Last evening Beezy, age 8, went down the big water slide at our public pool by herself for the first time! This is the first summer that she has been tall enough, but even though she met the height requirement this year, she still had to conquer her fear. I did not push. I have noticed that her progress in swimming has been very self-directed and self-initiated and find this to be fascinating. Is it a result of being homeschooled, perhaps? Beezy has many friends that she sees at the pool, but she is not really interested in socializing with them there. She has her own agenda. As long as she is polite, I allow her to do her own thing. She seems to be on an internal mission, and I respect that.
On her own she decided to learn to swim underwater, without plugging her nose. She figured out the breathing by herself. She is very into goggles, wanting to be able to look at things under the water. She can swim across a full length of one part of the pool. While she still wants a parent close by, she is not very keen on receiving advice. In fact, she will go under water so as not to hear it! But if I see something that she needs to do differently in order to achieve her own goal, I gently insist (that is to say, I persist) in sharing my helpful hints. For example, she was teaching herself to swim on her back, but I noticed her bottom was too low in the water, so I demonstrated a better posture and recommended kicking without bending the legs so much. She did follow my advice and improved her technique. It is not easy to keep from being invasive while at the same time providing a bit of helpful teaching! Then again, perhaps she would have figured it out eventually if left to her own devices...
We did pay for private swimming lessons a couple of summers ago, and then last year just built on that ourselves, in an informal manner. So I was surprised at how much she has progressed this year with hardly any adult interference. And we solved the big slide problem together last night. While I could not be standing right at the bottom of the slide, I could go up with her to alleviate her minor fear of heights (one I share, so it helped me too to have a hand to hold!). Then I went down first, so I could be right by the steps in case she needed me when she got to the bottom. Which she didn't. After four trips up and down I was done, and so I found another child, a couple of years older, to escort her. In the process of this new achievement, she also made a friend! The point to consider is that while I encouraged her in trying the slide, once she had expressed the interest, I left it up to her. I only provided a plan for conquering the fear. She did it when she was ready, and she consequently made an independent decision in her own education and interests, and she had a blast!
This is how kids can be. They still want their parents close by, but they want to figure some things out on their own. They don't want to be spoon fed. We let our babies make a mess while they learn to eat, don't we? It's the process, not the product, that matters in the end.