Learning life skills through Swimming


Co-founder Irene Madrid explains the advantages of learning to swim at LPB

Special to India Parent Magazine

La Petite Baleen began in the backyard pool of John Kolbisen and Irene Madrid's Half Moon Bay home in 1979. As public school teachers, they were looking for a creative outlet for their love of children and the water. With three young children of their own and several local families, they developed an in-depth curriculum and ribbon level system for their "Aquatic Classroom."

John and Irene's developmental aquatic program emphasizes a balance between love and discipline, thus teaching not only swimming, but also self-esteem and coping skills.

Learning life skills through swimming is our philosophy at La Petite Baleen. Through progress reports, phone conferences, newsletters and our knowledgeable staff, we educate and inform parents as an important part of our teaching team. We believe that aquatic child development extends beyond our swimming pools and into the heart of our families' homes. In addition to physical swimming skills, our students learn emotional skills such as: Listening to and following directions Social interaction and team work Respect for oneself and others overcoming obstacles and facing fears.

Learning to swim is hard work, albeit fun, and requires much effort. How much a child enjoys this work and how rapidly s/he progresses depends greatly on the attitude of the parent(s). It is not only rewarding, but also contagious when children master goals in the swimming pool (and in life!). By working as a team with our parents and swimmers, our staff takes great pride in guiding children through the peaks and valleys of swim class.

Irene Madrid, one of the owners, attends a conference every year on Learning and the Brain. We are the only swim school in the nation that attends that conference and brings cutting edge material back to curriculum. Other staff go to professional conferences to share and learn. New information keeps us all inspired to stay the best swim school in our country.

Meet La Petit Baleen co-founder Irene Madrid who in detail explains the advantages of learning to swim at LPB.

India Parent Magazine (IPM): Can you please tell us your philosophy and the basic premise of the Summer Classes/Camps?
Irene Madrid (IM): Young children learn best through "DOING." The mind/body connection is strong and swim lessons are a whole body activity, yet gentle on immature joints. The brain thrives on novelty in a safe environment and the feedback from the skin--the largest organ in our bodies--is enormous for balance, enhancing the immune system....and the pure joy of moving through warm water and cognition.

IPM: How do you think it's different from other such camps?
IM: We were the first swim school in the nation to develop such a strong child development swim curriculum and the curriculum manager and adviser are constantly in tune with research on best learning practices in the educational field. We are leaders in our professional group when it comes to curriculum and employee relations as well.

IPM: What is your Child/Teacher Ratio?
IM: We have a 4:1 ratio in most of our classes and a 6:1 in baby/toddler classes. Advanced Swim is higher so we can give good swimmers a taste of pre competitive techniques. We also offer private (1:1) and semi-private (2:1) class options.

IPM: Can you explain a little bit about method of education?
IM: We introduce skills that are appropriate to the most tender age, gently bringing higher layers of skills over time. Music in the form of songs attached to skills are connected to baby/toddler classes because music is a universal language, highly recognizable. If there is a layer of competency that a child does not fully understand or can do, we back up for a remedial layer until that child understands and performs before going back to the regular layers of skills. This way of teaching makes every child feel successful and competent over time. It is all so gradual, children learn seamlessly and naturally.

IPM: What is the daily schedule for a child?
IM: The daily schedule at LPB is a lesson plan that encompasses a beginning, middle and end, always keeping it fun, interactive, reasonable and appropriate to age and level of competence.

IPM: How do you deal with challenging kids? What are your disciplining methods?
IM: With the youngest children, distraction, silly games and songs, ritual activities, cuddles and play bring out the best in a swimmer. In baby/toddler classes the caregiver may need emotional support and we are there for them! At first we must develop mutual respect ...and trust! This takes time but once a child has been with us a short time, they thrive and learn quickly.

IPM: What kind of background do you expect from your teachers?
IM: We like to have teachers from all kinds of backgrounds....but the key is that they enjoy teaching and understanding children. A teacher may bring a new idea to us and if it is psychologically and kinesthetically appropriate, welcome another approach to teaching.

IPM: How is the ethnic mix in your camps? Do you welcome all?
IM: LPB is INCLUSIVE!!! We know we are all part of the universal family of People. Compassion, empathy and relationships are everything.

IPM: Do you think a well-rounded happy child can be expected from your camps?
IM: Absolutely, children from our swim schools leave not only with wonderful physical abilities, but they make good friends with everyone at LPB. As I said previously, relationships are everything and the mind/body connection is strongly developed at LPB. We teach LIFE SKILLS, coping skills through our swim lessons. Children learn through doing so words are not as effective when a child's pre frontal cortex is not very developed for discernment. WE are their pre frontal cortex and create the safe foundations for skill sets.

IPM: Do you have any specific summer specials?
IM:We are a year round swim school because we know children learn best in a constant and consistent atmosphere so we have no special programs specifically for Summer. We began our Free Infant swim program, where infants 2-6 months swim for free, as a way to encourage the concept of early year-round swim lessons to young families.

IPM: What is your message to our readers? IM: The message is simple: LPB is PASSIONATE about our child development curriculum and how it is delivered to our children. We sincerely believe we are the BEST program in the nation! We are eager to grow and learn more about education all the time and have a dedicated staff that lives these messages.