Monday, July 12, 2010

Summer camp

With three months of summer here in the US, there was no doubt we were going to avail ourselves of an extensive array of summer camp options. Now unlike the foreigners who were profiled on This American Life, we knew that the US summer camp tradition was more formal than driving your kids to a camp site with a bag of groceries, pitching a tent and leaving them there alone for a week. (Yes, that actually happened to someone). But the kids had imagined a summer camp ideal akin to what they had observed at the movies. So the search was on for that.

But before that traditional notion, I was determined to expose the kids to the technology-based camp options available in the Boston area. So for the last two weeks, the two eldest have attended the Digital Media Academy at Harvard University. They were supposed to go for just a week but my son was enrolled in an "Adventures in Cartooning" class which, at the last minute, was found to have just one attendee. Apparently, that isn't a great experience so to compensate us for that loss, we got an extra week for free. My son ended up doing a game design course which turned out to teach him enough so that he could design around 10 games by the end of the week. None are killers but he did come away with the insight that "it is much harder to program games where you play against the computer than where two people play against each other." My daughter did a Photoshop course and suffice it to say, became President of the US as well as placing Wizards out in the open in muggle territory clearly performing magic. Both activities kept them quite happy for the entire week. In the second week, they participated in a movie making course. Of course, the 11 year old was horrified that she had to be in the same class as the 9 year old but, hey, it was free! They wrote, filmed, acted and edited (with special effects) an 8 or so minute spy movie. I think they came away with an appreciation of just how hard it is to make a movie, let alone something good. We enjoyed seeing their final products and differing interpretations. 

For the next two weeks, they are both attending overnight camp. I drove the 11 year old out to New Hampshire for a camp that was exactly movie like with cabins, an eating hall, and a lake all out in a forest. As we drove up, a squad cheered our arrival before we were moved into the 'lice' queue which all parents seemed to appreciate. During that time, we heard more cheers as another camper arrived and I commented (loudly) "hey, it looks like they weren't just happy to see us." Of course, my daughter couldn't escape the line. I then dropped my daughter off at her cabin. These cabins had disappointing names like 'Cabin G' rather than the expected quasi-native American cast off that was more 'movie accurate' but I guess that's the times. The cabins had well worn bunk beds and (I guess) atmosphere. As we unpacked, I started to quiz my daughter's cabin-mates about where they were from and that instantly led to the question, "Daddy, when you are going?" At which time, I made a grand exit leaving my daughter grateful she wouldn't be seeing me for two weeks.

Our son, on the other hand, hasn't attended the movie Summer Camp. In the end, when presented with the option he opted for Computer Camp that took place closer to home. Suffice it say, this camp was huge with 150 kids and it was clear that not a one of them was going to be jumping up and down to get in on the regular physical activity that was part of that camp's schedule. Compared to his sister, he was in the lap of luxury and civilisation. Also, for us, there is far more connection as evidenced by the video call we received only a few hours later. 

The house is relatively quiet now; although we still have one child wandering around. She'll likely get much more attention. I suspect those with teenagers appreciate these Summer Camp months more than we do at the moment. For now, it is all character building.