I learned to swim at one year old because I was thrown into the pool by my well-meaning parents. There’s a VHS tape of it somewhere in the attic. You can see me bob to the surface after a second or two. I didn’t cry. I was probably too busy filing it away for my future therapy cache.

Yet I never remember a fear of the water. I would readily go below the surface and practice strokes—the butterfly and also the “Little Mermaid” (invented and practiced by all girls in the 80s). This approach to teaching swimming is just one of many, but it reflects the philosophy of my family at the time: sink or swim in all things in life. It was: Run headlong at every task and barrel through or be knocked senseless. We would have been fun to watch on Survivor.

 

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It turns out there might be something to using your philosophical approach to life as a means to teach swimming. Here are five types of lessons that might follow your groove.

1 | ISR Self-Rescue Infant Survival

This one is the professional version of the DIY job my parents did to me. ISR is recommended for anyone who lives near water or owns a pool. It focuses on survival procedures to prevent drowning. Techniques include rolling onto your back to float and resting and breathing in the water.

The key here is safety and competence rather than swim strokes and play. Philosophy? Safety must come first in your family and the earlier the better. If you’re signing up for these you want all safeguards in place. You are a protector and not one for forget to baby proof even the corner cabinets in the kitchen (guilty over here).

2 | Mommy-and-Me 

These swim lessons are also geared to younger kids, but provide more play than survival skills. If ISR is boot camp for swimming, this is summer camp. Mommy-and-me swim classes are about bouncing in the water and blowing bubbles and dancing to the music. It’s more about the bond. Water just happens to be the medium. Philosophy? You love to play because you’re really just a kid at heart. This gives you the excuse to splash in the pool and also help your little one get comfortable in the water with you there as their guide.

3 | Private

Private lessons can exist for many reasons. We do private lessons with our son because it also serves as his aquatic therapy for his special needs, but private lessons are also good for kids who are skittish of the water and need a bit more individual attention without having that attention come straight from you.

These lessons are also usually shorter and more intense because the instructor can do more with the time. Philosophy? You want the most bang for your buck. Yes, this is play, but it’s play with a purpose and you believe in achieving results with the time and money you invest. You know your child works best with a smaller audience and you’re willing to sacrifice the higher dollar to make it an environment that encourages success and confidence in the water.

4 | Group

Picture the local recreation center or neighborhood pool. Imagine music on the speakers and the smell of concession stand hot dogs and sunscreen. Group lessons are fun and the best option for kids who are socially motivated. They see their peers jump from the diving board and want to do it too. They want to race and see how long they can hold their breath, all in the name of competition.

Philosophy? You’re an extrovert and use the excuse to talk to all the other parents in attendance. You believe that peer-to-peer play is the best way to bring your kid the fullest experience not just in the pool, but in life. You aim to encourage socialization whenever you can, because that’s what fills you up too, and it’s cheaper, so you can spend the rest on the concession stand.

5 | Swim Team

Schools who sponsor swim lessons or have a swim program are a great way to sneak in lessons for the multi-tasker. Kids are typically older for this kind of swim so the instruction focuses on skill sets and race techniques rather than the basics.

Philosophy? You’re all about the extracurriculars at this point and because you’re a multi-tasker you’re knocking out a school sport and an educational opportunity all in one. You believe in simplifying your life and managing the chaos. Having swim associated with school leaves you with one less drive to make, one less bill to pay and one more thing checked of the to-do list.

No matter what your philosophy in life may be, if you’re looking in to swim lessons it means you’ve already considered safety and summer fun and want to make the most of every opportunity for your child. That’s a win any way you look at it.