I’m a member of several diving groups. An often asked question revolves around children and diving. Parents want to know when their children should learn to dive. In this three part series I will try and explain what my children experienced during their quest to learn to dive, and along the way give you some tips about diving with children.
How we decided to learn to dive
Three years ago, my wife and I were becoming increasingly dissatisfied with the level of education that our local school system was providing two of our children. We began looking into alternatives. Home school seemed like our best option. After a year of planning, purchasing the necessary curriculums and complying with the state laws our home school was ready.
One of the important issues we had to face was making home school enjoyable for our children. To that end I spared no expense in putting together our science lab. Due to the security issues related to post 9/11, getting all the necessary lab supplies took some doing. Today we have a science lab that any high school science teacher would be jealous of.
My children found that they had a flair for science. The experiments (8 th and 9th grade level) were fun. You should have seen us in our lab coats. We were like three mad scientists. At one point during a science experiment related to salt water, my children mentioned that they would like to study oceanography. Remembering my days at North State University getting my diving certification back in the 70’s, I began telling my children what it was like to learn to dive.
After hearing my stories about learning to dive, my children wanted to learn to dive. After consulting with my wife, I let my children know that if they continued to excel in their studies, at the end of the school year, as a reward, they could take diving lessons. The school year passed quickly and it wasn’t long before we were delving into the world of diving.
I was concerned that my children, Tara aged 14 and Chris aged 16, might have trouble with the grueling regime that getting a diving certification entailed. I was going on my memories of getting my diving certification. In the 1970’s getting a diving certification meant that you did everything that is required of a dive master today. The course I took was three months long. Unfortunately I didn’t do a lot of diving subsequent to getting my certification.
I began surfing the internet looking into diving schools. The first thing I noticed was the length of time that it took to get a certification. Some of the classes were three days while most were fives days in length. After talking with a few instructors it became apparent to me that things had changed considerably since the 1970’s. The diving course was split so a person could take the basics and get an Open Water certification. All the other training could be done at will, or not done at all. I understand and agree with the rational for splitting the training into separate courses.
TIP: Take the time to decide which certification organization you want to obtain a diving certification from. We chose to go with a PADI (Professional Association of Dive Instructors).
I talked with multiple dive operators about their respective Open Water courses. I was looking for an instructor that would give my children the necessary attention. If that meant the instructor had to spend extra time with them, then that is what I expected from the instructor. For those of you who are considering allowing your children to learn to dive, I strongly recommend that you and your children take the time to talk with several instructors.
TIP: Finding an instructor that your children can get along with will make the experience far more rewarding.
We found a dive operator that impressed us. The instructor was wonderful and it was obvious that she got along with children. The Dive Master was fantastic. She was from England and had such a wonderful personality that my children and I were certain that we had found an instructor and Dive Master that would make learning to dive a fantastic rewarding experience.
Even though I had my diving certification, it had been years since my last dive, so I decided to take the Open Water course along with my children. For those of you who already have your diving certification(s) and you are going to let your children learn to dive, I recommend that you take the course with them.
TIP: Make learning to dive a family experience. The more family oriented the experience the more rewarding the entire experience will be.
Getting Ready for Class
The fun began immediately. We were told that we would each need a dive mask, snorkel and fin. We were lucky to have a large dive equipment retailer in our area. So we jumped into the car and sped off to buy our diving equipment. Upon entering the store all three of us knew that this store was a slice of heaven right in our own back yard. The smells and all the totally cool stuff heightened our expectations about learning to dive.
Our luck continued in that all the staff members were instructors or Dive Masters. One person in particular took the time to explain all the different issues involved when choosing dive equipment. Several hours later we walked out with equipment that fit us and our education had already begun.
TIP: Make certain that the dive equipment you purchase fits your children comfortably. You should deal with a reliable dive retailer.
Our instructor had given us the training textbook. Right off the bat we made our first mistake. We misunderstood the amount of reading we were supposed to do. We read the first two chapters. Later we learned that we should have read the entire textbook.
Class Begins – Day 1
We were so anxious to get started that we showed up an hour early. That gave us time to wonder the docks and marvel at all the boats. At every turn the experience was wonderful. The time for class arrived and we took our seats.
The instructor began by introducing herself and the Dive Master that would be assisting her during our training. Then she asked us to introduce ourselves. I noticed that while my children were introducing themselves they did not appear to be nervous. My pride in my children must have been obvious to all because the instructor gave me an affirmative node and wink.
Once the introductions were concluded the instructor outlined the five day course. We would have two days of classroom instruction and the there would be two days of diving in a pool. The fifth day would consist of two open water dives. My children and I looked at each other, the excitement was building; I could see it in their eyes.
The instructor asked if everyone had read the entire textbook. My children and I looked at each other. We realized that we had misunderstood the reading instructions. After informing the instructor, she suggested that we would be alright, and if there was anything that we didn’t understand she would take the time to go over it. The first day’s instruction consisted of learning the important rules of diving. We also covered some equipment issues.
TIP: Make sure that you go over in detail what the instructor expects you to do prior to the first day of class.
After day one we went home and completed the reading assignment. It took us most of the evening to get through the reading. There were quizzes at the end of each chapter which we all passed.
Class – Day 2
We decided to show up a couple of hours early and do some dock side fishing. I sat on a bench and watched Tara and Chris fish. They were having a blast. Tara caught a puffer fish. She didn’t want anything to do with the puffer fish. We all got a laugh at her as she tried to unhook the fish. The time for class arrived, and we sat down with renewed confidence that we were prepared.
As we finished each chapter the instructor handed out a quiz. We had to pass the quizzes to be able to take the final exam. Tara and Chris were doing OK. They managed to pass all the quizzes as did I. The time came for us to take our final written exam.
For the first time I could tell that my children were nervous. I tried to reassure them that the test would be on the material that was covered in day one and today (day two). Later they would tell me that nervous was an understatement. Both Tara and Chris felt some pressure to pass the exam. They were thinking of the cost of the course and not wanting to let me down. I guess because Tara and Chris were enjoying themselves, it didn’t occur to me that they felt some pressure to perform up to my expectations.
TIP: Talk to your children. Let them know what your expectations are. After all, the whole experience is supposed to be fun. So don’t let the classroom portion dampen their enthusiasm.
Both Tara and Chris did not pass the test. The instructor was wonderful. She went over the questions that they had missed. The Dive Master offered to do some one-on-one tutoring the next day prior to Tara and Chris retaking the exam. That did the trick. Tara and Chris passed the exam on the second attempt. It was time to start the pool training dives.
Stay tuned for the next issue and read how Tara and Chris shine in their pool dives.