Friday, March 27, 2015

Camp Options: Too Many Interests, Not Enough Time.

Summer is fast approaching.  Even the snow is starting to melt.  And that means that camp season is in full swing.  Just about every organization on the face of the planet is trying to entice you and your child into their camp.  There are so many to choose from!  And some are already sold out!  What are we going to do? How are we going to decide?  And how are we going to afford it?


Some artwork and gears from the camp
Robot City Workshop, where kids build robots.
In the past we've done a variety of things. Here's a run-down.

The first year he could, he went to camp at the same place he went to pre-K.  He had a good time, he knew most of the kids, they played sports, and he swam every day.

Then the next year he went to camp dad.  (It was a lot of fun, and we did fun stuff, and swam nearly everyday, but 14 hours a day of the bear is tough for an old guy like me!  And I'm probably much stricter than his camp councilors, because I'm paying close attention to my one charge, and I really care.)

The next year, he attended this pretty pricey Jewish camp in Rockland county.  He loved it (swam twice a day, adored his councilors, got to ride on a bus there and back and sing songs)-- in fact for a year afterwards he'd sing the Tap Tap Tappanzee song whenever we crossed a bridge, even if it wasn't the Tappanzee!  I loved that he loved it, but our bank account, less so.

Last year (the summer that we moved to Chicago) we did a city of Yonkers run day camp.  It had almost all the same activities as the shmancy Jewish camp, except it wasn't Jewish and you swam once a day.  Oh, and he only rode a bus once a week, when they went on a field trip.   He enjoyed that a fair amount.


This year we are doing D) All of the Above.  

We'll be travelling a little.  We'll have some dad camp time.  He'll spend a week going to a local robotics camp.  He'll spend a week going to his pick- a Scratch programming camp (Yes, his parents are geeks, and so is he!  "Say it Aloud- We're Smart and Proud!" )  He's eschewed the Mandarin camp, and (at least this year) we are going along with that.

But most importantly, we've found a "Backstop camp"  Steve and Kate's, a camp that started in the San Francisco bay area and has slowly picked up steam on a national level.  They've got them in Boston, New York, NJ, Chicago, Portland, Seattle, LA, and all over the Bay area..

 Unlike most camps, it's got a ticketing/voucher system. You buy a number of days, and then use them as you see fit.  Kind of like a yoga punch card, but for camp.  Yes, Drop in camp!
Steve & Kate's Music Studio
(photo courtesy of the camp)
The camp itself is student led-- meaning they have a lot of options/stations, and your kid gets to do what he is passionate about. It's not that there is no structure.  They have staffed studios where kids can make music videos, practice coding, bake bread, style jeans, or just hang out.  There's sports, games, reading, shows, and lots more. (They don't have swimming, but they do have a plastic water slide at each location!)  Three times a day, the kids huddle with their peers/counselor, and there are camp wide shows and specials, including a game show.  They advertise that for every block the campers can choose from at least 12 activities.

 I'm not sure how they manage the staffing and lunch issues, considering the drop in nature.  But they apparently have  got it figured out.  AA has a couple of friends who were at the camp last year and they LOVED it!

The great thing is that they are refundable/upgradable. Camp is $89 a day. If you buy 5 or more it's $79, If you buy 20 or more, it's $69. If I upgrade later, they retroactively make the whole package less, and I pay the difference. And if I don't use them all up, we get refunded at the end of the season. And they have camps all over the country, and your voucher is good AT ANY CAMP! We could travel to San Francisco, and he can go to the camp there!

What I love is their transparency and their business model. It's giving flexibility when I need it. If Camp Dad gets too tough, or I need a breather (or he needs a breather) we have it.  And as mentioned above he'll have a couple of good pals that are already there, and he'll make new pals as well I am sure.

Find out more about Steve & Kate's

So, I think we are mostly covered for the summer.  How about you?  What are your plans for your kids' summer?

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