This summer I did something that shocked a lot of people, and led to people making assumptions about our family's lifestyles and plans for the future.
I signed up both my boys for the city-wide day camp this summer.
When people heard that, I got a mix of reactions:
Oh, so you're no longer homeschooling? You changed your mind and decided to send your kids to school next year? What made you change your mind?
Camp is expensive! Why spend money on that of all things? Why not keep them home in the summer, especially if you have good reasons to homeschool, and there are kids for them to play with during the summer? Isn't camp a waste of money?
If you have issues with school, why do you not have a problem sending to camp? It's got the same issues as school, and they don't even learn anything!
So many incorrect assumptions there!
I wanted to share with y'all why I decided to send my children to camp.
But firstly, I just want to make one thing very clear.
I have no plans on sending my children to school next year. I have no plans on sending my kids to school at all, actually- we're quite thrilled with how homeschooling is working out for us. While we may decide in the future to send to school if situations and circumstances change, at this point we have no intention of sending our kids to school.
And yes, camp is expensive, but well worth it, in our opinion.
Why did we decide to send to camp? What makes it worthwhile?
There were a few reasons.
We live in a country that is non English speaking. For privacy reasons, I would rather not say where, so I'll just pretend the local language is Swahili for the purpose of this discussion.
Though our kids were born in this country, Ike and Lee still do not speak Swahili. I mean, they know a few phrases here and there and can carry on a simple simple conversation like "My name is Lee, I'm 5, I want this, no, yes, hello, bye, who is this, what is this?" but really nowhere near fluent. We've been working on their grasp of Swahili for a while already, and slowly, slowly it's been improving, but not nearly at the rate we wish it would, not nearly well enough for them to have playdates with Swahili speaking kids.
We understand the importance of kids speaking the language of the country they live in fluently, and we know that the older a kid is, the harder it is to learn the language fluently. Because of this, we decided to send them to a Swahili speaking camp, hoping that "full immersion" for a month will help them acquire the language at a much faster rate than they are now, so they speak it well enough to have playdates with Swahili speakers even after camp, which, in turn, will help improve their grasp of the language even more.
Its day 3 of camp, and from speaking to the counselors, already my sons seem to be understanding more and more.
It's not actually "full immersion", as there are 2 other English speaking kids with each of the kids in camp.
So while camp is expensive, its worth it because it's cheaper than Swahili language tutoring. :-D
Secondly, I've been doing a lot of freelance work lately, and I've needed to pay for a babysitter more than once lately. At least with camp, I don't need to find babysitters for the boys when I need to go work without the kids. So it saves money there.
So that's from a money aspect.
Other considerations about sending to camp-
Lee has friends, so does Ike. But its usually both of them playing together, with the same small group of kids over and over. I felt they needed to expand their friend base, learn how to make new friends, and not just have a small core of the same friends that they always play with. Going to camp is introducing them to new kids, and needed to learn to deal with new social situations that they haven't been in before, which are important skills. Of course, being in large groups of kids and new social situations also means picking up some bad behavior, which I've had to deal with already... But oh well...
The other thing is- Ike is cute... but in some ways it seems like everything he is and does is copying his big brother. I rarely get him to express an opinion of his own- usually he waits until Lee expresses an opinion, and Ike repeats it. Or Ike will ask his big brother to do stuff for him, and Ike won't even attempt to do certain things because he thinks he won't be able to do it as well as his big brother. I wasn't so thrilled with this. I wanted Ike to have a distinctly separate part of his personality, something uniquely him. But because he's all the time with his big brother, they're close friends and play together most of the time, spending nearly all of their waking hours together (Ike and Lee usually go to playdates together), I felt that Lee overshadowed his brother's personality much of the time.
Sending the boys to camp means sending the boys to a place where they are separated by age, so they are not together. This was great for Lee, who often asks to do things without Ike, and it was a little challenging for Ike the first day to be without his big brother (he cried a little bit), but now I see he is adjusting and is blossoming on his own, out of the shadow of his older brother.
Now people have asked me why I am ok with sending to camp but not to school... A few reasons.
Number one is that I'm not opposed to socializing, and I'm not opposed to having a good time. I just have a problem with how things are taught in school, with the methodology of teaching in schools, which I don't think is necessarily the best way for kids to learn. So I'm happy to send them for a summer of fun, but not a year of learning. I think learning can be better at home, but fun might be more easy to have at camp.
One of my concerns about school, admittedly, is the sometimes negative social influence by classmates. My husband and I would like to be the primary influence on our children's lives, but with so many hours a day spent in school for most of the year, I question how much children are influenced from their peers and classmates, and how much from their parents. I would like my children to spend the bulk of their time being influenced by our values by spending time with our family, and less time learning the values of their peers. By sending them to camp for one month out of the year, the bulk of their time is still going to be spent with their family.
And I do know many homeschooling families who I look up to that are opposed to sending their kids to school, but send them to day camp and even sleep away camp. So I know I am in good company.
Is going to camp the perfect situation for my kids?
No. It has its drawbacks, like the not so nice behavior I found out my son learned today... but the benefits outweigh the negatives in this situation.
Are you a homeschooler? If so, do you send your kids to camp? Why or why not?
If you are a schooling family, do you send your kids to camp? Why or why not?
What do you think the similarities and differences are between camp and school? Which do you think is better for kids?