One fine winter up in the mountains…
(isn’t it amazing that there are, in that densely populated Southern California, still places where boys can go out by themselves and explore – and make friends with goats – and stare at them?)
For the first eight summers we have been following what modern parents do – send kids to camps and have them entertained, offer them programs and generally take away from them the opportunity to create their own summer.
That is so different to the way I grew up. OK, it might have been once or twice that the whole family went on some vacation trip, but that was for maybe two weeks while the summer vacation from school was at least six weeks. So I did have the need and opportunity to invent my own summer, and I don’t remember ever being bored.
I had kept some of my sanity when I became a parent myself to a degree and did not cover all corners with padding, and my general idea about child safety was that if the damage was not permanent then it was OK. But we did make the mistake of not giving the kid timeÂ to explore on his own, there was always a class to go to and a program to be in.
Lately there are more and more things coming into my life that indicate that the situation is being restored to proper working. One of them is Lenore Skenazy’s Free Range Kids. Ms. Skenazy gained notoriety by letting her son take the subway all by himself to get home – and talk about it. Her blog has become a center for parents, who want to let their kids gain confidence by doing things themselves,Â to congregate and share their experiences. There is also Ms. Skenazy’s book Free Range Kids available at Amazon, but I have to admit that I did not read it yet myself.
Today I ran into a TED talk by the founder of the Tinkering School, Gever Tulley, demonstrating that it is OK to have kids work with power tools. This talk was just the last drop that made me think about writing this all up.
Yes, it is a camp, but I believe it is different enough to set a good example of not over protecting our children.
Now, what do I do about all this? This year, at the age of nearly ten, we did not sign our son up for any summer camp. Instead we are up there in the mountains in a little cabin and the junior has to find something to do while I work. Fortunately I do work from the house, otherwise I don’t think it would be possible without going straight to jail.
What is the experience so far? There were a few upsets and mis-emotions, and we are not quite there yet where junior uses his time wisely (by my irrelevant standards), but he has gone beyond the initial mostly playing computer games to learning how to get videos of those game plays onto YouTube, and just today, probably in response to my teasing that after the summer he will be the proud owner of a big butt, he started to exercise without any prompting.
So, yeah, I think we are going in the right direction here. Any other experiences with summers without camps that I can learn from?