Friday, July 22, 2016

Summer Camps

For the last three years, I've signed the kids up for a variety of camps to cover the work days over the summer. We've tried different types of day camps, including art, drama, sports and STEM. I thought we'd try out all different kinds so we could see what the kids like--turns out my kids like ALL types of camps!


The first year, we did a drama camp, a couple of art camps and a general sports/play camp. The Pumpkin tried a soccer camp one week, but it did not really engage her (either because of her age or interest--maybe both). The Pumpkin really enjoyed the drama camp and the art camp, which was no surprise given how much she's always loved drama and arts and crafts. The Pookie struggled a bit with the drama camp, even though his age-group was half art and half drama, and he had a hard time with the all-day art camp (the other art camp was just a half day). I think his issues were due to a combination of his young age (5 years old at the time) and the sensory issues he has. I ended up picking him up early every day from the all-day art camp, and the drama camp let him work by himself on the art parts of the camp even if others had moved on to drama portion. They both LOVED the general sports/play camp, which is just like playing all sorts of games all day long! In fact, when we were coming up to a week I didn't have anything planned and I asked if they want to do one of the camps again, they wanted to go to the all day sports/play camp again. So I signed them up for it again, and they still loved it. They came home happy and exhausted. It was great!


The second year, the kids did the drama camp, an arts camp and the general sports/play camp again. Since the youngest (the Pookie) was now old enough for the STEM camps offered in my area, we added two of those: an invention camp and a science camp. The first week, they did the drama camp, which the Pumpkin LOVED but the Pookie did not. Now that the Pookie was 6, he was grouped with the Pumpkin's age group, and that class was large and did mostly drama. They'd start with art in the morning, which would go fine, but then the whole class transitioned into the big group to work on the play--and this was really hard for the Pookie. He does not do great with transitions, especially ones that involve joining big groups and can seem chaotic. This and similar transitions at that camp were very difficult for him, and by the afternoon he was tired and it was all just too much. He would slip out the door of the big room, not listen to the camp counselors or other people who worked there when they told him to go back, he'd throw fits when he felt forced to do something he didn't want, he tried to leave the building a few times. He could generally manage until afternoon snack time, and then they called me the first two days to pick him up and after that, we worked it out that I (or my mom) would just pick him up then. At the end of the camp day, I would come back for the Pumpkin, who was thriving in the artsy/drama world.


The next week, they had Camp Invention. This was the first year they were going, and we were just coming off a rough week for the Pookie. I was concerned about how he would handle it, but I called the headquarters and talked with them, and the first day of camp I talked with the director onsite, and they all made me feel comfortable about  how they could help him through. The adults at the camp were teachers during the school year, so they were quite used to handling kids of all types and were very confident that they could work with him. And boy, were they right. I can't express how impressed I was with that camp! They kids had a blast taking things apart, building new things, coming up with inventions and figuring out and describing how their inventions would work. They had science labs and made up their own mazes. It was AWESOME! And the director had really good ways of getting the Pookie through transitions and different ways to help him calm down when he was getting overstimulated. It was an absolutely wonderful week, and they kids immediately said they wanted to do it again! Unfortunately, it's only offered once a summer, but I promised them we'd sign them up for Camp Invention the next year.


Of course they went to the sports/play camp again that summer. In fact, they went three weeks to that camp over the summer. One of those weeks, the Pookie wanted to try soccer camp, which is offered at the same place. We signed him up for half days at the soccer camps, and then in the afternoons he went to the sports/play camp. The Pookie also did a half day at the art camp where we had to pick him up early the previous year. My mom picked him up after the morning camp and watched him at her house, while the Pumpkin did two half-day camps that made up a full day. The Pookie took the same class he had the previous year, which was a class where they build with Legos and draw. I had given him the option of taking a half day or staying the full day, and he picked half day. He wasn't sure he could do a full day at the camp, and I'm really glad he did just the morning camps, as I think it showed him he could handle the camp and be successful there. The Pumpkin took the Lego robotics camp and pottery camp, which she really enjoyed. In fact, they both really enjoyed those camps! The last camp they had was a science camp, which focused on the science of being spies! It was fun and interesting.


In addition to the actual camps, we also take the kids down to my inlaws' house every summer (and winter) for at least a week. My inlaws live in the mountains, in a rural area which is very much The Country. The kids get to play in the woods, hang out with their grandparents, aunt and uncles, and their cousin. They live about 5-6 hours away, so we don't get to see them as much as we'd like. That's why the week in the summer down there at "Camp Country" is so important to us. Last year, Londo couldn't go down and I couldn't take off from work, so instead I used their internet connection and worked down there for the week the kids were there. That way, the in laws could spend all day with the kids, but I was still the rule-enforcer about dinner and bedtime. It worked out great.


We are also lucky enough to live about 3 hours from the beach and have a timeshare at a place by the ocean. Not only that, but my parent recently bought a house in another town right by the ocean. If I could, I would live right on the beach. I grew up going to the beach every summer at my grandparents house, and I'm very excited that I can raise my kids with the same opportunity. The first summer of the camps, the timeshare week was before school was out, so we took the kids out of school for that. I had just switched jobs, so I didn't have a chance to take another whole week off. Instead, we went down for weekends to my parents' beach house. Last year, I make a point of saving my work vacation hours up so I could take the kids/family to the beach for two weeks (one week at the timeshare and later in the summer a week at my parents' house). Londo is not as much of a beach person as I am, and he couldn't come for the whole weeks both times, but he came down for about one and a half weeks. We all had a great time every time!


This summer has already started, but I'll save the report till the end of the summer. We are having a great time so far, and everyone is happy. I'm really proud of myself because I was able to plan out the whole summer early. With two summers already under my belt, and color-coded spreadsheets to track the camps (and costs), I knew how much we had to save to cover the summer and what camps I was for sure signing them up for--where they definitely wanted to go back and what they wanted to expand on or try out this year. The Pookie did great in his year of 1st grade, so I had more confidence about his ability to handle full days of camp. And because I knew what we were going to do early, I got the early-bird discounts for all the camps! Also, I was able to plan out our times at the beach and at the inlaws. I'm feeling pretty good about handling this summer break thing! Hopefully, I'll feel the same way by the end of the summer!