20 Jan 2009

Swimming and MEP?

For the past few weeks I've been the swimming equivalent of a "soccer mom" - a swimming mum perhaps?

With Jemimah's VicSwim lessons, I've spent a significant part of every morning sitting by the public pool and watching what goes on. Mind you, it's not too shabby a way to spend the summer...

I have been highly impressed with the VicSwim programme...that's why I speak of it so often - and so glowingly - I suppose, but it was only in the last few days that the reason why occurred to me - VicSwim is the same as MEP!

I suppose you'd like me to "Please explain"?


Every lesson, Jemimah does a variety of drills. She may use a kick board to practise her freestyle kicking, or lie on her back and use it to learn the kick for backstroke or survival backstroke (a very funny stroke, I must say). Sometimes she practises arm movements alone standing in shallow water; at other times she lies on the pool edge. Recently she has been practicing dolphin kick - a precursor to the notoriously difficult butterfly stroke. Often they practice breathing - blowing bubbles they call it!

Two shots of the funny dolphin kick!

Once the kids have each of the elements down, the kick, the arm movements, the breathing, they put them all together and try the full stroke for a few metres.

The lesson doesn't stop there though. They still practise each element separately, working on each element of a particular swimming stroke. Eventually the distances swum get longer too. Gauging the readiness of each child to swim a particular distance without getting sloppy from tiredness is one of the skills of a good instructor, in my opinion.

One of the other mums is a former children's swimming instructor. Let's call her Kerry. Kerry taught Auswim, a NSW programme that had a different protocol from VicSwim's. All of Kerry's kids can swim...well. Even the four year old.

The problem is, they're sloppy. Why? Because Kerry's teaching method teaches each stroke in isolation; first freestyle, then backstroke. Only once the child can do these does she begin to teach breaststroke, and then survival backstroke and finally after many years - if the child reaches that level - the dreaded butterfly. Breathing and stroke development just don't get a look in, and in my opinion it shows.

As just a young learner, Jemimah is a stylish swimmer. She looks like she has had lessons. She is not necessarily a good swimmer - she is not as good as Kerry's kids, but she soon will be. In fact she will soon be better because she will have learned the stroke perfectly from the start.

MEP's like that. It's a spiral programme, they say. Apparently the opposite of spiral programmes are mastery programmes like Math-U-See. I don't know - I've never seen Math-U-See, you see. (pun intended!) What I see about MEP I like - much in the same way that what I see of VicSwim I like.

At the moment Jemimah is nearing the end of MEP Year 2. According to the Scheme of Work she's working on the multiplication and division table for four and its relationship with 2 and 8. She does this, sure, but that's not all she does. In the past two weeks since our return from hols, she has touched on time, calendars, addition of numbers up to 100, solids, cuboids and factorisation. She's even begun on fractions.

Some of these she does well. Others, particularly fractions, she needs to do more work on. But that's not a problem. She'll cover fractions over and over again in the next few months. Eventually she'll get the hang of them. That's what a spiral programme does. In the mean time she's not held back by her inability to do fractions - she is galloping ahead in multiplication, and her mental maths is better than mine!! She's not doing the same tedious thing over and over, either. There are no pages of busy work - pages and pages of additions up to 10 followed by pages and pages of subtractions up to 10, for example.

I like that because Jemimah likes that. She likes the variety. She likes MEP. Goodness - I can even say that my daughter likes maths!!

Not as much as she likes swimming though!

1 comment:

I'd love you to leave me a message. Tell me what you like - and what you don't. Just remember that this is what we do in our family - it doesn't have to be what you do in yours...