Below are answers to some of our most frequently asked questions. If your question is not answered below, feel free to contact us!
How do I sign up for lessons, and when can I start?
You can fill out our online registration request or you can call us at 503-292-1255. Our schedule is usually full, so we will probably need to put you on our wait-list at first. We have continuous enrollment, not sessions, so once you are in a regular lesson it is yours until you decide to withdraw.
What ages do you teach?
All ages! Anyone 3 years and older (including adults) can take our private and semi-private lessons. At 30 months (2½ yrs) children can take private lessons, but only with select instructors. Children aged 4 months–35 months can join Baby & Me classes.
Do you offer group lessons for older kids?
Not like other swim programs. We don’t have any readymade open-enrollment groups for children 3 years or older. However, you are free to turn your private lesson into a group (“semi-private”) by adding siblings or friends (maximum of 4 swimmers). It is best if the swimmers are close to the same skill level, but all our instructors are experienced in teaching children of varying abilities.
How many lessons does it take to learn to swim?
Swimmers can attend lessons for as long as they like, and every student is different. You should have a goal in mind when the lessons begin. Are you working to overcome a fear? To build confidence and safety skills? To improve technique, or maybe even work toward joining a swim team? Each participant’s lesson is catered to fit their needs and goals.
How long will I be on the wait-list?
It depends on what days and times you are available. The greater your availability, the sooner we can place you in a regular lesson. Weekdays after 4pm and weekends are in especially high demand. Currently the average wait time is 6+ months, but even longer is not uncommon. To get started right away, try our discounted drop-ins!
I’m not sure about committing to weekly lessons… can I try one lesson and then decide?
No problem! The easiest way to give us a try is with a Drop-in Lesson. Or, if you’ve already been offered a regular weekly spot, you have the option to make your first lesson a “Trial,” meaning you pay in advance for a single lesson and then have 48 hours afterward to decide whether to keep the slot going forward. If you decide to keep it, we’ll put you on the calendar going forward and send you an invoice for the rest of the month. Please note that Trial lessons must be paid for in advance and are nonrefundable once purchased.
What if I need to miss a lesson?
Submit a cancellation form. If you give us 24 hours notice, you can schedule a make-up lesson (on a different day than your regular lesson). If you give us 48 hours notice, you can schedule a make-up OR receive a credit for the lesson on your next invoice (maximum of two credits per swimmer per month).
How do I schedule a make-up lesson?
Make-up lessons can be scheduled into any of our available drop-in lesson times. Check those out here! Cancellation policy applies to make-up lessons.
How do I stop or pause lessons?
Submit an exit form at least two days before the next lesson that you don’t want to attend. Form is available online or in our office.
Can I sign up for more than one lesson a week?
Yes! We have several families that come to the center twice a week for lessons. And you are always welcome to supplement your weekly lesson with as many drop-ins as you like.
Can I request a different day, time, or instructor?
Absolutely! We cannot guarantee an immediate opening but we can wait-list you. We are always happy to work with you to find a good fit for your schedule and with your instructor.
I don’t know of anyone for my child to swim with, so how can I find a partner for a semi-private lesson?
Our office does not facilitate creating semi-private groups, but we do have a Facebook page devoted to helping our customers coordinate semi-private lessons with one another!
How do cancellations work for semi-private lessons?
Price per swimmer will adjust according to the cancellation policy. For example, if your semi-private lesson partner cancels with 48hrs notice they can be credited while you will owe more for that lesson (unless you also cancel with 48hrs notice). If you need to do a make-up for a cancellation and your partner(s) do not join you, you will need to pay the difference to cover the make-up as a private lesson. Our office does not facilitate communication between semi-private families.
Why did your drop-in page list a lesson, but when I called/emailed it wasn’t available anymore?
The drop-in page is not synced with our calendar to update automatically (yet!). We have to update each spot manually, which we try to do twice a day. Additionally, we sometimes need to reshuffle the schedule last-minute to cover for sick instructors, etc.
When does a Drop-in become a Super Drop-in (*SD*)?
Our owner applies an extra discount to certain drop-in lessons in order to prioritize filling them (the reasons for this vary). The Super discount constitutes almost 50% off regular price, and it is applied entirely at the owner’s discretion. Generally, drop-ins are made Super the night-before or day-of but this is not automatic or guaranteed. Please don’t contact the office to negotiate for the Super discount before the (*SD*) appears on the website.
What’s special about your pools?
Our pools are a nice warm 90 degrees, the air temperature is kept around 88 degrees, and saltwater is gentler on the eyes and skin. This helps create a relaxing and comfortable experience for swimmers (especially little ones). Being comfortable helps students concentrate and perform. The pools are also shorter, which is less intimidating for children and beginner swimmers. We are careful not to overcrowd our pools, so our swimmers and teachers enjoy a calmer environment and lots of flexibility in how the lesson is run.
Saltwater pools—that means no chlorine, right?
This is a common misconception! Chlorinated water is legally required for all public pools; that’s the only way to keep things safe and sterile. In a saltwater pool like ours, the chlorine is derived organically from the salt as it breaks down, creating a natural and well-balanced chlorine which is much gentler on eyes, skin, and tummies. Most pools will artificially pump straight chlorine into their water, which can be much harsher (especially on young or sensitive skin).
Why does the color and clarity of your poolwater change now and then?
This is a result of the constant chemical cycle saltwater undergoes to produce chlorine. Additionally, when the pool jets oxygenate the water, sometimes the tiny air bubbles make the water appear cloudy. It’s totally normal and nothing to worry about! No matter what the water looks like, it is always sterile and safe!
Why is it so darn hot by your pools???
We know it can get uncomfortable for adults watching from the sidelines, but we keep the air at 89–91 degrees for the comfort of our students and teachers. In order to learn and perform at their best, children and infants must be comfortable and relaxed, not shivering and tense. We recommend you wear cool clothing when you come to watch, and you are always welcome to step into the office or out into the play-yard for a breath of fresh air!
A kid threw up or pooped in the water during class! Don’t you need to shut down the pool?
Our pools are kept sterile by carefully balanced chemicals (tested 3 or more times daily) and multiple sanitation systems, including a state-of-the-art UV system. Our water kills most germs and bacteria instantly on contact. More resistant strains (including that scary Chrypto you may have heard of) are destroyed in minutes. Baby spit-up is relatively clean, so we rarely evacuate the pool for that; the instructor will simply use a net to remove any visible particles and our filtration systems do the rest. In the case of vomit or feces, we will typically evacuate the pool while a staff member removes any solid particles. Once that is done and enough time has elapsed, the water is perfectly safe again.
Why do you require cloth swim diapers for babies/toddlers?
Because they are much more reliable than disposable paper ones. We see over 250 baby swimmers per week, so for everybody’s sake it’s important to do everything we can to avoid accidents in the pool. The cloth suits are also more comfortable to wear—not to mention way cuter!
Why do you require online cancellations?
Our flexible cancellation policy is great for our swimmers but creates hours of extra work for the office. This inevitably creates room for human error and scheduling mistakes, which are no fun for anyone! By keeping a time-stamped record of all cancellations, we have cut down hugely on these problems, to everyone’s benefit. Cancelling online is super easy—you can do it from your phone, computer, or at our front desk!
Why is there a 30-minute limit on lessons?
We have found that a 30-minute lesson suits youth and adult participants the best. After 30 minutes, lessons lose productivity due to fatigue and decreased focus. Remember, you will work much harder one-on-one with an instructor than you would in a large group class!
What happens when my baby ages out of their class?
Guppies classes go up to 18 months, after which babies should move to a Minnows (18mo–35mo) or Fishbowl class (4mo–35mo). When your kiddo turns 3, they can finish out the month of their birthday and then they must leave Baby Classes. We won’t kick you out of your Guppies class until we have a new spot for you, but turning 3 is a firm line. So, make sure you get on the wait-list to switch classes at the appropriate time! It’s never too early to get on the wait-list!
Why can’t my child stay in Baby & Me Classes after turning 3? What if they are fearful, inexperienced, or have additional needs?
Time and again, we have seen that if a child is still having difficulty with any aspect of swimming at age 3, then it is all the more important that they progress to private lessons. To learn to swim, 3-year-olds with fears and additional needs require more professional attention than they can get in a group class where the instructor must divide their time equally between 6 students. If your child truly cannot tolerate being separated from you, or your main goal for them is just to have fun in the water, then consider attending our Open Swims!
BILLING & OFFICE
How do I make a payment?
We currently accept: check and cash (exact change please), credit/debit cards in person or over the phone, and PayPal.
Why didn’t I receive an email invoice?
This does happen from time to time. Usually it is because your email server rejected the email or tagged it as spam. Invoices come from “email@example.com” so be sure to put that address in your contacts list. Even if you don’t see or receive your invoice email, you are still required to pay by the 10th to avoid a late fee.
Why can’t I get credit for a short-notice cancellation? 48 hours ago I didn’t know my child would come down sick!
We understand! But without advance notice we have no way to try and recoup the cost, yet we still have to pay our instructor, overhead costs, etc. during your lesson time. In fact, if you compare other local swim programs, you’ll find that Farber actually has the most lenient cancellation policy around. (Most schools require you pay ahead of time for several months, and then if you can’t make it, too bad—no credits or make-ups at all. Some schools will even charge you an extra “processing fee” for cancelling!)
Why don’t you offer credits or make-ups for cancelled drop-ins?
Drop-ins are are sold at a discount, similar to a “clearance item,” and are therefore ineligible for refunds or rescheduling. All drop-in sales are final.
Why do you charge late fees?
Believe us, nothing would make us happier than never to charge another late fee! Unfortunately, we have found them to be necessary. FSS is committed to private lessons, 90-degree saltwater, uncrowded pools, a flexible cancellation policy for our families, and competitive wages for our staff. Frankly, our profit margin is smaller than other swim programs. It is therefore crucial that we are paid in full and on time for our services.
Why don’t you answer voicemails/emails, or resolve billing issues, more quickly? Why do scheduling errors occur?
We are a small family business doing our best to accommodate over 600 families per week, with a further 800 new people on our wait-list. If there is an issue with your bill we are always happy to discuss and resolve it, but please be aware it may take us some time. Our offices are often staffed by only 1 employee at a time, and we have 1 billing manager who has other clients as well. If we were like other swim programs who make a lot more money by offering no multi-month discounts, no credits/makeups, no refunds, and no discounted drop-in program, our administrative system would be much quicker about…pretty much everything! Our flexible policies do create room for human error, but we think the advantages are worth it.
Is it safe for my baby to go underwater? What if they are very young, or it’s their first time in a pool?
Infants instinctively hold their breath underwater, and our Baby & Me Classes reinforce that instinct and build from there to teach babies how to be safe in the water as early as possible. We advise parents to take their babies underwater during their very first lesson—usually within the first five minutes! Your teacher will explain and demonstrate how best to handle submerging your baby, and give you lots of support and encouragement.
Can my child wear a lifejacket or water-wings at your pool?
Definitely not in lessons, as that would be counterproductive. Lifejackets and other foam-based flotation devices are allowed at open swims/events/parties. Inflatable floaties are not allowed, as their potential for popping or deflating makes them a serious safety hazard.
Why don’t you have group lessons and levels like other swim schools? When swimmers have the full attention of one of our private instructors, a more flexible lesson structure, and a quieter environment, amazing things can happen! Sometimes all it takes is that little bit of extra support to overcome past hangups and start moving forward. For example, we once had a young swimmer who had a very difficult time blowing nose bubbles, which held her back for over a year in another program. Once she came to us, and had the freedom to explore skills beyond her old level, she and her parents were surprised and delighted to discover she had a real knack for backstroke! All of a sudden she could be proud of herself in a big way. She kept working on those bubbles of course, but now she had a teacher who could say, “Good try, we’ll work on that again next week! Now let’s move on to something you are good at and enjoy!”
FSS’s teaching philosophy is all about the individual. Everyone learns differently, gains skills in their own order, and may not fit into cookie-cutter levels. So many students come to us from other swim programs who have been stuck in a certain level for way too long, just because they couldn’t do one of the skills required to “move up.” This is only made worse by the crowded, noisy format of group lessons. It’s hard to learn when you feel rushed and under pressure, and many swimmers get discouraged when they have to stay behind while their peers move on. Enter FSS! (Read more)
When swimmers have the full attention of one of our private instructors, a more flexible lesson structure, and a quieter environment, amazing things can happen! Sometimes all it takes is that little bit of extra support to overcome past hangups and start moving forward.
For example, we once had a young swimmer who had a very difficult time blowing nose bubbles, which held her back for over a year in another program. Once she came to us, and had the freedom to explore skills beyond her old level, she and her parents were surprised and delighted to discover she had a real knack for backstroke! All of a sudden she could be proud of herself in a big way. She kept working on those bubbles of course, but now she had a teacher who could say, “Good try, we’ll work on that again next week! Now let’s move on to something you are good at and enjoy!”
This swimmer is afraid of the water. How can you help them? What should I do if my child won’t get in the pool, or starts crying?
What can I do at home, in-between lessons, to help a fearful swimmer?
It’s been a few lessons and my child is still scared and crying. Should I stop lessons and wait until they’re “ready”?
At FSS we offer lessons to all ages and abilities, and have techniques to ensure participants gain more confidence in the water. We believe in coaching swimmers through challenges, not forcing them. Don’t be discouraged if the first few lessons are rough! Remember that fear of water is, at its root, a perfectly logical fear and nothing to be ashamed of. It is very common but also very “treatable.” Patience and persistence is the key. Over the years we have successfully helped a great many participants overcome their fear of the water, and nothing makes us more proud! (For extreme fears, try one of our several teachers who specialize in Fearful swimmers [see our staff page or ask the front desk] and have a real knack for breaking through separation anxiety.) (More questions about fearful swimmers.)
In these cases we usually recommend parents leave the pool deck, ideally with a calm and cheerful “Bye-bye, I’ll see you after your lesson!” Imagine you are dropping them off at daycare or with a babysitter; letting go of you is not optional. Most children will start to calm down once the parent is out of sight and, now that their focus has shifted from parent to the nearest adult (teacher), begin to bond with that teacher. The teacher will then gently bring them into the water to play, or simply to be held and soothed if necessary. (Feel free to ask an office worker to “spy” for you through the lobby window and tell you how it’s going!)
Try putting them in a bath or shower every day to desensitize them to the sensations. After some playtime, pour water over their head and face. Don’t give up immediately if they cry—continue pouring while calmly counting to ten or singing a song so that there is an exact, predictable start-point and end-point. Snacks, books, toys, even movies—all of these can help take the fear out of water-time. Be sure to give them time to calm down and stop crying before taking them out of the bath. If they leave the water in a calm state of mind, that is a huge success!
In our experience, “taking a break” is usually counterproductive for fearful swimmers. We know it may seem like a waste of time and money for a child to spend most of the lesson crying, but try to think of it not as a failed lesson but as a necessary step toward your swimmer eventually becoming comfortable in the water. Working through the fear is the lesson.
What should I do if my child won’t get in the pool, or starts crying?
What can I do at home, in-between lessons, to help a fearful swimmer?
It’s been a few lessons and my child is still scared and crying. Should I stop lessons and wait until they’re “ready”?
Why isn’t my child progressing faster? Why is the teacher working on rolls every lesson, instead of arm strokes?
or, Why are they not proceeding quickly to side-breathing?
At Farber, our top priority is creating strong swimmers who are confident and safe in the water, and can independently keep themselves safe in deep water for as long as necessary. The best way to accomplish this is to emphasize body position, backfloating, and kicking technique. Adding strokes prematurely can hinder a swimmer’s mastery of body control.
Body Control + Kicking Technique = Efficiency = Sustained Energy = SAFETY. Only when a swimmer is SAFE do we add arm strokes. (Read more about FSS's teaching progressions)
This goes double for side-breathing. Rolling to breathe is extremely efficient, and in fact is USA legal for competitive freestyle. Until a swimmer is strong enough that side-breathing will be more efficient than rolling, there is no reason to introduce it.
It is true that many other programs start teaching strokes and side-breathing before a swimmer has mastered rolls. This is like teaching a child to stand up while pedaling their bike… before they’ve even learned to ride sitting down! It looks “fancy,” and may give them a few bursts of speed here and there, but good balance and steering will go right out the window. And you can definitely expect more scraped elbows!
Another analogy: we want to create tugboats, not speedboats. Speedboats are good at one thing: going fast, in a straight line, for short distances, on smooth water. They run out of fuel quickly. They can’t handle choppy water. And when they have to slow down or float in a harbor, watch out! They’ll rock back and forth at the least touch and dump passengers overboard!
But tugboats can go all day, effortlessly chugging along, solid, steady, and SAFE in the water!
Why is my child being taught in the smaller pool (at the Beaverton location)? Won’t that limit their progress?
Not at all! In fact, there are many advantages to the smaller pool:
- It’s easier for teachers to move around to view and correct swimmers’ technique from multiple angles.
- “Don’t let your feet touch the bottom!” is a great physical cue for swimmers to focus on keeping their bodies flat on the very top of the water. If a swimmer is not competent at staying flat on the surface (whether swimming or back-floating), they need to focus on that above all else.
- At FSS our emphasis is on technique, not endurance, and our pools are much too warm for “working out”. If you want your swimmer to build endurance, you will want to take them to a cooler pool!
- Some perspective: our owner, Adam, at 6’1″, can complete 4 full freestyle strokes in the small pool without scraping the bottom.