Fast forward a few/several decades. Today's Austin paper has the summer camps being offered. (And you better sign up now because they are Filling Fast in February, apparently.)
- Bits, Bytes and Bots: Computer Adventures
- Camp Sub Zero (Held at the Ice Skating Rink)
- Rock Camp USA (Form a band! Pick you own materials! Rehearse like pros! Record a CD! Play live at Antone's! Get a DVD of your concert!)
- Baseball camp at the Dell Diamond (our triple A farm team field)
- Author Your Life: Literary Publishing Company for creative writing
- Science Camp: rocket building, robotics, aerodynamics, crime scene forensics...
- Grow Your Money: Entrepreneur Camp
- Sea Camp: The greatest Adventure this side of the Ocean Floor
- Austin School of Film: video and sound editing, digital film making, video game design...
- Magic Camp: juggling, puppets, magic
This is not your Mother's Summer Camp.
Hidden among these high tech ads were the camps I remember. (Heck, some of them ARE the same camps from those decade(s) ago. Hello, Camp Doublecreek!):
- Crafts, Bible stories, swimming and field trips
- Archery, crafts, hiking
- Farm animals, swimming, horses
I am sad that they sound lame compared to the EXCITING! CAMPS! listed above.
When my children were little, we lived in a small town outside of Waco. The town timed it so that no church had VBS (Vacation Bible School for those who are used to attending Magic/Ice Skating/Computer/Film Making camps) at the same time. The Methodists, Baptists, Church of Christ, Presbyterians and Episcopalians all worked together to offer VBS on different weeks, and everyone was welcome. You could literally have your child in VBS all summer from 9am to noon. Theology was not a problem: everyone served red Kool-aid and assorted Popsicles. They built things out of Popsicle sticks (probably saved from past VBS summers), glued macaroni on it, and spray painted it gold. I still have those beautiful handmade jewelry boxes.
I know I walk a fine line in critiquing those high tech camps. But just yesterday, I held a parent conference and was told of a first grader who was involved in 3 different sports at one time. I remember the days I was handed those schedules for practices when my children were little. It was like "Here is your life for the next three months". I always let the coach know we did not do Sunday practices, and unfinished homework would also cancel practices from our end. And the coaches supported those decisions.
I cannot even imagine trying to juggle 3 different sports at one time. For a six year old. I know those camps are EXCITING! and STIMULATING! and EDUCATIONAL! But, you know what? So is discovering polywogs at the creek. And walks to the duck pond to feed the old bread to the ducklings. Time spent laying on the grass watching and naming clouds.
I hope that when parents are scheduling the summer, they remember to schedule in some down time. Some "let's-get-good-and-bored-so-we-have-to-make-up-our-own-fun" time.
I teach first graders who are constantly asking me "WHAT DO I DO NOW??" Well, I don't pull out my tapshoes and entertain them. In fact, I'm fond of saying, "I'm not your cruise director. You may free read, free write or free draw when you are done. You decide." The students love the choices. I have untold resources for reading, writing and drawing in my room and their imaginations run wild during the free time. Some of their best work is created during Free Time.
Free time. May sound old-fashioned, but it's free. And in today's economy? Priceless.