The Cramp About Summer Camp

Summer camp is not the Jim Croce sing along it used to be when I went. Kids today are just too sophisticated. As it is, my boys pack two Nerf guns and five thousand Lego pieces just to play in the backyard. I can’t imagine what girls need – a suitcase of band looms?

Camp is also way more expensive than what I remember. Two weeks of full day camp for my kids cost what my parents paid for one month back then. It’s ludicrous.

Of course there are cheaper city camps. They’re great if you’re content with paying for semi-attentive hipsters to take your kids to the park all day. I already do that – be semi-attentive and endlessly drag them around the hot streets to a sweltering park with deplorable bathrooms. The hipster thing, I’d have to work at.

The way I see it, summer camp is worth the money as long as the kids do things that you can’t deliver. Like play baseball with a team of kids all the same age or do crafts with an adult who isn’t afraid of glitter or drive around with hipsters who can listen to Nikki Minaj without throwing up.

For two years, I enrolled my boys in World of Discovery camp, which was ideal. They were picked up by 07:30 in the morning and dropped off at 5:30, stinky, exhausted and thoroughly played out. They were completely different people when they arrived home – like cyborgs who looked, smelled and talked like my kids – but didn’t act like them. They were behaved. Taking a bath, doing their homework packet without a single tear and they were famished enough to eat salad. Salad!

It was paradise until it ended and the “camp glow” was gone as fast as it came.

Next challenge will be sleep away camp. If Day Camp seems expensive, wait until you hit the sleep aways. Granted, they’re chock full of activities you’d get arrested for doing. Archery, BB guns, rock climbing, throw-them-off-a-pier-and-see-if-they-can-swim-back, but at seven hundred dollars a week, I might risk the heat.

As for academic summer camps – personally, I don’t think the brain absorbs any book knowledge once the snow thaws. There’s probably a scientific study out there to prove it but for now, I say it from experience.

Ever since the State standardized tests were done, the kids academically went on vacation.

“Homework, schmomework!” They would say. Even the second graders – and they didn’t even take the damn test.

To avoid summer learning loss, the Summer Bridges Activity Workbook helped us a great deal last year. Each day is designed for twenty minutes of ELA and math study with bonus science or Social Studies and physical fitness. That, coupled with forty minutes of reading was about all my boys could handle without taking them to court. At the end of the summer, they weren’t any smarter than in they were in June – but didn’t forget how to open a book.

With boys – that’s the most you can hope for.

So if you’re looking to stick your kid in an expensive summer camp, my suggestion is – go with a friend or a sibling. They may not be in the same division – but they’ll be on the same bus. Because we all know that the school bus is the cul-de-sac where bullying thrives.

And while it might be too late now, go to the Open House. They usually set them up from February through May when they do the early bird sign ups.

If you are too late and the camp is all booked, don’t fret. Go on their waiting list – people always cancel. Last minute. Trust me.

Whatever it is you scope out, think long term. You don’t want to enroll them in a group they’re going to be too old for by next year. Ideally, you’d like to get them into a situation that could eventually mean summer work.

My boys could possibly start work next summer – Samu started learning guitar and Zuki’s been practicing drums on his own. They could ride the subways singing Bad, Bad Leroy Brown badly like I did in summer camp. Who knows, they could collect enough small change to pay for sleep away camp by August.

 

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