One More Reason to Send Kids to Traditional Summer Camp

Summer camp enrollment season is gearing up and the choices run the gamut from music to technology to traditional. Those who are able to ship their kids off for a week or more during the summer may want to maximize their investment by choosing a camp with an intellectual component. Yet there is hidden value in the easy-going routine of traditional camp.

Choices bombard adults these days. From what to wear, to what to eat, what to buy and how to spend our time, we spend a huge amount of mental and emotional energy trying to make the right choices every hour of every day. In our quest to respect our children’s individuality and help them follow their hearts, we have extended the superabundance of choices to our children. Day in and day out they make decisions that affect not only their direct lives but those of their parents. We give them the power to choose or at least strongly influence everything from what the family will have for dinner to where they will go for vacation. At a certain point, as pointed out by Barry Schwartz in, The Paradox of Choice: Why More is Less, all this freedom can become stressful and negatively impact quality of life. The pressure to make the right decision can detract from the joy of being able to choose. The plethora of choices we face on a daily basis can cause us to feel stressed, dissatisfied, and anxious.

This is where traditional camps come in. Traditional camps can give kids a break from the strain of daily choices. Summer camps have a nice routine and a decided lack of choices. Clothing choices are limited to what was packed before they left for camp. Meals are at very specific times and frequently filled with structure and tradition. Food choices are all but non-existent. While campers can choose whether they will eat, the kitchen doesn’t give them the option of choosing dishes they may like better. Crafts, swim times, and campfires unfold on a schedule designed to accommodate different ages and cabin groups and there it little burden of choice on individual campers. Add to this the fact that most traditional camps ban electronics and old-fashioned camps become one of the few places modern kids can experience true mental calmness.

When considering camp options this summer remember that more is not always better. Take a good look at camps with fewer activity choices, especially those in rustic, natural settings. These traditional camps may offer the best experience for kids that, whether they realize it or not, need a break for their stressful, choice-filled worlds.

Personal Responsibility: Summer Report Card

Summer is almost over. Next week we have our back-to-school night and then school starts just after Labor Day. It is time to evaluate the results of my summer project to push the kids to take on more personal responsibility.

Well, apparently I am not so much a chart person. The chore chart idea only lasted a week and a half. They stopped filling in the charts and I stopped printing out the charts. Grade F for charted chore tracking.

Digging deeper into what exactly they were supposed to do, as defined by the unused charts, things start to look a bit better. On the personal chores list, even without a checklist, the kids consistently were about 90% successful in getting things done. While beds were not made, they used sunscreen enough to avoid burns, practiced piano, and brushed their teeth. They did need more reminders than would be ideal and there was a direct correlation between my reminders and their success. Since I rarely reminded them to make their beds, and they had no personally compelling reason to make them on their own, beds were not made most of the summer. The one exception to this happened about every two weeks when I forbid them from playing or having friends over because their rooms had gotten too messy. At those points the bedrooms were carefully cleaned.

The family chores followed basically the same pattern. They were/are perfectly capable of helping keep the house clean and did so easily when directed. They just didn’t reach the point where they would do it without being asked. I suspect part of this is the fact that since I specifically did not assign chores, each of the three kids waited to see if someone else would jump in and do the work. Reversing the pattern of 11 years, as often as possible I made sure it wasn’t me doing the chores when things were left undone. Instead I stepped in to directly assign chores as needed. Since June I have done the dishes less than 5 times. The kids no longer assume that it is my job. They just hope is isn’t their job. Overall I’m giving the concept of the kids taking on more responsibility for the house a grade of C. They know how to do the work and they are willing to do it, they just aren’t proactively seeing a need and filling it.

Most households with kids specifically assign jobs to each kid and I may have to adopt this strategy for the upcoming school year. However, I’d still rather see them treating the house as their own and doing what needs to be done without being told. Before we go to strictly assigned chores, I’m trying one more strategy. They now have to make a daily list of all household chores to do that day and then collaboratively split the jobs among themselves. We will see how it goes. . .

One chore that received an A+ wasn’t even on my radar back in June. Laundry. I showed the kids how to use the washer and dryer and told the older two, ages 11 and 9, that if they needed clean clothes they knew how to get them. (The youngest, age 7, has helped out with his clothes though he is physically too small to take over 100% of the job.) Over the last month, I haven’t washed the two older kids’ clothes at all.  The kids have proactively carried their clothes to the basement, washed and dried them, and returned the clean clothes back to the bedrooms. They haven’t even called my attention to this extra work they are doing. I guess having clean clothes to wear is a powerful motivator.