Now as a private instructor I can definitely say that in every way, including price, private lessons are the better way to go. Here’s why…
Time Your Child Actually Learns
City or large class swim lessons are usually between 6 to 12 kids and most of the time are 30 minutes long. Of these 30 minutes, time is spent at the beginning and end reviewing and taking role, getting the kids in and settling them down, so let’s say there’s 25 minutes of actual swim class. The general structure of class is the swim teacher taking out one kid and working one on one with them while the other children are left on the wall or stairs to practice a drill. That’s about 4-2 minutes of instruction directly to your child.
Furthermore, while the children are on the wall the swim instructor’s attention isn’t focused on them primarily, or if at all. This allows poor form to be executed during the drill and then reinforced. Of course the teacher will correct it during their 15-20 seconds together, but it’s unlikely they’ll be reminded of it or that they even understand their adjustment.
The price of one lesson for a nonmember child at YMCA is about $15.60. If we assume that this is a small class of 6 students, that means you’re paying nearly $94 for 30 minutes of instruction directly to your child. That’s more than what we charge for a whole hour of private lessons.
More Experienced Instructors
A little industry secret that you learn within a few years of being a swim instructor is that no instructor will stay somewhere that does big class lessons. Part of this is that they can make more money doing private lessons either by word of mouth or for a private lesson company. But almost all who I’ve talked to say it’s because they feel like it’s impossible to give good lessons when there’s more than 3-4 kids in a lesson.
Most instructors that work for cities or big schools are just starting out and sometimes have zero aquatic experience other than lifeguarding and a 2-week Water Safety Instructor class. Now everyone has to start somewhere, but experienced instructors that go to do private lessons have had time to build teaching techniques that fit for a variety of learning styles and personality types. Already knowing how to teach a specific child allows for a smoother learning experience and moves them faster through their learning experience. Quite simply, teachers at big classes just haven’t been teaching long enough to know how to effectively teach the wide range of children that will be brought to them, nor will the structure of their lessons let them switch between teaching styles to accommodate their students.
A More Enjoyable Experience
I can say that as a private instructor, there’s nothing more enjoyable than seeing my same students routinely and being able to connect with them. I get to know how they like to learn, what lesson structures they like, and which activities they enjoy doing. For the time of our lesson, their aquatic development and enjoyment of the water is my only concern, and that translates into how much effort they’re going to give the lesson.
Especially since I become a part of their week, they see our lesson as an event that they look forward to and are more comfortable because of that. They get to tell me about their week during rest breaks and we get to do activities that I’ve specially made for them to engage with. The bond I get to form working 1 on 1 with students helps me give them the confidence to try things they’re scared of doing.
For example, one of my students is often very nervous to try a new skill whenever I introduce it. Since I’ve been with her for so long, I can remind her that everything we’ve done so far she’s been nervous about at first but now she thinks they’re fun. This always gets her to try new skills or techniques and I can only utilize it because she enjoys our lessons and we’ve bonded overtime.
Ultimately, private lessons are just the more cost effective option for your child to learn how to swim. I understand that the price up front might be bigger than what YMCA or a city program can offer. But when you actually see what you’re paying for, and how long you’re going to have to pay for it, it’ll become clear that private instruction is not only a more cost effective option, but a generally better experience for your child.