More Than Just 'Bug Juice' At These Summer Camps
From 'space habitats' to whitewater rafting to simply enjoying a slower pace, numerous options exist to keep kids busy and happy
Sometime in June, millions of American schoolchildren will burst out of their classrooms for the last time this school year. They'll "shut them books and throw them away," tear home, toss their backpacks into the back of the closet with glee - and look around expectantly.Skip to next paragraph
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"I like to do stuff in the summer," says seventh-grader Bethany Dozeman of Holland, Mich. "I don't like to sit home. It's kind of boring when you're home for three months."
Summer is still some time away, but many parents - spurred in part by their considerable interest in avoiding 90 days of 'I'm bored!' - are already plotting activities to help their kids enjoy the extended holiday.
In most cases, they don't have to look very far. Countless enterprises across the country have sprung up to fill the void created by the increasing numbers of two working parents and dearth of nearby family who can help care for children formerly occupied by school. The result: Whether your children are passionate about baseball or fine art, whether they want a week of day-camp or to "sleep away" for the whole summer, it shouldn't be hard to find a program they'll enjoy.
Jan Dozeman, Bethany's mother, wants her three children to take advantage of the different kinds of learning experiences the summer can offer. "It's nice for them to sit back and relax, to have a little break from the busyness of the school year," she says. "But there are so many opportunities for continued learning during the summer."
Last summer, Bethany headed south for an outer-space adventure. At the US Space Camp in Huntsville, Ala., she bunked in a three-story "space habitat" that resembles a space station and took part in a realistic space shuttle mission simulation. "It was the best vacation I ever had," she says enthusiastically.
For Adam Baratz of Newton, Mass., summer held the lure of time to hone in on his interest in computers. Two years ago, when most of his third-grade peers were just learning their way around "Where in the World is Carmen Sandeigo?" on the computer, he asked to go to Computer-Ed High-Tech Camps on the campus of Lasell College in Newton.
His parents were delighted that he wanted to go to camp. "Where we live, so many friends go off to camp or on vacations that if I didn't schedule anything, they would have no one to play with," his mother, Robin, says.
But she had doubts about a computer camp. "When he said he wanted to be behind a computer all summer, I wasn't too thrilled with the idea. I like fun in the sun. But I found out the camp has swimming, tennis, and other sports during half the day, so it was a nice compromise."
To some parents, learning to launch a rocket or program a PC is too much like a continuation of the classroom. "I've always felt that since school is so intense, summer is a time not to be scheduled," says Martha Whitmire of Lookout Mountain, Ga. "They need a break from structured time, to be able to get up when they want. It seems to me it's a catch-your-breath time."
Over the years her two sons have played Little League baseball and competed on swim teams, but "one thing that's been a focal point of our summers is our family vacation," she says. "No one else goes; the boys don't take friends. I think families don't get too much time where they're by themselves, talking to each other.
"It's just a week - we don't want them to feel we've usurped their time. But it's a time to get off in a different kind of environment and do things together - read, play games, whatever. It's an investment in our family."
Susan Gilmore of Chattanooga, Tenn., wants her three girls to "be free to create, to imagine, to make-believe during the summer." However, it's been her experience that this doesn't happen without planning. "I believe that some thought should be given to summer, but it doesn't have to mean camp or a day-care program. Something I do with my friends is co-op craft activities. We come up with a small group of girls and rotate homes once a week."
She also believes that summer's slower pace makes it an ideal time for kids to experience the joys of reading. "Summer reading programs at the public library make it so much fun. Claudia, who's 9, really likes it a lot," she says.