Sunday, December 31, 2006

Hobby Camps

Back a few years ago, camps were still a place where kids went in the summers to burn off some energy. Of course, now that I am a parent, I know that some of the reason is to give our parents a break, too. Still kids were not expected to learn much at camp. If they picked up a lesson here and there, that was fine, but the purpose was to have fun and maybe make a few friends in the process. Camps today are completely different animals, however.

Most of the camps today are themed camps, which means that children go with the sole intent of learning or doing something related to a specific activity. Kids may go to a science camp where they study various aspects of science and do experiments all summer. They may go to baseball camp where they hone their ability to bunt and work on fielding. These camps are intended as ways to bring together children who share a common interest, but the hobby camps are controversial. Some people argue that these camps are a great way to allow children to focus their time and energy on a specific subject area while others believe that children should use summers for fun time and not extra learning.

When you are faced with the issue of hobby camp, I think it is most important to take your child into account. If you have the idea that you want your child to go to a hobby camp, then bring up the subject casually. Do not say that your child is going. Offer it as something that you saw and thought may interest your child. Watch for a reaction; most children do little to hide their emotions. You should be able to see whether or not it is something your child may enjoy. If not, drop it; pushing the subject will make your child resent it if you do go.

If your child brings up the camp issue, then it is a different question altogether. Let us assume that you have not made a definite decision on not permitting your children to attend these camps. In those cases, you will want to keep an open mind about the camp. Now, another complaint that parents have is that these places are expensive. They can run $1,000 or more just for a two-week stay. Because of the major expense involved, you need to make sure it is something that your child truly wants to do.

Begin by asking your child the pertinent questions. How much is the camp? What are the dates? When is the registration deadline? What will he or she need to purchase to go? (Some equipment may be required.) How will he or she get there? Are any other local kids going? If your child does not know the answers (and he probably does not), do not chastise. Simply say that she will need to look up the information before you can make a decision. You should help with the process so that your child does not get frustrated.

When you find out the answers, decide together if it is something that your family can do. You will need to check dates and other information to see about if your child can go. Have your child price equipment with you and look at a financial plan for getting there. Asking your child to contribute either through money or extra chores between now and camp time is a great way to teach your child responsibility for going on an extra trip such as this one.

If you do decide to let your child go to hobby camp, be sure that you are supportive the entire time. Do not try to make your child feel guilty later about the decision whether it is because of money or because the trip is inconvenient for the family in some other way. You want your child to embrace the experience and gain something valuable out of it. Otherwise you will have wasted a great opportunity.

When it is time to go to hobby camp, give your child your best smile and send him on his way. Children need to learn to enjoy themselves, and camp could be a great chance.

No comments: