This is the last week of school for our big kids. That means summer camp starts next week. We both used to feel guilty about the fact that our children have summers packed with activities – no lazy, unscheduled 1970’s-style summers for our families!
But we let go of that guilt a long time ago. And in hopes of helping you do the same, we reached into our archive and updated one of our favorite posts on why you should not feel guilty about sending your kids to summer camp either.
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If you’ve been reading our blog for any length of time, you probably know that we start booking our kids into summer camps starting in January (that’s when all the good early bird discounts are available!) and we use a spreadsheet to do it. Our annual summer spreadsheet posts remain some of our most popular, so we’ve come to realize we are not alone in this!
Our jobs don’t stop just because school lets out for the summer, and unless you’re a teacher or school administrator, yours probably doesn’t stop either. And while we like lazy days of vacation just as much as the next girl, we don’t feel guilty about working during the summer and sending our kids off to camp.
Here are a few reasons why.
Our kids actually like structure.
In the past we’ve tried the “unstructured” thing for weeks here and there with the help of babysitters and grandparents, and every single time we’ve tried it, it’s been a spectacular backfire. By the afternoon of day 1, the kids are clamoring for TV. By the morning of day 2, they need a playdate because they miss their friends so much. By the evening of day 3, they’re throwing shoes at each other and the house looks like some sort of tornado ripped through it. Suggestions of playing outside or using their art supplies are met with un-subtle eye rolling and deep, mournful sighs.
What can I say? We’re Type A parents and we (perhaps inadvertently) created Type A kids. They like having activities on the books. They’re really, truly happier that way.
These days there are some truly awesome camps.
Our kids’ summer plans include traditional camp activities like archery, swimming, lanyard making, and color wars. They also includes non-traditional activities like zip lining, Lego engineering, and robotics. Robotics! My niece is attending a week of veterinary camp, for goodness sakes. Our local modern art museums host camps. Our local professional sports teams host camps. Even the Los Angeles and Atlanta zoos hosts camp!
And we’re just scratching the surface. There are so many cool opportunities to try new, different, and even weird stuff during summer camp.
Camp can empower kids.
We have both found that the change of environment can bring out new sides of our kids in the best possible way.
Erin’s daughter is a bit on the shy side and tends to be wary in new situations. She is just not the type of kid to draw attention to herself in the classroom. So you can imagine Erin’s astonishment and joy when she learned that her daughter volunteered for the camp talent show last summer, like it was no big deal.
She chatted animatedly about how much fun she had during the tryout – she did all her best hula hooping tricks, including catching a football while hula hoooping. And she talked about the show itself for weeks afterward. There was just something about her camp group and counselors that made her feel safe and proud to get up on that stage. It was an experience that stayed with her even after summer ended and impacted this school year in a great way.
The kids still get lots of downtime to just play.
A busy day at camp isn’t the same as a busy day at school, plus camp doesn’t send home any homework. The afternoons, evenings and weekends are still gloriously full of the kind of free play we enjoyed as children.
Last summer Erin’s two older children spent an entire afternoon and evening decorating a big empty cardboard box and turning it into a rocket ship. Both of our families have summer rituals like nightly popsicle time on the front porch. And we are lucky enough to live in neighborhoods where we can watch our kids ride bikes and scooters up and down the block in the late evening twilight.
We love to hear them talk about their day’s’ adventures and what new friends they made. We love how they smell faintly sunscreen and sweat. We love seeing their new freckles and suntanned shoulders (which all six children seem to inevitably acquire no matter how much sunscreen we apply!).
This is good stuff, you guys.
And it’s why guilt has no place in our lives this summer. We’ll be too busy having fun to bother.