Thursday, June 11, 2009

Guest post: Cooperative Camps
by A Mother in Israel

I'm always thrilled when I can convince a blogger or commentator to write a guest post (I have another guest post soon to follow). I've been too busy planning my own "Camp Mommy" and trying to get my clients on auto-pilot to write about our plans for a low cost summer, which will hopefully include a bit of co-oping. So I managed to convince my friend to share her experiences. Working parents who are looking to save themselves a large lump sum should take a look at the link I have highlighted from the money and frugality blog The Simple Dollar. The potential summer savings on daycare/camp could well be worth the effort it would take to rearrange schedules and/or take vacation time.

A Mother In Israel's post follows:

Are you wondering about your kids' school vacation? Camp is expensive, but two or more months without a daily schedule can throw even experienced parents into a panic. And if both parents are working you need a reliable arrangement.

Over the last few years our family was part of a cooperative summer camp, where each family took responsibility for part of the programming. Beyond that, anything goes as long as everyone agrees. Usually we had all of the children together, ranging from ages 4 to 12. Some years we split by gender or age with some joint activities. Families usually hosted once a week. We met every day, or three or four times a week.

It doesn't even have to be a full-blown camp. You could cooperate to make a weekly cooking class, a sports afternoon, or whatever the parents decide.

In our camp the mothers--and two fathers--were mainly at home during the day (some were teachers) and we were all involved. Enthusiastic parents are key. Trent from The Simple Dollar described his camp, where each couple took a week off from work to take a shift. They invested a good chunk of money, and hired teenage counselors. As a form of daycare the camp needed to be more formal. But they still saved a lot of money.

In our camp, we gave parents flexibility to choose activities that interested them. One year we made passports and "visited" a different country each day. We went on field trips once a week, with extra adults. We cooked and baked, did science experiments, played games, made up quizzes and scavenger hunts, prayed and studied, visited a firehouse and a bakery and went on various hikes. We spent time in local and distant parks. We got the older children involved in making decisions and gave them responsibility for projects.

Once you find interested parents, write down some ideas and call a meeting. Every family has its own concerns, but with goodwill and flexibility you can work things out. Families with rigid ideas about what camp should look like may not be a good match.

I don't think summer camp is necessary. If kids are never allowed to be bored they won't come up with their own projects. But if you are looking for structured summer activities at low cost this could be a solution.
More tips form A Mother in Israel:
Staying Home and Staying Sane (some tips apply to summer vacation)
Our Cooperative Summer Camp (2006)
Cooperative Summer Camp (2007)
More on Camp (2008)
Frugal Strategies for Young Families that Pay Off as Your Family Grows


Ariella's blog said...

Mother in Israel has some terrific ideas!

mother in israel said...

Thanks SL, and Ariella too!

Shoshana said...

Sounds like homeschooling! I love it! Thanks for the inspiring post!