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The History And Mission of the YMCA
For nearly 160 years the YMCA has been putting Christian principles to work to strengthen the mind, body and spirit.  Today they are one of the largest social organizations in the United States.  The YMCA, which stands for Young Men's Christian Association," was founded to provide Bible study and prayer for people on the street.  This orginal mission still makes the YMCA one of the most welcoming organizations in communities across the country, which is evident in their goal to make their services available to anyone interested. For homeschooling families looking for classes to attend, the YMCA could be a good fit.
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Our Experience at the YMCA
When my husband and I were laying out our homeschool schedule for the year, we knew we wanted to provide our son with a physical education, in addition to the academic education we'd be offering him at home. The local YMCA offered a homeschool swim class, so we decided to sign up. His swimming instructor was fantastic, with a great balance of gentle encouragement mixed with confidence in each child's ability to achieve the goals at hand.
Now, in this summer season, our son shows us the benefits of learning how to swim, by practicing full force at an area pool. Learning how to swim is important, not just because swimming provides exercise, but also because it is a safety measure for children. According to the Red Cross, each year over 3,500 Americans drown, averaging ten deaths per day.  Learning how to enter the water safely in a pool, hold your breath underwater, and even paddle your arms in deep water all can be life saving skills.
The YMCA provides many services for the communities in which they reside, and some provide swimming classes. Homeschoolers can swim at the YMCA, and in many cases special classes are offered just for families that home educate.
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What the YMCA Offers Homeschooling Families
While each YMCA creates it's own schedule of classes, many locations will have offerings just for homeschooling families. The YMCA in Anchorage offers a homeschool fitness class, the Greensboro YMCA has a homeschool swim class, and our YMCA in Springfield, IL offers a homeschool swim class, homeschool gymnastics, and schedules art classes with the homeschooling schedule in mind. 
Jill Steiner, Associate Executive Director of the Springfield, Illinois YMCA, shared with me that they are "conscious of scheduling for homeschooling families." This YMCA also will work with scouting groups, which many homeschoolers are also involved in, to provide swimming badges to the children.
Steiner stated that "swiming schedules are unique to every YMCA, and every hour and every day." Some YMCAs may not have indoor pools, but outdoor ones, explained Steiner, and some YMCAs may not have a pool at all. Therefore, each interested family should check with their local YMCA to see if they offer swim classes, or other classes specifically for homeschooling participants.
Beyond swimming, other offerings, which again vary by location, could be karate, basketball, dance class, gymnastics, art, soccer, and even group music lessons. The YMCA offers so many different camps, classes and courses that even if swimming isn't a fit for your child, there are many more options to choose from.
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Affordability of the YMCA
Steiner also shared with me that each YMCA determines their own memebership fees, and policies for financing. "Every Y is a charity. We do as much as we can afford too [for others] and still stay operational. Our Annual Campaign, the Strong Kids Campaign, helps determine how much we will have to give. How much the community supports us is a determing factor."
With that said, Steiner shared that one out of every four people attending a YMCA class receives assistance, and she mentioned that this is not unique to the Springfield, Illinois location. Across the country, anywhere from ten to thirty percent of the YMCA participants are receiving financial aid.
While the YMCA's financial aid will vary by community, in Springfield there is a sliding scale for payment, based on your income. To receive financial assistance through this YMCA, you would ask for paperwork for financial aid, submit documents proving your income, pay a ten dollar processing fee, and then you would be told where you fall on the scale.
Often caregivers pay a monthly price and if you can't pay one month, or if you didn't use the YMCA that month you won't be charged. Children would pay a very low annual fee, with this type of financial aid. Steiner also mentioned that employers may offer a group rate for employees, so that is something to look into as well when thinking of creative financing. And, discounted classes are available. For example, at the Springfield location a few families in the homeschool swim class were getting a reduced rate on the class, once again based on their income level. At the Springfield location Steiner says "no one is turned away due to inability to pay." Steiner stressed that this is a core principal for the YMCA organization, as they work to make their services accessible to anyone interested.
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Consider The YMCA For Your Homeschool Extra Curriculars
Homeschoolers who swim at the YMCA have the opportunity to use the pool every day of the week, if they become members. Becoming a member lowers your class payment, and opens up all the services at the Y for every day use. The YMCA is willing to work with you to make using the Y affordable to your family so, if you are considering joining, and need financial assistance, be sure to ask for paperwork. Finally, consider donating to a local YMCA. The amount of charitable donations makes a difference in the number of lives they can touch.
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-  www.firstcoastymca.org http://www.firstcoastymca.org/about/history
-   www.springfieldymca.org http://www.springfieldymca.org/index.cfm?pID=976
- ] www.redcross.org. "Keep Summer Safe by Learning to Swim"
- Steiner, Jill Associate Executive Director, Springfield, IL YMCA. Telephone interview. June 23, 2011.
- Image:breaststroke-front view, Nevit Dilmen, under . http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/deed.en
- Image: Seattle YMCA, Joe Mabel, under http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/deed.en