Sydney is a fairly strong girl and so her leg kicks and arm strokes in swimming lessons are good. The barrier she has is putting her head underwater, which she hates, and which is a huge barrier in swimming.
Last July Sydney had a breakthrough in swimming when my brother Dave and sister-in-law Sharon came to visit. This included jumping into the pool and going underwater to find rings at the bottom of the pool. Since then, however, we took months off from swimming lessons and now, back into it, have struggled getting Sydney to go underwater for more than brief moments.
I was stumped. So I did what any parent does in 2018 and turned to the internet. There I found the idea of wearing goggles myself and going underwater at the same time as Sydney. We did that this past week with miraculous results:
I first convinced Sydney to go under at the same time as me, keeping our eyes open so we could look at each other.
We then played the game of seeing how many fingers the other was holding up underwater.
I then showed Sydney how she didn’t need to remove the goggles each time she came out of the water. This was a huge breakthrough as now she could go under repeatedly without pause.
We spent a lot of time playing in the very shallow area, swimming around underwater and looking at designs on the bottom of the pool.
We topped it off by going to the deeper end, which at three feet is still shallow enough for Sydney to stand up. She realized she can actually swim dog paddle with her head underwater. Huge progress!
It is sort of amazing how one tip from a fellow parent in some unknown city can make such a difference. I plan to take Sydney myself again before the next swim lesson to cement this progress and then hopefully she’ll display her new skills in the lesson.
PS Several weeks later, I am still struggling because Sydney gets water in her nose. Sarah, mom to Sydney’s good friend Evie, gave me a tip of making sounds while underwater. I morphed that into humming and found that if you keep your mouth shut while humming underwater, air bubbles come out your nose (and water does not go in). Sydney loved it!
I gave Sydney a pair of inline skates for Christmas. I bought her a good pair and thought they might be a bit too advanced for her but they have the ability to resize so I decided it was worth trying. After all, I have competed in inline skating marathons, taught skating, and run skating tours so I feel I might as well give her the opportunity to be interested!
In teaching adults, we start out with them on the grass so they can learn the skills before rolling on pavement. I did the same with Sydney, only on the carpet in our home. While it is hard to actually skate on carpet, every time she puts on the skates helps her feel comfortable with wheels on her feet and improves her balance. We try to make games of it, such as Follow the Leader or Simon Says, and I sometimes put on my skates too.
I have noticed a marked improvement in just three times doing this. Even better, Sydney LOVES putting on her skates and gear and wants to do so every time she is with me. I have not seen this much enthusiasm for most of her activities and interests – with the exception of bicycling. We’ll see if it sticks.
Sydney and I have been working on learning to read. I had a hard time finding good basic reading books in the library; many of them marked for beginners are too difficult. I asked a helpful librarian who reserved a series of 12 small booklets from a neighboring library and we have been reading these.
I am no expert on teaching a child to read! Here are a few of my observations:
I always keep in mind Sydney will learn to read, so the more important goal is having her enjoy learning to read!
At times Sydney confuses left and right. For example, she might read the righthand page before the lefthand page or pronounce the letters in a word from end to start. After several weeks, this has mostly passed.
Sydney was struggling at first and it was a breakthrough moment when I realized she didn’t know all her lower-case letters. I printed an alphabet of uppercase and lowercase letters and she has mostly mastered these now too.
Sydney can get frustrated learning to read or, for that matter, learning anything that is difficult. This is clearly outlined in parenting books as a potential risk of praising success, since kids will not like dealing with a lack of success. The recommendation is to praise her effort and not her success.
Another solution is to let Sydney do things her way. So rather than read the 12 books in order, one at a time, we have taken to reading them in three parallel paths: 1) Sydney and I together read a new book in the series of twelve, 2) Sydney reads the book herself with my help as needed, and 3) Sydney’s stuffed Santa Claus reads the book (usually a couple books behind Sydney) with Sydney’s help. At this point, Sydney has read ten of the twelve books and Santa Claus is on book seven or eight (which Sydney keeps track of without error).
I find this last part to be an excellent system as Sydney ends up re-reading the books she has already read and enjoys helping her stuffed Santa Claus as he learns to read. Here is a video of Sydney helping Santa Claus read book two in the series, “Sam”. Note we are reading with headlights on (it is more fun), Sydney praises Santa Claus, and that she uses a different voice and even facial expression when she voices Santa Claus.
Sydney received great joy flying a kit for the first time. I received great joy helping her do so. Although it seems like a simple experience, it is amazing how emotional it can be to help your child learn a new skill and have a new experience. Here are two videos from that experience: one from late February when Sydney flew a homemade kite indoors and a second from March 10 when Sydney flew a kite for the first time in our local park.