In just a few weeks, the school year will come to an end here in the northeastern United States and many kids will head to summer camp. (More than 11 million children attend some kind of camp each year.) Some go to sleep-away sites–rural, privately run bastions of midnight pranks, artificially sweetened care packages and coming-of-age ‘firsts.’ Others will attend day camps, and follow a routine similar to, though much more informal than, the one they have at school. Summer camp is big business here in the states and another area of culture and childrearing that Americans have made competitive, somewhat elitist and a debate.
Not that I think that summer camps are bad places, mind you. Noah is signed up to attend a few weeks of various day camps this summer. One is an outdoor survival camp–a Native American inspired week of foraging and thinking about spirit animals and building shelters from mud and sticks in the woods along the Hudson River. Another camp he’s excited about is Shakespeare Camp–an education arm of the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival. Noah will end the summer with a week of baseball camp (the least interesting of the bunch to me), but the one that brings him together with a few friends and teachers from school–always good connections to rekindle towards the end of the season when Noah’s not ready for vacation to be over. Without fail, seeing his friends and his favorite teacher (and having fun with them), makes the inevitable end-of-summer-beginning-of-a-new-school-year transition a little bit easier.
Not that I want to be thinking about the end of the summer yet. For heaven’s sake NO. I am ready for long lazy days of doing nothing (and HEAT)–which is why I sometimes wonder about this idea of summer camp. Growing up, I never went to summer camp. Each year our family went on a two week vacation around the fourth of July (usually to Cape Cod or Prince Edward Island in Canada) and then we spent the rest of the time at home. We didn’t really even do playdates. Granted I had three brothers to play with and swim with and, of course, catch frogs. Noah’s an only child, on the other hand, and while that comes with its own set of benefits, consistent companionship isn’t one of them. I like that summer camp allows Noah to enjoy some down time with other kids so he’s not just hanging out with me and doing adult things, which is typically his preference.
I also agree with the gist of this article I read a few weeks ago titled: Deceleration: How Radically Slowing Your Pace Can Make You Smarter. Generally, the author writes about the importance of slowing down our lives and our days and our hours, not just to reduce stress and improve health and enjoy of life more, but also to increase one’s ability to understand and engage with the world. i.e. TO MAKE YOU SMARTER. Activities like spending time in nature or a few hours looking at the same piece of artwork or taking an entire afternoon to watch the clouds and then the sunset are life changing because by their very nature they are intrinsically different occasions than the ones we usually engage in to pass the time. When we slow down and focus on less action-oriented stuff, space opens up inside of us for a perspective shift; for a crack to break open in the shell of everything that we’ve been taught so that the light of what we know can shine through.
In the article above, the author writes about kids taking time at summer camp to do (not do) these things but this summer our family will be taking some time on our own to investigate this deceleration–without other kids or scheduled meal times or macrame in the afternoon. We’ll spend several weeks at the very end of the summer on Cape Cod (our favorite place on the planet) not doing anything at all.