The “Summer Camp Hustle”

We all do it.  You're throwing out the last of the rogue half-empty eggnog cartons in the back of the fridge, thinking about whether to store or throw away all those cute holiday cards on the mantle, and the kids are back in school. Which means you wake up one morning in mid-February in a panic,knowing that you will blink again and then it will be summer and the kids will not be in school.

So you spend the next month of your life, in between work, making lunches, and taking care of a million other things, coordinating with all the parents in your circle, googling camps, matching schedules, coordinating itineraries amongst all your children and their friends, and squeezing every last penny out of your summer budget. Oh yeah! You high-five yourself all the way until the last day of school.

Then you realize, you spent a fraction of the time actually researching the camps and thinking through the programs as you did planning the logistics. Who has time for real research??

Thinking further… are we approaching summer camp as an incredible opportunity for our kids to explore something new, to pursue a passion, to grow as a person?  Or are we treating camp as the thing that fills the space and occupies the time between the end of school and the beginning of school?   Probably a little of everything, but maybe a bit too much of the latter.

Check out this awesome post on Huffpost Parents' blog by Todd Kestin about summer camp:

An interesting thing happens at camp when kids are taken out of their usual environment. The rules change. Everything changes. Authenticity is rewarded. Responsibility is cool. Maturity adds clout. If it weren't for camp, I would never have been ready for college, which led to graduate school, and the mentoring career I enjoy now. It was a natural progression that began in camp.

Todd makes a great point.  Camp gives kids a freedom to explore and grow, so not only does this help support the pursuit of what they love, but also helps them grow as individuals.  He adds:

Without this type of experience, kids often flounder through their teens and early twenties, unsure how to:

  • Choose valuable friends
  • Make decisions for their lives and 
  • Have the confidence to pursue their dreams.

What can you do to help your children get these skills out of summer camp?  Here are a few of our suggestions:

  • Let them go to camp on their own.  It's great to go with a best friend, and sometimes it can help ease your newbie camper into the experience, but also encourage them to use this time as an opportunity to learn how to meet people.   Your daughter might spend 2 weeks out of the year with her girlfriends from sleep-away camp, but she’ll have friends scattered all over the world for the rest of her life.  And that’s pretty cool.  Actually, it’s pretty awesome.
  • Include your child in the camp planning experience, and look beyond the surface of what's out there.  My daughter is into all things art, but I didn't realize how much she was going to love fashion design camp until we started exploring offshoots of the traditional art camp experience together.
  • Give them the freedom to choose.  Summer camps these days are incredible, with multiple tracks and electives that can captivate any child.  Let them try something new, but also allow them to change their mind.  This is an essential part of learning how to prioritize and chase dreams.  Case in point:  A friend’s kid went to art camp when at about 10 years old with two friends.  The friends both signed up for hip hop dance, so she naturally went along with them.  Her mother describes her as having roughly 3 left feet, so the choreography was frustrating for her.  Not only that, but she just hated being on stage in front of everyone.  Thankfully her counselors recognized that she wasn't exactly enthused and they asked her if she wanted to do something else.  She was tempted to continue with the class, eager to be with her friends, but she knew that she wasn't enjoying it and she should try something else instead.  She transferred into a poetry elective, and loved every minute of it.

Thankfully, finding the right summer camp doesn't need to be a quest for the Holy Grail. There will be a wealth of ideas at our Twitter party featuring summer camps and you are welcome to join us and swap summer tips with our other planning parents.

The Deets:

Wednesday, February 19th, 2014

9:30 PM Eastern, 8:30 PM Central, 6:30 PM Pacific

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Thinking about summer camps and programs for your kids but have no idea what your kids will like or where to find the best programs?  Join Thrively’s Twitter party hosted by Holly Homer of Kids Activities Blog. Cohosted by some of the most dynamic mom bloggers online!

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This post was written by our fearless co-leader, Jon Kraft.  Don't know him?  Click here and then you will!

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