Tuesday, March 4, 2008

YMCA and The Little Gym

We have spent the last several months attending The Little Gym in La Canada. Prior to that we spent several years attending the YMCA in La Canada. Now why can't I meld them together to make the perfect place for my kids?

The Little Gym

Well-trained, friendly, caring staff
Clean, neat and tidy
Thorough lessons with instructors that know how to teach and encourage children of all ages
Efficient use of time, children are never waiting around and classes are not cut short

Not many morning offerings
There isn't an adequate area for siblings to wait
Expensive (about $20/class)
Classes are once a week
Few options for 3 year old boys
Huge classes (10-20 kids)

Each time we attended class at The Little Gym Connor had a look on his face that looked like a dog with his head out a car window; big smile on his face and tongue hanging out. After class he would be ecstatic showing off his stamps (5, both hands, both feet, and belly) and telling me how much he loves to run. We were greeted with hugs as we arrived and the staff always asked about the siblings and my pregnancy.

Connor was exposed to lots of different equipment and they even talked about things like outer space, weightlessness, chores, and staying healthy. It is an all inclusive program with a theme each week including 'bring a friend'.

But constantly chasing William and trying to keep him from taking the other kids belongings or even worse, destroying the items that were set out at his level for sale is exhausting for me. On the off days Connor was so bored and wanted the extra stimulation that a 2 day/week program would give him. But the times available were not conducive to our families schedule.

YMCA (Kindergym)
Child care is available for sibling. The child care area is clean with well-trained staff.
Classes are inexpensive ($6/class)
Morning offerings
Small class sizes

No clear lesson or objective during classes
Wasted time while instructor figures out what to do or sets up equipment.
Class ends early and often starts late.
Children are rarely spotted or encouraged

I sat today and watched Connor in his first gymnastics class at the Y. My heart broke the entire time. I wanted to leave the gymnasium and cry. I felt like such a terrible mother for taking him out of classes at the Little Gym, classes he clearly loved, because of money, scheduling conflicts, and difficulty with keeping William occupied.

The instructor welcomed Connor, but that is where her warm demeanor ended. She didn't instruct Connor on how to do each activity. Rather she told the regulars what to do and Connor was instructed to copy them. When we made a mistake she bluntly told him he was doing it wrong. She NEVER got up, walked over to him to give him an example or spot him in any way. The one time she spotted him on a back bend she asked him to come to where she was sitting. As a gymnastics coach you should spend the majority of your time standing, not sitting.

But Connor was a trooper. He did an awesome job considering it was his first time. He followed every instruction she gave him and at the end he said he never wanted to go back and that he liked the other instructors (Little Gym) better.

We are going to sign him up for swim instead. At least those instructors are trained to teach and encourage the children. I can also keep William in child care which is important as he grows older. But I'm still stuck about this decision. How do you quantify these qualities in a children's program? How much more is it worth to have better instructors? And how much of a detriment are you willing to accept for the siblings?

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