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To Camp or Not to Camp?

May 4, 2010

I’m not talking pack-up-every-bloody-thing-in-the-kitchen-stuff-your-car-so-full-it’s-like-driving-a-massive-polish-sausage-on-wheels-so-you-can-haul-everything-along-with-a-musty-tent-deep-into-the-woods-sleep-on-a-bed-of-twigs-and-commune-with-nature (ie: fend off bugs, dirt, potentially rabid wild animals and the often unpleasant complications associated with pre-plumbing-style commodes) camping.

My idea of that kind of camping is not to do it at all.  Ever.  Under any circumstances.  For any amount of money.

I’m talking summer camp for kids.  You see, I want them to have plenty of unstructured time to just goof off, hang around and play with friends in the neighborhood.  But I also want them to enjoy some new experiences and push their comfort zone beyond the routine of school.  So every year I face this quandary:  how can I best balance summer camp with some good old-fashioned “do nothing” down-time?  Complicating matters is the fact that we now live in an area where it’s the cultural norm to ship your kids off for the bulk of the summer to “sleep-away” camp.  This means the streets of our neighborhood are as deserted as the Mensa booth at a convention of politicians (except for my sister, the mayor) and unstructured down-time quickly morphs into the classic summer whine, “There’s nothing to doooooooooo!”

I have found that keeping my kids busy for most of the day, throughout most of the summer, is the best way to keep everyone sane and happy.  My general plan of attack is to find weekly day camps that end by 3pm, and work out a schedule where the kids have a week of camp followed by a week off.  This year between the two of them we’re looking at surfing, golf, baseball, horseback riding and math camps.  The kids have already attended each of them, so thankfully I know that they’re all great programs and the kids will have a fun, safe summer.  At this point it’s just a matter of juggling the schedule and sending in a boatload of money with each registration.

If you’re still in the market for a great summer camp, try the links below for some helpful tips.  And if you’ve yet to figure out how much camp is the right amount for your kids…I wouldn’t worry too much.  Keep a pair of squishy earplugs jammed into your ears all summer long and I’ll bet you barely even hear the whining.

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