Help Your Children Learn to Swim Without Lessons: An Unschooling Approach to Swimming

Swimming goes with summer like leaves go with fall. And if you have younger children, your desire to make sure they are water safe becomes a big priority in summer.

Many parents diligently rush to sign up their kids for swim lessons, but this year they may find class options and access to swim instructors is a bit limited. So, what is a parent to do, besides be at their young child's side, insert them into unwieldy inflatables where they can't move much, or simply limit their exposure to swimming opportunities when all of this becomes too much to manage?

The other option does not sound simple at first, but it's something that actually works: teach your children to swim yourself, but not rigidly. Unschool them towards learning to swim.

What exactly does that mean? And why would anyone opt out of formal swimming lessons?

I'm writing to you as a parent who tried to enroll my kids in all kinds of swim lessons when there were so many options to choose from: public pool, college pool, private chlorine pool, private saltwater pool, heated private saltwater pool, adult swim instructor, YMCA swim instructor. When all the lessons didn't work, I was forced into giving up -- or so I thought.

It took me a while to realize that what I was really doing was relaxing my expectations and finding ways to enjoy the water with my kids. And that is the first magical step toward unschooling your child to learn to swim without lessons.

I'll list out some broad, simple steps below, and hopefully, by the end of this blog post, you'll consider that the task of teaching your child to swim without lessons, in a relaxed approach, is not as complicated or dreadful as it may sound at first.


Adjust your attitudes and behavior with your children when you're around water so that you relay calm and confidence.

Many children are naturally scared of water. This is normal. A natural fear of pools, lakes, rivers and the ocean is healthy, in fact. Large bodies of water have the potential to harm us! We don't want to eliminate our children's protective instincts. However, children can sense when we have anxiety about something, and they may imitate that, and even magnify it, sometimes developing irrational fears related to water and swimming.

If you're anxious when your kids are around water (even if it's just an automatic/unconscious thing you do, worrying when they're in the bath, or playing in puddles), they've most likely picked up on that. This was definitely something I've had to work to overcome when my kids were younger.

In fact, it was the main reason that swimming lessons didn't work for us. I was scared of water. I had children who were very scared of water. And forcing scared, crying children into a big pool with a scary stranger was not the best way to approach this issue!

If your children are scared around water right now, just spend the next few weeks to a month showing a different side of yourself around water and letting them see that you're not so scared, so they can relax a bit, too. Don't push them to go near the water, and don't overwhelm them with tons of water activities. Keep the schedule