What happened to the lazy days of a child’s summer vacation?
When we first moved to Madison eight years ago I spent the summer working for a summer daycare/day camp. We had third through fifth graders. The daycare hours were 7AM- 6PM. This was the first time my eyes were opened to the reality of what summer vacation is like for many modern kids. As one of the many “teachers” we tried to give the kids unstructured time, in order to let them feel like they could enjoy the lazy days of summer. Honestly, though, there is only so much you can do. Maintaining sanity and safely in a program with 50- 75 kids on any given day requires structure. Lunch is served just like at school. Activities are planned, in order to keep order and balance. That’s a lot of kids to manage!
The kids were great, but I saw a cloud of disappointment over many of them that I just couldn’t shake. It took me a while to figure it out, but once I did it bothered me beyond belief and I was not able to participate as a teacher the following summer. It all came down to freedom- the freedom of summer, and many of these kids felt resentful of the school-like atmosphere. They wanted to be home… and free to do what THEY wanted to do. I couldn’t blame them!
I realize that the dual-parent career and single-parent households have little choice but to enroll their kids in a summer day camp setting. Many kids thrive on it (I’m guessing kids who are naturally extroverts), but for the introverted kids (at least 1/4 of them), a summer day camp can be a nightmare. By the way, for those of you who think being introverted means that you are shy, please read this article: “The Top 5 Things Every Extrovert Should Know About Introverts.”
So, what can working and single parents do to avoid resentment and allow their children the opportunity to experience the freedom of summer, that many of us look back on with delight?
Here are a few ideas…
1. Talk to your boss. Try to change your work schedule for the summer so that you work longer days, but get a day off each week, enabling your child to have a three-day weekend at home every single week. (Key point: DO NOT fill your long weekends. Keep them low-key and lazy.)
2. If you have a job that can be done from home, ask your boss if you can work from home a few days a week. Start on a trial basis, to show him/her that you will, indeed, accomplish your work. This will allow your child the chance to be in his/her own setting throughout the day.
3. Hire an in home babysitter. Trustworthy high school students are perfect for summer baby sitting jobs. If the cost is just too high, join households with a neighboring family (or two) and have the babysitter trade off which house is the host each day. A group of 5-8 kids is still better than a group of 55 kids. If you don’t know any high school students, talk to the principal of the local high school or the pastor of your church.
4. If you must enroll your kids in the day camp setting, limit the hours so that they are not there at 7AM and picked up at 6PM. Also, make sure their evenings and weekends are empty. No extracurriculars PERIOD. Since their day times are structured, provide for them the freedom of summer in different places.
Finally, a combination of the above ideas may work also. Here’s the bottom line… you need to ask yourself if you are living by rules that don’t exist. Don’t allow society and social pressures to convince you that it just “has to be this way.” YOU are in charge of your choices. Don’t blame others for what your reality is. Get creative.
Your kids will thank you later!
I was fortunate enough to have a stay-at-home mom so I never had to go to summer camp. I spent my summers leisurely around the neighborhood with my dog. There were times thought, where my mom signed me up for a week-long camp. I enjoyed them, sometimes (I did not like to get up at 7 am to have breakfast with hyper, morning-kids). Being an introvert myself, I agree with your proposal to get those kids out of the 5 day a week torture sessions.
My suggestion is find a stay at home mom in your neighborhood and work a barter/trade/deal. Being a stay at home mom I was always on the look out for other kids to play with my kids during the summer and YEP they were hard to find. 2 weeks out of school my girls were driving me nuts,talking constantly and fighting. Even when kids have stay at home mom these same parents will sign their kids up for everything possible. Trade for a week of them watching your kid for a weekend (to be named later)of you watching their kids. I would have kill for such a deal!
When I was a kid, I (an introvert) really enjoyed day camps, so long as they didn’t last too long into the afternoon. I got to do things that otherwise would not have been available to me, such as developing photos in a darkroom, and still had enough time each day for some plain unstructured fun :)
I’m so thankful for the preschool and summer camp program my child gets to go to. There’s lots of free play and outdoor time when the weather’s good. I’m also glad that he’s there only from 8:30 to about 3:30 and off one day with daddy, but that said, when we get home in the afternoons, it takes quite a bit of convincing to go out any place, unless it involves ice cream or playing at a friend’s house! His needs/wants help keep me sane too!
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