Meet Jenny McCuiston- amazing Birmingham mom, who is raising 4 boys while running Goldfish Swim School!
How many children do you have and what are their names and ages?
We have 4 boys-
Where do you live?
Where do your children go to school?
We decided to go to Homeschool this year. Life was pretty crazy in the Spring with both Chris and I working and also trying to juggle four different virtual learning schedules. Homeschooling is a little more flexible and we can create a schedule that works for our family. I am sure it will be challenging but I’m kind of looking forward to this new adventure as well.
How did you and your husband meet?
We actually met at Seaholm High School when we were 16. He played football at Seaholm and he was my powder puff football coach. For the most part, we dated all the way through college and got married right after we graduated.
What’s your favorite family activity in Birmingham/Bloomfield Hills? We love to go for walks with our family and our golden retriever Bella. The kids love to fish in the local rivers and ponds. With life slowing down lately due to COVID, it’s been nice to just enjoy the simple things like walks and bike rides with our family.
Tell us the story behind Goldfish Swim School! How did you and Chris come up with the idea?
I was a competitive swimmer in college and have always had a love for the water. I realized the demand for quality swim instruction after teaching swim lessons at a local swim club in the summer of 2000. I became increasingly busy with customers throughout the summer. In the summer of 2004, I decided to teach swim lessons at a nearby country club. Again, I realized the great need for quality swim instruction and I regularly accumulated a waiting list.
So, with the help of my husband Chris, we began researching the swim school industry in late 2004. We traveled the country, learning from other swim school owners at several swim school conferences before beginning the two-year development of our business plan. In early 2005, we created the systems that Goldfish still uses and we dreamt up a rustic beach house decor, all from our kitchen table at our house.
After the two years of research, and a lot of hard work, we opened Goldfish Swim School in Birmingham, Michigan on March 20, 2006. After a few years of operating our business, we decided to expand through franchising. Our first franchise opened in 2009 in Farmington Hills, Michigan. We currently have 109 franchises open across North America and Canada.
You’re a busy mom! Tell us how you manage mom life, and make time to take care of the business.
Honestly, I am just doing the best I can and taking one day at a time. Some days I feel like I have it all together and then the next day is total chaos! The boys are all involved in sports and activities on top of school and it’s just a lot to juggle. I have a very supportive husband who does what he can to help out with the kids. We also have an amazing team at the Franchise office who carry the heavy load when I’m not there. I am working part time right now so that I can be more available for the kids during this time. I’m always connected to what is going on at work but I’m not physically going into the office every day anymore. I try to just give myself some grace and know that I can’t be everything to everyone all of the time and that is ok.
Please share any water safety advice:
Drowning remains the number one cause of unintentional injury-related death among children ages 1 to 4, taking the lives of three children in the United States every day. Drowning is also the second leading cause of death for kids ages 5-14. Even during these unprecedented times, drowning prevention remains a top priority, as more than 70 percent of childhood drowning incidents occur at home.
As a 2019 report from the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) says, during the height of drowning season, 72 percent of childhood drowning incidents occurred in residential locations.
Water Safety tips:
- Learn swim safety skills: Children as young as four months can comprehend basic swimming skills and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) cites swim lessons as a beneficial way to help lower drowning rates among children. Swim lessons have been shown to reduce the risk of drowning by 88%. Key water safety skills can go a long way – such as the crab walk, properly getting in and out of the pool, going under water, rolling on their back, treading water, learning different strokes. At Goldfish, we provide swim lessons and water safety instruction to infants and children ages four months to 12 years. Classes are offered by specially trained instructors in a safe, child-friendly and fun environment using a research-based philosophy called The Science of SwimPlay®.
- Even with many swim lesson facilities still closed due to the pandemic, water safety skills can be learned on dry land too. Goldfish Swim School has been innovating and adapting to provide families across the nation resources to practice water-safety at home. Goldfish At Home provides free, virtual, dry-land swim lessons designed to teach important water safety skills, develop confidence with swimming techniques, maintain momentum on progress made at lessons, and help kids stay active while learning something new. To access ‘Goldfish At Home,’ members and non-members alike can simply visit the Goldfish Swim School YouTube page and choose the level that matches their child’s age and progress.
- Never swim alone: This goes for kids and adults alike. Teach your children to always have a buddy in the water – whether it be an adult or peer – especially on vacation.
- Designate a water guardian: Have an adult in charge of supervising the swimmers and enforcing pool rules. Be sure to change guardians every 30 minutes so the guardian is alert and refreshed.
- Wear a U.S. Coastguard approved life jacket when in open and unpredictable bodies of water. This is one of the easiest ways to increase safety in these bodies of water. There are plenty of different types of life jackets to fit all sizes – pay attention to proper fit.
- Play it cool and follow the rules: Rules are there for a reason! Pay special attention to pool hours, and always schedule your swims when lifeguards are present, if possible.
- Install a Four-Sided Fence Around any Pool or Pond – One sided fences or barriers are helpful, but when children are exploring and wandering, there should not be an option to get around. Four-sided fences with safety latches are the best way to prevent accidental falls into water.
- Install Door and Pool Alarms – To prevent kids from slipping outside unnoticed, install alarms to alert adults of opening doors and gates.
- Do Not Keep any Standing Water in any Circumstances – Even shallow water poses a threat, as children can drown in as little as two inches of water. Make sure kiddie pools are flipped over and empty, buckets are upside down, bathtubs are drained, and toilet lids are closed and locked. Curious minds may fall into anything, and removing small hazards has a big payoff.
- Never Store Toys in Bodies of Water – Storing floatation devices or other pool toys in the water serves as an open invitation to reach in and try to grab it. Having a designated toy bucket or basket outside of the pool (in-ground, popup, kiddie pool, etc.) prevents slipping and falling into the body of water.
- Store a Flotation Device Near Water and Have it Ready to Use – When a water-safety emergency happens, throwing a life preserver or safety ring to the person in the water is the quickest way to reach them, safely. Be prepared and have a designated area to store this device that is easily accessible and known to everyone in the household.
What have you done to make swim lessons safe during COVID?
We had to change operations immensely. Everyone wears PPE in the facility. Our swim instructors wear face shields while teaching and we’ve had to modify our curriculum to eliminate or reduce face-to-face contact. We have safety dividers between each child, on the pool deck, to eliminate children from non-households touching each other and possibly coughing or sneezing on each other. Class sizes have been reduced to 3:1 vs. 4:1 and we’ve had to reduce our pool capacity to 25% of what’s allowed by the Oakland County Health Dept. We are asking that only 1 parent, per household, brings their child to lessons and we have spaced all chairs 6-feet apart to make sure we are socially distancing while in our facility. All staff get temperature checked and are asked the most important questions to determine whether or not they are healthy enough to teach, and we are asking all parents to enter our building through the front door and to exit the building using an egress door to prevent grouping of people in smaller confined spaces.
If a mom would like to sign her kids up at Goldfish, what is the best way to do so?
There are several ways actually. The easiest would be to go to www.goldfishswimschool.com and search for the nearest Goldfish to you. There, you could either use the phone number to call into our location to book into classes, or go to our Customer Portal found on the location’s main page to sign up online. We also have a Goldfish App that you can download in the app store that will allow you to search classes and book online. Lastly, you could always visit one of our locations for a free tour of our facility to see how we are operating to determine if you’re comfortable signing your children up for swim lessons.
Do you have any hobbies?
Being a college athlete, physical fitness has always been part of my life. I enjoy working out and try to fit some sort of exercise at least 4-5 days a week. Sometimes it’s just a 20 minute Peloton and other days it’s an hour long walk. It just depends on what I have going on that day, but my motto has always been “something is better than nothing”. I also really enjoy cooking. I love looking through cookbooks and trying new recipes. We did a LOT of cooking during COVID and it was actually kind of fun to get creative with it.
Is there a charity that you are passionate about?
At Goldfish Swim School, we strive to teach kids how to be safer in and around the water, along with giving them the confidence and skills to make waves in life. That’s why we’ve partnered with the USA Swimming Foundation’s “Make a Splash” initiative to teach kids – regardless of their financial capacity – how to swim. Every year the USA Swimming Foundation awards grants to swim lesson providers nationwide who provide services to families and children who, otherwise, would not have the opportunity to participate in swimming lessons.
Thank you Jenny, for sharing your water safety expertise and mom life with us!