Monday, April 8, 2013

Summer Camps

I was recently asked about my thoughts on summer camps.  I wrote a post in 2009 called Summer Camp Learning you can check out here.  It was about why I think regular school should be more like summer camp.  And I still think all the best schools and classrooms I've visited are great because of hands-on learning, student choice and a sense of community - some positives from many summer camps.

But, back to summer camps... Even though I'd love the world to be a place where kids have all kinds of time to explore their passions and do so for free with involved (but not hovering) caregivers, the reality of our world today is that kids' lives are SCHEDULED.  And summer camps are one of those things that parents schedule for their kids.  Many summer camp experiences are amazing for kids, it is true, and I'm not suggesting there is anything wrong with summer camps.  But I do want to point out that OVER SCHEDULING activities, especially in the summer, is not a good idea for kids.

Mike Lanza writes a blog called Playborhood and has written several posts on starting a summer camp in your own neighborhood. You can read one here, about a camp he started. And, another here, about a neighborhood summer camp in Palo Alto, CA.  Mike advocates for turning your neighborhood into the same kind of community many of us grew up in - a cell-phone free place where kids ran out the front door, biked around the neighborhood, played with friends who lived close by and didn't come home until dinner.  Ahhhh, the good old days...

If you have the luxury of spending time with your kids this summer, do so.  Ditch the expensive summer camps and instead do healthy, inexpensive activities with your kids or encourage them to play with others in the unstructured, unscheduled hours of the summer days ahead.  Some of my boys' (now ages 17 and 19) favorite summertime activities were riding bikes into town, going to the parks, street roller hockey, playing catch, kicking a soccer ball, going to the pool, building forts out of cushions, drawing, painting, setting up a tent in the back yard, playing legos, watching movies, having sleepovers, cooking, baking, walking the dog, catching crawdads in the local creek, taking the dog to a lake to swim, shooting hoops, building skateboard ramps, etc...

Enjoy thinking about your summer plans and don't stress about it.  Don't feel guilty if your kids aren't enrolled in a bunch of organized summertime camps or activities or if you aren't planning a super-cool family vacation.  You'll have this upcoming summer only once in their lifetimes...enjoy the quiet, unhurried, fun, creative moments you witness or experience with them.


  1. Laura, Danville, CAApril 8, 2013 at 2:48 PM

    Glad to read your thoughts, they are in line with my gut, but I will admit I was "tweaked" a bit by a summer camp insert in the Sunday NY Times yesterday that was advertising many academic and creative camps in this area (east bay), the camps looked interesting, or some did, AND they cost close to 1,000 dollars a week, I was shocked! Are people really spending that kind of money on a wk. of summer camp, then I started to wonder if the stress to advance kids academically is that intense? It is not what our family wants to do, but it did get me to "worrying" a bit about the culture out there...

  2. I agree! Stress free summers are easily engaged when you have minimal obligations or scheduled camps, etc. to worry about. As a whole, summer is a part of our life schedule, as well as school, work, etc. and its necessary to relax and live without limitations during this period of time where your obligations can be diminished.

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