Sunday, May 2, 2010

Do-it-yourself summer camp

Summer is right around the corner! Oh, how I love summer. I love the promise of getting things done that I don't have time for during the year. I love for my kids to have some time where they can wake up in the morning and know the day is all theirs (well, after chores) - to hit golf balls for three hours straight, or sit in a tree and read a book or

spend all afternoon creating a "dirt track" for their hot wheels in what used to be just a flat, boring piece of lawn. Ahem.

Summer is a great time to really immerse yourself in a certain interest or subject. That's kind of what we do with our do-it-yourself summer camps.

We've been making our own summer camps since before Little Man was born. There's usually a theme like cowboy camp, nature camp or dinosaur camp, depending on the current interest.

Camp is right here at our house and lasts one week, which is about as long as I can tolerate living on a really strict schedule. We usually plan two or three camps in a summer. The trick with this whole camp thing is for the adults to really go along with the whole "pretending our house is turned into a camp" idea. Kids love it when their parents play along.

Campers are up early to tidy their cabin (bedroom) and get dressed to go to the mess hall (kitchen.) During breakfast, announcements are made detailing the day's crafts, sports and special activities and revealing what cabin is winning any contests. A detailed daily schedule is posted on the white board, including:

Morning chores
Morning service - songs, prayers, a fun Bible lesson.
Craft time
Nature time
An activity - sports, trip, etc.
Free time

The first day's craft is always choosing the cabin name and designing the sign. These are then posted on the bedroom doors. The camp director (Mark) judges cabin tidiness after dinner each night and announces a winner. At the end of the week, the cabin with the most wins gets to go out for ice cream. (OK, I have to come clean here. It's rigged - the kids' room always wins. But we all get ice cream.)

Projects are usually big things like planting flowers around the patio or painting the adirondack chairs. My kids are young and still enjoy doing things like that.

We get as many books on our subject as we can possibly find and spend lots of time reading them, aloud and individually.

Some things we've done for individual camps:

Dinosaur camp - we created our first ever lapbook from Homeschool Share. A friend brought her 20 plus dinosaurs over for the week and we created a dinosaur museum.

At the end of the week, we discovered dinosaur bones in the back yard. We had to chip them out of a hard, rock-like substance and then try to figure out what kind of dinosaur we had. Z-Man was so excited. Come to think of it, our dinosaur actually glowed in the dark too. Can't beat that.

Cowboy camp - we read, played, crafted, learned cowboy songs, had a camp fire and attempted to learn some rope tricks after watching a video. They're harder than they look. This is probably a blessing. If one had the ability to rope, one might be sorely tempted to rope one's little brother.

Nature camp - we've done this one several times. There is so much to do:

Solar prints
Nature scavenger hunts and Nature Bingo
Photography safari
Make natural dyes from plants
Make a nature museum
Sand sculptures

Catching tadpoles and raising them
Making tiny animal houses out of things found in the woods
Making bridges across small streams with fallen branches
Exploring and claiming new territory
Mountain climbing

Bark rubbings
Leaf prints
Making plaster casts of animal tracks

Things we haven't gotten to yet but might this summer:

making a water scope out of a milk carton
tree bingo at a local arboretum
attend a work day for one of the hiking trails in the area
tenting in the back yard

There are so many books just packed full of great ideas, but I'm pretty sure I got the water scope idea here:

And since this post is getting waaaaay longer than I anticipated, I will have to tell you our plans for THIS summer in another post. Think sports. Lots of sports.

Summer Luge?!?


  1. Sounds like a fun summer in the making. Your boys are so blessed to have such a cool mama!

  2. Awesome ideas! Thanks for sharing!

  3. Um...can you come to my house for the summer?!

    How fun! I love those ideas and I know my kids would too. I'd better get to work!